This Gently Breathing Robot Cuddles You to Sleep

It's breathing. The chest rises and falls rhythmically, hypnotically. We guess it's the chest. Nobody's marketed a sleep robot before, and we're not even sure it's a robot. It looks like a pillowy four-pound kidney bean, about the size of a novelty prize at a carnival game. "Spooning the sleep robot during the night, you will be soothed to sleep," the sales literature claims, with "thousands of years of Buddhist breathing techniques."

To bring upon sleep, breathing has to become slow and even, says Natalie Dautovich, a psychologist and sleep specialist at the National Sleep Foundation. You can't fall asleep when you're huffing like a sled dog, but insomniacs fear bedtime, and fear raises breathing rate, and that makes it hard to fall asleep. The claim goes that, as you hold the sleep robot, called Somnox, you'll subconsciously match your breathing to its slow and steady rhythm, which will lure you to sleep.

Somnox

Work began on the prototype Somnox in 2015 at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. "We were robotics engineers, personally exposed to the effects of sleep deprivation," says Julian Jagtenberg, Somnox's co-founder. "We designed a soft robotic prototype to help ourselves and our family members get sleep again," he says. “We fell asleep faster, we slept longer. Once people we didn't know started reaching out to us because they were having a hard time falling asleep, that was the moment we decided this shouldn't be just an academic project."

Somnox debuted on Kickstarter in November 2017, asking for €100,000, or about $123,000. After a month, 509 backers had pledged double that for an estimated July 2018 delivery, which Jagtenberg says the company is still on track to meet.

Catch Your Breath

Breathing has long been the key to relaxing and, eventually, falling asleep. The 4-7-8 Breathing Method, popularized by Dr. Andrew Weil in 2015 and subsequently copy-and-pasted across the internet, suggested one such method to reduce stress and induce sleep. It directs you to breathe in for four seconds through your nose, hold your breath for seven seconds, and breathe out for eight seconds through your mouth. "We've found out people are having a really hard time doing [the 4-7-8 Breathing Method] because you need to be very focused and disciplined in order to get it working," says Jagtenberg, who acknowledges that it's an effective method. "But we humans, if you interact with one another, you start copying behaviors without even knowing it. We thought this relationship was very strong when it comes to breathing. If you feel it [through the Somnox], you will subconsciously adjust your own breathing."

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While few studies have researched breath-mirroring in adults, several have looked at its effects on newborns. A 1995 study by the University of Connecticut suggested that infants who slept with a Breathing Bear—a not-for-sale device that respirated and coaxed sleepy babies to copy its breathing—had slower and more-regular respiration and more restful sleep than the control group. A follow-up study published in 2003 concluded only that Breathing-Bear-babies developed a better mood, presumably from better sleep.

The Somnox hopes to product a similar effect. Looking at it and watching it in action, it's a stretch to call the Somnox "the world's first sleep robot." It just lies there and breathes—a convincing imitation of humanity, but not what you'd call a robot. "It depends on what your concept of a robot is," says Jagtenberg. "In our perception, a robot is a system that can analyze its environment with sensors that think about how to act upon that environment." Somnox is more like a Nest thermostat than a semi-mobile, sentient threat to humanity that falls down stairs.

So it's more like a smart pillow, one that will become smarter with software updates. At launch, it's only got inklings of intelligence: It can play white noise, meditation tracks, heartbeat rhythms, and audio books as you drift off. Bluetooth links it to a Somnox app on your Android or iOS phone, which you can use to speed up or slow down the Somnox's breathing rate and adjust the depth of each breath. After launch, Somnox plans two software updates later this year: an alarm that wakes you gently in the morning by moving and murmuring instead of blaring buzzers, and what Somnox calls a sleeping coach, which will be able to pair with a wearable fitness device and detect when you've had a particularly strenuous or stressful day, then develop a custom breathing rhythm for you that night to compensate.

Kickstarter backers will receive theirs in July. The second batch, taking pre-orders now for $549, will ship in October. So far, Somnox has 1,210 orders.

It's not quite a robot, and it's not yet all that smart, but the Somnox has something more important than limbs or a heart of gold: fake lungs. And would anybody really want to spoon a robot that could throw elbows and mule kicks?


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Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/somnox-sleep-robot/

Its 2:51 A.M. Can You Fall Asleep?

This is your bed.

Your bed is one of the most comfortable places in your apartment to fall asleep. The only times you don’t sleep in your bed are when you are on vacation or staying at a friend’s house. Tonight you are at home, so you are going to sleep in your bed.

