Chapter 14. Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming

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By Veronique Greenwood Sleep — that absurd, amazing habit of losing consciousness for hours on end — is so universal across the animal kingdom that we usually assume it is essential to survival. Now, however, scientists who repeatedly disturbed the sleep of more than a thousand fruit flies are reporting that less slumber may be necessary for sustaining life than previously thought, at least in one species. A handful of studies involving dogs and cockroaches going back to the late 19th century suggest that being deprived of sleep can result in a shortened life span. But the methods behind some of these studies can make it difficult to say whether the test subjects were harmed by sleep deprivation itself, or by the stress of the treatment they were given — such as being shaken constantly. The new study took a milder approach, in hope of seeing the true effects of sleep deprivation. The automated system the researchers developed for monitoring the flies kept track of their movements with cameras, scoring any extended period without movement as sleep. When they were not being awakened repeatedly, the males slept about 10 hours a day, females about five on average. To keep the flies awake, the researchers equipped the system with tiny motors that would gently tip the flies any time they went still for at least 20 seconds. With this method, researchers deprived flies of rest over the course of their entire lifetimes, tipping them hundreds of times a day such that if they were snoozing during those periods of stillness, they might have been able to sleep around 2.5 hours a day on average. “When the results came from that experiment, it was very surprising,” said Giorgio Gilestro, a professor at Imperial College London who is a co-author of the study, which was published Wednesday in Science Advances. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep; Evolution
Link ID: 25978 - Posted: 02.21.2019

The brain function of very late risers and "morning larks" during the hours of the working day is different, according to a study. Researchers scanned the brains of night owls with a bedtime of 02:30 and a wake time of 10:15, along with early risers. The tests - performed between 08:00 and 20:00 - found night owls had less connectivity in brain regions linked to maintaining consciousness. They also had poorer attention, slower reactions and increased sleepiness. Researchers said it suggested that night owls were disadvantaged by the "constraints" of the typical working day. They called for more research to understand the health implications of night owls performing on a work or school schedule to which they are not naturally suited. Scientists took 38 people who were either night owls or morning larks (people who went to bed just before 23:00 and woke at 06:30) and investigated their brain function at rest using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. The volunteers then carried out a series of tasks at various times, from 08:00 to 20:00, and were asked to report on their levels of sleepiness. Morning larks were least sleepy and had their fastest reaction time in the early morning tests. They were also found to perform significantly better at this time than night owls. In contrast, night owls were least sleepy and had their fastest reaction time at 20:00, although they did not do significantly better than the larks at this time. The brain connectivity in the regions that predicted better performance and lower sleepiness was significantly higher in larks at all time points, suggesting connectivity in late risers is impaired throughout the whole working day, researchers said. © 2019 BBC

Keyword: Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 25967 - Posted: 02.15.2019

By Kelly Servick Rough sleep is bad for your mind—and your heart. It can increase the risk of clogged arteries, which can lead to stroke or heart attacks. But how these two things are connected has been a mystery. Now, a study in mice reveals a link, based on signals the brain sends to bone marrow. If the story holds true in humans, the mechanism could help explain the connection between sleep and other conditions, from obesity to cancer. “Not everyone who is sleep-deprived develops cardiovascular disease,” says Namni Goel, a behavioral neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia who was not involved in the work. The new mouse work “opens the door for human studies” that could sort out who is most at risk. In many forms of cardiovascular disease, fatty deposits build up on artery walls (a condition called atherosclerosis) and can rupture to cause a stroke or heart attack. Immune cells—in particular, white blood cells called monocytes—also play a key role. They flock to sites where these deposits have damaged blood vessels and they spawn cells that can contribute to the growing plaque. To follow up on the known connection between sleep and heart disease, immunologist Filip Swirski of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston wanted to explore whether sleep somehow triggered an immune process that spurs this dangerous buildup. © 2019 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Sleep; Learning & Memory
Link ID: 25965 - Posted: 02.14.2019

By C. Claiborne Ray Q. What keeps squirrels from gaining huge amounts of weight as they gorge on acorns and nuts each fall? A. In fact, many squirrels do achieve huge weight gain ahead of the privations of winter. Common gray squirrels may increase their weight by 25 percent in the harvest season. But not because they hibernate — they don’t. Winter foraging is hard, and gray squirrels tend to spend the winter months mostly in their nests. But they must make forays every few days to seek squirreled-away food and other nourishment. Among hibernating squirrels, much of the stored nourishment is needed to survive the cold season without foraging. A study of the Arctic ground squirrel found extreme weight gains during the active season: 42 percent among males and 63 percent among females. They slow their activity drastically before hibernating in order to maintain peak mass. While some do emerge from winter lighter, a significant share of their fat stores may remain. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Obesity; Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 25952 - Posted: 02.12.2019

