Please see below recent sleep-related change.
- What's New? - Sleep
- What's Changing? - Health
- What's Changing? - Memory
- What's Changing? - Quietness
- Many of our higher faculties depend on a good night’s sleep. Not only are we more alert, but we tend to be calmer, more patient, and far more capable at a range of cognitive tasks. And sleep may be even more structural than that: the way we perceive reality and the way we process or calibrate our senses all depend on getting some decent sleep.
- A study conducted on mice, which share basic sleep mechanisms with humans, suggested that brief, repeated “wake-ups” during sleep are completely normal, and may actually augur well for one’s memory. The research was published in Nature Neuroscience.
It’s common for humans to bemoan a night of fragmented sleep and prize one that’s completely uninterrupted, but a study conducted on mice — which share basic sleep mechanisms with us — suggests that brief, repeated “wake-ups” during sleep are completely normal, and may actually augur well for one’s memory. The research was published in Nature Neuroscience. “You could say that the short awakenings reset the brain so that it is ready to store memory when you dive back into sleep,” Maiken Nedergaard, a Professor of Glial Cell Biology at the University of Copenhagen, speculated.
- A start-up claimed technology-induced lucid dreaming could enable people to work while asleep. Prophetic said that their headband, the Halo, releases pulses of ultrasound waves into a region of the brain associated with lucid dreams. Its CEO claimed that the ability to remain in control of their choices while they dream could enable users to write code or work on a novel while they are sleeping.
- As some of the working world returns to traditional office settings and many businesses revert to pre-pandemic operational norms, there are concerns over the potential adverse effects on mental wellbeing and sleep patterns. To address this, companies are tapping into the burgeoning 'sleep economy', as business leaders become increasingly cognisant of the profound impact of sleep deprivation. In 2024, experts predict more people will prioritise their sleep, as companies continue to invest in products that aid physical health and emotional wellbeing.
- For many, life in the information age has become a race against the clock to finish tasks and meet deadlines. In a sense, the information age has heralded a "sleepy age" for many, and this may be more acute among e.g. professional financial investors. The impact of sleep deprivation on cognitive performance is widely documented in medical, psychology, and economics studies, but as financial decision-making heavily relies on these cognitive processes, sleep loss also significantly affects financial market outcomes such as returns, trading activity and liquidity.
- Recent research making use of the large UK Biobank database showed that people who regularly nap have slightly larger brains than those who don't. While the difference in size was small, about 1.3%, the researchers note that it's equivalent to between 2.6 and 6.5 years of brain ageing. However. There were no cognitive benefits attached to the increase in brain size.
- A study by University College London showed that nappers' brains are 15 cubic centimetres larger and that daily catnaps no more than 30 minutes long could delay ageing between three and six years. "Everybody could potentially experience some benefit from napping," said researcher Dr Victoria Garfield, and her colleague Valentina Paz noted that "regular napping could protect against neurodegeneration", like dementia and Alzheimer's.
- Vivid and emotionally intense dreams as well as isolated images, thoughts and residual bodily perceptions occur in all stages of sleep. Though sleep involves periods of unconsciousness, it is not a period of silence, but of conscious activity and constant flux. Though sleep and wakefulness have traditionally been considered opposites and mutually exclusive states, it seems increasingly plausible that wakeful mind-wandering and dreaming in sleep are similar in phenomenology and neurophysiology. argued Psyche.
- Research that not only did people tend to sleep for longer in the winter, but they also spent more time in the "rapid eye movement", or REM, phase of sleep. This period of sleep is linked to the body’s circadian clock, which is affected by changes in light exposure, as well as being the phase in which people tend to dream and process emotions. Dr Dieter Kunz, the lead author of the study, says a lack of adjustment in human behaviour to seasonal changes could also explain why people some feel as though they are "running on empty" in February or March.
- Young adults, the middle-aged, and older adults can be clearly delineated based on sleep duration. Among older adults, seven hours of sleep is linked to optimal spatial navigation abilities, with less than seven hours and more than seven hours both associated with poorer outcomes. There is also an association between sleep duration and geographic latitude, with those farther from the Equator sleeping longer, noted Big Think.
