A lot of things have happened in my private life recently that I thought we could review tonight


Walker and his team tried to measure how sleeping can help us to process bad experiences. (…)

The results show that during the REM sleep the part of the brain that processes the emotions (the amygdala) decreased its activity, so that the prefrontal cortex, linked to rational actions, probably weakened the impact of a bad experience. Also, they noticed a drop in the levels of brain chemicals that are linked to stress.

“Somewhere between the initial event and the later point of recollecting, the brain has performed an elegant trick of divorcing emotions from memory, so it’s no longer itself emotional,” Walker said.

{ United Academics | Continue reading }

‘One enemy can do more hurt, than ten friends can do good.’ –Jonathan Swift


Both correlational and experimental evidence suggest that when people are sleep deprived, they feel more irritable, angry and hostile. Sleep loss is also associated with greater depressive mood. In addition, sleep deprivation seems to be associated with greater reactivity in that people who suffer from sleep loss are especially likely to react negatively when something doesn’t go well for them. For those of you interested in the brain – some research suggests that sleep deprivation enhances negative mood due to increased amygdale activity (a brain structure integral to experiences of negative emotions such as anger and rage) and a disconnect between the amygdale and the area of the brain that regulates its functions. In other words: increased negative mood, and decreased ability to regulate that anger.

{ Psych Your Mind | Continue reading }

Twenty eight… No, twenty… Double four . Yes.


Stimulus Control Therapy consists of six very straightforward steps. If you follow these it should improve your sleep.

1. Lie down to go to sleep only when you are sleepy.

2. Do not use your bed for anything except sleep; that is, do not read, watch television, eat, or worry in bed. Sexual activity is the only exception to this rule. On such occasions, the instructions are to be followed afterwards, when you intend to go to sleep.

3. If you find yourself unable to fall asleep, get up and go into another room. Stay up as long as you wish and then return to the  bedroom to sleep. Although we do not want you to watch the clock, we want you to get out of bed if you do not fall asleep immediately. Remember the goal is to associate your bed with falling asleep quickly! If you are in bed more than about 10 minutes without falling asleep and have not gotten up, you are not following this instruction.

4. If you still cannot fall asleep, repeat step 3. Do this as often as is necessary throughout the night.

5. Set your alarm and get up at the same time every morning irrespective of how much sleep you got during the night. This will help your body acquire a consistent sleep rhythm.

6. Do not nap during the day.

{ PsyBlog | Continue reading }

People who say they sleep like a baby usually don’t have one


The majority of people reading this sentence will, at some point in their lives, undergo a medical treatment that requires general anesthesia. Doctors will inject them with a drug, or have them breathe it in. For several hours, they will be unconscious. And almost all of them will wake up happy and healthy.

We know that the general anesthetics we use today are safe. But we know that because they’ve proven themselves to be safe, not because we understand the mechanisms behind how they work. The truth is, at that level, anesthetics are a big, fat question mark.

{ Boing Boing | Continue reading }

Where does time go anyway?


You probably already know whether you’re a morning or evening person, but if you’re not sure, here are two ways to figure it out:

1) On weekends, or when you don’t have to wake up at any particular time, when do you naturally wake up? If the answer is more than an hour or so different from when you wake up on weekdays, chances are you’re an evening person by nature. Morning people tend to wake up just as early on weekends as they do during the week.

2) Regardless of how much sleep you’ve gotten, when do you find that you have the most energy? If your energy peaks in the morning and dwindles by late afternoon, you’re a morning person. If it peaks later in the evening - you guessed it - you’re an evening person. (…)

The debate over whether it’s better to be a night owl or an early bird has been going on for centuries. (…) Research on the advantages and disadvantages of each “chronotype” has yielded mixed results, in part because it is difficult to conduct this research experimentally. (…)

Evolutionary psychologists have suggested that a preference for late hours may suggest a higher level of intelligence because being a night owl is presumably an evolutionary novel preference, though this hypothesis is controversial.

{ Psych Your Mind | Continue reading }

painting { Edward Hopper, Summer Interior, 1909 }

All my life, I have lived with the feeling that I have been kept from my true place


Sleep is More Important than Food

Say you decide to go on a fast, and so you effectively starve yourself for a week. At the end of seven days, how would you be feeling? You’d probably be hungry, perhaps a little weak, and almost certainly somewhat thinner. But basically you’d be fine.

