Chapter 10. Biological Rhythms and Sleep

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By Diana Kwon Across the animal kingdom, nearly all creatures sleep or display sleep-like states. The roundworm, Caenorhabditis elegans, does not sleep in a typical day-night cycle like humans and many other animals. Instead, these worms catch most of their z’s while transitioning from one larval stage to another, during a period called lethargus. When these creatures fall asleep, most of their neurons become inactive spontaneously, suggesting that sleep—at least in worms—is a passive state of the brain, according to a study published today (June 22) in Science. “The condition between sleep to wakefulness is probably one of the most drastic changes that our brains undergo,” says Manuel Zimmer, a neuroscientist at the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology at the Vienna Biocenter in Austria. “How a brain can switch between such drastically different states is not really understood.” To investigate this process, Zimmer and colleagues examined the brains of C. elegans. These worms do indeed have primitive brains, yet their nervous system comprises only 302 neurons, making it much easier to tackle than, say, the human brain, with billions of neurons, or even the fly brain, which has around 100,000 nerve cells. Using transgenic worms engineered with a fluorescent indicator that becomes active in response to high calcium levels in neurons (a proxy for neural activity), the researchers imaged the C. elegans brain during the transitions between sleep and wake states by adjusting oxygen levels. Because these soil-dwelling creatures live among low levels of oxygen (10 percent), atmospheric oxygen concentrations (21 percent) induce hyperactivity and wakefulness. © 1986-2017 The Scientist

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 23775 - Posted: 06.26.2017

by Laura Sanders When we brought our first baby home from the hospital, our pediatrician advised us to have her sleep in our room. We put our tiny new roommate in a crib near our bed (though other containers that were flat, firm and free of blankets, pillows or stuffed animals would have worked, too). The advice aims to reduce the risk of sleep-related deaths, including sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. Studies suggest that in their first year of life, babies who bunk with their parents (but not in the same bed) are less likely to die from SIDS than babies who sleep in their own room. The reasons aren’t clear, but scientists suspect it has to do with lighter sleep: Babies who sleep near parents might more readily wake themselves up and avoid the deep sleep that’s a risk factor for SIDS. That’s an important reason to keep babies close. Room sharing also makes sense from a logistical standpoint. Middle of the night feedings and diaper changes are easier when there’s less distance between you and the babe. But babies get older. They start snoring a little louder and eating less frequently, and it’s quite natural to wonder how long this room sharing should last. That’s a question without a great answer. In November 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics task force on SIDS updated its sleep guidelines. The earlier recommendation was that babies ought to sleep in parents’ bedrooms for an entire year. The new suggestion softens that a bit to say infants should be there for “ideally for the first year of life, but at least for the first 6 months.” © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2017

Keyword: Sleep; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 23766 - Posted: 06.23.2017

Jon Hamilton Thanks to Sigmund Freud, we all know what it means to dream about swords, sticks and umbrellas. Or maybe we don't. "For 100 years, we got stuck into that Freudian perspective on dreams, which turned out to be not scientifically very accurate," says Robert Stickgold, a sleep researcher and associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "So it's only been in the last 15 to 20 years that we've really started making progress." Today, most brain scientists reject Freud's idea that dreams are highly symbolic representations of unconscious (and usually sexual) desire. That dream umbrella, they say, is probably just an umbrella. But researchers are still trying to figure out what dreams do represent, and what their purpose is. "There's not really a solid theory about why dreaming is there," says Benjamin Baird, a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Sleep and Consciousness at the University of Wisconsin ­– Madison. "It's a big mystery." We all have a future self, a version of us that is better, more successful. It can inspire us to achieve our dreams, or mock us for everything we have failed to become. In this episode of the NPR podcast Invisibilia, hosts Alix Spiegel and Hanna Rosin talk to a woman who believes she can connect with her younger self in dreams. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 23765 - Posted: 06.23.2017