By Jill U. Adams A lot of people out there don’t get enough sleep — more than 1 in 3 American adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you’re one of them, you probably know there are two main treatments for improving sleep: behavioral methods and medications. When you’re desperate for a good night’s sleep, medications sure do sound appealing. But there are caveats with them all — the prescription pills, the over-the-counter products and the herbal supplements. Before describing the medications in detail, I’ll remind you that the prevailing wisdom is that cognitive behavioral therapy, which involves changing habits and bedtime rituals, is the first-line treatment for insomnia. Sleep experts say CBT is more effective and longer lasting than medication for most people — but maybe you’re not most people. “There’s clearly a subset of patients who don’t improve with CBT,” says Andrew Krystal, who directs the sleep research program at the University of California at San Francisco. There’s also a problem with access, he says, as CBT requires effort. Even some of the seemingly simple online versions have fees attached. Another thing to consider before looking at medications is that sleep troubles often result from something else, such as sleep apnea or depression. Also, alcohol and caffeine intake can interfere with good sleep, as can certain medications, says Constance Dunlap, a D.C. psychiatrist in private practice. A doctor can help you rule out or address these issues. “I get a lot of information,” Dunlap says. © 1996-2019 The Washington Post

Keyword: Sleep; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25951 - Posted: 02.11.2019

By Richard A. Friedman Want to fall effortlessly into profound slumber and sleep like a baby? Everyone knows that infants can be lulled to sleep by gentle rocking. Well, now it seems that what works for babies works for adults, too. New research shows that a slow rocking motion not only improves sleep but also can help people consolidate memories overnight. And this, in turn, tells us something interesting about how much the brain is affected by what seem to be purely physical interventions. Scientists at the University of Geneva in Switzerland studied 18 healthy young adults while they slept in the lab for two nights. One night they slept in regular stationary beds; another night they slept in beds that gently rocked from side to side all night. The order of the rocking and stationary nights was randomized, so that each person served as his or her own control. The researchers found that rocking caused the subjects to fall asleep more quickly and increased their amount of slow-wave deep sleep, a phase of sleep that is associated with feeling refreshed and rested upon waking. They also experienced fewer periods of spontaneous arousal. This was true despite the fact that they were already good sleepers. Rocking did not affect the duration of rapid eye movement or dream sleep. The study also assessed memory consolidation by having the subjects study word pairs before going to bed. They were tested on their recall of these words in the evening and then again in the morning when they woke up. The subjects showed improved recall on the morning test after the rocking night compared with the stationary night, showing that rocking enhanced the accuracy of their memories. This study was, of course, quite small. But other studies have reported similar findings, though the size of the effect appears to depend on the frequency and type of rocking. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 25950 - Posted: 02.11.2019

By Marlene Cimons Tracey Thomsen Anderson, 57, a retired ad agency copywriter from Colorado Springs, sleeps nine or 10 hours every night, and has done so her entire life. “My ability to sleep through ridiculous circumstances was legendary as a kid — parties, fireworks, I slept through a car wreck once,” she says. “I can get by on eight for a day or two, but I feel like a zombie all day with anything less than nine.” This may sound like heaven to the consistently sleep-deprived, but it doesn’t always seem that way to her. “I sometimes feel like I am wasting time sleeping,” she says. “I did the math once. If I live to 85, and could have slept an average of one hour less per day, that adds up to something like 1,300 extra days of living over a lifetime. That’s 3½ years — what do you think you could do with an extra 3½ years?” Similarly, Kate (who asked that her last name not be used), a 52-year-old special-education teacher who lives in Upstate New York, would sleep 10 hours a night — if she could. But she rarely gets the chance. She wakes up every day at 5 a.m. so she can get to her job on time. “I try to be consistent about my bedtime, which is 9 p.m. most nights,” she says. “I know I should be in bed by 8 p.m., but I just have too much to do in my day.” They are among the estimated 2 percent of the population known as “long sleepers,” people who regularly sleep more in a 24 hour period than what is usual for others in their age group. Long sleepers often sleep as much as 10 to 12 hours a night, a consistent lifelong pattern which is normal for them, and unrelated to any medical conditions, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. © 1996-2019 The Washington Post

