What do we hear when we dream?

While people talk a lot about what they see in their dreams, and the visual language of dreams is well-studied by psychologists, what we hear when dreaming is rarely discussed or scientifically explored. Recently though, researchers at Norway's Vestre Viken Hospital Trust and the University of Bergen conducted a small study to quantify the auditory experience of dreamers. Why? Because they wanted to "assess the relevance of dreaming as a model for psychosis." Throughout history, they write, psychologists have considered dreamstates to be a model for psychosis, yet people experiencing psychosis usually suffer from auditory hallucinations far more than visual ones. Basically, what the researchers determined is that the reason so little is known about auditory sensations while dreaming is because, well, nobody asks what people's dreams sound like. From their scientific paper in PLOS ONE:

The participants reported auditory impressions in 93.9% of their dreams on average. The most prevalent auditory type was other people speaking (83.9% of participants’ dreams), followed by the dreamer speaking (60.0%), and other types of sounds (e.g. music, 33.1%). Of altogether 407 instances of auditory impressions in the 130 dreams, auditory quality was judged comparable to waking in 46.4%, indeterminate in 50.6%, and absent or only thought-like in 2.9%....

The internal generation of auditory sensations, most notably of speech, may be a typical, integrated characteristic of dreaming. The findings on auditory impressions in dreams contribute to making clear the comparative phenomenology that models of common underlying mechanisms in dreaming and psychosis must account for.

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Kicking my cellphone out of bed has improved my sleep

After I brush my teeth I am now putting my iPhone on a charger in another room and going to bed. I find I have stopped waking up at 4am and sleep much better.

Sleep is really important. The more sleep I lose, the harder everything else becomes and the easier it becomes to realize I'm fucking up. I have long known that I sleep better if I leave the cellphone out of my bed and just read a book... so of course I've spent the last few weeks reading news and texting friends around the world all hours of the night.

No more! We know what the foreseeable future holds. I have set what meager goals for myself I feel are healthy, and that phone is about as far from my bed at night as possible.

Good luck. Read the rest

Vintage snapshots of people sleeping

Esteemed vernacular photography collector Robert E. Jackson curated a dreamy collection of vintage snapshots of people snoozing. Goodnight.

From Flashbak:

The intimacy of sleep is a subject mainly found in snapshots as opposed to fine art photography, writes Robert E. Jackson. The reason is that to be a witness to such an action, the person holding the camera generally must have a close association with the person sleeping– such as being a friend, lover, or family member. There is a vulnerability to being caught unawares in the act of sleeping, yet there is also a beauty to which these images attest. While voyeuristic in nature, these photos derive from a sense of play- one of the defining aspects of snapshot photography.

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Father knitted a data viz blanket of his infant's sleep patterns

Seung Lee double knit this blanket based on data about his son's sleep patterns during his first year of life.

"Each stitch represents 6 minutes of time spent awake or asleep," Lee tweeted.

The blanket is 42" x 45," contains approximately 185,000 stitches and took around 300 hours to make. From Twitter:

The original plan was to crochet the entire blanket but I switched to double knitting because the data was much more clearly visualized and the color changes (of which there were literally thousands) were significantly easier..

The sleep data was collected with the BabyConnect app which lets you export to CSV. The CSVs were filtered and converted into JSON (using Google Apps Script and Python) which could then be used for visualization and tracking...

I built a tool in HTML/JavaScript so I could position stitch markers for the color changes and track overall progress. I made it browser based so I could pull it up on any device wherever I was...

(via Kottke) Read the rest

Athletes at the Tokyo Olympics will sleep on cardboard beds

The 10,000+ athletes at the Tokyo Olympics will sleep on bed frames made of strong cardboard. According to the Athletes Village manager Takashi Kitajima, the frames can hold up to 200 kilograms (440 pounds).

"They are stronger than wooden beds," Kitajima said... "Of course, wood and cardboard would each break if you jumped on them."

From the Associated Press:

The single bed frames will be recycled into paper products after the games. The mattress components—the mattresses are not made of cardboard—will be recycled into plastic products.

The mattress is broken up into three distinct sections, and the firmness of each can be adjusted.

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Sleeping fish may help us understand why we snooze

New research reveals that sleep patterns of zebrafish are similar to the slow-wave and REM sleep of humans and other mammals, birds, and lizards. Furthermore, the study suggests that these sleep signatures emerged in the brain of our common ancestor more than 450 million years ago. According to the scientists, a better understanding of how sleep evolved could shine light on the biological processes behind it and perhaps lead to new treatments for sleep disorders. From National Geographic:

Based on our understanding of the evolutionary relationships between fish and mammals, the team suggests that REM-like sleep states evolved more than 450 million years ago, making this type of sleep a deeply held biological phenomenon.