You stayed up very late tonight preparing your big presentation for tomorrow. You work at the company that comes up with slogans for salad, and if you do well on this presentation, your boss says you will start getting paid.

Tomorrow morning you will pitch “My Vegetables Are Damp With Pleasure” as the new slogan for salad. But tonight, you need some sleep.

Your alarm is set for 6 a.m. sharp.

It is currently 2:51 in the morning, so you need to fall asleep as quickly as you can. You only have a few hours to get all the restful sleep you need before your big day.

The stakes have never been higher for you, so please fall asleep immediately.

You close your eyes as hard as you can and attempt to fall asleep, but you’re having a little trouble. What would you like to do?

Hmm. You have successfully turned your entire body, but you did not fall asleep.

Ah, tossing didn’t work either. Looks like you’ll need to fall asleep the old-fashioned way—by not moving at all.

Hmm. You have successfully tossed your entire body, but you did not fall asleep.

Ah, turning didn’t work either. Looks like you’ll need to fall asleep the old-fashioned way—by not moving at all.

As you tense up your entire body and prepare to not move a single muscle until morning, a thought flashes through your brain:

You forgot to brush your teeth.

*Ding-dong.*

Someone has rung your doorbell! It’s almost 3 a.m.—who could it be?

*DING-DONG.*

Your visitor has rung the doorbell again, and this time they have somehow made the bell much louder.

“Hello. My name is David Jenkins, I’m a volunteer dentist, and I’m going door to door to remind people about the importance of oral health. May I ask if you brushed your teeth tonight?”

“Please do not scream at me in front of my family,” David says, as his wife, parents, and children reveal themselves from around a corner.

You feel a massive pang of guilt. You did not know they were there and would never intentionally harm the three generations of family that stand before you.

“Apology accepted,” the man says. “But please, if you have not already done so tonight, brush your teeth immediately.”

You assure the man that you will, give him $50 for his troubles, and bid his family goodnight.

“I really want to believe you,” the man responds. “But I think you might be lying to me. Go to the bathroom and get your toothbrush so I can feel if it’s wet.”

“Please, do not ever lie to me in front of my family,” the stranger responds, as his wife, parents, and children reveal themselves from around the corner. “Go brush your teeth right now.”

You apologize profusely to the three generations of family standing before you, give the man $50 for his troubles, and shut the door.

You walk into your bathroom and flip on the lights. Yikes! You forgot how bright the bathroom is. Now you’re even more awake than you already were. Better make this quick.

What kind of toothpaste would you like to use tonight?

Excellent choice! This toothpaste was created as part of a promotion for the 2006 reboot of The Pink Panther, and Beyoncé still hands them out at all of her concerts to remind fans that she starred in the film.

Buongiorno! You’ll feel like you’re riding a gondola down the canals of Venice as you brush your teeth with the colors of the Italian flag.

Okay. It’s currently 3:02 a.m., and you have to be up in less than three hours for your presentation. In the interest of time, how would you like to brush your teeth?

The vast majority of the teeth in your mouth are just spares, so let’s narrow this down to the five that most desperately need a cleaning tonight. Which of these teeth would you like to brush?

Smart choice! With proper brushing and flossing, your Oral Horn can sometimes grow up to 3 feet in length.

Nice choice! People usually get their Vanessa’s Molar around age 13, when an adorable preteen girl shows up at their front door and shoves it deep down into their gums. The young girl’s name is Sarah.

Ah, the Lateral Wisp. Perhaps the most ephemeral of the teeth in your mouth. It barely exists, yet it needs constant brushing. Careful not to brush too hard, or you might corrode the mist.

Excellent choice. Your mouth actually has two Lil’ Biters, as circled in the image above. But time is of the essence tonight, so you should only choose one to brush.

Wise choice. Your Essential Tooth exists absolutely everywhere in your mouth, and is imperative for countless functions including slurping, grinding, stroking, gnawing, and milking.

Brushing every single tooth in your mouth is an arduous process, typically lasting anywhere from four to seven hours. But you’ve got to be up bright and early tomorrow, so please make this as quick as possible.

The American Dental Association (usually abbreviated as Amrcn Dntl Assctn) provides an easy mnemonic to help you brush your teeth. All you have to do is remember your ABCs:

Assess your mouth.

Brush your mouth.

Close your mouth.

Ready?

1) Assess your mouth.

Open your mouth (or any hole with teeth in it) and examine it in the mirror.

