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Why Sleep Deprivation Can Destroy You
October 19, 2013 9:57 AM   Subscribe

In a nutshell, this new study provides evidence that we need a certain amount of sleep every night, because the brain takes this time to rid itself of toxic metabolic byproducts, which would otherwise accumulate in the brain and impair brain function, destroy neurons — and potentially cause neurodegenerative disorders.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (87 comments total) 63 users marked this as a favorite

 
Uh oh.
posted by Iridic at 10:01 AM on October 19, 2013 [20 favorites]


Yeah, I'm pulling my second 16 hour day on two-ish hours sleep. I'm not clicking that.
posted by nevercalm at 10:04 AM on October 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


According to my behavior when I don't have to be anywhere in the morning, I need approximately 10 hours of sleep per night. The amount of seething resentment I feel for people who can hop out of bed after 6 hours is astonishing. I feel as if I have to choose between a social life and my mental health.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:07 AM on October 19, 2013 [63 favorites]


Said every mother of a newborn infant ever.

Actually, that's not true. Every mother of a newborn infant was anxious to attend to her baby's needs no matter what. Which is why I tell my new mom friends that they need to get 5 hours in a row, minimum in order to function.* Then I pull their partners aside and say, "hey, she needs 5 hours in a row, minimum. Tonight's your night, buddy." Which is what someone did for me when I was a new mom and it was good thing that they did.

My knee-jerk, anecdotal, science! opinion is that a lot of post-partum depression could be mitigated by getting proper sleep and nutrition. New moms are so often left to fend for themselves, pushed back into work too soon, have little help from anyone other than their partners.

*And then I remind them that even that isn't sustainable so they need to make room for 8-10 hours on occasion to catch up.
posted by amanda at 10:09 AM on October 19, 2013 [24 favorites]


Does this mean I can have my upstairs neighbors arrested for attempted murder? i hope so
posted by elizardbits at 10:12 AM on October 19, 2013 [35 favorites]


I wonder if this means Hannibal would also be able to smell sleep deprivation on you.
posted by C'est la D.C. at 10:17 AM on October 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


The amount of seething resentment I feel for people who can hop out of bed after 6 hours is astonishing.

I don't resent these people nearly as much as the people who celebrate going without sleep as some sort of noble activity. Not getting proper sleep is not some amazing feat that marks you as some superman or woman - it's a sad, sad thing not to be cozy in bed when you need it.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 10:18 AM on October 19, 2013 [42 favorites]


Makes perfect sense to me. My job requires a lot of overtime, and ever since i reached my thirties, i don't adjust as well as most people to getting 2 hours of sleep. My brain locks up and i just... can't... think.

That, and it loosens my bowels for some reason.
posted by ELF Radio at 10:18 AM on October 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


2013 hasn't been a good health year for me but my brain actually trying to kill me is where i draw the damn line. to think i fed you all those books and education you ungrateful sob. from now on its 4 hrs of sleep and 12 hrs of the kardashians, honey boo boo and just staring at tv static EVERY SINGLE DAY.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:19 AM on October 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


About three months ago, I switched from being a night runner to a morning runner due to my work schedule, and honestly the best part of the change has been forcing myself to be in bed no later than 10PM most nights, sometimes earlier. Consistently having 7 or more hours of sleep every night has done wonders for the way I think and feel.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:23 AM on October 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Interesting to see this. It's been a very long-held argument against the toxins views of sleep deprivation that it is the case that we are also affected by circadian rhythm: that is, that we are always more awake at 10am than at 3am, no matter how much sleep deprivation we have. But I've been keeping track, and I have 75 hours in 5 weeks, so there you go...
posted by curuinor at 10:26 AM on October 19, 2013


I've been thinking I need to improve my sleep rules on Health Month and here's the scientific proof. (At least for this month.)
posted by immlass at 10:27 AM on October 19, 2013


Bit vexing that the article doesn’t mention how many hours "a certain amount of sleep" works out to; whether it's the classic 8 to 9, or if, perhaps, you can get by on a bit less without triggering cascading neural failure.

"Nothing less than seventeen hours," said Dr. Deane, face rigid. "Seventeen continuous hours, undertaken in absolute darkness and silence. Ideally, you would be spun in one of those NASA gyroscopic trainers the whole time to mitigate the always potent risk of blood clots."
posted by Iridic at 10:28 AM on October 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Does it matter if you use a Rx sleep aid? Or is sleep, sleep?
posted by Ideefixe at 10:28 AM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've always wondered about the phrased "Slept like a baby." It clearly means "wake up every 90 minutes screaming", right?
posted by eriko at 10:29 AM on October 19, 2013 [32 favorites]


I've always wondered about the phrased "Slept like a baby." It clearly means "wake up every 90 minutes screaming", right?