- A new, one-dose medication for sleeping sickness was 95% effective at eliminating the parasite in a new phase 2/3 clinical study, led by Switzerland’s Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative, with partners in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Guinea. The drug, called acoziborole, could represent a vast improvement over current and previous therapies, which range from time-consuming at best to lethally toxic at worst - and always require painful and invasive procedures.
- A lack of sleep can reduce women's interest in pursuing work opportunities and sense of ambition, a study found. No difference was found in men who had lower quality sleep. Researchers speculated that, due to socialisation, men are taught to be less open with their emotions and more ambitious, and so may not respond as much to poor sleep.
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- At least five hours sleep a night may cut the over-50s' chances of multiple chronic health problems, according to the PLoS Medicine study. Ill health can disrupt sleep - but poor sleep may also be a forewarning or a risk itself, they say. There is evidence sleep helps restore, rest and rejuvenate the body and mind - but why the five hour "golden slumber number" might matter remains unclear.
- 67% of adults in the UK experience disrupted sleep. In the US, according to the Sleep Foundation, between 10-30% of adults struggle with chronic insomnia. More than a quarter of people say that improving sleep is their biggest health ambition, according to a survey for Aviva.
- Millions of years of evolution have adapted humans to daytime activity. Night is for sleeping. Researchers hypothesise that when we deny this biological reality, staying awake after midnight, our brain functions in an impaired state. This "Mind After Midnight" hypothesis could partially explain research showing that night owls tend to suffer higher rates of depression, make poor diet choices, and die earlier.
- It’s estimated that around one-third of the general population experiences one or more insomnia symptoms. By some estimates, approximately 10 per cent of people meet criteria for chronic insomnia, making it one of the most prevalent medical conditions. Despite how common it is, accessing evidence-based treatment for insomnia remains a challenge for a number of reasons, so it goes untreated in too many people.
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- For a lucky few, maybe 1% to 3% of the population at most, sleep is little more than an afterthought, even an impediment. These “natural short sleepers,” as they are commonly called, need just four to six hours a night to wake up fully rested. As a bonus, they seem to be slimmer than average, more optimistic, more psychologically resilient, have a higher pain tolerance, and are even immune to jet lag.
- Getting an hour or so more sleep each night can help people to cut calories, according a small clinical trial in overweight adults. Researchers in the US found that people who typically slept for less than 6.5 hours a night shed an average of 270 calories from their daily intake when they got an extra 1.2 hours of sleep. Sustained over three years, the reduction in calories could lead people to lose about 12kg (26lbs) without changing their diet during the day, the scientists believe. Some participants in the study consumed 500 fewer calories a day after improving their sleep.
- Insomnia is officially on the rise, and with it a range of ever-more far-fetched remedies and therapies. The pandemic, and the anxiety and uncertainty that accompanied it, led to a spike in sleeplessness, and terms such as “coronasomnia” and “momsomnia” are now in the lexicon. Articles, books and podcasts about sleep hygiene, digital detoxing, the calming powers of exercise and the dangers of sleep deprivation for one’s mental and physical health are popping up with increasing frequency, noted the FT.
- There appears to be an optimal bedtime - between 10pm and 11pm - linked to better heart health, according to researchers who studied 88,000 volunteers. The team behind the UK Biobank work believe synchronising sleep to match our internal body clock may explain the association found with a reduced risk of heart attacks and strokes. The body's natural 24-hour rhythm is important for wellbeing and alertness.
- A study by researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine indicated that just like getting too little sleep, sleeping too much may also be linked with cognitive decline. Overall, the researchers found that sleeping less than 4.5 hours and more than 6.5 hours a night, alongside poor quality sleep, was associated with cognitive decline over time. Indeed, the impact of sleep duration on cognitive function was similar to the effect of age, which is the greatest risk factor for developing cognitive decline.
Quality of sleep has an enormous impact on both physical and mental wellbeing - and a lack of proper sleep can lead to poor health outcomes, from high blood pressure, to depression, to heart attacks and strokes. Wearables are becoming a hey technology to help consumers get a better night’s rest and by 2024, the sleep industry is expected to be worth $585bn.