By Ashley Yeager Researchers led by Bert O’Malley of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, identified a set of metabolism and stress genes in mouse liver cells that followed a pattern of expression on a 12-hour cycle—starting in the morning and again in the evening. O’Malley’s team also found that a 12-hour clock, distinct from the 24-hour circadian clock, drives this morning-evening rhythm in gene expression. The clock’s origin, the scientists suggest, may be rooted in organisms’ initial evolution in the ocean millions of years ago. “It’s a provocative argument,” Cambridge University biologist Michael Hastings tells The Scientist in a phone interview. He’s cautious about the claim of an evolutionary connection between the 12-hour clock in sea creatures and the 12-hour cycles seen in mammals. Still, he commends the team on taking a “cross-biology” approach toward exploring 12-hour gene-expression rhythms in a range of animals. In past studies, researchers have shown that coastal sea animals, such as the crustacean Eurydice pulchra have a dominant body clock driven by the 12-hour ebb and flow of the tides. Rhythms of gene expression every 12-hours have also been found in mammals, such as mice. Whether mammals’ 12-hour rhythms are driven by the body’s circadian clock or something else, however, has remained a mystery. Interested in that question and also observations that the time of day can affect humans’ ability to think clearly, handle stress, and respond to medicine, O’Malley and colleagues began to look more closely at mammals’ 12-hour gene-expression rhythms. In the new study, they analyzed gene-expression data of 18,108 mouse liver genes. Using a mathematical technique developed by researchers at Rice University, the team identified 3,652 genes that had 12-hour rhythms that didn’t appear to be associated with the mouse’s circadian clock. © 1986-2017 The Scientist

Keyword: Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 23748 - Posted: 06.17.2017

By Amina Zafar, CBC News When men postpone meal times, it delays one of the body's clocks, British researchers say, a finding that sheds light on a potential way to overcome jet lag and health harms for shift workers. Our bodies run a roughly 24-hour cycle called the circadian or sleep/wake rhythm. It is controlled by a master "clock" in the brain that responds to light signals from the retina, synchronizing other clocks throughout the body. Now investigators have discovered that a five-hour delay in meal time causes a five-hour delay in blood glucose rhythms. "We think this is due to changes in clocks in our metabolic tissues but not the 'master' clock in the brain," said Jonathan Johnston of the University of Surrey, one of the authors of the study published in Thursday's issue of the journal Current Biology. "This work is important because it demonstrates for the first time that a relatively subtle change of standard human feeding pattern re-synchronizes key metabolic rhythms in the body." Currently, people disoriented by the sluggish time warp of jet lag may take melatonin supplements and time their light exposure to help synchronize their clocks. While the study introduces the idea of adding meal timing to the clock reset toolkit, the practical details of how to do so still need to be worked out. In the experiment, 10 healthy young men came to a specialized sleep lab for 13 days. At first, breakfast was set for 30 minutes after waking. Then, after the men got used ©2017 CBC/Radio-Canada.

Keyword: Biological Rhythms; Obesity
Link ID: 23695 - Posted: 06.02.2017

By Mitch Leslie Colin Wahl, a market research consultant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, was recovering nicely from triple bypass surgery last year when he noticed a white spot on the incision. It proved to be an obstinate infection that required three further surgeries to eradicate. Wahl, now 61, says his mind hasn't been as sharp since. "It's little things mostly related to memory." An avid recreational hockey player, he would forget to bring his skates or sticks to the rink. Certain words became elusive. Just hours after talking to a colleague about Tasmania, he couldn't recall the word. Instead, he says, the phrase "Outback Australia" was stuck in his mind. "I'm trying to remember something and something else slips into that memory slot." Many of us can recount a similar story about a friend, colleague, or loved one—usually elderly—whose mental condition deteriorated after a visit to an operating room. "The comment that ‘So-and-so has never been the same after the operation’ is pervasive," says anesthesiologist Roderic Eckenhoff of the University of Pennsylvania. Often, surgical patients are beset by postoperative delirium—delusions, confusion, and hallucinations—but that usually fades quickly. Other people develop what has been dubbed postoperative cognitive dysfunction (POCD), suffering problems with memory, attention, and concentration that can last months or even a lifetime. POCD not only disrupts patients' lives, but may also augur worse to come. According to a 2008 study, people who have POCD 3 months after they leave the hospital are nearly twice as likely to die within a year as are surgical patients who report no mental setbacks. With the ballooning senior population needing more surgeries, "this is going to become an epidemic," says anesthesiologist Mervyn Maze of the University of California, San Francisco. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Attention; Sleep
Link ID: 23691 - Posted: 06.01.2017