Count to make sure that all your teeth are still there. Log any missing teeth in your Brusher’s Journal. If a tooth feels particularly sharp, smooth, or regular, write it down. Give each tooth a name, and do not use the same name twice. Log these names in your journal as well, and then dispose of the journal immediately.

2) Brush your mouth.

Firmly grasp your toothbrush with your non-dominant** hand, and slowly apply bristle to bone. Scrub until no bristles remain on the brush.

**IF YOU ARE AMBIDEXTROUS, DO NOT BRUSH YOUR TEETH.

3) Close your mouth.

Spit out any remaining toothpaste, blood, or gum skin into the sink, and then close your mouth to prevent a bug from entering it.

All done brushing! And it only took a few minutes. Well done.

The time is now 3:10 a.m., so please get back into bed immediately. You really need to get some rest before your big day.

Great pick! Nature’s Elegance proudly sources its toothpaste only from ingredients that animals or plants have secreted into a farmer’s hand.

Awesome! Patriot’s Choice toothpaste has been an American favorite since the year 1776. Rumor has it John Adams used this star-spangled toothpaste before he hacked Paul Revere to bits with an ax.

Excellent choice. Did you know that Mint Authenticity toothpaste has more mint per serving than three pounds of beef?

You don’t want big bags under your eyes as you stand up in front of the entire company tomorrow and pitch your slogan for salad. That means you need to fall asleep ASAP. You should have been in bed hours ago. Time is running out.

Suddenly, you remember something:

Your boss said that if you don’t do well on your presentation, he is going to punish you by coming to your next family dinner and slapping a chicken drumstick out of your grandmother’s feeble, arthritic hands.

He’s done things like this to your family before, so you know he really means it.

Speaking of chicken:

When you were 12, someone at school showed you a video of a monk setting himself on fire, and your classmate remarked that his burning flesh resembled that of a rotisserie chicken.

When you got home that night, your mom had made drumsticks for dinner.

You don’t know why, but you ate 15 chicken drumsticks that night. Your mom said it was the most food she had ever seen you eat. She seemed proud as she watched you, but she didn’t know about the monk thing. You wanted to throw up the whole time, but you just kept going.

Why did you do that?

After that night, your mom started making chicken drumsticks for every single one of your birthdays. She thinks they are your favorite food. There’s so much your mother doesn’t know about you, come to think of it.

Last week, you saw a monk at your local mall. And although you’ll never say it out loud, it made you fucking ravenous.

It seems as though you’re having some trouble falling asleep. What would you like to do?

Are you sure? Your doctor did give you a loose handful of sleeping pills at your last physical, but she warned you that taking them could be extremely dangerous. She even made you sign a waiver agreeing that she was an idiot for giving them to you. Remember?

You walk into your bathroom and flip on the lights again. Ugh. You always forget how bright it is in here.

It’s a good thing you’re about to take a pill that will make you fall asleep, even if it carries a small risk of making your organs explode.

You reach for the pile of assorted pills that your doctor, Mrs. Virginia, gave you. You hold them in your hands.

You’ve been saving these pills for the perfect moment. You’ve never needed to fall asleep as badly as you do tonight.

Suddenly, it occurs to you:

Mrs. Virginia never gave you a bottle with these pills. She just slipped the whole handful right into your cargo pants as you were kissing her goodbye.

Without a bottle, you don’t have any directions on how to take the pills.

You take a magnifying glass from your medicine cabinet and hover it above the pills.

Bingo. Each pill is inscribed with the exact same message.

HELLO, AND WELCOME TO MRS. VIRGINIA’S SLEEPING PILLS!

PLEASE USE ONLY AS DIRECTED.

TAKE ONE SPOONFUL OF PILLS WITH DINNER, OR WHILE THINKING ABOUT WHAT IT IS LIKE TO EAT DINNER.

IF YOU DO NOT DIE IMMEDIATELY AFTER TAKING THESE PILLS, THAT IS GREAT. YOU WILL ENJOY A RESTFUL NIGHT’S SLEEP.

DO NOT OPERATE HEAVY MACHINERY AFTER TAKING. IT IS THE ONLY RULE.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT MRS. VIRGINIA, PLEASE SEE REVERSE SIDE OF THIS PILL.

ABOUT MRS. VIRGINIA

AS A SELF-DESCRIBED MEDICAL DOCTOR, MRS. VIRGINIA IS WILLING TO PRACTICE ANY FIELD OF MEDICINE YOU THROW HER WAY. SHE DECIDED TO BECOME A DOCTOR IN THE MID-TO-LATE NINETIES, AFTER DISCOVERING THAT SHE HAD A TRUE PASSION FOR TELLING PEOPLE THEY HAVE SCOLIOSIS. MRS. VIRGINIA WAS BORN AND RAISED IN THE STATE OF VIRGINIA, WHICH IS HOW SHE GOT THE IDEA FOR HER NAME.