Now let’s say you deprive yourself of sleep for a week. Not so good. After several days, you’d be almost completely unable to function. That’s why Amnesty International lists sleep deprivation as a form of torture.

So why is sleep one of the first things we’re willing to sacrifice as the demands in our lives keep rising? We continue to live by a remarkably durable myth: sleeping one hour less will give us one more hour of productivity. In reality, the research suggests that even small amounts of sleep deprivation take a significant toll on our health, our mood, our cognitive capacity and our productivity.

Many of the effects we suffer are invisible. Insufficient sleep, for example, deeply impairs our ability to consolidate and stabilize learning that occurs during the waking day. In other words, it wreaks havoc on our memory.

So how much sleep do you need? When researchers put test subjects in environments without clocks or windows and ask them to sleep any time they feel tired, 95 percent sleep between seven and eight hours out of every 24. Another 2.5 percent sleep more than eight hours. That means just 2.5 percent of us require less than 7 hours of sleep a night to feel fully rested. That’s 1 out of every 40 people.

{ Harvard Business Review | Continue reading }

More than one-third of American adults wake up in the middle of the night on a regular basis. Of those who experience “nocturnal awakenings,” nearly half are unable to fall back asleep right away. Doctors frequently diagnose this condition as a sleep disorder called “middle-of-the-night insomnia,” and prescribe medication to treat it.

Mounting evidence suggests, however, that nocturnal awakenings aren’t abnormal at all; they are the natural rhythm that your body gravitates toward.

According to historians and psychiatrists alike, it is the compressed, continuous eight-hour sleep routine to which everyone aspires today that is unprecedented in human history. We’ve been sleeping all wrong lately — so if you have “insomnia,” you may actually be doing things right.

“The dominant pattern of sleep, arguably since time immemorial, was biphasic,” Roger Ekirch, a sleep historian at Virginia Tech University. “Humans slept in two four-hour blocks, which were separated by a period of wakefulness in the middle of the night lasting an hour or more. During this time some might stay in bed, pray, think about their dreams, or talk with their spouses. Others might get up and do tasks or even visit neighbors before going back to sleep.”

{ Life’s Little Mysteries | Continue reading }

photo { french zoo, 2001; i took the photo }

related { How losing just a few hours of sleep can take years off your life }

Hello Betsy, it’s Travis. How ya doin’? Listen, uh, I’m, I’m sorry about the, the other night.


The potentially lasting implications of day-to-day couple conflict on physical and mental well-being are revealed in a study published today in the journal Personal Relationships. (…)

The study found that all participants across the sample as a whole experienced sleep disruption after conflict. There was however the greatest degree of sleep disruption amongst individuals who were highly anxious in their relationship. The lowest degree of sleep disruption was found amongst individuals who strongly avoided emotional attachment.

Conflict was also found to have repercussions for next-day mood. However, some participants found their mood negatively affected more than others. Individuals more at ease with emotional attachment found their mood was affected more than did individuals less comfortable being intimate with others.

{ EurekAlert | Continue reading }

When I dream, I am wearing pink taffeta


Scientists have found that you can double your chances of reaching your target weight if you get between six and eight hours sleep a night.

If you have any more, you will become too inactive and if you have any less your stress levels will increase along with cravings for unhealthy food.

{ The Telegraph | Continue reading }

artwork { Gerhard Richter }

The grandmaster with the 3 MCs


Hegel wrote in his Elements of the Philosophy of Right that the owl of Minerva flies only at night. It hoots at insomniacs. I know. I’m one. (…)

Insomnia has intrigued thinkers since the ancients, an interest that continues today, especially in Europe. (…)

Philosophy is no friend of sleep. In his Laws (circa 350 BC), Plato platonized, “When a man is asleep, he is no better than if he were dead; and he who loves life and wisdom will take no more sleep than is necessary for health.” (…) In Beyond Good and Evil (1886), Nietzsche preached that the high goal of good Europeans “is wakefulness itself.”

Aristotle said all animals sleep. In the 20th century, the Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran added in On the Heights of Despair (first published in 1934): “Only humanity has insomnia.” Emmanuel Levinas, author of the erotic and metaphysical Totality and Infinity (1961), imagined philosophy, all of it, to be a call to “infinite responsibility, to an untiring wakefulness, to a total insomnia.” (…)

The first thing you learn about insomnia is that it sees in the dark. The second is that it sees nothing.

