Americans are not receiving adequate amounts of sleep with experts stating that sleep insufficiencies are now a public health epidemic.

New research adds to the list of symptoms that a lack of sleep triggers as scientist discover sleep voids can lead to errors in memory.

Experts have known that sleep issues can cause extreme mood changes or irritability, a lack of energy or motivation, poor performance at school or work, and tension headaches or stomach aches.

In the new study, researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) and the University of California, Irvine (UC-Irvine) found participants deprived of a night’s sleep were more likely to botch the details of a simulated burglary they were shown in a series of images.

The study has been published online in the journal Psychological Science.

Distorted memory can have serious consequences in areas such as criminal justice, where eyewitness misidentifications are thought to be the leading cause of wrongful convictions in the United States.

“We found memory distortion is greater after sleep deprivation,” said Kimberly Fenn, MSU associate professor of psychology and co-investigator on the study.

“And people are getting less sleep each night than they ever have.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls insufficient sleep an epidemic and said it’s linked to vehicle crashes, industrial disasters, and chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes.

The researchers conducted experiments at MSU and UC-Irvine to gauge the effect of insufficient sleep on memory.

The results: Participants who were kept awake for 24 hours — and even those who got five or fewer hours of sleep — were more likely to mix up event details than participants who were well rested.

“People who repeatedly get low amounts of sleep every night could be more prone in the long run to develop these forms of memory distortion,” Fenn said.

“It’s not just a full night of sleep deprivation that puts them at risk.”

Source: Michigan State University