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 25949 - Posted: 02.11.2019

By Ronnie Cohen At first, Lilly Grey Rudge objected to her classes starting later. Delaying the first-period bell nearly an hour until 8:45 a.m. meant that her mother could no longer drive her, and Lilly Grey would have to take two buses to Ballard High in Seattle. Now, more than two years since the change, the 16-year-old junior is a fan. “I’ve gained an hour of sleep,” she said. “I definitely feel a lot better. I find myself waking up around 7:30 without an alarm because it’s a natural time. It’s a great, great feeling.” Other Seattle high school students also are sleeping more — a median of 34 minutes a night more — since the school district pushed back the start of classes from 7:50 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. in fall 2016, a new study shows. Plus, when school began later, grades and attendance went up, and tardiness went down. After Franklin High in Seattle reset its starting bell, teacher A.J. Katzaroff’s first-period biology students’ median grades rose from a C to a B. “Kids were more awake, more present and more capable of engaging in intellectual work because they had the rest they needed,” she said. Cindy Jatul, a biology teacher at Seattle’s Roosevelt High, also saw the benefits of the later start time on her students. “Prior to the change, my first-period class would just make silly mistakes because they weren’t firing on all cylinders,” she said. “They were in this kind of fog. There were kids who were sleeping in class, their heads on the table.” © 1996-2019 The Washington Post

Keyword: Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 25948 - Posted: 02.11.2019

By Emily Sohn Snoring is the top reason that patients come to see Jennifer Hsia, a sleep surgeon at University of Minnesota Health in Minneapolis. Most of the time, they come in not because they are worried about their health, but because their partner has been complaining about the noise. “It’s very rare that I have someone come in and say, ‘I think I have sleep apnea,’ ” she says. “It’s more, ‘I’m snoring quite badly and my bed partner wants me to do something about it.’ ” Even if the person you sleep with doesn’t care, it’s worth seeing a doctor if you snore, experts say. Although there may be nothing to worry about, accumulating evidence suggests a link between snoring and cardiovascular disease. Snoring can also be a sign of sleep apnea, a more serious disorder that causes people to periodically stop breathing in their sleep. “All people that have sleep apnea snore, but not all people who snore have sleep apnea,” says Ricardo Osorio, a sleep expert and neuroscientist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York. Getting evaluated is the only way to know for sure. “If the snoring is bad and you have witnessed apneas and there is some suspicion of daytime sleepiness or poor performance at work or risk of car accident because you’re sleeping at the wheel, go to a sleep doctor,” he says. “Generally, the only thing that can happen when you go to a sleep physician is that you can improve the quality of your life a little bit.” Data is scarce about how common snoring is, Hsia says. But studies from around the world suggest that up to half of people do it. © 1996-2019 The Washington

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 25945 - Posted: 02.09.2019

By Kate Johnson The doctor ordered a “push” on my sedative, and I succumbed to the sweet blackness. But then something went wrong, and I was awake too soon, flailing and crying, the medical team scrambling to maneuver the tube that had been placed down my throat in what should have been a straightforward gastroscopy. I put up a violent struggle on the table: gagging and choking, trying to scream, fighting to pull the medical device out of my esophagus. “Hold her arms!” I heard someone yell. I felt hot tears, and pure terror … and then more blackness. This was the third time I had woken up under the twilight anesthesia known as “conscious sedation.” “You’ll be awake, but you won’t remember” is something thousands of patients are told every day, because the sedatives that doctors use to prepare us for these kinds of procedures come with a convenient side effect: amnesia. I had been given midazolam, a benzodiazepine known for its superior amnestic effects. I should have forgotten. But I didn’t. Instead, the fight-or-flight panic that had ensued was seared into my memory. A terrifying sense of doom enveloped me in the following days, as I kept reliving a routine medical test that my brain had registered, not unreasonably, as a physical assault. What went wrong? My previous two awakenings under conscious sedation had not filled me with the same terror as this one. They had not even struck me as unusual, since I’d been told I would not be entirely asleep. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Consciousness; Sleep
Link ID: 25942 - Posted: 02.08.2019