Don't forget about befouling yourself!
posted by zombieflanders at 10:36 AM on October 19, 2013 [25 favorites]


I read some years ago that studies performed in a few preliterate cultures (I believe, in the Amazon, and the Indonesian archipelago) concluded thus:

1) Early humans went to sleep with the dark and rose with the sun.

2) Early humans probably conducted about 3-4 hours of labor daily - foraging, structure repair, hunting, food preparation.

3) Children were raised with lots of help from family and community members.

4) The remainder of time available was spent lounging, sleeping, having sex, and playing.

I'm not romanticizing these preliterate groups or early humans, in general, but it's important to remember that we share their physiology to a great degree. More sleep, more community sharing/involvement in child rearing and food, more relaxed structuring of lives, etc. etc would probably do us all good.

As it is, human beings evolve, with the onset of a permanent daytime brought on by electricity, we may be evolving a new group of "better survivors" who are better able to cope with the the vagaries of "always on". Who knows?

In any case, over the last few years I have learned that getting my share of zzzz's is one of the most important things I can do, even if it means cutting other things out. Getting more sleep has been a key to feeling better, and feeling cheerier. Sleep: highly recommended!
posted by Vibrissae at 10:36 AM on October 19, 2013 [16 favorites]


Article contains 13 instances of the word "could." Wake me when there's a proven causal connection.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 10:38 AM on October 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


My husband is one of those rare people who really, truly only needs four or five hours of sleep each night. In fact, he can't sleep more than that; he wakes up and gets antsy. Every few months he'll sleep in and get seven or eight hours but it's rare.

If this research proves to be true, I wonder what the implications would be for Mr. Ant.
posted by workerant at 10:47 AM on October 19, 2013


I've always been a powernapper (I'm so sorry to all those teachers whose classes I had 30-second powernaps in) and it's fascinating to me how even just a few seconds of falling asleep can allow my brain to rebound and feel almost refreshed.

That said, I find studies and articles like this to be both interesting and depressing. Yes, I know I need more sleep. But as a lifelong insomniac, falling asleep is not something I can summon at will. Everything must be perfect: cool, dark, silent room, pleasantly tired out from physical exercise but at the same time not mentally frazzled. Yeah, those conditions occur about once or twice a month.
posted by whistle pig at 10:47 AM on October 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


But, but...the Alpha males down in development keep bragging about how kick-ass they are on only four hours or less a night...
posted by Thorzdad at 10:50 AM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


nevercalm: "Yeah, I'm pulling my second 16 hour day on two-ish hours sleep. I'm not clicking that."

Eponysterical.
posted by symbioid at 10:50 AM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


4) The remainder of time available was spent lounging, sleeping, having sex, and playing.

My long-term goal is to be reincarnated as a bonobo.
posted by mikelieman at 10:52 AM on October 19, 2013 [23 favorites]


eriko: "I've always wondered about the phrased "Slept like a baby." It clearly means "wake up every 90 minutes screaming", right?"

Like taking candy from a baby
posted by symbioid at 10:56 AM on October 19, 2013


I used to work night shift, come home at ~3 am, stay up until 9 am surfing the net, get up around 3, then surf a bit, get ready for work then leave. Then I was without a job and my natural cycle was ~3-5 am... so then I had to get used to getting up in the morning and it was MUCH harder to get by on a few hours of sleep and I had to learn to force myself to finally go to bed earl, so now I get to bed by midnight-2:00 am (depending on my sleepiness) and get up at 8:00 am... Thing that sucks is I usually take at LEAST an hour nap when I get home, sometimes up to 2 hours, so it might be 10 hours in all, and I WOULD LIKE MORE TIME FOR MYSELF PLEASE!
posted by symbioid at 11:06 AM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


That'll be me then. Yaaaaaay.
posted by Artw at 11:10 AM on October 19, 2013


Mrs arcticseal usually sleeps 9-10 hours of allowed. I sleep around 7 hours, so I end up doing quiet things around the house until she stirs. This is great and I love the alone time where I make coffee, read and talk to the cat.

Another vote for morning exercise as the way to go, for me at least.
posted by arcticseal at 11:18 AM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of the things I remember when I researched polyphasic sleeping in college was that it changes one's dietary cravings, especially for grape juice. The article talks about norepinephrine playing a role in wakefulness. I wonder if grape juice contains a precursor for something that keeps people awake or a precursor for something that helps brains clean themselves.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:19 AM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does this mean I can have my upstairs neighbors employers arrested for attempted murder? i hope so.