By Alice Klein A DRUG normally used to treat narcolepsy and excessive daytime sleepiness also seems to improve symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms. The finding supports the idea that ADHD might be a sleep disorder. People who have been diagnosed with ADHD find it difficult to concentrate and are generally hyperactive. But many with the condition also find it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep at night, and feel drowsy during the day. Could this mean ADHD is a type of sleep disorder? After all, the brain pathways involved in paying attention have also been linked to sleep. And there’s some evidence of similarly disrupted patterns of chemical signalling in the brains of people with sleep disorders and ADHD. One suggestion is that the circadian rhythm that controls our sleep-wake cycle over each 24 hour period may be misaligned in people with ADHD, causing them to be sleepy or alert at the wrong times. This idea inspired Eric Konofal at Robert-Debré Hospital in Paris to try using a drug for narcolepsy and excessive daytime sleepiness to treat ADHD. Mazindol mimics the effects of a brain chemical called orexin, which modulates wakefulness and appetite. It works as a stimulant to keep us awake, and is lacking in people with narcolepsy, who tend to fall asleep at inappropriate times.

Keyword: ADHD; Sleep
Link ID: 23681 - Posted: 05.31.2017

By JUSTIN GILLIS Global warming caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases is having clear effects in the physical world: more heat waves, heavier rainstorms and higher sea levels, to cite a few. In recent years, though, social scientists have been wrestling with a murkier question: What will climate change mean for human welfare? Forecasts in this realm are tricky, necessarily based on a long chain of assumptions. Scientific papers have predicted effects as varied as a greater spread of tropical diseases, fewer deaths from cold weather and more from hot weather, and even bumpier rides on airplanes. Now comes another entry in this literature: a prediction that in a hotter world, people will get less sleep. In a paper published online Friday by the journal Science Advances, Nick Obradovich and colleagues predicted more restless nights, especially in the summer, as global temperatures rise. They found that the poor, who are less likely to have air-conditioning or be able to run it, as well as the elderly, who have more difficulty regulating their body temperature, would be hit hard. If global emissions are allowed to continue at a high level, the paper found, then additional nights of sleeplessness can be expected beyond what people normally experience. By 2050, for every 100 Americans, an extra six nights of sleeplessness can be expected every month, the researchers calculated. By 2099, that would more than double, to 14 additional nights of tossing and turning each month for every 100 people, in their estimation. Researchers have long known that being too hot or too cold at night can disturb anyone’s sleep, but nobody had thought to ask how that might affect people in a world grown hotter because of climate change. Dr. Obradovich is a political scientist who researches both the politics of climate change and its likely human impacts, holding appointments at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He started the research while completing a doctoral degree at the University of California, San Diego. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 23666 - Posted: 05.27.2017

By Andy Coghlan Burning the midnight oil may well burn out your brain. The brain cells that destroy and digest worn-out cells and debris go into overdrive in mice that are chronically sleep-deprived. In the short term, this might be beneficial – clearing potentially harmful debris and rebuilding worn circuitry might protect healthy brain connections. But it may cause harm in the long term, and could explain why a chronic lack of sleep puts people at risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders, says Michele Bellesi of the Marche Polytechnic University in Italy. Bellesi reached this conclusion after studying the effects of sleep deprivation in mice. His team compared the brains of mice that had either been allowed to sleep for as long as they wanted or had been kept awake for a further eight hours. Another group of mice were kept awake for five days in a row – mimicking the effects of chronic sleep loss. The team specifically looked at glial cells, which form the brain’s housekeeping system. Earlier research had found that a gene that regulates the activity of these cells is more active after a period of sleep deprivation. One type of glial cell, called an astrocyte, prunes unnecessary synapses in the brain to remodel its wiring. Another type, called a microglial cell, prowls the brain for damaged cells and debris. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Sleep; Glia
Link ID: 23657 - Posted: 05.24.2017