By Lisa L. Gill People have been turning to cannabis for its possible health benefits for a long, long time. Its ability to help people, for example, is mentioned in the Atharvaveda, a Hindu text that dates back to around 1500 B.C., and its use for inducing sleep is described in a 1200 A.D. Chinese medical text. Today, people are still using cannabis to help them sleep, particularly one form of it: CBD, or cannabidiol. That’s a compound found in marijuana and hemp that doesn’t get you high, and that has recently exploded in popularity because of its potential to treat other health problems, including pain and anxiety. In a recent nationally representative Consumer Reports survey, about 10 percent of Americans who reported trying CBD said they used it to help them sleep, and a majority of those people said it worked. It’s easy to understand why people are turning to CBD to help with sleep: Almost 80 percent of Americans say they have trouble sleeping at least once a week, according to another recent nationally representative CR survey of 1,267 U.S. adults. And many existing treatments, particularly prescription and over-the-counter drugs, are often not very effective—and are risky, too. A small but growing body of scientific research provides some support for CBD as a sleep aid. A study out this month, for example, suggests CBD might help people with short-term sleep problems. © 2019 Consumer Reports, Inc.

Keyword: Sleep; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25939 - Posted: 02.08.2019

Jef Akst Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl is partly dependent on your genome, according to a study published this week (January 29) in Nature Communications. Scanning nearly 700,000 human genomes available through the UK Biobank and the consumer genetics testing company 23andMe and comparing the results with reported sleep preferences, an international team of researchers identified more than 350 variations associated with being a morning person. Additional analyses using the device-recorded activity patterns of more than 85,000 of these participants revealed that people who carried the most gene variants linked with being an early bird went to bed an average of 25 minutes earlier than those who carried the fewest. The team went on to study the potential roles of these gene variants, and found that many had functions in regulating circadian rhythms. Some were active in the brain, while others were active in the retina. One of the genes participates in the body’s responses to caffeine and nicotine. But, coauthor Michael Weedon, a bioinformaticist at the University of Exeter in the UK, tells The New York Times, “the most interesting ones are the ones where we don’t know what it is.” The researchers found links between people’s sleep preferences, or chronotypes, and their mental health, with those who identified as morning people being less likely to report having depression or schizophrenia and reporting higher levels of general well-being. But chronotype is not a simple variable, Suzanne Hood, an assistant professor of psychology at Bishop’s University in Quebec who was not involved in the study, tells CNN, and future studies should take the nuance of the phenotype into account. “It would be interesting to follow up these findings with other kinds of methods that can track sleep variables with more precision.” © 1986 - 2019 The Scientist.

Keyword: Biological Rhythms; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 25926 - Posted: 02.02.2019

Jonathan Lambert It's cold outside, you're sick and all you want to do is curl up under the covers until you feel better. In fact, the need for sleep can be so strong when we're sick that this may be all we can do. Scientists don't fully understand how this excessive sleepiness is different from your normal, everyday tiredness. Previous work in nematodes found a gene that dampens activity of wakefulness neurons in response to infection. Other research in mammals suggests elements of the immune response can influence behavior. Overall, scientists still have a lot to learn about what makes us feel sleepy, when we're healthy or sick. Some genes have been identified that seem to affect sleep, but none that actively induce sleepiness when turned on. But a study, published Thursday in the journal Science, finds one potential piece of the puzzle — in fruit flies. Scientists discovered a single protein that both puts flies to sleep when they're sick and also has antimicrobial properties. "This is a very interesting finding," says Dragana Rogulja, a sleep neurobiologist at Harvard who wasn't involved in the study. "It's pretty clear that infection or something that requires an immune response does lead to sleep, and this gene seems to do that." Neuroscientist Amita Sehgal led the study at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine. She didn't set out to find a gene linked to both sleep and immunity. Instead, her lab was interested in understanding the molecular triggers of sleep. © 2019 npr

Keyword: Sleep; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 25924 - Posted: 02.01.2019

By Benedict Carey Veteran insomniacs know in their bones what science has to say about sleep deprivation and pain: that the two travel together, one fueling the other. For instance, people who develop chronic pain often lose the ability to sleep well, and quickly point to a bad back, sciatica or arthritis as the reason. The loss of sleep, in turn, can make a bad back feel worse, and the next night’s slumber even more difficult. Why sleep deprivation amplifies pain is not fully worked out, but it has to do with how the body responds to an injury such as a cut or turned ankle. First, it hurts, as nerves send a blast up the spinal cord and into the brain. There, a network of neural regions flares in reaction to the injury and works to manage, or blunt, the sensation. Think of the experience as a kind of physiological dialogue between the ground unit that took the hit and the command-control center trying to contain the damage. In a new study, a team of neuroscientists has clarified the nature of the top-down portion of that exchange, and how it is affected by sleep. In a sleep-lab experiment, the researchers found that a single night of sleep deprivation reduced a person’s pain threshold by more than 15 percent and left a clear signature in the brain’s pain-management centers. In a separate experiment, the team determined that small deviations in the average amount of sleep from one day to another predicted the level of overall pain felt the next day. “What’s exciting about these findings is that they will stimulate, and justify, doing more research to figure this system out,” said Michael J. Twery, director of the sleep disorders branch of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, who was not involved in the new study. “Once we understand how sleep deprivation changes how these pathways function, we should be able to manage pain more effectively — all types of pain.” © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep; Pain & Touch
Link ID: 25909 - Posted: 01.29.2019