My work schedule is some kind of unethical medical experiment. I have had jet lag for nine years.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:21 AM on October 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


Maybe once we rack up enough evidence of how sleep deprivation is killing everyone, we'll finally start getting some real, serious, publicly funded research into sleep and sleep disorders, and not just a bunch of medical device manufacturers trying to sell CPAP machines.
posted by ernielundquist at 11:24 AM on October 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


1. Early humans went to sleep with the dark and rose with the sun.

Early humans lived fairly close to the equator, where the day length doesn't vary much. Here at 45 degrees north latitude, this sun-based rhythm is utterly unworkable.

2. The best book about sleep is The Promise of Sleep by William Dement, the guy who discovered REM sleep.

3. Although many important things about sleep remain unknown, we know a great deal about sleep. The textbook on sleep, Kryger's Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine, has 1766 pages. Yes, it will all be on the test.

</eponysterical>
(Actually I stopped being a neuroscientist about 20 years ago.)
posted by neuron at 11:26 AM on October 19, 2013 [15 favorites]


when I researched polyphasic sleeping in college was that it changes one's dietary cravings, especially for grape juice. The article talks about norepinephrine playing a role in wakefulness. I wonder if grape juice contains a precursor for something that keeps people awake or a precursor for something that helps brains clean themselves.

Food cravings being an indicator of a specific nutritional need is a myth.

posted by Lentrohamsanin at 11:27 AM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Would like to see more corroborating research and papers on this. Also, I find I'm more functional when my sleep duration is a whole number multiple of 90 minutes, which coincides nicely with sleep patterns.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:31 AM on October 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


2) Early humans probably conducted about 3-4 hours of labor daily - foraging, structure repair, hunting, food preparation.

As someone who has gone camping, I find this extremely hard to believe.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:32 AM on October 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is there anything sleep can't do?
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:38 AM on October 19, 2013


Maybe once we rack up enough evidence of how sleep deprivation is killing everyone, we'll finally start getting some real, serious, publicly funded research into sleep and sleep disorders, and not just a bunch of medical device manufacturers trying to sell CPAP machines.

And as more evidence stacks up about chronotypes, maybe some regulations to take that into account with work scheduahaha no employers will just deny and discredit and call people lazy
posted by jason_steakums at 11:38 AM on October 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


In what way, justsomebody...?

That it's more than 3-4 hours??

Remember that they still have a whole tribal grouping doing this, not just one or two people. And these are people who live it, and have built up their own infrastructure to accommodate their lifestyle...
posted by symbioid at 11:39 AM on October 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Is there anything sleep can't do?

Prevent one from becoming a Viking?
posted by zombieflanders at 11:40 AM on October 19, 2013 [16 favorites]


Is there anything sleep can't do?

Drive my car?
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:58 AM on October 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


". . .but future therapies could also help the brain clear out its waste products, Deane said."

And, in conjunction with therapies that induce wakefulness, cure mankind of the crippling disease of sleep for all time? 'cause that would be fantastic.

I've never understood why every sleep researcher interviewed in the press stresses how important sleep is, rather than pointing out how tragic and debilitating it is that we've yet to find a viable cure. Convincing people they ought to spend slightly more of their lives effectively dead in order to be healthier the rest of the time may make short-term medical sense, but where's the vision for a better future?
posted by eotvos at 12:14 PM on October 19, 2013 [10 favorites]


If sleep is eliminated and society adapts to optimize use of the newfound time, when do you dream?
posted by Gyan at 12:30 PM on October 19, 2013


My job requires a lot of overtime, and ever since i reached my thirties, i don't adjust as well as most people to getting 2 hours of sleep. My brain locks up and i just... can't... think.

That, and it loosens my bowels for some reason.


Nominated as the etymology for hot bunking.
posted by zippy at 12:36 PM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yay! I needed something new to add to the things I fret about at 2:00AM!
posted by yoink at 12:37 PM on October 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is there anything sleep can't do?
Fry up some bacon. And boy, that is a disadvantage.
posted by Namlit at 1:11 PM on October 19, 2013


I'm always amazed at people who can pull all-nighters. If I try to stay up past midnight, my brain just turns itself off without much warning. No amount of caffeine seems to alter this behavior.
posted by octothorpe at 1:23 PM on October 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


If sleep is eliminated and society adapts to optimize use of the newfound time, when do you dream?
During the less-taxing tasks I perform while at work, and when commuting. Same as now, except there'd be more time available for it, since I wouldn't be spending a third of my life entirely unconscious.

Which is a (possibly overly) snarky attempt to point out that there is a real and hard-to-bridge divide between people who enjoy sleep and those who don't. Of all the cocktail party topics that generate strong and polarized reactions, curing sleep is perhaps the most cleanly bimodal. Half the people I talk to agree instantly, and half of them rush to defend sleep as one of life's pleasures.