“We share a backbone, but we share much more than that,” says study coauthor Philippe Mourrain, a neuroscientist at Stanford University. “It makes it easier to understand sleep and what it does in ourselves..."

Lead author Louis C. Leung, a neuroscientist at Stanford University, built the microscope responsible for the complex imaging done for the study. Most body activity is choreographed by an intricate network of nerve cells, or neurons. When neurons are active, they release calcium, so researchers genetically engineered the zebrafish to include a protein that would flash fluorescent green when it detected calcium, indicating an area of the body is active...

The advance could be particularly valuable for health professionals seeking to design new drugs to combat the growing epidemic of sleep deprivation in many countries. Better sleep-enhancing drugs could provide some relief for people who struggle to drift off.

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Volunteers spend 60 days in bed... for space science!

Yesterday, 12 adults in Cologne, Germany climbed into special beds where they will remain for 60 days to help scientists better understand the impact of longterm space flights on the human body. Read the rest

"Catching up" on lost sleep may actually do more harm than good

Sleeping late on weekends not only won't help much when it comes to your sleep debt from the week, it can also lead to weight gain, insulin sensitivity, and nighttime hunger. University of Colorado Boulder sleep physiologist Christopher Depner ran a study involving young adults who were assigned different sleep regimens over a two week period, including a group of "weekend recovery sleepers." They report their results in the scientific journal Current Biology. From Science News:

Lack of sleep disrupts appetite-controlling hormones such as leptin, Depner says. And shifts in the weekend sleepers’ natural biological clocks to later hours caused them to get hungry later. During the workweeks, both groups consumed roughly 400 to 650 Calories in late-night snacks, such as pretzels, yogurt and potato chips. By the end of the experiment, people in both groups had gained on average around 1.5 kilograms.

But when it came to insulin sensitivity, the two groups diverged. Sensitivity across all body tissues in the weekend recovery group dropped around 27 percent, compared with their baseline sensitivity measured at the start of the experiment. That was substantially worse than the 13 percent decline in those who consistently had little sleep. And the weekend sleepers were the only ones to have significant declines in liver and muscle cells — both important for food digestion — after a weekend of trying to catch up on sleep....

Peter Liu, a sleep endocrinologist at UCLA, questions whether these results are broadly applicable, especially in people who are chronically sleep deprived.

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Noise-cancelling pillow for bedmates of people who snore

Northern Illinois University researchers have designed a noise-cancelling pillow for people who sleep near loud snorers. It works using the same principle as noise-cancelling headphones but with an adaptive algorithm that changes with the snore. Noise-cancelling headboards have been available for some time, but according to electrical engineering professor Lichuan Liu who led this new research, they're bulky and limited in their efficacy because the "quiet zone" isn't right near the sleeper's ears. From IEEE Spectrum:

(The new approach) involves an adaptive filter that receives two input signals—snoring signals, which are detected by a reference microphone, and residual noise (errors), which are detected by two error microphones. Based on these inputs, the adaptive filter then generates the appropriate antinoise signal, which is emitted by two speakers within the partner’s pillow.

What’s more, conventional noise-canceling systems for snoring have relied on least mean square (LMS) algorithms to generate antinoise. Here, Liu and her colleagues used an adaptive LMS algorithm.

“Since each snorer’s snore signals have their unique time-frequency characteristics, it is essential to design an adaptive LMS algorithm for the best cancellation performance for different snore signals,” says Liu. Thanks to the adaptive LMS, the filter in this system can adjust to the length of an individual’s unique snore, and respond to subtle changes in its acoustic characteristics...

Moving forward, Liu and her colleagues plan to use machine learning techniques to recognize the snore signals that are indicative of sleep disorders, for better screening and monitoring purposes.

"Ear field adaptive noise control for snoring: a real-time experimental approach" (IEEE/CAA Journal of Automatica Sinica) Read the rest

Review: Bose's Noise-Masking Sleepbuds would be great if my brain would let me enjoy them

Even with the drugs I take for my PTSD, I'm still hyper alert than the average person--the car is always kept running, just in case I need it. This makes it hard for me to get to sleep, most nights. Small noises, like our home contracting as the night draws colder, animals outside and passing cars, all conspire to keep me awake. To get around this, I've been using a noise app called Rain Rain on my Android handset and iPhone, for years. But there's nights where even that doesn't work to drown out the aural stimulation keeping me awake. Things like my wife's snoring or my dog getting up for a drink of water are present enough that they cut through the noise. Next thing you know, I'm up until dawn, reading a book or playing video games.