Aimee Cunningham A sleep-deprived brain is awash in excess amounts of not one but two proteins whose bad behavior is implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. A new study finds excessive amounts of a protein called tau in the fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord of extremely sleep-deprived adults. Tau, which is tied to nerve cell death, tangles and spreads throughout the brain during Alzheimer’s. An earlier report on these sleepy adults found that the protein amyloid-beta — globs of which dot the brains of Alzheimer’s patients — also increased. Samples of cerebrospinal fluid collected from eight adults, monitored during a night of normal sleep and over the course of 36 hours of sleep deprivation, revealed a 51.5 percent increase in tau in participants robbed of shut-eye. And sleep-deprived mice had twice the amount of tau as well-rested mice, researchers report online January 24 in Science. Earlier work by these researchers had suggested that the quality of sleep might affect tau levels; this time, it’s been linked to duration of sleep. With both A-beta and tau increasing with a lack of sleep, “it certainly argues that treating sleep disorders during mid-life as well as getting appropriate levels of sleep is likely to decrease risk for Alzheimer’s disease,” says coauthor David Holtzman, a neurologist and neuroscientist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. During sleep, the brain appears to flush out excess proteins and other debris (SN: 7/21/18, p. 22), so perhaps less sleep means that wash cycle is curtailed. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2019.

Keyword: Sleep; Alzheimers
Link ID: 25904 - Posted: 01.26.2019

Nicola Davis If you have trouble getting to sleep, it might be worth investing in a hammock: scientists say a gentle rocking motion not only helps people to fall asleep more rapidly but also improves the quality of sleep and the memory of the sleeper. While parents have long employed rocking as a way to calm babies and send them to sleep, some studies have suggested it helps adults too. Now researchers say they have found evidence to back this up and discovered further benefits to boot. “Rocking in people that do not have any sleep problems can still improve sleep quality, and the beneficial effects of sleep on – for instance – memory also seem to be enhanced,” said Dr Paul Franken, a co-author of the research, from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. Writing in the journal Current Biology, he and colleagues in Lausanne and Geneva reveal that 18 young participants without sleep problems spent three nights in a laboratory: one night getting used to the environment, one night being monitored while sleeping in a stationary bed and one night being monitored with the bed gently rocking from side to side. Participants were asked to learn pairs of unrelated French words and were then tested on their ability to recall these pairs both before and after each of the test nights. Brain waves of the participants were monitored as they slept using EEG, and other metrics such as heart rate were also recorded. The brain wave data revealed that a gentle rocking did not affect the overall time participants spent asleep but did shorten their transition to “real” sleep. © 2019 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 25903 - Posted: 01.26.2019

By Teodora Stoica Try to explain to an alien why we sleep. Give it your best shot. “Well, we get tired. And our brain needs to rest.” “I see. So, you find another way to defend yourself during rest?” Advertisement “Well … no. Our body is paralyzed, and we lose consciousness.” There is an awkward pause. The alien tilts its head, feigning understanding. “But! We sometimes dream!” “Dream?” Blindly, unaware of how ridiculous you sound, you continue with unprecedented speed and cadence: “Yes! Dreams are fantastical stories projected from the mind into the mind, sometimes mixed with things that have already happened!” You catch your breath, and smile idiotically. “And … this helps with survival?” “Well … no. Sometimes the content confuses us in waking life,” you suddenly realize. newsletter promo Sign up for Scientific American’s free newsletters. The alien blinks silently a few times, furrowing his non-eyebrows: “Let me see if I understand. Your species spends one third of their lives paralyzed watching fantasy movies?” It is reasonable to assume the human race is doomed at this uncomfortable juncture in the conversation, and aliens will plan their stealthy attack during this incapacitated, seemingly futile stage of our existence.