- Insomnia was searched on Google more in 2020 than it ever had been before, according to one study, while another suggested that the number of insomniacs in the UK rose from one in six to one in four over the pandemic.
- The 2017 Nobel prize for medicine was awarded for the discovery of how our circadian rhythms are controlled. Curio explored how much impact sleep has on the cycle of life.
- Research from Michigan State University found that naps do not restore cognitive function if people are not getting six-eight hours of uninterrupted, slow-wave sleep.
- From video calls in pyjamas that characterised the early days of the pandemic to the practice of ‘bedmin’ – catching up on paperwork in the small hours – the combined bedroom/office became an unwelcome reality for millions. While enthusiasts hailed commute-free remote working as the perfect opportunity to relearn good sleep hygiene, it also became clear that lack of face-to-face contact and blurring of boundaries between people’s professional and domestic lives could be unhealthy, particularly for those who worked mostly from their beds. Talking to staff about how much sleep they’re getting is largely as organisational taboo. For some people, it can be an intensely personal matter that relatively few managers want to broach. but sleep deprivation costs the UK economy upwards of £40bn a year in lost productivity and with hybrid working becoming the rule in many industries, this total is only likely to increase.
- In The Sleeping Beauties, neurologist Suzanne O'Sullivan explored 'psychosomatic illnesses', travelling the world collecting fascinating stories of culture-bound syndromes. Inspired by a poignant encounter with the sleeping refugee children of Sweden, she visited other communities who have also been subject to outbreaks of so-called ‘mystery’ illnesses. From a derelict post-Soviet mining town in Kazakhstan, to the Mosquito Coast of Nicaragua via an oil town in Texas, to the heart of the Maria Mountains in Colombia, O’Sullivan heard remarkable stories from an array of people, and attempted to unravel their complex meaning.
- Businesses in many countries, including Spain and China, find value in letting workers nap to recharge in the middle of the day. Others, like those in the US, largely frown upon it. The mental, physical, and economic benefits of napping are many; studies show that children who nap daily experience an increase in energy, academic scores, and happiness, while simultaneously experiencing less moodiness and fewer behavioural problems.
- In Habits for a Good Sleep, Dr Tim Sharp warned that the average person spends 26 years of their life sleeping, but many of us are still tired, all the time. The reality is, sleep is not a priority for most of us and even though we’re getting sleep, it might not be the type of sleep we need.
- For The School of Life, to a surprising extent, some of the gravest problems we face during a day can be traced back to a brutally simple fact: that we have not had enough sleep the night before. We often fail to appreciate the extent to which our ability to confront them with courage and resilience is dependent on a range of distinctly ‘small’ or ‘low’ factors: what our blood sugar level is like, when we last had a proper hug from someone, how much water we’ve drunk – and how many hours we’ve rested.
- Sleeplessness was already at what the World Health Organization called “epidemic” levels even before Covid-19. The pandemic made those feelings more widespread and intense, which can lead to a condition some health experts have termed “coronasomnia.” Therapy and medication were the gold standards of treatment for sleeplessness, but in recent years, there’s also been an explosion of gadgets and apps promising better sleep through technology. Quartz published tips for sleeping well in a field guide.
- Sleep paralysis, which 20 percent of people experience at least once, can be terrifying. Though it is a neurological phenomenon, culture and beliefs can make the experience worse. One potential treatment is to learn to control the content of our dreams.
- A number of theories attempting to explain dreaming exist. These include the ideas that dreams are needed to regulate our emotional health and that they help us psychologically practice for encountering real-world phenomena. The leading contemporary theory is that dreams are involved with or even caused by memory processing and storage. A paper published in the journal Patterns proposed a new hypothesis: dreaming is the brain's attempt to generalise our experiences, much like how randomness must be used to teach computers how to recognise real world-data, noted Big Think.
- Sleep quality (often referred to as sleep hygiene) makes a major difference to physical and mental health. Research has shown better - not necessarily longer - sleep is associated with myriad superior cognitive functions, including better learning, memory and mood. Plus, high-quality sleep is linked to lower blood sugar and better weight management.