{ The Chronicle of Higher Education | Continue reading }

We all know that we don’t get enough sleep. But how much sleep do we really need? Until about 15 years ago, one common theory was that if you slept at least four or five hours a night, your cognitive performance remained intact; your body simply adapted to less sleep. But that idea was based on studies in which researchers sent sleepy subjects home during the day — where they may have sneaked in naps and downed coffee.

Enter David Dinges, the head of the Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory at the Hospital at University of Pennsylvania, who has the distinction of depriving more people of sleep than perhaps anyone in the world.

In what was the longest sleep-restriction study of its kind, Dinges and his lead author, Hans Van Dongen, assigned dozens of subjects to three different groups for their 2003 study: some slept four hours, others six hours and others, for the lucky control group, eight hours — for two weeks in the lab. (…)

For most of us, eight hours of sleep is excellent and six hours is no good, but what about if we split the difference? (…)

Belenky’s nine-hour subjects performed much like Dinges’s eight-hour ones. But in the seven-hour group, their response time on the P.V.T. slowed and continued to do so for three days, before stabilizing at lower levels than when they started. (…)

Not every sleeper is the same, of course: Dinges has found that some people who need eight hours will immediately feel the wallop of one four-hour night, while other eight-hour sleepers can handle several four-hour nights before their performance deteriorates. There is a small portion of the population — he estimates it at around 5 percent or even less — who, for what researchers think may be genetic reasons, can maintain their performance with five or fewer hours of sleep. (There is also a small percentage who require 9 or 10 hours.)

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

All these questions are purely academic, Russell oracled out of his shadow


In the mid 1920s, Berger invented the electroencephalagraph (EEG), a technique for measuring the electrical activity of brains. Unfortunately, Berger didn’t understand electricity very well, so didn’t have a clear understanding of what his recordings might mean. But he revolutionized the study of human brains.

Perhaps nowhere was Berger’s invention put to greater use than in the study of sleep. Before that, what did we know of brains while we slept? (…)

Berger’s invention continues to deepen our understanding of sleep, nearly a century after its invention, as shown by a new paper by KcKinney and colleagues.

{ NeuroDojo | Continue reading }

related { Short on sleep, the brain optimistically favors long odds }

painting { John Kacere }

The honeymoon of German philosophy arrived


Call me an insomniac.

I don’t like the name, but I’m not alone. According to studies from the National Institutes of Health, one in three Americans has some kind of insomnia, and one in 10, like me, has chronic insomnia.

Lack of sleep is so widespread that NIH has an entire unit, the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, devoted in part to figuring out why Americans aren’t getting enough shut-eye. And the Department of Health and Human Services last year added sleep as an essential ingredient to maintaining good health in its Healthy People 2020 report.

{ Washington Post | Continue reading }

No future fuckin’ with me, there’s no tomorrow


Research has demonstrated that more than leaving you feeling rested, sleep actually improves your memory.  Even better, a new study suggests that sleep actually helps you remember exactly what you need to remember.

{ ionpsych | Continue reading }

photo { Jill Freedman }

Crocodiles yawn to keep cool, and other amazing facts


Despite being about as familiar and as commonplace as you can get, we still don’t have a clear understanding of why humans yawn.

We know we start yawning early. We know we yawn when we’re tired. We know we yawn when we’re bored. And we know that yawning can sometimes be contagious. But the function, the why, has been elusive.

A new paper by Giganti and Zilli ties together a couple of yawning’s features: that the amount people yawn varies throughout the day, and that yawns can be contagious. But does the contagiousness of yawns vary throughout the day? (…)

They tested their subjects several times on a single day. (…) Yawns are most contagious at 7:30 pm. (…)

The paper suggests there are at least two kinds of yawns, a spontaneous yawn and a yawn in a social setting. Maybe the reason yawns have thwarted our efforts to understand them is that a single explanation for yawns you make alone completely fail when you try to apply it to yawns you make around other people.