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 25902 - Posted: 01.26.2019

By Nicholas Bakalar Sleeping less than six hours a night, and sleeping poorly, are associated with hardening of the arteries, a new study has found. Researchers used accelerometers attached to the waists of 3,974 healthy men and women, average age 46, to monitor the duration and quality of their sleep over seven nights. All underwent physical exams and three-dimensional ultrasound, an imaging system that evaluates blood flow through the blood vessels. The study is in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. After controlling for smoking, diabetes, fasting glucose, cholesterol and many other factors, they found that compared with people who slept seven to eight hours a night, those who slept less than six hours were 27 percent more likely to be in the highest one-third for the amount of plaque in their arteries. The scientists also found that various blood markers of inflammation were higher in those who got the least sleep. The people who moved the most during sleep also had higher accumulations of plaque than those who slept soundly. “We’re detecting disease in its earliest stages in apparently healthy young people,” said a co-author, Dr. Valentin Fuster, director of the Mount Sinai Heart Center. “This is something that was done only at autopsy until now. This is an alarm system, telling you that there is another cardiovascular risk factor you should pay attention to.” © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 25871 - Posted: 01.17.2019

By Marina Benjamin Insomnia usually begins with a lament: for the love (and loss) of sleep; over the red-eyed mornings and sludgelike days that tail the wakeful nights; for the rest you crave and cannot get and the cognitive snap that eludes you. Yet if we insist on viewing insomnia merely as a matter of negatives, a condition defined by lack, a nothing, a zero, a blank, then we risk missing what it can potentially reveal. I’ve been an insomniac all my life. As a child, my wakefulness was a matter of personal pride, a badge of honor signifying a shrewd vigilance (should any ghoul dare intrude upon my bedroom by night, it would meet with a grisly fate). Yet my refusal of sleep had less to do with my fear of the dark and the monsters it bred than with everyday suspicion: I simply could not fathom where people went to in sleep. They seemed lost to the world. Terrified of the nullity that sleep imposed, I’d dodge the bedtime curfew each night: at lights out, a minor rebellion. Like Vladimir Nabokov (whose kindred spirit I had yet to encounter), I figured that sleep offered only a dumb conformity. Had I not been a child, I, too, might have described it as a “nightly betrayal of reason, humanity, genius.” I longed for the light of consciousness to burn throughout the dark nights. These days, I’m less inclined to rejoice in the way my head is lit up at night, like an out-of-hours factory, when the whirring generators flip on, powering up the lights and the processing plants for a frenetic shift. Geared up this way, my mind trips ceaselessly from one mundane thought to the next, alighting upon a single word or meaningless riff or song snippet I happened to hear that day. Or it runs backward and forward over endless lists, stitching and unstitching. I compose strings of emails that could wait until morning, line up tasks in a shoulder-shoving queue. Mostly I just fret, worry-beading minor problems and irritations until they form a manacle of woe. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 25842 - Posted: 01.07.2019

By Penelope Green On winter nights, the white-noise app on my phone is tuned to Air Conditioner: a raspy, metallic whir that sounds like the mechanical noise that might echo deep inside the ductwork of a huge commercial building. (Among the app’s other offerings are Dishwasher Rinsing, Crowded Room and Vacuum Cleaner.) It lulls me to sleep nonetheless, because it blankets the din in my apartment (the ragged snore of a roommate; the clanking of the steam radiator; the cat’s skidding pursuit of something only he can see). It may also soothe because it replicates an early sound environment, probably that of a Manhattan childhood, though perhaps it suggests something much, much older. Some sleep experts note that babies, their ears accustomed to the whisper of the maternal circulatory system and the slosh of the womb, sleep better accompanied by a device that mimics those familiar whooshings. My app is but one note in the mighty chorus of white-noise generators, an exploding industry of mechanical and digital devices; apps and websites, and Sonos and Spotify playlists that grows ever more refined, as if to block out the increased rate of speeding, the wrecks, on the information superhighway. Car Interior? Oil Tanker? Laundromat? These ballads are in the vast soundscape library created by Stephane Pigeon, a Belgian electrical engineer, and ready to play on Mynoise.net, a sound generator he put online in 2013 that now has one million page views each month. It’s a nearly philanthropic enterprise, as it runs on donations. “I have enough stress,” Dr. Pigeon said. Reddit, among other message boards, offers D.I.Y. white-noise hacks for light sleepers, shift workers and tinnitus sufferers. Rough up the blades of a box fan with a box cutter, suggested Christopher Suarez, a field service technician from Riverside, Calif., whose wife is an insomniac, on one captivating thread there. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep; Hearing
Link ID: 25828 - Posted: 12.28.2018