This does sound a bit silly but scientific studies have shown that not getting sufficient sleep does affect how we remember things.
Do you and your partner often disagree about a situation that happened in the past?
It is an extremely common phenomenon among couples who are busy working and parenting and sometimes not getting enough sleep each night. When we don’t get enough sleep, we can become forgetful and false memories can start to happen to us. Studies have found that a ‘memory distortion’ can occur if we suffer from sleep deprivation.
So the title is not quite as silly as it sounds. In fact lack of sleep or sleep deprivation can lead to a sleep debt that can add up to hundreds of hours over the course of a year. Sleep deprivation has also been linked to car crashes, industrial accidents and the advent of some diseases such as diabetes.
Reasons for lack of sleep
There are numerous reasons for a lack of sleep each night from medical issues, to just staying awake because you can, your partner snoring, to simple issues like an uncomfortable mattress, lumpy pillows or too much light in your bedroom at night.
We might work shift work that means we can’t get into a good bedtime and sleeping routine, have young children that wake a few times every night, get up to go the toilet or to get a drink.
Medical reasons can include hormone imbalances, sleep apnoea, depression, chronic illness and chronic pain.
Whatever the reason, studies around the world have all come to the same conclusion that lack of sleep does affect how we remember events. And it is good to remember that lack of sleep does not mean staying up all night. It can mean just not getting enough hours of sleep each night.
Why lack of sleep affects our memories
In each of the studies a group of people were sleep deprived by being kept awake for 24 hours while another group slept over night. Both groups were shown a series of photos detailing a crime or an event. A short while later each person was asked about the event they had seen and were asked a series of questions.
The group that had a night’s sleep got most of the details correct but the group who had been kept awake got a lot of details mixed up and even added some details that weren’t even there.
Not only are short term memories affected but it also affects our long term memories.
The part of brain that looks after our memories is the hippocampus and this part is a lot more active when we are in REM sleep, that is, the dream phase. If we are not sleeping properly and long enough our memories are not being encoded properly. As well as remembering incorrectly it is forever encoded that way. Our lack of sleep can lead to neurodegeneration that affects how memories are stored and then retrieved.
So studies have shown that sleep has a beneficial effect on our brains and memories as well as our cognitive functions. Lack of sleep is able to block memories from forming and if they do form they can be distorted.
Which is why being a new mother can lead to you remembering things differently from your partner who sleeps all night and doesn’t wake when baby cries.
The number of reasons are too numerous to mention here but if you do find yourself suffering from a lack of sleep that is leading to a distorted memory of events and you know there are no underlying medical reasons, maybe buying a new mattress and pillows is a good place to start and as good a reason as any for getting a bedroom makeover.
Photos are from Unsplash
Guest Author Bio
Charlotte is a long time food industry professional, and now a stay at home mom of two. She loves sharing natural recipes, gardening tips and creative foodie advice with the world.