Why You’re More Likely To Make A False Confession If You’re Sleep-Deprived

On Netflix’s blockbuster show”Making A Murderer,” shocked audiences watched a teenage boy sentenced to decades in prison for murder on the basis of a false confession.

The documentary series brought the surprisingly common phenomenon of police interrogation-stimulated false confessions into the spotlight. And now, new research finds that people who stay awake all night are nearly five times more likely to sign a false confession than those who have slept.

The research findings, published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could have significant implications for police interrogation practices. Up to 17 percent of interrogations occur between the hours of midnight and 8 a.m., the study’s authors note.

“We recommend that the physiological state of all suspects and witnesses be evaluated during an interrogation,” Sleep specialist Dr. Kimberley Fenn, the study’s lead author, told The Huffington Post. “If individuals are in a comprised physiological state, such as sleep deprivation, they should not be interrogated until they have full cognitive capacity.”

Fenn and her colleagues at Michigan State University’s Sleep and Learning Lab recruited 88 undergraduates to undergo laboratory sessions in which they completed computer tests in two sessions separated by a period of a week. A flashing pop-up alert repeatedly warned the students not to press the escape key, as doing so would erase the researchers’ data.

After the second session, half of the volunteers spent the night sleeping in the lab, while researchers told the other half to stay awake and gave them distractions including food, TV and video games.

There is strong evidence that dramatic neural changes are seen during sleep deprivation.

The next morning, the students were individually blamed for pressing the escape key and asked to sign a form stating that they had done it. A full half —> Read More