Saturday, November 17, 2007

Cheating on sleep


I read this article on Wired about the possibility of cheating on sleep. It basically says that when we sleep at night it's not so important how many hours total we sleep but the number of complete sleep cycles we go through. Apparently as we sleep at night our brain goes through cycles with 5 different phases for a total of 90 min, three of them are relevant: 65 min of normal non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, 20 min of REM sleep plus final 5 min non-REM sleep. The REM phases will become longer during later sleep. This studies show that if we were to wake up naturally with no alarms or external intervention we'd sleep multiples of 90 min such as 4.5 hs, 6hs, 7.5 hs, 9hs, etc. The idea is that if we sleep complete cycles you'll have a better rest. A person who sleeps only 6hs (4 cycles) will feel more rested than someone who slept 8 or 10hs. Wait a min ... that sounds familiar!

I've been experiencing with this information for some nights and it seems to be true! For now I am only looking at the time every time I wake up in the middle of the night to see if I indeed slept through 90 min cycles, and it's been happening pretty consistently, no matter what time I go to sleep I'm waking up after 3hs and 6hs ...

Next step is to try and actually get up from bed at the end of the cycle closest to my target time (the time around which I intend to be up). We'll see if I can cheat sleep even a bit ;)

As I was reading this article I was remembering of "The new everyday: views on ambient intelligence" book from Philips Research. In this book they analyze very open mindly future technologies. They particularly talk about ways of replacing the traditional sound of an alarm clock with a diffused light system capable of creating an atmosphere in the bedroom that would wake you up in a nice natural way.

How cool would it be to have sensors detecting your brain waves and waking you up naturally and nicely when the cycle closest (and before) to your target time comes up? I'd love it!!

This reminds me of the phrase: "Imagine the possibility. Create the reality".

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