Enter Bose's noise-masking Sleepbuds.

A few months back, Bose brought me to New York to check them out. During their PR team's presentation, it was explained to me that they had a hell of a time trying to figure out how to make an appliance that'd help people to get a good night's sleep. The Sleepbuds use a combination of passive noise cancellation (the block up your ear canals) and a selection of noise loops to block out sounds that might keep someone like me, awake. It was explained to me that the Sleepbuds can't be used for listening to music--they're not designed for that. Sending music to a set of cans, via Bluetooth, uses up a lot of battery power. Read the rest

Nap lounge opens in New York City

Mattress company Casper opened The Dreamery in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood. For $25, you get a 45 minute session in one of the nap pods. You can even borrow a pair of pajamas for your snooze. And of course after you pay for this demo of Casper mattresses, you can buy your very own at their shop just around the corner! From The Dreamery:

Uniquely designed for rest, each Nook is a perfectly private, quiet pod with the most comfortable bed imaginable (a Casper mattress, of course). All bedding is freshly laundered for each new dreamer.

The Nook also features:

• Auto-fading lights • A pendant light for reading • Sound absorbing back wall • Ventilation for airflow • A bedside shelf with outlets

(via Uncrate) Read the rest

Study finds that sleeping in on the weekends is good for you

I sleep in late whenever I can, and have felt vaguely guilty about it because everything I've read about sleep says people are supposed to stick to a strict sleep schedule every day. That's not possible for me, because I often get up very early to catch a morning flight. Sleeping in on the weekends always feels great. Well, it turns out I should keeping following my instincts. You actually *can* catch up on sleep by sawing logs on the weekend.

From Shondaland:

Researchers at Stockholm University discovered that adults who logged up to five hours of sleep every night increased their risk of mortality. However, when people who only slept five hours a night during the week compensated by snoozing nine hours a night on the weekends, their risk of death did not increase.

To conduct the study — which was published in the Journal of Sleep Research —scientists looked at data on sleep habits collected from more than 43,000 people under 65 years old. Then, they studied death records taken 13 years after the initial data was obtained to determine if and how sleep habits impacted mortality. Of course, other factors like education, body mass index, and smoking can take years off your life, so they accounted for those, too. Their conclusion? "Long weekend sleep may compensate for short weekday sleep."

Image: By Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock Read the rest

The best online white noise machine

There are various apps that purport to generate white noise, but the free ones I've tried have all been strange or skeevy, and YouTube's a minefield of allcaps woo and bad ads. Turns out that the best place to get it is a website: NoiseMachines.

The white noise generator is perfect, with an equalizer, presets and options to save and share your own. (Here's one I made for you that I'm calling "24 hours of bridge noise but something's very wrong with the spaceship")

But there's also lots of sample-based blends of noise, too, such as thunder, vinyl scratches, generative piano music (my setting), data centers, binaural beats, etc.

The creator is Stephane Pigeon, a sound engineer with various other similar projects to enjoy. Read the rest

Science behind sleeping while you're awake

You may think you're awake but there's a good chance that part of your brain is asleep. And that can cause real problems, especially since you may not even be aware of it. In fact, indivisual neurons and groups of neurons in the cerebral cortex can be independently offline while others are awake. In Scientific American, Christof Koch, president of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, explores the counter-intuitive reality of "Sleeping While Awake:"

A case in point for sleep intruding into wakefulness involves brief episodes of sleep known as microsleep. These intervals can occur during any monotonous task, whether driving long distances across the country, listening to a speaker droning on or attending yet another never-ending departmental meeting. You're drowsy, your eyes get droopy, the eyelids close, your head repeatedly nods up and down and then snaps up: your consciousness lapses....

Perniciously, subjects typically believe themselves to be alert all the time during microsleep without recalling any period of unconsciousness. This misapprehension can be perilous to someone in the driver's seat. Microsleep can be fatal when driving or operating machinery such as trains or airplanes, hour after tedious hour. During a microsleep episode, the entire brain briefly falls asleep, raising the question of whether bits and pieces of the brain can go to sleep by themselves, without the entire organ succumbing to slumber.