Remember: You’re supposed to take these pills with dinner. But since you already ate your dinner hours ago, Mrs. Virginia says that you can just take them while imagining what it is like to eat dinner.

Chicken drumsticks…Saigon…salty and savory…oh God, a gallon of gasoline…sour cream dipping sauce…the flames licking flesh…room for seconds, thirds…he isn’t even screaming, why isn’t he screaming…that signature buffalo kick…the dark smoke, it won’t stop…marinated overnight…make it stop, please God…why…why…

why…

Okay! Down the hatch!

Congratulations. You have successfully swallowed the entire spoonful of pills, and you did not die. This is a major relief—it is logistically impossible to fall asleep when you are dead.

It usually takes about 30 minutes for the effects of a sleeping pill to fully kick in. What would you like to do in the meantime?

Technically, Mrs. Virginia advises against operating heavy machinery after taking her pills. But just once is probably fine, if you’re careful.

What heavy machine would you like to operate this evening?

You walk into your garage and take a seat in your tank. You figure you’ll just take it for a little joyride around the neighborhood. Driving always makes you sleepy.

Admittedly, you’re already feeling a little bit woozy from Mrs. Virginia’s pills. But one little drive around the block won’t hurt.

9 Scientific Ways To Fix Your Most Common Sleep Problems

Trouble sleeping at night? Whether it’s stress, body pain, or a shiny blue screen keeping you up, not getting those 7-9 recommended hours of shut-eye can throw off your entire day. Thanks to the awesome power of science, however, we now know some easy ways to tweak our sleeping habits that can remedy the 9 most common problems people face.

No, we’re not talking about melatonin supplements or chamomile tea (though if those work for you, carry on). It’s as simple as setting a morning alarm, or being careful of what time you drink caffeine, or knowing where to place pillows to alleviate certain ailments. Even the temperature of your room plays a role in how well you sleep.

Well, we can’t tell you all of these great tips just yet. Scroll down to find out how to get on your way to sweet dreams tonight – or now, if your eyes are getting heavy just reading this.

(h/t: Tech Insider)

Source: Mayo Clinic

Source: Mayo Clinic

Source: Healthline

Read more: http://www.boredpanda.com/sleep-problems-science-fix-illustrations/

The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life: the new sleep science

Leading neuroscientist Matthew Walker on why sleep deprivation is increasing our risk of cancer, heart attack and Alzheimers and what you can do about it

Matthew Walker has learned to dread the question What do you do? At parties, it signals the end of his evening; thereafter, his new acquaintance will inevitably cling to him like ivy. On an aeroplane, it usually means that while everyone else watches movies or reads a thriller, he will find himself running an hours-long salon for the benefit of passengers and crew alike. Ive begun to lie, he says. Seriously. I just tell people Im a dolphin trainer. Its better for everyone.

Walker is a sleep scientist. To be specific, he is the director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, a research institute whose goal possibly unachievable is to understand everything about sleeps impact on us, from birth to death, in sickness and health. No wonder, then, that people long for his counsel. As the line between work and leisure grows ever more blurred, rare is the person who doesnt worry about their sleep. But even as we contemplate the shadows beneath our eyes, most of us dont know the half of it and perhaps this is the real reason he has stopped telling strangers how he makes his living. When Walker talks about sleep he cant, in all conscience, limit himself to whispering comforting nothings about camomile tea and warm baths. Its his conviction that we are in the midst of a catastrophic sleep-loss epidemic, the consequences of which are far graver than any of us could imagine. This situation, he believes, is only likely to change if government gets involved.

Walker has spent the last four and a half years writing Why We Sleep, a complex but urgent book that examines the effects of this epidemic close up, the idea being that once people know of the powerful links between sleep loss and, among other things, Alzheimers disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and poor mental health, they will try harder to get the recommended eight hours a night (sleep deprivation, amazing as this may sound to Donald Trump types, constitutes anything less than seven hours). But, in the end, the individual can achieve only so much. Walker wants major institutions and law-makers to take up his ideas, too. No aspect of our biology is left unscathed by sleep deprivation, he says. It sinks down into every possible nook and cranny. And yet no one is doing anything about it. Things have to change: in the workplace and our communities, our homes and families. But when did you ever see an NHS poster urging sleep on people? When did a doctor prescribe, not sleeping pills, but sleep itself? It needs to be prioritised, even incentivised. Sleep loss costs the UK economy over 30bn a year in lost revenue, or 2% of GDP. I could double the NHS budget if only they would institute policies to mandate or powerfully encourage sleep.

