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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.
One of the best predictors of insomnia later in life is the development of bad habits from having sleep disturbed by young children.
The continuous brain recordings that led to the discovery of REM (rapid eye-movement) sleep were not done until 1953, partly because the scientists involved were concerned about wasting paper.
REM sleep occurs in bursts totalling about 2 hours a night, usually beginning about 90 minutes after falling asleep.
Dreams, once thought to occur only during REM 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.
REM dreams are characterised 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.
Certain types of eye movements during REM sleep correspond to specific movements in dreams, suggesting at least part of the dreaming process is analagous to watching a film
No-one knows for sure if other species dream but some do have sleep cycles similar to humans.
Elephants sleep standing up during non-REM sleep, but lie down for REM sleep.
Dreams may not serve any purpose at all but be merely a meaningless byproduct of two evolutionary adaptations – sleep and consciousness.
REM sleep may help developing brains mature. Premature babies have 75 per cent REM sleep, 10 per cent more than full-term bubs. Similarly, a newborn kitten puppy rat or hampster experiences only REM sleep, while a newborn guinea pig (which is much more developed at birth) has almost no REM sleep at all.
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.
British Ministry of Defence researchers have been able to reset soldiers’ body clocks so they can go without sleep for up to 36 hrs. Tiny optical fibres 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.
Seventeen hours of sustained wakefulness leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood alcohol-level of 0.05%.
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.
The NRMA estimates fatigue is involved in one in 6 fatal road accidents.
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.
Some sleeping tablets, such as barbiturates suppress REM sleep, which can be harmful over a long period.
In insomnia following bereavement, sleeping pills can disrupt grieving.
To drop off we must cool off; body temperature and the brain’s sleep-wake cycle are closely linked. That’s why hot summer nights can cause a restless sleep. The blood flow mechanism that transfers core body heat to the skin works best between 18 and 30 degrees. But later in life, the comfort zone shrinks to between 23 and 25 degrees – one reason why older people have more sleep disorders.
A night on the grog will help you get to sleep but it will be a light slumber and you won’t dream much.
After five nights of partial sleep deprivation, three drinks will have the same effect on your body as six would when you’ve slept enough.
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.
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.
Ten per cent of snorers have sleep apnoea, a disorder which causes sufferers to stop breathing up to 300 times a night and significantly increases the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.
Snoring occurs only in non-REM sleep
Feeling tired can feel normal after a short time. Those deliberately deprived of sleep for research initially noticed greatly the effects on their alertness, mood and physical performance, but the awareness dropped off after the first few days.
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.
Most of what we know about sleep we’ve learned in the past 25 years.
Experts say one of the most alluring sleep distractions is the 24-hour accessibility of the internet.
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.