Time to sleep, little sheep.

I have been watching a documentary about sleep called Dead Tired.

I am finding it very interesting. I am a person who does not seem to need much sleep, it’s incredibly unusual for me to feel tired. I have been particularly interested in the experiments conducted and the science of the brain which is being discovered.

A perfectly fit and healthy young man participated in an experiment which saw him sleeping only three hours per night. The aim was for him to do this for one week and undergo lots of physical, mental and medical tests along the way to monitor his experience and give a window of insight into the purposes for sleep.

You can imagine that after the first night of limited sleep he felt exhausted. In a driving test three days into the experiment he had more than ten micro-sleeps, including one that lasted for over thirty seconds. He was totally unaware that he had slept during this time and had felt he that was completely alert. The brain needs sleep to synthesise thoughts, memories and experiences. If you don’t get adequate sleep then your brain is able to take a sleep without your permission. This is a micro-sleep. A few seconds where your brain just logs off. You think you’re awake, you think you’re under control, but your brain waves and eye movements indicate that you are asleep.

By day six, in his brain’s desperation to get an adequate level of deep sleep, he had begun dreaming while he was awake. Dreams allow your brain to make sense of the experiences of the day. Your brain catalogues your experiences, matches them up with other similar thoughts and helps you to create memories during your dreams. This man’s lack of dreaming had caused him to hallucinate. These hallucinations were terrifying to him. He thought he was losing his faculties and going insane. The results of medical tests indicated, amongst other serious problems, that he had the early stages of type two diabetes. Just six days earlier these symptoms did not exist. Physical symptoms had begun to manifest from the mental exhaustion.

As you can imagine the experiment was terminated immediately. Less than a week later, with adequate amounts of sleep all of these difficulties and symptoms had gone.

 This experiment had caused me a lot of reflection in the past few days. Are we so busy as a society that we are exhausting ourselves into mental and physical health problems? Could we be so silly?

Go to bed early tonight everyone. Let your brain drift off into sleep. Let it dream to its heart’s content. (if a brain can have a heart…)

I know I will be.


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16 responses to “Time to sleep, little sheep.

  1. This is fascinating… although I’ve always known I’ve needed lots of sleep!

  2. Wow – that’s amazing.
    Sleep disturbance — as in not sleeping at night and then having micro-sleeps by day — is also one of the early indicators of dementia, I’ve just found out.
    I hate feeling tired. My most feared torture would be the one where you are allowed to sleep for no longer than half an hour without being aggressively woken up. Likewise being kept constantly in a brightly lit environment.

  3. Good advice! I’ll shut the computer off right now and go to bed.

  4. There are some good sleep tips on the Huffington Post, the American current affairs/opinion blog. Arianna Huffington is running a sleep challenge!

  5. and it’s not jsut about going to bed early either. I have spent the last 6 months trying to figure out my new food allergies (wheat, onion and tomatoes). I had obvious allergic symptoms (eczema, migraines, sinus problems, itcing, digestive problems….) that are now under control. But the surprising thing is my sleep. I have not slept well in YEARS. Since eliminating these foods I sleep like the dead. I was chronically tired, took naps any day tht I was not at work and just generally felt tired all fo the time. Since eliminating these foods all fo that has gone away.

    The point is that sometimes your lack of sleep hs nothign to do with the TV or computer. It might be all about dinner.

  6. I wonder how much they spent on that research? Because I could have told them all that for free!

  7. I love me my sleep. I also encourage my friends who have young kids who can’t self-settle to bite the bullet and do the controlled crying or sleep school. I say don’t think of it as being mean or as ‘breaking’ your child. You’re not just doing it for your own sanity as a parent. Sleep is a gift you can give your child, and being a ‘bad sleeper’ is an absolute curse.

  8. Rhu

    I am slowly easing myself back into blogland. Look at what I have missed !

    If I don’t get enough sleep I develop an even *worse* memory, which is very very scary.

    I even had a sleep study done at one stage, to test for sleep apnoea.

  9. I struggle with this because being awake is so much more interesting than being asleep. I find that, provided I am in a strict routine of bedtime and waking-up time, I sleep very deeply and feel refreshed when I wake up. If something disrupts the routine I have real problems and have to work hard to get back to the routine.

  10. Grandma

    Thant Hoya is just beautiful. It really loves the corner of your deck.

  11. One bit of advice a counsellor gave me was to stop reading blogs at night on my laptop in bed!

    Laptopping is a sure way to prevent sleep and since I have stopped doing it I am sleeping much more soundly.

    A very disturbing documentary Mrs PP…

  12. I agree totally with Stomper about kids and self settling. It was one thing that Anthony and I were very strong about when they were younger.

    The whole sleep issue is an interesting one. I’m someone that needs my sleep and likes an early night and an early morning, but I’m married to someone that needs much less and is not a morning person.

    Sometimes I think we live in different timezones.

  13. I always fall asleep early……just have a habit of waking very very early too. I need to develop a more socially acceptable sleep pattern!

  14. I love that Hoya!

    I don’t get a decent sleep… perhaps that is why I detest driving! I sometimes feel as if I am dreaming during the day too. Very interesting.

  15. There’s a reason why sleep deprivation is considered to be a method of “torture”.

  16. OK, OK. I’m listening. Promise to be in bed before the Cinderella hour and promise to keep the promise. (thank you)

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