Why, exactly, are we so sleep-deprived? What has happened over the course of the last 75 years? In 1942, less than 8% of the population was trying to survive on six hours or less sleep a night; in 2017, almost one in two people is. The reasons are seemingly obvious. First, we electrified the night, Walker says. Light is a profound degrader of our sleep. Second, there is the issue of work: not only the porous borders between when you start and finish, but longer commuter times, too. No one wants to give up time with their family or entertainment, so they give up sleep instead. And anxiety plays a part. Were a lonelier, more depressed society. Alcohol and caffeine are more widely available. All these are the enemies of sleep.

But Walker believes, too, that in the developed world sleep is strongly associated with weakness, even shame. We have stigmatised sleep with the label of laziness. We want to seem busy, and one way we express that is by proclaiming how little sleep were getting. Its a badge of honour. When I give lectures, people will wait behind until there is no one around and then tell me quietly: I seem to be one of those people who need eight or nine hours sleep. Its embarrassing to say it in public. They would rather wait 45 minutes for the confessional. Theyre convinced that theyre abnormal, and why wouldnt they be? We chastise people for sleeping what are, after all, only sufficient amounts. We think of them as slothful. No one would look at an infant baby asleep, and say What a lazy baby! We know sleeping is non-negotiable for a baby. But that notion is quickly abandoned [as we grow up]. Humans are the only species that deliberately deprive themselves of sleep for no apparent reason. In case youre wondering, the number of people who can survive on five hours of sleep or less without any impairment, expressed as a percent of the population and rounded to a whole number, is zero.

The world of sleep science is still relatively small. But it is growing exponentially, thanks both to demand (the multifarious and growing pressures caused by the epidemic) and to new technology (such as electrical and magnetic brain stimulators), which enables researchers to have what Walker describes as VIP access to the sleeping brain. Walker, who is 44 and was born in Liverpool, has been in the field for more than 20 years, having published his first research paper at the age of just 21. I would love to tell you that I was fascinated by conscious states from childhood, he says. But in truth, it was accidental. He started out studying for a medical degree in Nottingham. But having discovered that doctoring wasnt for him he was more enthralled by questions than by answers he switched to neuroscience, and after graduation, began a PhD in neurophysiology supported by the Medical Research Council. It was while working on this that he stumbled into the realm of sleep.

Matthew
Matthew Walker photographed in his sleep lab. Photograph: Saroyan Humphrey for the Observer

I was looking at the brainwave patterns of people with different forms of dementia, but I was failing miserably at finding any difference between them, he recalls now. One night, however, he read a scientific paper that changed everything. It described which parts of the brain were being attacked by these different types of dementia: Some were attacking parts of the brain that had to do with controlled sleep, while other types left those sleep centres unaffected. I realised my mistake. I had been measuring the brainwave activity of my patients while they were awake, when I should have been doing so while they were asleep. Over the next six months, Walker taught himself how to set up a sleep laboratory and, sure enough, the recordings he made in it subsequently spoke loudly of a clear difference between patients. Sleep, it seemed, could be a new early diagnostic litmus test for different subtypes of dementia.

After this, sleep became his obsession. Only then did I ask: what is this thing called sleep, and what does it do? I was always curious, annoyingly so, but when I started to read about sleep, I would look up and hours would have gone by. No one could answer the simple question: why do we sleep? That seemed to me to be the greatest scientific mystery. I was going to attack it, and I was going to do that in two years. But I was naive. I didnt realise that some of the greatest scientific minds had been trying to do the same thing for their entire careers. That was two decades ago, and Im still cracking away. After gaining his doctorate, he moved to the US. Formerly a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, he is now professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California.

Does his obsession extend to the bedroom? Does he take his own advice when it comes to sleep? Yes. I give myself a non-negotiable eight-hour sleep opportunity every night, and I keep very regular hours: if there is one thing I tell people, its to go to bed and to wake up at the same time every day, no matter what. I take my sleep incredibly seriously because I have seen the evidence. Once you know that after just one night of only four or five hours sleep, your natural killer cells the ones that attack the cancer cells that appear in your body every day drop by 70%, or that a lack of sleep is linked to cancer of the bowel, prostate and breast, or even just that the World Health Organisation has classed any form of night-time shift work as a probable carcinogen, how could you do anything else?