Susan Milius A question flamingo researchers get asked all the time — why the birds stand on one leg — may need rethinking. The bigger puzzle may be why flamingos bother standing on two. Balance aids built into the birds’ basic anatomy allow for a one-legged stance that demands little muscular effort, tests find. This stance is so exquisitely stable that a bird sways less to keep itself upright when it appears to be dozing than when it’s alert with eyes open, two Atlanta neuromechanists report May 24 in Biology Letters. “Most of us aren’t aware that we’re moving around all the time,” says Lena Ting of Emory University, who measures what’s called postural sway in standing people as well as in animals. Just keeping the human body vertical demands constant sensing and muscular correction for wavering. Even standing robots “are expending quite a bit of energy,” she says. That could have been the case for flamingos, she points out, since effort isn’t always visible. Translate that improbably long flamingo leg into human terms, and the visible part of the leg would be just the shin down. A flamingo’s hip and knee lie inside the bird’s body. Ting and Young-Hui Chang of the Georgia Institute of Technology tested balance in fluffy young Chilean flamingos coaxed onto a platform attached to an instrument that measures how much they sway. Keepers at Zoo Atlanta hand-rearing the test subjects let researchers visit after feeding time in hopes of catching youngsters inclined toward a nap — on one leg on a machine. “Patience,” Ting says, was the key to any success in this experiment. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2017

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 23656 - Posted: 05.24.2017

Nicola Davis Air pollution might be linked to poor sleep, say researchers looking into the impact of toxic air on our slumbers. The study explored the proportion of time participants spent asleep in bed at night compared with being awake – a measure known as sleep efficiency. The results reveal that greater exposure to nitrogen dioxide and small particulates known as PM 2.5s are linked with a greater chance of having low sleep efficiency. That, researchers say, could be down to the impact of air pollution on the body. “Your nose, your sinuses and the back of your throat can all be irritated by those pollutants so that can cause some sleep disruption as well as from breathing issues,” said Martha Billings, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Washington and co-author of the research. Billings added that pollutants entering the blood could have an effect on the brain and hence the regulation of breathing. The study, presented at the American Thoracic Society’s annual international conference, drew on air pollution data captured for nitrogen dioxide and PM2.5 levels over a five-year period in six US cities, including data captured near the homes of the 1,863 participants. The data was then used to provide estimates of pollution levels in the home. Researchers then captured data from medical-grade wearable devices worn by the participants on their wrists over a period of seven consecutive days to monitor fine movements while they slept – an approach that offers insights into how long each participant spent asleep or awake.

Keyword: Sleep; Neurotoxins
Link ID: 23649 - Posted: 05.23.2017

By PERRI KLASS, M.D. Why do children wake up early when they are young but want to stay in bed till noon as teenagers? Experts say it’s biology. Adolescents’ bodies want to stay up late and sleep late, putting them out of sync with what their school schedules demand of them. So kids have trouble waking up, and they often find themselves feeling drowsy in morning algebra class. But that chronic sleepiness can affect their health and well-being, their behavior, and even their safety; it becomes genuinely dangerous when sleepy teenagers get behind the wheel. At a recent conference on adolescent sleep, health and school start times, at which I gave a brief keynote, several experts made compelling arguments supporting the idea that middle and high school start times should shift to 8:30 a.m. or later, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Brian Tefft, a senior researcher with the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, talked about “drowsy driving.” He cited an annual study that asks, “In the past 30 days how often have you driven when you were so tired that you had a hard time keeping your eyes open?” Over the past five years, on average, a quarter of the 16- to 18-year-old licensed drivers reported driving in that condition at least once, and 2 percent said fairly often or regularly. The argument is that teenagers who face very early school start times are at risk of regular sleep deprivation. Driving after sleeping only four to five hours a night is associated with a similar crash risk as driving with an alcohol level at the legal limit. Sleeping less than four hours puts you at the same risk as driving with double the legal alcohol limit. (This is not only true for adolescents, but for all of us.) Drowsy driving may not be the only risk that tired teenagers take. Wendy Troxel, a clinical psychologist and senior behavioral and social scientist at RAND, talked about the “adolescent health paradox,” that teenagers, who are in a developmental period of physical strength and resilience, face disproportionately high mortality rates. Unintentional injury (especially car crashes) is high on the list of causes, followed by homicide and suicide. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 23648 - Posted: 05.23.2017