Indeed, Italian-born neuroscientists Chiara Cirelli and Giulio Tononi, who study sleep and consciousness at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, discovered “sleepy neurons” in experimental animals that showed no behavioral manifestation of sleep...

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Instead of a waterbed, how about a sand bed?

My friend, Mrs. Homegrown of Root Simple, looks at sleep mattresses filled with sand.

Recently a friend and frequent Root Simple commenter who goes by the handle “P” here, sent us an intriguing note. Like us, she lives in the Los Angeles area, and like us, she’s been obsessed with the idea of a mattress alternative for a while. Then she got a lead on an exciting bed option, and she shared it with us, saying basically, “I know this couple that you have to meet. They’ve made a bed out of sand!”

So we went to meet Michael Garcia and Stephanie Wing-Garcia and their sand mattress. They live just a few minutes from our house, in a big, sunny apartment full of beautiful things–and they sleep on a king sized bed which consists of a low wooden platform, a pair of twin-sized canvas mattress casings filled with ground white marble sand, which in turn are topped by an inch thick natural latex mat and a layer of sheepskin.

They love their bed. The idea for it came them in a flash of inspiration, and it has changed their lives. Stephanie credits the bed with healing the excruciating chronic back pain which she’d been suffering from for seven years.

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What's going on in the brains of people who don't need much sleep?

Many people claim that they don't need much sleep, insisting that even five hours a night is enough shuteye for them to feel rested. According to new scientific research, "habitual short sleepers" may actually be handling the brain tasks that most of us deal with during the night, like memory consolidation. From Medical Xpress:

Both groups of short sleepers exhibited connectivity patterns more typical of sleep than wakefulness while in the MRI scanner. (University of Utah radiologist Jeff) Anderson says that although people are instructed to stay awake while in the scanner, some short sleepers may have briefly drifted off, even those who denied dysfunction. "People are notoriously poor at knowing whether they've fallen asleep for a minute or two," he says. For the short sleepers who deny dysfunction, one hypothesis is that their wake-up brain systems are perpetually in over-drive. "This leaves open the possibility that, in a boring fMRI scanner they have nothing to do to keep them awake and thus fall asleep," says (Utah neurologist Chirstopher) Jones. This hypothesis has public safety implications, according to Curtis. "Other boring situations, like driving an automobile at night without adequate visual or auditory stimulation, may also put short sleepers at risk of drowsiness or even falling asleep behind the wheel," he says.

Looking specifically at differences in connectivity between brain regions, the researchers found that short sleepers who denied dysfunction showed enhanced connectivity between sensory cortices, which process external sensory information, and the hippocampus, a region associated with memory. "That's tantalizing because it suggests that maybe one of the things the short sleepers are doing in the scanner is performing memory consolidation more efficiently than non-short sleepers," Anderson says.

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Brain's "reward system" also tied to sleep-wake states

According to Stanford University researchers, a primary circuit in the brain's reward involving the chemical "feel-good" chemical dopamine, is also essential for controlling our sleep-wake cycles.

“Insomnia, a multibillion-dollar market for pharmaceutical companies, has traditionally been treated with drugs such as benzodiazepines that nonspecifically shut down the entire brain," says psychiatry and behavior science professor Luis de Lecea "Now we see the possibility of developing therapies that, by narrowly targeting this newly identified circuit, could induce much higher-quality sleep.”

From Stanford:

It makes intuitive sense that the reward system, which motivates goal-directed behaviors such as fleeing from predators or looking for food, and our sleep-wake cycle would coordinate with one another at some point. You can’t seek food in your sleep, unless you’re an adept sleepwalker. Conversely, getting out of bed is a lot easier when you’re excited about the day ahead of you...

The reward system’s circuitry is similar in all vertebrates, from fish, frogs and falcons to fishermen and fashion models. A chemical called dopamine plays a crucial role in firing up this circuitry.

Neuroscientists know that a particular brain structure, the ventral tegmental area, or VTA, is the origin of numerous dopamine-secreting nerve fibers that run in discrete tracts to many different parts of the brain. A plurality of these fibers go to the nucleus accumbens, a forebrain structure particularly implicated in generating feelings of pleasure in anticipation of, or response to, obtaining a desired objective.

“Since many reward-circuit-activating drugs such as amphetamines that work by stimulating dopamine secretion also keep users awake, it’s natural to ask if dopamine plays a key role in the sleep-wake cycle as well as in reward,” Eban-Rothschild said.

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