As someone who remembers dream fragments of a couple times a year, actually *enjoys* a dream every decade or so, and who doesn't normally feel tired until around 20 hours after waking, my experience of sleep is entirely one of annoyance, missed opportunities, and the endless search for bedtime reading material which is *just barely* engaging without being too exciting. There are very few jobs on the planet - and none which don't involve either physical pain or considerable personal risk - that I wouldn't chose over sleeping without hesitation. For me, sleep is death. A gentle kind of death, as one wakes up from it daily, but still the complete absence of any identity or experience. The need for sleep is a profound addiction, to a drug whose only noticeable feature is that it prevents withdrawal symptoms.

Which isn't to say that structuring society so people work less isn't a very good idea, or that working out how to prevent the willing-sleepless of the future from acquiring an overwhelming competitive advantage against those who choose to sleep is an easy task. But, if the only options on the table are being exploited and being unconscious, it's time to find another table.
posted by eotvos at 1:23 PM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


> "Early humans went to sleep with the dark and rose with the sun."

Does this count the humans hanging around in arctic Russia 40,000 years ago? Because swinging around between zero hours of sleep on summer solstice to twenty-four hours of sleep on winter solstice would be a heck of a change over the course of a year.

(This is why I'm always suspicious of statements like the one quoted.)
posted by kyrademon at 1:34 PM on October 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


eriko: "I've always wondered about the phrased "Slept like a baby." It clearly means "wake up every 90 minutes screaming", right?"

Wake up every 90 minutes screaming and refuse to stop until someone shoves a boob in your mouth.

neuron: "Here at 45 degrees north latitude, this sun-based rhythm is utterly unworkable."

I don't know, man, this seems to be how my husband functions, and we live at 40*N. In the summer he needs like 5 hours sleep, is up at dawn, stays up late, is always well-rested. In the winter, he's falling asleep before dinner and can barely drag himself out of bed before 8 a.m. I personally need about the same amount of sleep year-round so he drives me crazy when he's up puttering around at the crack of dawn in the summer and then falling asleep in his soup in the winter.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:35 PM on October 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


The textbook on sleep, Kryger's Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine, has 1766 pages. Yes, it will all be on the test.

I've read Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine edited by Kryger et al. (the, uh, red one, not the newer blue-green one), and I did take the test. Several tests, actually. Calling Dement's book the best book on sleep strikes me as a pretty unusual choice.

We know a heck of a lot about the physiology and psychology of sleep, in both children and adults. That's because sleep is ubiquitous and measurable. We still don't know with any certainty the answers to the questions everyone wants to ask, specifically why sleep? and why so much sleep? On some metrics, we sleep more than any other mammals except the primitive monotremes.

If "toxins in the brain" is the answer, then it has a heck of a long way to go to find overwhelming empirical support.

Here is a good, free survey of sleep biology in PLOS Biology that's not too technical.
posted by Nomyte at 1:38 PM on October 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


eotvos: ""I've never understood why every sleep researcher interviewed in the press stresses how important sleep is, rather than pointing out how tragic and debilitating it is that we've yet to find a viable cure. Convincing people they ought to spend slightly more of their lives effectively dead in order to be healthier the rest of the time may make short-term medical sense, but where's the vision for a better future?"
-------------
I rather focus on the 8 hours of waking that we already do have that are wasted on the dreams of someone that isn't us...
posted by symbioid at 1:57 PM on October 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Early humans went to sleep with the dark and rose with the sun.

How could anyone possibly know that?
posted by walrus at 2:22 PM on October 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Bit vexing that the article doesn’t mention how many hours "a certain amount of sleep" works out to; whether it's the classic 8 to 9, or if, perhaps, you can get by on a bit less without triggering cascading neural failure.

Then what about the people like myself who only really need to sleep 6-7 hours a night, and will naturally do so unless deprived in previous nights?

Or, more importantly, the new arguments that it's really 7-8 hours(and i can't find it, but i remember a year or two ago there was a big push of some study that determined 7 was the best number).

More than anything though, i just don't believe this applies unilaterally to all people and that there's some default perfect sleep number that everyone else is unhealthy for not hitting. There are definitely people who naturally sleep like 5 hours, and people who naturally sleep more like 9-10 without that being "unhealthy" and feel awful when they don't.

I really doubt these toxins process out at the same rate for every human. Any number proclaiming to be such would have to either be an average, or the correct number for a small subset of people.
posted by emptythought at 2:30 PM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


How could anyone possibly know that?

Fom cave paintings of the earliest alarm clocks.
posted by zippy at 2:32 PM on October 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


As a late chronotype, the business day is hell for me. I have spent my entire life feeling tired and groggy until around noon. I would do best if I could sleep from 2am - 8am.