Katherine Hobson American Indian and Alaska Native families are much more likely to have an infant die suddenly and unexpectedly, and that risk has remained higher than in other ethnic groups since public health efforts were launched to prevent sudden infant death syndrome in the 1990s. African-American babies also face a higher risk, a study finds. American Indians and Alaska Natives had a rate of 177.6 sudden unexplained infant deaths per 100,000 live births in 2013 (down from 237.5 per 100,000 in 1995) compared with 172.4 for non-Hispanic blacks (down from 203), 84.5 for non-Hispanic whites (down from 93), 49.3 for Hispanics (down from 62.7) and 28.3 for Asians and Pacific Islanders (down from 59.3). The declines were statistically significant only among non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanics and Asians/Pacific Islanders. "There are still significant gaps and disparities between races and ethnicities," says Lori Feldman-Winter, a professor of pediatrics at Cooper University Health Care in Camden, N.J., who wasn't involved with this study but was a co-author of the most recent sleep guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, released in the fall. Overall rates of sudden unexpected infant death, which includes sudden infant death syndrome as well as accidental suffocation or strangulation in bed and other unexplained deaths, declined sharply in the five or so years after a national campaign was launched in 1994 to encourage caregivers to put babies to sleep on their backs. But the rates have not declined since 2000. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wanted to know whether those changes were uniform across racial and ethnic groups. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Sleep
Link ID: 23616 - Posted: 05.16.2017

by Laura Sanders One of the most pressing and perplexing questions parents have to answer is what to do about screen time for little ones. Even scientists and doctors are stumped. That’s because no one knows how digital media such as smartphones, iPads and other screens affect children. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently put out guidelines, but that advice was based on a frustratingly slim body of scientific evidence, as I’ve covered. Scientists are just scratching the surface of how screen time might influence growing bodies and minds. Two recent studies point out how hard these answers are to get. But the studies also hint that the answers might be important. In the first study, Julia Ma at the University of Toronto and colleagues found that, in children younger than 2, the more time spent with a handheld screen, such as a smartphone or tablet, the more likely the child was to show signs of a speech delay. Ma presented the work May 6 at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in San Francisco. The team used information gleaned from nearly 900 children’s 18-month checkups. Parents answered a questionnaire about their child’s mobile media use and then filled out a checklist designed to identify heightened risk of speech problems. This checklist is a screening tool that picks up potential signs of trouble; it doesn’t offer a diagnosis of a language delay, points out study coauthor Catherine Birken, a pediatrician at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Going into the study, the researchers didn’t have expectations about how many of these toddlers were using handheld screens. “We had very little clues, because there is almost no literature on the topic,” Birken says. “There’s just really not a lot there.” |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2017

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Sleep
Link ID: 23608 - Posted: 05.13.2017