{ NeuroDojo | Continue reading }

photos { Peter Beard, Self-portrait in Mouth of Crocodile, Kubi Fara, 1965 | Helmut Newton, Crocodile Eating Ballerina, 1983 }

I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night? Was I the same when I got up this morning?


An Irish jury awarded nearly $14 million in damages on Thursday to a man who claimed that his former employers had slandered him by insinuating that he had made improper advances to a female colleague during a business trip.

The man, Donal Kinsella, insisted that he had been sleepwalking during a trip to Mozambique in 2007 when he showed up, naked, at the door of a female colleague’s hotel room three times in one night, The Irish Times reported.

He later filed suit against the mining company that employed him at the time because it had referred to the incident in a press release explaining why he had been asked to resign from the company’s audit committee, on which the same female colleague served.

During the trial, the court heard that Mr. Kinsella had also been drinking and taking painkillers on the night in question.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

You knew what you wanted and you fought so hard. Just to find yourself sitting in a golden cage.


The physiology of the dream state may be one reason why sexual content is so often reported. In the REM state, our muscles are in paralysis but the body is in a state of excitement.  Even though sleep paralysis doesn’t feel like a dream, it has been shown in the lab that the expeirence occurs during REM intrusion after awakening or just after falling asleep. In REM sleep, whenever it occurs, men typically get erections, and women’s genitalia become engorged. Orgasms have been documented countless times in dream labs, and in sexual lucid dreams it is possible to experience orgasm too.  Dreaming sleep is simply a sexy place to be.

Even when we are scared, and sometimes because we are scared, sexual excitement does not diminish.  Sexuality and terror are deeply intertwined, neurologically speaking. So it’s not that outlandish to believe the medieval court documents in which men tell of being forced to have sex with mysterious she-demons and witches, even though this testimony was used in service of misogyny and the destruction of indigenous religious practices.

{ Dream Studies | Continue reading }

An incubus (from the Latin, incubo, or nightmare) is a demon in male form who, according to a number of mythological and legendary traditions, lies upon sleepers, especially women, in order to have sex with them. Its female counterpart is the succubus.

An incubus may pursue sexual relations with a woman in order to father a child, as in the legend of Merlin. Religious tradition holds that repeated intercourse with an incubus or succubus may result in the deterioration of health, or even death.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

Hash browns over easy, chile in a bowl with burgers and fries, what kind of pie?


Losing weight can be described at its simplest as a matter of counting calories during the daytime. Consume fewer calories and burn more through activity and exercise, and you’re likely to lose weight. Eat more high-calorie foods and sit on the couch all day watching football, and you get the opposite effect. But according to a new study from University of Chicago Medical Center researchers, another number should be taken into account by dieters: hours of sleep. (…)

“If your goal is to lose fat, skipping sleep is like poking sticks in your bicycle wheels,” Penev said. “Cutting back on sleep, a behavior that is ubiquitous in modern society, appears to compromise efforts to lose fat through dieting. In our study it reduced fat loss by 55 percent.”

{ University of Chicago Medical Center | Continue reading }

artwork { Left: Robert Blake | Right: Katie Rhody | Nosh: Food Art Show curated by Kady Grant and Anthony Iacono, Opening Friday, October 8th, 7-10pm | Culture Fix, NYC }

The sun never sets. For the moment, no.


Tracking your internal clock may be as easy as plucking a few strands of hair, according to a new study.

The research found that hair follicles hold a record of the gene activity that influences when we wake and when we sleep. The results could be used to diagnose and study sleep disorders and conditions like jet lag.

Whether you’re a night owl or a morning lark, your sleep-wake cycle is controlled in large part by genes called clock genes. These genes vary their activity throughout the day, setting the internal clock that drives our circadian rhythms.

The first human clock gene was discovered almost 10 years ago, but isolating the genes efficiently enough to study sleep-wake cycles in real time has proved difficult. When the genes are active, they transcribe their DNA into RNA, the first step in producing various proteins that essentially carry out a gene’s instructions and, in this case, influence circadian rhythms. The RNA can be found in cells all over the body, from white blood cells to the lining of the mouth, but techniques for extracting it from these cells proved unreliable.

{ LiveScience | Continue reading }

Scarlet gave him twenty seven stitches in his head


Do you sleep like a baby? You may have your thalamus to thank, according to research that suggests this brain region helps people sleep through bumps in the night.