There is, however, a sting in the tale. Should his eyelids fail to close, Walker admits that he can be a touch Woody Allen-neurotic. When, for instance, he came to London over the summer, he found himself jet-lagged and wide awake in his hotel room at two oclock in the morning. His problem then, as always in these situations, was that he knew too much. His brain began to race. I thought: my orexin isnt being turned off, the sensory gate of my thalamus is wedged open, my dorsolateral prefrontal cortex wont shut down, and my melatonin surge wont happen for another seven hours. What did he do? In the end, it seems, even world experts in sleep act just like the rest of us when struck by the curse of insomnia. He turned on a light and read for a while.

Will Why We Sleep have the impact its author hopes? Im not sure: the science bits, it must be said, require some concentration. But what I can tell you is that it had a powerful effect on me. After reading it, I was absolutely determined to go to bed earlier a regime to which I am sticking determinedly. In a way, I was prepared for this. I first encountered Walker some months ago, when he spoke at an event at Somerset House in London, and he struck me then as both passionate and convincing (our later interview takes place via Skype from the basement of his sleep centre, a spot which, with its bedrooms off a long corridor, apparently resembles the ward of a private hospital). But in another way, it was unexpected. I am mostly immune to health advice. Inside my head, there is always a voice that says just enjoy life while it lasts.

The evidence Walker presents, however, is enough to send anyone early to bed. Its no kind of choice at all. Without sleep, there is low energy and disease. With sleep, there is vitality and health. More than 20 large scale epidemiological studies all report the same clear relationship: the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life. To take just one example, adults aged 45 years or older who sleep less than six hours a night are 200% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke in their lifetime, as compared with those sleeping seven or eight hours a night (part of the reason for this has to do with blood pressure: even just one night of modest sleep reduction will speed the rate of a persons heart, hour upon hour, and significantly increase their blood pressure).

A lack of sleep also appears to hijack the bodys effective control of blood sugar, the cells of the sleep-deprived appearing, in experiments, to become less responsive to insulin, and thus to cause a prediabetic state of hyperglycaemia. When your sleep becomes short, moreover, you are susceptible to weight gain. Among the reasons for this are the fact that inadequate sleep decreases levels of the satiety-signalling hormone, leptin, and increases levels of the hunger-signalling hormone, ghrelin. Im not going to say that the obesity crisis is caused by the sleep-loss epidemic alone, says Walker. Its not. However, processed food and sedentary lifestyles do not adequately explain its rise. Something is missing. Its now clear that sleep is that third ingredient. Tiredness, of course, also affects motivation.

Sleep has a powerful effect on the immune system, which is why, when we have flu, our first instinct is to go to bed: our body is trying to sleep itself well. Reduce sleep even for a single night, and your resilience is drastically reduced. If you are tired, you are more likely to catch a cold. The well-rested also respond better to the flu vaccine. As Walker has already said, more gravely, studies show that short sleep can affect our cancer-fighting immune cells. A number of epidemiological studies have reported that night-time shift work and the disruption to circadian sleep and rhythms that it causes increase the odds of developing cancers including breast, prostate, endometrium and colon.

Getting too little sleep across the adult lifespan will significantly raise your risk of developing Alzheimers disease. The reasons for this are difficult to summarise, but in essence it has to do with the amyloid deposits (a toxin protein) that accumulate in the brains of those suffering from the disease, killing the surrounding cells. During deep sleep, such deposits are effectively cleaned from the brain. What occurs in an Alzheimers patient is a kind of vicious circle. Without sufficient sleep, these plaques build up, especially in the brains deep-sleep-generating regions, attacking and degrading them. The loss of deep sleep caused by this assault therefore lessens our ability to remove them from the brain at night. More amyloid, less deep sleep; less deep sleep, more amyloid, and so on. (In his book, Walker notes unscientifically that he has always found it curious that Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, both of whom were vocal about how little sleep they needed, both went on to develop the disease; it is, moreover, a myth that older adults need less sleep.) Away from dementia, sleep aids our ability to make new memories, and restores our capacity for learning.

