Sleep deprivation may be responsible for many false confessions, according to a
released this week in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
. The report says that around 17 percent of custodial interrogations happen between the normal sleeping hours of midnight and 8:00 a.m., and that the majority of false confessions occur during interrogations which last longer than 12 hours, with many lasting longer than 24 hours. A study performed for the report found that sleep-deprived participants were 4.5 times more likely to confess to things they did not do. Initially, 50 percent of the sleep-deprived participants falsely confessed, whilst only 18 percent of their rested counterparts did so. On a second attempt, 68.2 of the sleep-deprived participants confessed, whilst 38.6 percent of the rested ones did so, reports the
The Smithsonian adds that other research has demonstrated that being sleep deprived hinders “our ability to anticipate the consequences of our actions, to resist suggestive influences that might produce false and distorted memories and to inhibit impulsive behaviors.”
“When people are mentally and physically fatigued, which is what happens in a sleep deprivation situation, they are more likely to do whatever it takes to end a punishing current situation than someone who has more mental energy to fight,” interrogation and false confession expert Saul Kassin of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice told the
. “They are also more suggestible to misleading or false information about evidence that doesn’t really exist.”
Based on these findings, the researchers who conducted the study recommend that police evaluate suspects’ level of sleepiness before conducting interrogations and that all interrogations be videotaped so that judges and juries can also assess the state of mind of defendants in court.