- Octopuses might dream like humans. But their dreams only last for about a minute during active sleep, according to Quartz.
- Lucid dreamers can communicate. If you pose a question to somebody who knows they’re dreaming, they might answer you with eye movement, reported Quartz.
- Sleep is probably the most effective thing we can do to reset our mind and body each day. However, with one in three of us suffering from poor sleep due to factors such as stress, working late and too much screen time, having a good night’s sleep can be hard to achieve. Sleep expert and author of Why We Sleep Matthew Walker says: “People often tell me they don’t have enough time to sleep because they have so much work to do. Without wanting to be combative in any way whatsoever, I respond by informing them that perhaps the reason they still have so much to do at the end of the day is precisely because they do not get enough sleep at night”, noted EY.
- The director of the Centre for Human Sleep Science at UC Berkeley coined this time in history as a “catastrophic sleep loss epidemic.” To make matters worse, recent studies show that there has been a rise in sleep disorders like insomnia and hypersomnia associated with the pandemic. Across the United States alone, the number of prescriptions filled for sleep disorders increased by nearly 15% between in just one month of 2020 compared with the same period in 2019. Sleep deprivation not only affects our moods, but also our health and work-life balance, warned the Harvard Business Review.
- Early humans may have survived harsh winters by hibernating. According to fossil experts, disruptions in bone development show that Neanderthals may have slept through winters like cave bears and bats, reported Quartz.
- With the rise of working from home, and many getting poorer quality sleep during the pandemic, taking a midday nap can help beat the afternoon slump and help people refresh themselves. Sleep scientists told Fast Company that one should keep naps at 10 to 20 minutes, lest a person fall into a deep sleep cycle that might make them groggy when they awaken. The suggest carving out a separate space for shut-eye away from work spaces, and even if one can't fall asleep, simply closing one's eyes should still help boost energy levels, though if someone.is consistently unable to sleep at night, they recommend seeking medical help.
- Big Think reported on a study from the University of South Florida's School of Ageing Studies, published in the journal Sleep Health, which uncovers a critical best practice for nurses: sleep. In this study of 61 full-time nurses in U.S. hospitals, an extra 29 minutes of sleep every night helped these frontline workers be more mindful while on the job. Nurses are expert multitaskers- the antithesis of mindfulness, though given their job duties, juggling multiple obligations comes with the territory. It's easy to overlook a blood test or temperature check when the hospital floor is slammed. Mindfulness plays an important role in helping them stay on track without becoming overwhelmed by tasks.
- Scientists now use algorithms to analyse records of thousands of dreams. It is only since the publication of Sigmund Freud’s treatise The Interpretation of Dreams, in 1899, that dreams have become a subject of serious scientific scrutiny. Things have moved on since Freud’s day. His emphasis on violent urges and sexual repression as the roots of dreaming now looks old-fashioned. Instead, the premise is that dreams reflect a dreamer’s quotidian experience - either because they are an epiphenomenon of the consolidation of memories or because they are a mental testing ground for ideas the dreamer may have to put into practice when awake. This resemblance between dreams and reality is dubbed the "continuity hypothesis" by psychologists.
- There are three different types of sleep patterns: monophasic sleep (one chunk at night for a recommended 6-8 hours), biphasic sleep (two chunks in a 24-hour period), and polyphasic sleep (three or more chunks in a 24-hour period). While sleeping, you cycle through four stages: two light, one deep, and one REM. Switching sleep patterns can disrupt these stages, as can consuming alcohol. So while attempting to maximise your awake time, you may be denying your brain and body the time it needs to recover, which can be dangerous, warned Big Think.
- Oils, meditation apps, and memory foam mattresses - many people's obsession with getting the perfect night’s sleep is stronger than ever. But is the race to get more shut-eye actually making us more exhausted? Journalist Barbara Speed wrote an essay on the global sleep industry for Prospect, and unpacked the false science and bad assumptions that are stopping us from getting the proper rest we need.
- Humans should hide away in winter. Taking cues from animals that hibernate, we can use the cold months as a time for restoration, claimed Quartz.
