I find anything sleep related most fascinating. Guess part of it stems from not being able to successfully “do” a natural bodily function myself. In the Stephen King novel Insomnia, the main character Ralph Roberts is an older retired gentleman who steadily loses an hour a night. He spends the majority of the book in a sleep deprived state as his body is slowly revved up. Soon he is unable to sleep at all and enters a different state of consciousness.
I have suffered from insomnia before but in the more recent of decades have been suffering from hypersleep. At least I think it is called hypersleep? Maybe nanosleep. Anyway I usually run about 2 to 4 hours a night and never in a row. Like the other night I dozed off around midnight then was up at 1, 2, 3 and 4. It really sucks.
I think dreams are pretty easy to define but I don’t have a phd nor a government grant to back me up. I think that since everything your9 senses come into contact with during the day (and yes there are 9 not 5) I think all that input is stored in a buffer in your brain. Then when you go to sleep your brain starts to actually process and file away all this information. Now while it is doing that another part of your brain (hmm this could be a left/right hemisphere thing) another part of your brain sees these “images” and as it always does, it tries to make sense of them for you.
Like when you can see a face in the wood grain of a door. It’s not really there but your brain is hard wired to see and make sense of patterns. So it starts aligning this sensory input and this is the actual dream.
For instance: let’s say you see a fire during the day. Your brain takes that information to be filed and in filing it, it invokes a memory of the smell of smoke which causes another memory to surface from when you were 12 and at the fair and smelled smoke when you rode the tilt a whirl. The brain takes that and tries to make sense of it so now you are dreaming about being in a spinning teacup with Alice and the mad hatter.
Then again I could be wrong. It’s happened before.
The science of sleep is a modern one – in fact most scientific information on sleep has been gained in the last 25 years. This is a list of 20 very interesting facts about sleep.
1. The record for the longest period without sleep is 18 days, 21 hours, 40 minutes during a rocking chair marathon. The record holder reported hallucinations, paranoia, blurred vision, slurred speech and memory and concentration lapses.
2. It’s impossible to tell if someone is really awake without close medical supervision. People can take cat naps with their eyes open without even being aware of it.
3. Anything less than five minutes to fall asleep at night means you’re sleep deprived. The ideal is between 10 and 15 minutes, meaning you’re still tired enough to sleep deeply, but not so exhausted you feel sleepy by day.
4. Dreams, once thought to occur only during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, also occur (but to a lesser extent) in non-REM sleep phases. It’s possible there may not be a single moment of our sleep when we are actually dreamless.
5. REM dreams are characterized by bizarre plots, but non-REM dreams are repetitive and thought-like, with little imagery – obsessively returning to a suspicion you left your mobile phone somewhere, for example.
6. Certain types of eye movements during REM sleep correspond to specific movements in dreams, suggesting at least part of the dreaming process is analogous to watching a film
7. Elephants sleep standing up during non-REM sleep, but lie down for REM sleep.
8. Some scientists believe we dream to fix experiences in long-term memory, that is, we dream about things worth remembering. Others think we dream about things worth forgetting – to eliminate overlapping memories that would otherwise clog up our brains.
9. Dreams may not serve any purpose at all but be merely a meaningless byproduct of two evolutionary adaptations – sleep and consciousness.
10. Scientists have not been able to explain a 1998 study showing a bright light shone on the backs of human knees can reset the brain’s sleep-wake clock.
11. British Ministry of Defense researchers have been able to reset soldiers’ body clocks so they can go without sleep for up to 36 hrs. Tiny optical fibers embedded in special spectacles project a ring of bright white light (with a spectrum identical to a sunrise) around the edge of soldiers’ retinas, fooling them into thinking they have just woken up. The system was first used on US pilots during the bombing of Kosovo.
12. The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska, the Challenger space shuttle disaster and the Chernobyl nuclear accident have all been attributed to human errors in which sleep-deprivation played a role.
13. The “natural alarm clock” which enables some people to wake up more or less when they want to is caused by a burst of the stress hormone adrenocorticotropin. Researchers say this reflects an unconscious anticipation of the stress of waking up.
14. Tiny luminous rays from a digital alarm clock can be enough to disrupt the sleep cycle even if you do not fully wake. The light turns off a “neural switch” in the brain, causing levels of a key sleep chemical to decline within minutes.
15. Humans sleep on average around three hours less than other primates like chimps, rhesus monkeys, squirrel monkeys and baboons, all of whom sleep for 10 hours.
16. Ducks at risk of attack by predators are able to balance the need for sleep and survival, keeping one half of the brain awake while the other slips into sleep mode.
17. Diaries from the pre-electric-light-globe Victorian era show adults slept nine to 10 hours a night with periods of rest changing with the seasons in line with sunrise and sunsets.
18. Most of what we know about sleep we’ve learned in the past 25 years.
19. The extra-hour of sleep received when clocks are put back at the start of daylight in Canada has been found to coincide with a fall in the number of road accidents.
20. Experts say one of the most alluring sleep distractions is the 24-hour accessibility of the internet.