And then there is sleeps effect on mental health. When your mother told you that everything would look better in the morning, she was wise. Walkers book includes a long section on dreams (which, says Walker, contrary to Dr Freud, cannot be analysed). Here he details the various ways in which the dream state connects to creativity. He also suggests that dreaming is a soothing balm. If we sleep to remember (see above), then we also sleep to forget. Deep sleep the part when we begin to dream is a therapeutic state during which we cast off the emotional charge of our experiences, making them easier to bear. Sleep, or a lack of it, also affects our mood more generally. Brain scans carried out by Walker revealed a 60% amplification in the reactivity of the amygdala a key spot for triggering anger and rage in those who were sleep-deprived. In children, sleeplessness has been linked to aggression and bullying; in adolescents, to suicidal thoughts. Insufficient sleep is also associated with relapse in addiction disorders. A prevailing view in psychiatry is that mental disorders cause sleep disruption. But Walker believes it is, in fact, a two-way street. Regulated sleep can improve the health of, for instance, those with bipolar disorder.

Ive mentioned deep sleep in this (too brief) summary several times. What is it, exactly? We sleep in 90-minute cycles, and its only towards the end of each one of these that we go into deep sleep. Each cycle comprises two kinds of sleep. First, there is NREM sleep (non-rapid eye movement sleep); this is then followed by REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. When Walker talks about these cycles, which still have their mysteries, his voice changes. He sounds bewitched, almost dazed.

During NREM sleep, your brain goes into this incredible synchronised pattern of rhythmic chanting, he says. Theres a remarkable unity across the surface of the brain, like a deep, slow mantra. Researchers were once fooled that this state was similar to a coma. But nothing could be further from the truth. Vast amounts of memory processing is going on. To produce these brainwaves, hundreds of thousands of cells all sing together, and then go silent, and on and on. Meanwhile, your body settles into this lovely low state of energy, the best blood-pressure medicine you could ever hope for. REM sleep, on the other hand, is sometimes known as paradoxical sleep, because the brain patterns are identical to when youre awake. Its an incredibly active brain state. Your heart and nervous system go through spurts of activity: were still not exactly sure why.

Does the 90-minute cycle mean that so-called power naps are worthless? They can take the edge off basic sleepiness. But you need 90 minutes to get to deep sleep, and one cycle isnt enough to do all the work. You need four or five cycles to get all the benefit. Is it possible to have too much sleep? This is unclear. There is no good evidence at the moment. But I do think 14 hours is too much. Too much water can kill you, and too much food, and I think ultimately the same will prove to be true for sleep. How is it possible to tell if a person is sleep-deprived? Walker thinks we should trust our instincts. Those who would sleep on if their alarm clock was turned off are simply not getting enough. Ditto those who need caffeine in the afternoon to stay awake. I see it all the time, he says. I get on a flight at 10am when people should be at peak alert, and I look around, and half of the plane has immediately fallen asleep.

So what can the individual do? First, they should avoid pulling all-nighters, at their desks or on the dancefloor. After being awake for 19 hours, youre as cognitively impaired as someone who is drunk. Second, they should start thinking about sleep as a kind of work, like going to the gym (with the key difference that it is both free and, if youre me, enjoyable). People use alarms to wake up, Walker says. So why dont we have a bedtime alarm to tell us weve got half an hour, that we should start cycling down? We should start thinking of midnight more in terms of its original meaning: as the middle of the night. Schools should consider later starts for students; such delays correlate with improved IQs. Companies should think about rewarding sleep. Productivity will rise, and motivation, creativity and even levels of honesty will be improved. Sleep can be measured using tracking devices, and some far-sighted companies in the US already give employees time off if they clock enough of it. Sleeping pills, by the way, are to be avoided. Among other things, they can have a deleterious effect on memory.

Those who are focused on so-called clean sleep are determined to outlaw mobiles and computers from the bedroom and quite right, too, given the effect of LED-emitting devices on melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone. Ultimately, though, Walker believes that technology will be sleeps saviour. There is going to be a revolution in the quantified self in industrial nations, he says. We will know everything about our bodies from one day to the next in high fidelity. That will be a seismic shift, and we will then start to develop methods by which we can amplify different components of human sleep, and do that from the bedside. Sleep will come to be seen as a preventive medicine.

What questions does Walker still most want to answer? For a while, he is quiet. Its so difficult, he says, with a sigh. There are so many. I would still like to know where we go, psychologically and physiologically, when we dream. Dreaming is the second state of human consciousness, and we have only scratched the surface so far. But I would also like to find out when sleep emerged. I like to posit a ridiculous theory, which is: perhaps sleep did not evolve. Perhaps it was the thing from which wakefulness emerged. He laughs. If I could have some kind of medical Tardis and go back in time to look at that, well, I would sleep better at night.

Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreamsby Matthew Walker is published by Allen Lane (20). To order a copy for 17 go toguardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over 10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of 1.99

Sleep in numbers

Two-thirds of adults in developed nations fail to obtain the nightly eight hours of sleep recommended by the World Health Organisation.