It's not just amount of sleep, but also when we sleep.
posted by Fleebnork at 3:24 PM on October 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Hmmm... this makes me wonder. I have a great aunt and a sibling with brutal peripheral neuropathy (my sibling has fantasies about removing limbs to ease the pain), and both are known for being lifelong lousy sleepers. The aunt was a night nurse with a rotating schedule and a husband who worked days, and the sibling is a non-sleeper (or when he sleeps, he has the radio AND the teevee AND the computer AND the lights on).
posted by mochapickle at 3:36 PM on October 19, 2013


This is especially poignant for me because a while back I had actual insomnia, not "har har I don't want to go to bed because there's internetting to be done, I must have insomnia" (basically the difference between "Sometimes I'm happy and sometimes I'm bitchy I'm so bipolar") for several months as a side effect of some meds I was taking. I have things I worked on during that time and I have obvious evidence of stuff I was doing like Facebook posts and such...but I don't remember any of it. I read work documents I wrote and have no idea what they are or what they relate to. I read old Facebook posts from that time and wonder what in the world I'm going on about. It's so weird to have no memory of entire months of my life.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 4:39 PM on October 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Omg I love sleeping so much — more than food even. Perfect white sheets, medium duvet, someone you love to cuddle up to. It's delicious. "Curing" sleep would be like making food into a pill. Maybe you could, but whyyyyyy?
posted by dame at 4:51 PM on October 19, 2013 [14 favorites]


why so much sleep? On some metrics, we sleep more than any other mammals except the primitive monotremes.

I recall someone on Metatalk claiming recently that Echidnas have more neocortex than we do for their body weight.
posted by jamjam at 4:51 PM on October 19, 2013


I'd like to see how this glymphatic system fits into the puzzle of why some chronotypes are rarer and why they're so debilitating for some of us. I naturally work best from midnight to 8 am. I had to finish high school via distance ed in part because I couldn't make the earlier classes (anything before maybe 1 pm). I'm just happy to see words like "chronotype" mentioned more often in sleep articles. Considering the ridiculously huge amount of information on endogenous rhythms and factors that affect the sleep cycle and quality of sleep that I can skim through in my copy of Circadian Physiology, I'm kind of surprised that most science articles tend to stick to very basic and generally well-known facts. Maybe most of the information simply isn't out there yet, or at least not very accessible or easily understood? Circadian rhythm disorders were first really documented decades ago, but until the last few years, it wasn't really known to the general public, and sleep doctors almost always diagnosed people with a phase delay with "insomnia".

I've found that no matter what, the last three hours of sleep I get, which are almost always in late morning or early afternoon, are absolutely vital in terms of whether or not I can function. Meaning that for all those years when I took sleeping pills and slept from 3 am - 8 am, I was a wreck the next day. I absolutely need a certain quantity of sleep, and it has to be around a certain time of day. Those last three hours of sleep have to be in late morning and I don't understand why, but I know that during those last three hours, I sleep like the dead and waking me up is next to impossible.

As others have mentioned, I would also like to know how this discovery relates to those lucky da Vinci types who only require 4-5 hours of sleep per night. There's a lot of information out there, as I said, but I suppose it's really not that easy to put it all together.

If any of you night owls or chronically jet lagged types want to talk to another night owl who's a complete armchair sleep science geek, hit me up.
posted by quiet earth at 4:54 PM on October 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


dame: "Omg I love sleeping so much — more than food even. Perfect white sheets, medium duvet, someone you love to cuddle up to. It's delicious. "Curing" sleep would be like making food into a pill. Maybe you could, but whyyyyyy?"

I remember once reading a bit of "nap porn" that somebody had written — the smooth, white sheets; the just-right blankets; the muffled sound of the world outside going about its business as you snuggle into the pillow and close your eyes…
posted by Lexica at 5:00 PM on October 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


Hmmm... this makes me wonder. I have a great aunt and a sibling with brutal peripheral neuropathy (my sibling has fantasies about removing limbs to ease the pain), and both are known for being lifelong lousy sleepers.

Yeah, I look forward to the day when the connection between lousy sleep and the development of chronic pain is fully fleshed out, well known to the public and to doctors, with appropriate treatments and with accommodating work schedules, should that day ever arrive. There's also a connection between lousy sleep and fibromyalgia. Sleepless nights are associated with more pain the next day. I know there's an association between fibromyalgia, at least, and the brain's network of glial cells (which is the focus of the FPP), although I don't know enough to say anything further. From one of my books on fibro:

"There is a bioelectric connection between glia, ion exchange, and cellular swelling in the brain. If too much fluid is allowed into the cell due to increased permeability, cellular contents come under increased pressure. I believe that some fibrofog may be due to this form of water retention." (Starlanyl and Copeland 2001, p. 201).

Anyhow. Sleep is good. I'll just be over here in the corner, speculating and sipping Red Bull.
posted by quiet earth at 5:15 PM on October 19, 2013


Perfect white sheets, medium duvet, someone you love to cuddle up to.

