We often worry about lying awake in the middle of the night - but it could be good for you. A growing body of evidence from both science and history suggests that the eight-hour sleep may be unnatural. In the early 1990s, psychiatrist Thomas Wehr conducted an experiment in which a group of people were plunged into darkness for 14 hours every day for a month. It took some time for their sleep to regulate but by the fourth week the subjects had settled into a very distinct sleeping pattern. They slept first for four hours, then woke for one or two hours before falling into a second four-hour sleep. Though sleep scientists were impressed by the study, among the general public the idea that we must sleep for eight consecutive hours persists ...
Tag Archives | Sleep
Insects have bugged human beings for a long time. Via Discover:
In a South African cave, researchers have uncovered traces of the oldest known human bedding, 77,000-year-old mats made of grasses, leaves, and other plant material. While it’s not especially surprising that early humans would have found a way to improve the cold, generally unpleasant experience of sleeping on a cave floor, archaeologists know little about our ancestors’ sleeping habits and habitats.
Using scanning electron microscopy, the researchers identified several species of local rushes and grasses that made up the bulk of the mattress, as well as leaves of the Cryptocarya woodii tree. These leaves contain chemical compounds that repel mosquitoes, lice, and other insects, suggesting that the cave’s ancient residents protected their bedding with natural insecticide.
Are we about to witness the foundation of Mothers Against Early Classes? ScienceDaily reports:
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A study in the April 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine shows increased automobile crash rates among teen drivers who start school earlier in the morning.
Results indicate that in 2008 the weekday crash rate for 16- to 18-year-olds was about 41 percent higher in Virginia Beach, Va., where high school classes began at 7:20 — 7:25 a.m., than in adjacent Chesapeake, Va., where classes started at 8:40 — 8:45 a.m. There were 65.8 automobile crashes for every 1,000 teen drivers in Virginia Beach, and 46.6 crashes for every 1,000 teen drivers in Chesapeake. Similar results were found for 2007, when the weekday crash rate for Virginia Beach teens (71.2) was 28 percent higher than for Chesapeake teens (55.6). In a secondary analysis that evaluated only the traditional school months of September 2007 through June 2008, the weekday crash rate for teen drivers was 25 percent higher in Virginia Beach (80.0) than in Chesapeake (64.0).
For a small group of people—perhaps just 1% to 3% of the population—sleep is a waste of time. Natural "short sleepers," as they're officially known, are night owls and early birds simultaneously. They typically turn in well after midnight, then get up just a few hours later and barrel through the day without needing to take naps or load up on caffeine. They are also energetic, outgoing, optimistic and ambitious...
Interesting article from Robert Alison in the Winnipeg Free Press earlier in the year:
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Sleep is a fundamental component of animal biology. New evidence confirms that, in humans, its timing reflects intelligence. People with higher IQ’s (intelligence quotients) tend to be more active nocturnally, going to bed later, whereas those with lower IQ’s usually retire to bed sooner after nightfall.
The precise function of sleep is arguable. But, accumulating evidence shows that lack of sleep in humans and animals can result in obesity, high blood pressure and reduced life spans. Drowsiness impairs mental performance. For instance, 37 per cent of all motor vehicle accidents are caused by drowsy motorists, according to a University of Pennsylvania study. Even minor sleep deficiencies impact on body chemistry.
According to Juliette Faraco of Stanford University, sleep loss generates a proportionate need for “sleep rebound”. One of the most controversial and significant recent findings is the correlation in humans between the earliness/lateness of sleep preferences and intelligence.
Is it just a British thing? From the Telegraph:
More than a third of adults still hug a childhood soft toy while falling asleep, according to a new survey. More than half of Britons still have a teddy bear from childhood and the average teddy bear is 27 years old, the poll found.
Travelodge, the hotel chain, surveyed 6,000 British adults and found that respondents said sleeping with a teddy a “comforting and calming” way to end the day.
The survey also found that 25 per cent of men said they even took their teddy away with them on business because it reminded them of home.
Travelodge said that in the past year staff have reunited more than 75,000 teddies and their owners.
Spokesman Shakila Ahmed said: “Interestingly the owners have not just been children, we have had a large number of frantic businessmen and women call us regarding their forgotten teddy bear.”
Corrine Sweet, a psychologist, said cuddling a teddy bear was an ‘important part of our national psyche’…
[continues in the Telegraph]
Who knew? From the New York Times:
Some people sleepwalk; others talk in their sleep. Now a study finds that 1 in 12 patients with sleep disorders reported having had sex while they were asleep.
Researchers reviewed the medical charts of 832 consecutive patients seeking help at a Toronto sleep center and found that 63 patients, or 7.6 percent, reported either having had sex or engaging in other sexual activity, like masturbating, while asleep.
The phenomenon, called sexsomnia, is a form of parasomnia, a disorder in which people who are asleep but in a state of semi-arousal engage in behaviors they are not conscious of. Sexsomnia is defined by the International Classification of Sleep Disorders and may take place during a sleepwalking episode.
The study, which has not yet been published, is among the first to try to quantify how prevalent sexsomnia is among patients with sleep problems. (An abstract was to be presented Monday in San Antonio at Sleep 2010, the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.)…
[continues in the New York Times]
Jeremy Hsu writes on LiveScience:
Playing video games before bedtime may give people an unusual level of awareness and control in their dreams, LiveScience has learned.
That ability to shape the alternate reality of dream worlds might not match mind-bending Hollywood films such as The Matrix, but it could provide an edge when fighting nightmares or even mental trauma.
Dreams and video games both represent alternate realities, according to Jayne Gackenbach, a psychologist at Grant MacEwan University in Canada. But she pointed out that dreams arise biologically from the human mind, while video games are technologically driven by computers and gaming consoles.
“If you’re spending hours a day in a virtual reality, if nothing else it’s practice,” said Jayne Gackenbach, a psychologist at Grant MacEwan University in Canada. “Gamers are used to controlling their game environments, so that can translate into dreams.”
Read More: LiveScience
Uh-oh! Discovery News reports that chronic lack of sleep could end up costing you more than the price of that extra cup of coffee you need to stay awake:
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Chronic insomniacs losing out on sleep may also be missing brain matter.
For the first time, brain imaging has linked chronic insomnia to lower gray matter density in areas that regulate the brain’s ability to make decisions and to rest. The research could lead to new treatment plans for people who struggle with sleeplessness.
“The findings predict that chronic insomnia sufferers may have compromised capacities to evaluate the affective value of stimuli,” said Ellemarijie Altena, lead author of the study from the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience. “This could have consequences for other cognitive processes, notably decision-making.”
The study, published in Biological Psychiatry, compared the white and gray matter volumes of 24 older, chronic insomnia patients to 13 normal sleepers, and controlled for physical and psychiatric disorders that could also alter brain densities.