- The US$70 billion sleep aid industry is thriving, with high-tech mattresses, sleep trackers, and even cuddly robots promising to solve the world’s sleeplessness. Quartz looked at how sleep startups managed to monetise a basic function of life - and why consumers are buying in.
- Sleep may seem like a natural activity, but it is just not that simple for many. While there are a range of solutions being offered to improve people’s sleep, from nutrition advice to counselling and even black-out curtains and silk pillows, these options aren’t available to everyone. “Life shapes sleep and sleep enables life to be a little bit better, but if you’re poor, sleeping in crowded, noisy conditions, not eating well or you have a lifestyle that means you’re out late into the night working, your sleep will suffer,” according to Professor John Groeger from the School of Social Sciences at Nottingham Trent University. Meanwhile, findings from Vitality’s Britain’s Healthiest Workplace study revealed a direct correlation between income and sleep quality, with lower earners having poorer sleep quality than higher earners. Over half (57% of people who earned less than £10,000 reported problems sleeping, compared with just 23% of people who earned more than £150,000.
- Narcolepsy and other sleep disorders often elude diagnosis because medical students receive little training in sleep and sleep disorders, and few primary care physicians are knowledgeable on the topic. Doctors often mistake the symptoms for depression or epilepsy. Humans typically need between six and eight hours of sleep a night, but not everyone needs the same amount. Variation in sleep patterns and the reluctance of people who suffer sleep problems to seek medical help contribute to the lack of accurate diagnoses.
- The founder of Big Health, the company behind Sleepio, an insomnia treatment plan, describes sleep as the “Trojan horse” in the mental health debate. People dislike talking about mental health, but poor sleep - both a cause and an indicator of mental ill-health - is not yet subject to the same stigma.
- Philips research found that the average amount achieved by adults over the age of 25 worldwide is 6 hours 48 minutes. Lack of sleep, according to the London Sleep Centre, leads to increased adrenalin and cortisol levels, overeating, impaired attention and memory, and it causes people to become irritable and emotionally volatile. Studies have also shown facial recognition has changed; people who haven’t had enough sleep have difficulty assigning emotion in others and often get it wrong.
- Imagine waking in the night to find yourself totally unable to move, pinned to the bed, having apparently lost all muscle function. Add to this a feeling of pressure on the chest, or the vague sense of a dark presence lurking in the room, just out of sight. Sleep paralysis is a condition that may affect around 8% of the population at some stage of their lives, often in childhood or adolescence, though for a smaller proportion it occurs regularly and persists well into adulthood. Although well understood by experts and not considered to be harmful, sleep paralysis can be a terrifying experience, even for those that are very familiar with it.
- The mental, physical, and economic benefits of napping are many; studies show that children who nap daily experience an increase in energy, academic scores and happiness, while simultaneously experiencing less moodiness and fewer behavioural problems.
- Findings from Vitality’s Britain’s Healthiest Workplace study revealed a direct correlation between income and sleep quality, with lower earners having poorer sleep quality than higher earners. Over half (57% of people who earned less than £10,000 reported problems sleeping, compared with just 23% of people who earned more than £150,000.
- A lot of attention has been given to the negative consequences of social media on the human psyche, noted Big Think. Likewise, specific and long overdue workplace issues are under dissection: gender discrimination and sexual harassment, fair pay, and surviving in the gig economy. One lesser discussed yet pervasive topic is now being looked at: incivility. Given all of the incivility in social media, that it seeps into our workplace is not surprising; it was there long before we could tweet out unthinking nonsense at strangers. In some ways we're becoming, by the day, a less empathetic culture. A study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, pinpointed one major issue arising from rudeness at work: sleep problems.
- In A Companion to the Restless Early Hours, The School of Life noted that not being able to sleep is deeply frightening. We panic about our ability to cope with the demands of the next day; we panic that we are panicking; the possibility of sleep recedes ever further as the clock counts down to another exhausted, irritable dawn. Our societies have learnt to treat insomnia with the best-applied discipline we know: medicine - in particular, with pills powerful enough to wrestle consciousness into submission. But there are other things to do besides, or alongside, medicalising insomnia, added TSOL. We can reflect on our sleeplessness, define it to ourselves and others, try to understand where it springs from in human nature and speculate on what it might - in its own confused way - be trying to tell us.