I too love sleeping (especially naps), but my sheets have dinosaurs on them. It is my preferred way of snoozing.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 5:43 PM on October 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


Does this mean I can have my upstairs neighbors employers teenagers arrested for attempted murder? i hope so.

As a chronically under-rested person I agree completely. I am convinced that my cognitive and emotional capacities have both diminished significantly due to long-term interrupted sleep. It's doubly awful because sleep patterns are so habitual that even when your circumstances allow for more/better quality sleep, your brain wakes up anyway.
posted by headnsouth at 5:48 PM on October 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I remember once reading a bit of "nap porn" that somebody had written — the smooth, white sheets; the just-right blankets; the muffled sound of the world outside going about its business as you snuggle into the pillow and close your eyes…

Perhaps you're thinking of Douglas Adams' Long Dark Teatime of the Soul, the second "Dirk Gently" book (scanned PDF here) - chapter 7:
Best of all he liked to sleep.

Sleeping was a very important activity for him. He liked to sleep for longish periods, great swathes of time. Merely sleeping overnight was not taking the business seriously. He enjoyed a good night's sleep and wouldn't miss one for the world, but he didn't regard it as anything even half approaching enough. He liked to be asleep by half past eleven in the morning if possible, and if that could come directly after a nice leisurely lie-in then so much the better. ...

He ... lowered his head stiffly back on to the firmly plumped up pillows and ran the back of his finely freckled hand over the folded-back linen sheet. Quite simply he was in love with linen. Clean, lightly starched, white Irish linen, pressed, folded, tucked - the words themselves were almost a litany of desire for him. In centuries nothing had obsessed him or moved him so much as linen now did. He could not for the life of him understand how he could ever have cared for anything else.

Linen. And sleep. Sleep and linen. Sleep in linen. Sleep.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:10 PM on October 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


The only bright side to my bouts of insomnia is that at least everyone else is asleep at night. In fact, during my periods of relatively regular sleep, I sometimes find myself missing just being up, alone, in the middle of the night, knowing that nobody is going to bother me for a while.

I even miss before the internet, when I'd be sitting up in the middle of the night, fiddling around with my radio and TV looking for late night stoner playlists, crackpot talk shows, and B movies.

The notion of curing sleep is just too horrible to contemplate. I don't want to live in a world where people are awake all the time.
posted by ernielundquist at 6:16 PM on October 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


I wouldn't want sleep to be completely cured. I love falling asleep and snuggling into the covers and cuddling Boyfriend and being warm and cozy and I love a nap. But I would like the ability to stay awake when I'm supposed to or want to.

I fall asleep in class. Not always, and seemingly unrelated to how much sleep I got the night before or how interested I am in the content. During an intense summer teacher school, I would go behind the classroom building and do jumping jacks; I would eat candy or not eat candy; I would forgo my morning coffee; I would add an afternoon coffee. No matter. I just might fall asleep in the most interesting class. My mother falls asleep in her continuing ed courses, so at least I know where it comes from.

Also, like my mother, I will wake up with a migraine if I sleep more than 8 hours. This makes it harder to catch up if I get off schedule, but I do like the alonetime I get while Boyfriend gets his 12 hours on the weekend.
posted by MsDaniB at 6:18 PM on October 19, 2013


Let's be realistic: If you cure sleep you're going to be working 16 hour days, not finally writing that novel or doing whatever you imagine in all that free time, because your boss will demand it and enough people will be terrified of getting fired that you can not go along with it and get fired and you'll be easily replaced or go along with it and remember when you used to sleep.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:19 PM on October 19, 2013 [15 favorites]


If you cure sleep you're going to be working 16 hour days

16 hour days will be for weaklings! It'll be closer to 20 and there will still be people who boast of how they work 22 hours and want to be celebrated as a result. And the rest of us will side-eye them and dream of 8 hours in bed, but never admit it.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 6:43 PM on October 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


I read a nice comment piece from Lucy Kellaway of the FT the other day proposing a "YAWNS" manifesto:

● Plenty of boasting about being asleep. People should say: “I’ve been to bed at 10 three nights this week!” in the same way that they now say: “I’ve been to the gym for three days running!”

Seriously, wouldn't that be nice? I think people these days (and when I say people I mean urban office worker types) have a sort of bizarre relationship with health. They're always going on these juice cleanses (seriously - WTF is up with everyone going on juice cleanses these days? is there any science at all behind it?), doing crazy Crossfit workouts, training for marathons, but then they're constantly getting shitfaced drunk and eating really unhealthy stuff and staying out late instead of sleeping. It's like... why can't sleeping enough be one of those things you brag about to show how health-conscious you are? Does every healthy behavior have to be...conspicuously healthy behavior?