By James Gallagher Health and science reporter, BBC News website Toddlers who spend time playing on smartphones and tablets seem to get slightly less sleep than those who do not, say researchers. The study in Scientific Reports suggests every hour spent using a touchscreen each day was linked to 15 minutes less sleep. However, those playing with touchscreens do develop their fine motor skills more quickly. Experts said the study was "timely" but parents should not lose sleep over it. There has been an explosion in touchscreens in the home, but understanding their impact on early childhood development has been lacking. The study by Birkbeck, University of London, questioned 715 parents of children under three years old. It asked how often their child played with a smartphone or tablet and about the child's sleep patterns. It showed that 75% of the toddlers used a touchscreen on a daily basis, with 51% of those between six and 11 months using one, and 92% of those between 25 and 36 months doing so as well. But children who did play with touchscreens slept less at night and more in the day. Overall they had around 15 minutes less sleep for every hour of touchscreen use. Not before bedtime? Dr Tim Smith, one of the researchers, told the BBC News website: "It isn't a massive amount when you're sleeping 10-12 hours a day in total, but every minute matters in young development because of the benefits of sleep." © 2017 BBC.

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 23491 - Posted: 04.14.2017

By Jyoti Madhusoodanan For three consecutive winters, starting in 2011, researchers at the University of Birmingham asked healthy men and women over the age of 65 to come in to clinics across the western Midlands in the U.K. for a seasonal influenza vaccination at specific times of day—either between 9 and 11 a.m., or between 3 and 5 p.m. Blood drawn a month later revealed that participants, who totaled nearly 300 over the three years, had higher levels of anti-flu antibodies if they’d received their vaccinations in the morning.1 The results suggested that daily rhythms of people’s bodies tweaked the vaccine’s effectiveness. Lead author Anna Phillips Whittaker had suspected as much, after observing similar trends in her studies on behavioral factors such as exercise that affect vaccination responses, and in the wake of a growing body of literature suggesting that a little timing can go a long way when it comes to health. Many hormones and immune signals are produced rhythmically in 24-hour cycles. Cortisol, for example, which is known to suppress inflammation and regulate certain T cell–mediated immune responses, peaks early in the morning and ebbs as the day progresses. Other facets of the immune system undergo similar cycles that could underlie the differences in antibody responses Phillips observed among people receiving the flu vaccine. Much more work is required to nail down the immune mechanisms responsible for such variation and exploit them appropriately, she says. But timing flu vaccine delivery would be straightforward to implement. “It’s such a simple, low-risk intervention that’s free to do, and could have massive implications for vulnerable populations.” © 1986-2017 The Scientist

Keyword: Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 23484 - Posted: 04.13.2017

Nicola Davis Scientists have unpicked the regions of the brain involved in dreaming, in a study with significant implications for our understanding of the purpose of dreams and of consciousness itself. What’s more, changes in brain activity have been found to offer clues as to what the dream is about. Dreaming had long been thought to occur largely during rapid eye-movement (REM) sleep, a period of slumber involving fast brain activity similar to that when awake, but dreams have also been reported to occur during non-REM sleep, leaving scientists scratching their heads as to the hallmark of dreaming. “It seemed a mystery that you can have both dreaming and the absence of dreaming in these two different types of stages,” said Francesca Siclari, co-author of the research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US. Now it seems the puzzle has been solved. In addition the team found that dreaming about faces was linked to increased high-frequency activity in the region of the brain involved in face recognition, with dreams involving spatial perception, movement and thinking similarly linked to regions of the brain that handle such tasks when awake. “[It is] a proof for the fact that dreaming really is an experience that occurs during sleep, because many researchers up until now have suggested that it is just something you invent when you wake up,” said Siclari.