To discover why some people can sleep through noise while others awake at the faintest disruption, Jeffrey Ellenbogen and colleagues at Harvard Medical School used electrodes to monitor the brain activity of 12 people while they slept in a pitch-black, soundproof room. They then repeated the experiment, this time playing 14 sounds, such as a toilet flushing and street traffic, at 30-second intervals, increasing the volume until the volunteers’ brainwaves showed signs of arousal.

Sleepers who tolerated louder sounds before waking showed a higher frequency of “sleep spindles” – short bursts of activity of specific wavelength – during non-REM sleep than those who woke more easily.

The spindles arise in the brain’s sensory relay centre in the thalamus.

{ NewScientist | Continue reading }

• If a vast conspiracy were afoot to create an entire civilization of insomniacs, it would operate pretty much the way our society does now.

• Relentless stress in the high-tech workplace of the 21st century is taking an unprecedented toll on our emotional lives and our capacity to wind down at the end of the day.

• Our widespread fear of and disregard for darkness -both literal and figurative- may be the most overlooked factor in the contemporary epidemic of sleep disorders.

{ A Nation of Insomniacs: The Lost Art of Sleep | Psychotherapy Networker | Continue reading }

photo { Kyoko Hamada }

To be sure, poor fellow. So it is. What time?


During REM sleep, where most dreaming takes place, your eyes move around but it’s never been clear exactly why. A new study just published online by neuroscience journal Brain suggests that they are looking at the ever-changing dream world.

The first question you might ask is how the researchers knew what the dreamers were looking at. To study this, the project recruited people with a condition called REM sleep behaviour disorder who lack the normal sleep paralysis that keeps us still when we dream.

In other words, people with REM sleep behaviour disorder act out their dreams. (…) When the eyes move during REM sleep they are looking at something in the dream world. The eyes seem genuinely to be a bridge between the land of dream consciousness and waking life.

{ Mind Hacks | Continue reading }

‘What we do not make conscious emerges later as fate.’ –Carl Jung


From birth, we spend a third of our lives asleep. After decades of research, we’re still not sure why. (…)

If we don’t know why we can’t sleep, it’s in part because we don’t really know why we need to sleep in the first place. We know we miss it if we don’t have it. And we know that no matter how much we try to resist it, sleep conquers us in the end. We know that seven to nine hours after giving in to sleep, most of us are ready to get up again, and 15 to 17 hours after that we are tired once more. We have known for 50 years that we divide our slumber between periods of deep-wave sleep and what is called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, when the brain is as active as when we’re awake, but our voluntary muscles are paralyzed. We know that all mammals and birds sleep. A dolphin sleeps with half its brain awake so it can remain aware of its underwater environment. When mallard ducks sleep in a line, the two outermost birds are able to keep half of their brains alert and one eye open to guard against predators. Fish, reptiles, and insects all experience some kind of repose too.

All this downtime comes at a price. An animal must lie still for a great stretch of time, during which it is easy prey for predators. What can possibly be the payback for such risk? “If sleep doesn’t serve an absolutely vital function,” the renowned sleep researcher Allan Rechtschaffen once said, “it is the greatest mistake evolution ever made.”

The predominant theory of sleep is that the brain demands it. This idea derives in part from common sense—whose head doesn’t feel clearer after a good night’s sleep? But the trick is to confirm this assumption with real data. How does sleeping help the brain? The answer may depend on what kind of sleep you are talking about. Recently, researchers at Harvard led by Robert Stickgold tested undergraduates on various aptitude tests, allowed them to nap, then tested them again. They found that those who had engaged in REM sleep subsequently performed better in pattern recognition tasks, such as grammar, while those who slept deeply were better at memorization. Other researchers have found that the sleeping brain appears to repeat a pattern of neuron firing that occurred while the subject was recently awake, as if in sleep the brain were trying to commit to long-term memory what it had learned that day.

Such studies suggest that memory consolidation may be one function of sleep. Giulio Tononi, a noted sleep researcher at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, published an interesting twist on this theory a few years ago: His study showed that the sleeping brain seems to weed out redundant or unnecessary synapses or connections. So the purpose of sleep may be to help us remember what’s important, by letting us forget what’s not.

{ National Geographic | Continue reading }

related { Fatal familial insomnia | Thanks Anthony! }