I switched to a less demanding job earlier this year and have been getting ~7 hours of sleep a night compared to 5-6 hours at my old job. The difference in my mood and overall health is amazing. If only I could sleep 8-9 hours a night...
posted by pravit at 6:49 PM on October 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty happy with somewhere between 7 and 8 hours of sleep a night, but I often wish my schedule was such that I could go to bed around 1-2am and sleep until 9am. And while I'm at it, I might as well wish for a million dollars and a pony.
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:09 PM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


If primitive humans slept at sundown and woke at dawn what latitude are we talking about here? I also suspect after we got hold of fire that we hung out in a circle singing songs and toasting mammoth until the wee hours.
posted by fingerbang at 7:24 PM on October 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Most days I am deeply envious of the cat.
posted by Artw at 7:24 PM on October 19, 2013 [9 favorites]


It occurs to me that starting a site dedicated to nap porn may be my truest vocation on this earth.
posted by dame at 8:28 PM on October 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'm pulling my second 16 hour day on two-ish hours sleep. I'm not clicking that.

I worked a couple of 80-hour workweeks back to back in September and it completely destroyed me. Couldn't think, full of aches and pains that wouldn't go away, temper completely disappeared. It took a full week of regular sleep (and okay, a nearly full day of sleep right after it ended) before I felt anything resembling normal again. I have no goddamned idea how people do it long-term.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:44 PM on October 19, 2013


That it's more than 3-4 hours? Remember that they still have a whole tribal grouping doing this, not just one or two people. And these are people who live it, and have built up their own infrastructure to accommodate their lifestyle...

Yes, I find that very implausible. Finding wild food is difficult and time consuming. For that matter, if we're talking about pre-agricultural nomads they're going to be regularly spending significant time migrating in pursuit of seasonal food supplies. I'll allow that pre-agricultural life was much better than many people think but I can't accept that 3-4 hour total workload number you're throwing around without a citation to back it up.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:11 PM on October 19, 2013


I'll allow that pre-agricultural life was much better than many people think but I can't accept that 3-4 hour total workload number you're throwing around without a citation to back it up.

From Wikipedia:
Subsequent studies in the 1970s examined the Machiguenga of the Upper Amazon and the Kayapo of Northern Brazil. These studies expanded the definition of work beyond purely hunting-gathering activities, but the overall average across the hunter-gatherer societies he studied was still below 4.86, while the maximum was below 8 hours.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 10:18 PM on October 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


If any of you night owls or chronically jet lagged types want to talk to another night owl

my people!
I had horrible insomnia for years and years, until I was able to get a job that let me choose to do night shifts. Now I sleep from around 6am to 2pm and it is blissful. I also had a hard time falling asleep, because I'd get racy mind and just not be able to relax, but then I found audiobooks. A nicely read, familiar story, played juuust at a volume to be audible if I lay still, and it's off to happy zzzzzz land. That passage from Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul quoted above is particularly lovely to fall asleep to.

I wouldn't be surprised that a lot of the people who have insomnia are just a different chronotype, and haven't discovered it yet.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:15 AM on October 20, 2013


I'm a total night person stuck working day shifts and can only enforce it through rigorous discipline. But on something like a vacation I will naturally drift to sleeping from 2-4 am to 10am-noon and then it will be a bitch getting back to normal. I've actually thought of career changing to something that does overnight/graveyard work like nursing or pharmacy just to be on my preferred schedule.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:01 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Early humans went to sleep with the dark and rose with the sun. — (and the objections about how this would work in non-equatorial areas)

I've read theories in a few places (including mefi) that a common historical sleeping pattern was to go to sleep with the dark, wake up a few hours later, spend however much time in a semi-awake state (dozing, talking, having sex, checking on the animals, maybe mending, other activities that didn't need light), and go to sleep again a few hours before dawn. And that this persisted well into modern history— basically until artificial light became cheap and common— but was forgotten (the people likely to write about sleep habits also being the first to start using artificial light).
posted by hattifattener at 8:29 PM on October 20, 2013


It always drove me nuts to see those newspaper reports on studies saying things like, 'Longer sleeping correlated with higher mortality'.

I know this gets overstated, sometimes erroneously, but really - correlation does not equal causation. Argh!

Do you know what is also correlated with longer sleeping, and mortality? Illness. Most types of disease, injury or ill health increase the bodies need for sleep, sleep being a major mechanism for healing the body. And some people just need more sleep.

If you only need 6-7 hours, then yay for you, it probably indicates you are in good physical health. But if you need to get more, then absolutely have more - your body needs it, and it may be working to recover from things you aren't even aware of.

Hypothetical contrary Elysum: But in one of those studies, didn't they already remove anyone with any ill health as a factor?
They only removed known problems. If it was unknown, or undiagnosed, it still has an effect on your health.


