Do you ever find yourself experiencing memories that feel so real, but actually turn out to be false?
Maybe you “remember” going somewhere or doing something, but the more you think about it, the more you realize it didn’t actually happen.
If this sounds familiar, don’t worry, you’re not losing your marbles.
Instead, these false memories might be the fault of one particular daily habit of yours. Specifically, your sleep habit!
In one study dating back to 2016 , scientists looked at the ways that sleep—and specifically sleep loss—could impair memory and recall.
Fifty-eight young adults were gathered for the test, half male and half female, all in their early twenties. They were subjected to one night of total sleep deprivation, along with seven nights of partial sleep deprivation (they only slept five hours those nights).
After the sleep deprivation, the test subjects were assigned various cognitive and memory tests to determine just how much the lack of sleep impaired their mental function. They were also fed misinformation in order to encourage their brains to form false memories, another aspect of the test to determine how sleep loss impairs accurate memory formation.
As it turned out, the sleep deprived individuals were far more likely to produce false memories than those who rested well. Not only the group who missed a full night of sleep, but the group who missed a few hours of sleep each night also showed this tendency to form incorrect memories. Both groups “incorporated misleading post-event information into their responses during memory retrieval”. Simply put, the misinformation they were fed was more likely to stick in their memories because of their sleep loss.
This study makes it perfectly clear that a lack of sleep can be seriously detrimental to the cognitive function of young adults—but that extends to all people of all ages! During sleep loss, our memories are far more “vulnerable”, which means we are more likely to absorb false information as a result of sleep loss.
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Sleeping well is one of the best things you can do for literally every aspect of your health!
Your brain needs sleep in order to function properly. As the study above proved, a lack of sleep can mess with your ability to form accurate memories. But it will also impair your ability to learn and recall new information. You’ll have a harder time paying attention, making decisions, and being creative if you’re suffering from a lack of sleep.
Sleep deficiency also alters your brain activity, making it more difficult to solve problems, cope with change, and control your emotions. Depression, risk-taking behavior, and suicide are also linked to a lack of sleep. Sleep-deficient children and young adults will often feel impulsive, angry, sad, demotivated, experience mood swings, and have difficulty getting along with others. Stress and anxiety are both compounded by a lack of sleep as well.
But it’s not just your brain that suffers! According to the National Institutes of Health, your body is at serious risk, too.
Sleep is needed to repair your muscles after an intense workout, restore joint and bone tissue, as well as make repairs to your cardiovascular system. Without a solid night of rest, your body is unable to fully repair your blood vessels and heart, which puts you at a higher risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, kidney disease, and diabetes.
Sleep also raises your appetite—or, more accurately, it tricks your brain into thinking you’re hungry, when really it’s mis-translating sleepiness and fatigue signals as hunger. Obesity is also a higher risk with sleep loss, and the levels of hunger-controlling hormones (leptin and ghrelin) are thrown off by a lack of sleep. Your body’s production of insulin is also impaired by sleep loss, which makes it harder for your body to prevent high blood sugar levels, which can lead to a higher diabetes risk.
A lack of sleep impairs growth in children and teenagers, as sleep is needed to give your body time to produce growth hormones. Insufficient sleep also prevents muscle mass growth after exercise, and increases your risk of injury through intense exercise.
Your immune system is also compromised by a lack of sleep. Sleep loss can actually change the way your body responds to invading threats and germs, making it harder to fight even simple infections.
As you can see, it’s vital that you get a good night’s sleep in order to keep your body working well.
For the average adult, “enough” sleep is 7 to 8 hours per day. For teenagers, that number rises to 9 to 10 hours. Children under twelve years old need anywhere from 9 to 12 hours per day.
For adults, the hardest part of getting a good night’s sleep is fitting all those hours into our busy schedules. Between work, exercise, and social life, it’s nearly impossible to get those solid 7 or 8 hours a night—or, at least it feels that way.
That’s why it’s important that you follow a healthy sleep schedule. Going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning is crucial for maintaining healthy sleep patterns, and you’ll find you can both fall asleep and wake up more easily when you go to bed at the same time.
This will cost you something—usually your social life to varying degrees. If you’re getting up in the morning to hit the gym before work, you’ll have to get to bed early enough that you get your full hours of sleep, which means less evening activities and socialization.
It may sound like a hard sell, but the truth is that a good night’s sleep is important enough that it’s worth the sacrifice. By sleeping enough, you will do what your body needs to be healthy!
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