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 23476 - Posted: 04.11.2017

Robin McKie Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together. Thus wrote the English playwright Thomas Dekker in the 16th century, reflecting a view that has persisted through the centuries. Sleep is crucial to our wellbeing. Disturb it and you will find your constitution troubled and twisted out of joint. It is a view supported by science. Experiments in which men and women have endured periods of up to 11 days without shut-eye have shown that if we cannot sleep we develop increasingly severe symptoms: progressive decreases in concentration, perception and other higher mental processes. Intriguingly, these problems vanish once subjects are allowed a couple of nights curled up in their beds in a state of blissful unconsciousness. Just why we need sleep has been more difficult to answer. Freud argued that sleep allows us to have dreams in which we can act out wishes that are too disturbing to contemplate while awake. Others have maintained that sleep is a leftover from our stone age past, when it would have been dangerous to blunder around in the night at the mercy of nocturnal carnivores. So we evolved the habit of sleep to keep us safe, sound and unconscious in our caves. More recently, scientists have argued that sleep is involved in helping our bodies to recover from the vicissitudes of the day and for our brains to process the experiences of the previous 12 hours. All these theories have their proponents and opponents – for scientists are certainly far from reaching an agreement about the biological causes of sleep. However, a couple of papers published last week suggest there may be new avenues for researchers to explore so that they can learn how sleep works and why animals need it so badly.

Keyword: Sleep; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 23470 - Posted: 04.10.2017

By PENELOPE GREEN At M.I.T.’s Media Lab, the digital futurist playground, David Rose is investigating swaddling, bedtime stories and hammocks, as well as lavender oil and cocoons. Mr. Rose, a researcher, an inventor-entrepreneur and the author of “Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire and the Internet of Things,” and his colleagues have been road-testing weighted blankets to induce a swaddling sensation and listening to recordings of Icelandic fairy tales — all research into an ideal sleep environment that may culminate in a nap pod, or, as he said, “some new furniture form.” “For me, it’s a swinging bed on a screened porch in northwestern Wisconsin,” he said. “You can hear the loons and the wind through the fir trees, and there’s the weight of 10 blankets on top of me because it’s a cold night. We’re trying a bunch of interventions.” Meanwhile, at the University of California, Berkeley, Matthew P. Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology and the director of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory there, is working on direct current stimulation as a cure for sleeplessness in the aging brain. Dr. Walker is also sifting through the millions of hours of human sleep data he has received from Sense, a delicately lovely polycarbonate globe designed to look like the National Stadium in Beijing that measures air quality and other intangibles in your bedroom, then suggests tweaks to help you sleep better. “I’ve got a mission,” he said. “I want to reunite humanity with the sleep it is so bereft of.” Sense is the first product made by Hello Inc., a technology company started by James Proud, a British entrepreneur, for which Dr. Walker is the chief scientist. In Paris, Hugo Mercier, a computer science engineer, has invested in sound waves. He has raised over $10 million to create a headband that uses them to induce sleep. The product, called Dreem, has been beta-tested on 500 people (out of a pool of 6,500 applicants, Mr. Mercier said) and will be ready for sale this summer. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 23467 - Posted: 04.08.2017

By PENELOPE GREEN I’m exhausted. Aren’t you? For an article about how Silicon Valley and other innovators have taken on the challenge of sleeplessness, a $32 billion market once populated mostly by mattress and pharmaceutical companies, I tested but a few of the many hundreds of gadgets, apps, podcasts and other inventions now devoted to a good night’s sleep. As the gizmos grow more elaborate, imbued by ever more exotic technologies, they are creating a ruckus in our bedrooms, and sleep experts advocate a simpler approach. Here are a few of their tips (and a gizmo or two): ​Have someone read to you “Sleep With Me,” a wildly popular podcast by Drew Ackerman, a gravelly voiced librarian who tells excruciatingly boring bedtime stories, has millions of fans, but it makes me anxious. Mr. Rose and his colleagues stumbled upon recordings of Icelandic folk tales, which they found incomprehensible, of course, and therefore more soothing and soporific. ​Take a bath Arianna Huffington, author of “The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time,” suggests following the bedtime rituals we gave our children. “You didn’t just throw your baby in bed,” she said. “There was a transition. A hot bath makes it easier for you to wash away the day.” ​Tuck in with a weighted blanket At M.I.T.’s Media Lab, the researcher David Rose and his colleagues are investigating what makes an ideal sleep environment. To evoke the feeling of many blankets on a cold night, Mr. Rose turned to the weighted blankets used as sensory therapy for autistic children. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 23466 - Posted: 04.08.2017