In the last year, I quit eating a food I had an allergy to, altogether. My need for sleep has gone down from 9 hours (that's with an alarm clock, I slept 16 hours regularly without one), to about 6 (8 hours without an alarm clock - seriously, it's super weird). Sleep was what kept me going when I had an unknown health problem. That's not to say that sleeping *too* long didn't exacerbate my depression (I gave myself stars if I got between 7 and 9.5 hours sleep). But in general, if you need it, give it to yourself.


However, part of that is because I have dealt with people with psychotic illnesses. The number one trigger was sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can quite literally drive someone mad, and once they get stuck in an agitated/anxious/paranoid state, they can't sleep. Sleeping pills, while non-optimal, are a freaking psychiatric life saver.


Final note:
I think the anti-sleep hype, is *because* of the first point. Most people have an association, even subconscious, with people needing more sleep when they are sick, and therefore they are associating sleep with the illness, rather than, in most cases, with the cure.
posted by Elysum at 8:35 PM on October 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


New Study Finds Human Beings Were Never Meant To Wake Up From Sleep
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:41 AM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


curuinor: It's been a very long-held argument against the toxins views of sleep deprivation that it is the case that we are also affected by circadian rhythm: that is, that we are always more awake at 10am than at 3am, no matter how much sleep deprivation we have.

Nomyte: If "toxins in the brain" is the answer, then it has a heck of a long way to go to find overwhelming empirical support.

emptythought: I really doubt these toxins process out at the same rate for every human.

Yeah, I'm with you guys. ANY time someone starts talking about "processing the toxins", my bullshit alarm goes off. IME real scientists don't discuss "removing the toxins" so much as discussing what actual chemical buildups are being processed. (And, as a related point, sometimes chemicals previously believed to be toxins in need of removal - such as lactic acid - turn out to be not so much so.)

See also: anyone who uses the phrase "tonic" for anything except quinine-laced seltzer water. A "tonic" is a bullshit alternative-medicine term for "I don't want to get pinned down claiming anything specific, because I don't actually know anything specific."

And any time a "scientist" claims "all humans need" 8 hours sleep/8 glasses of water a day/whatever, I can guarantee beyond a shadow of a doubt that they're full of shit. Humans show a ton of biodiversity; there simply isn't a single, constant value for any of our parameters.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:06 AM on October 21, 2013


For people who go to bed at 10 and wake up at 6, I have to ask: what is your social life like? I'd love to start seriously trying to get my sleep cycle where I'd like it to be, but then I realize- everyone I know schedules parties to start at 9 or 10pm, dinner dates with friends usually go from like 7 to 9 or 8 to 10, and then of course you have to get home and get ready for bed, which takes even more time... so how do you keep your friends and still go to bed at 10? Do you all just meet up at sunrise to go jogging and shit?
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:19 AM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's roughly my schedule (and for added fun, I'm married to a bartender). My social life consists of occasionally meeting people after work (ending early enough to be home by 9:30) during the week and of screwing up my sleep schedule by staying up too late on the weekends.

I'm an introvert with a lower-than-usual need for in-person socialization, so it works for me. During the periods when my husband's work schedule is light and so he's more on my schedule, he starts to go crazy from cabin fever fairly quickly.
posted by Lexica at 12:09 PM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


@showbiz:
Yeah, I don't know those people either, but I do know a few people who still get up early, and their secret appears to be the 'disco nap'.
They have a 2-3 hour nap (but it has to be kind of early in the day, straight after work if they finish early, or siesta on the weekend), and then go socialise with friends.


The other trick to have a weekend sleepin without screwing your bodyclock (which only works if you are very hard to wake up in the morning, ie snooze, 9 minutes later, snooze, repeat several times) -
that thing about fasting for 12-16 hours resetting your body clock for jetlag, effectively means breakfast determines your body clock. So, if I want to have a morning sleep in, I put a yogurt next to the bed, blearily wake up at normal weekday-o'clock, swallow some, then roll over and go back to sleep.
I seem to have an easier time waking up Monday morning after sticking to that, rather than the past, 'uh oh, 12pm feels like my natural wakeup time now'.
posted by Elysum at 3:22 PM on October 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Clearly, sleep deprivation can have strongly negative effects.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:15 PM on October 21, 2013


I've been on a drug that makes me INCREDIBLY SLEEPY - so much so that I regularly now get 9-12 hours of sleep a day. And it's been like that for about two months now.

Sadly, I have to report: it hasn't cured a goddamned thing in my life. I just got the flu (a variant this year's vaccine didn't catch). I'm not especially sharp and clear, although that could be due to the drug's lingering effects through the day. Nothing is particularly better (except the anxiety the drug was prescribed to help with).
posted by IAmBroom at 8:45 AM on October 22, 2013


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