An adult sleeping only 6.75 hours a night would be predicted to live only to their early 60s without medical intervention.

A 2013 study reported that men who slept too little had a sperm count 29% lower than those who regularly get a full and restful nights sleep.

If you drive a car when you have had less than five hours sleep, you are 4.3 times more likely to be involved in a crash. If you drive having had four hours, you are 11.5 times more likely to be involved in an accident.

A hot bath aids sleep not because it makes you warm, but because your dilated blood vessels radiate inner heat, and your core body temperature drops. To successfully initiate sleep, your core temperature needs to drop about 1C.

The time taken to reach physical exhaustion by athletes who obtain anything less than eight hours of sleep, and especially less than six hours, drops by 10-30%.

There are now more than 100 diagnosed sleep disorders, of which insomnia is the mostcommon.

Morning types, who prefer to awake at or around dawn, make up about 40% of the population. Evening types, who prefer to go to bed late and wake up late, account for about 30%. The remaining 30% lie somewhere in between.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/sep/24/why-lack-of-sleep-health-worst-enemy-matthew-walker-why-we-sleep

Sana Health aims to stop insomnia with smart goggles

When Solar Impulse pilot Bertrand Piccard set out to fly around the worldin a plane that uses no fuel, he knew he wasnt going to get much rest. During the journey, he would be able to sleep, at a maximum, threehours per day with rest meted out in twenty-minute intervals. The plane, which could only accommodate one aviator, required a human systems check every twenty minutes.

For part of the journey, Piccard used Sana Health technology to put him to sleep in flight, and to sleep as deeply as possible during those scant moments.

TheSana Sleepsmart goggles, will be available to the too-tired public starting in the second quarter of 2018, according to Sana Health founder and CEO Richard Hanbury. The companyrecently closed a $1.3 million round of seed funding from Founders Fund, Maveron and SOSV, among others. The goggles will sell for about $400 a pair, Hanbury said.

The entrepreneur began working on this technology as a solution to his own chronic pain and related sleep issues. He suffered from chronic nerve damage pain, after surviving a disabling Jeep accident in Yemen in 1992. However, the technology has broad-based appeal.Not including defiant toddlers, everyone wants a good nights rest.

Sana Health founder and CEO Richard Hanbury.

Still,one in three adults in the U.S. doesnt get enough sleep, according to the most recent available data from the CDC. Insomniacs suffer mood and memory impairments, among other undesirable corollaries, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have verified.

Sniffing a major market opportunity in the restless masses, a number of tech companies have begun trying to allay insomnia in recent years. Theyre making mattresses of novel materials, a wide variety ofwearables, sleep tracking apps and other IoT devicesto encourage better sleep.

Venture investors are falling for the promise of a good nights rest, too. According to deal tracker Crunchbase (which is owned by TechCrunchs parent company) at least 30 sleep-related tech startups, including 6 hardware companies, landed seed or venture rounds since the start of last year.

For its part, the Sana Sleep looks like padded goggles, or a pared down and comfy version of a VR headset. It is being tested currently with athletes in training who want the most restorative sleep they can get while traveling extensively.

Hanbury explained this is how the device works: It uses audio-visual stimulation to trigger specific patterns in the brain. In the same way that when you go into a nightclub, and hear fast music and see strobed lights, this produces an excited state in your brain, this device produces the patterns your brain needs in order to produce deep states of relaxation.

The gogglesemit pulses of light and sound. The wearer is conscious of the lights and sounds at the outset of each use, but becomes less aware of theseas they drift off to sleep. The gogglesmeasure things like a userss pulse and breathing, and customizes the signals in response totheindividualsbiometrics.

The goggles must be trained, initially. After about 4 uses wearers (even those dealing with chronic pain issues) can getto sleep within ten minutes, and more importantly can sleep through the night.

Prior to closing their seed round, Sana Health had raised $450,000 including from the HAX hardware accelerator run by SOSV. The firm reupped its investment in Sanas seed round, according to General Partner Cyril Ebersweiler, because its technology solves the hardest sleep cases.

Sana is based on 24 years of sleep research and has gone through extensive subject trials. While bringing continuous improvement to the experience, the company will need to now spend some time understanding which distribution channels are the most adapted for its offering, he said.

The efficacy of the companys goggles in early tests have led Sana Health to pursue a classification as a medical device from the FDA in the US.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/05/26/sana-health-raises-1-3-million-to-hack-insomnia-with-smart-goggles/