- Sleep facilitates memory, creativity, problem solving and the acquisition of motor skills. It recharges the immune system, modulates blood sugar, clears coronary arteries and wards off disease. However, most adults in the industrialised world fall short of the recommended amount of sleep. Modern life - and its lights, air travel, caffeine, alcohol and expanding workday - can adversely affect sleep. The results can lead to impaired memory, decreased productivity and tired drivers.
- The need for sleep is universal. But the biological reason why sleeplessness ultimately leads to death has always been a mystery. A 2019 paper from Israel's Bar-Ilan University published in Nature Communications presented a groundbreaking theory that when we sleep, our nerve cells take a break from their usual function, freeing their resources to reduce DNA damage that was accumulated during wakefulness.
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- Work, friendships, exercise, parenting, eating, reading - there just aren’t enough hours in the day, noted Aeon, adding that, to live fully, many carve those extra hours out of their sleep time. Then they pay for it the next day. A thirst for life leads many to pine for a drastic reduction, if not elimination, of the human need for sleep. Little wonder: if there were a widespread disease that similarly deprived people of a third of their conscious lives, the search for a cure would be lavishly funded. It’s the Holy Grail of sleep researchers, and they might be closing in.
- Most people who wake up at 4 a.m. do it because they have to - farmers, flight attendants, currency traders and postal workers. Others rise before dawn because they want to. However, a Wall Street Journal article argued that 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. can be the most planned, most organised and most scheduled part of the day.
- However, Quartz argued that the cult of early rising seems to miss a pretty obvious point: There is an opportunity cost involved. First and foremost, if you’re waking up this early without going to bed early, you’re going to be very tired and sleep-deprived.
- People who wake in the night and feel paralysed with terror aren’t crazy or imagining things, found Quartz. During the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep, the muscles relax to the point where they become immobilised, probably to keep us from violently acting out our dreams when we sleep. This is also the stage of the most intense dreams. People who experience sleep paralysis have essentially woken up before they’ve stopped dreaming. An estimated 8% of people experience it regularly, and some estimates have placed the number of people who have at least one experience of it in their lifetimes as high as 40%.
- Many who experience sleep paralysis also experience hypnagogic hallucinations: vivid images perceived in the transition from wakefulness to sleep, or the other way around. Spiders or insects crawling up the walls is a particularly common such vision, according to Alon Avidan, a professor of neurology at the University of California Los Angeles and director of the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center. So are human-shaped figures. These episodes are often accompanied by a profound sense of fear and anxiety, and a sense that something is trying to harm the sleeper.
- Sleep is often imagined as a sort of non-entity, the opposite of consciousness. It shouldn’t be, according to National Geographic, which showed dreamy photographs balancing a deep dive into the science of sleep’s complex stages and the human forces - artificial light, cultural norms, and sleep aids - that affect them.
- Thousands of people watch a 66-year-old man sleep. The man has been broadcasting his slumber on Periscope and Twitch since 2017.
- Further reading: Nap time for grown-ups: will sleeping pods catch on?
- Struggling to make time for sleep? It could be killing you, warned the RSA, arguing that we are sleepwalking into the greatest public health crisis of our time. Sleep lowers blood pressure, enhances creativity, boosts the immune system, regulates blood sugar, stabilises mood, prevents cancer and increases fertility. It is one of the most-effective medications for all the leading causes of mortality.
- Men and women sleep better in gender-equal societies, claimed Quartz. Sharing the worry over finances and childcare makes both sexes more rested.
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- Eight hours of sleep a night isn’t enough. A leading sleep scientist says 8.5 hours is the right amount of time in bed.
- In its special report, Everything you need to know about sleep, the FT asked why though we can’t survive without it, why is sleep often so elusive - and how can we get more of it?
- Sleep is necessary for maintaining good health. As part of research into human sleep patterns, attempts have been made to break the world record for sleep deprivation.
- The sleep industry is the US alone is estimated to be worth $30 billion annually, according to the Financial Times.