The unexpected truth about how we should sleep

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2017-02-25 19:30:10

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They Say that technology is preventing us to sleep. Saying that we don't get enough sleep (and how can you argue with that?). But in fact we may sleep longer than expected, and not even understand why. They say that elephants have good memory. They say that one of the functions of sleep is consolidation of memory. If both of these facts are true, then the elephants would have to sleep a lot. But these massive thick-skinned animal with the largest among mammals, the brain, sleep only two hours every night.

And while we sleep almost every night in our lives, we still do not understand why. There are so many General ideas about sleep that most of them are often wrong, as can be seen from the example above. Have you heard, for example, that due to the electric illumination, and the weak glow emanating from the screens of smartphones which we see before going to sleep, we close the eyes a lot less than our ancestors, hunters and gatherers?

"Many people have heard about it so much in the media that are absolutely sure of that," says Jerry Siegel, Director of the Center for sleep research, University of California at Los Angeles. He admits that this history fascinating, but that's fundamentally wrong. Possible. "The problem is that we have absolutely no data on this issue," he says. "The device we use to measure sleep, was invented much later after the start of use of the electric light".

Since it is impossible to ascertain how much time our ancestors spent in sleep, Siegel decided to do something better. He visited Tanzania, Namibia and Bolivia, dealing with contemporary groups of hunter-gatherers. These people were born in an environment that would be closer to our ancestors of other modern.

Throughout his life, these societies of hunter-gatherers lived — and slept — without any modern devices that we are accused of violating their own peace of mind. Between the two population groups in Africa — a few thousand kilometers; the third is descended from groups that migrated from Africa, through Asia, crossed the isthmus of Alaska, then North America and ended up in South America. Despite these significant recession, all three groups sleep about the same time during the night: on average, six and a half hours. According to Siegel, there is no reason to believe that our ancestors slept more than that.

For most people living in modern societies with all the attributes of the technology and electricity — the amount of time that they spend in sleep is from six to eight hours at night. So our ancestors not only slept longer than us, they may have slept a little less than some of us.

We also used to sleep in the comfort of our homes with air conditioners, comfortable mattresses with soft pillows, worrying mostly about is asleep next to Bobby on the Mat. Our ancestors slept on rocks, in mud, on tree branches, were freezing and starving. They did not know what ear plugs and mosquito repellent saved very mediocre. Still they had to worry about a possible attack by a predator or enemy. It is not surprising that they failed to sleep more than six hours.

However, there is another myth about how our ancestors slept — they were asleep within a few short periods of time during the night, and not a deep sleep. But this too is wrong, says Siegel. This erroneous assumption appeared in our heads when we watched the Pets.

"I Think the origins of this idea go back to cats and dogs and what do cats and dogs — that's how they sleep," he says. "But the primates — no." We are the last in a long list of species that prefer to sleep in one long sleep every night without waking up hurl. Not that monkeys did not sleep a day, sometimes this also happens, or don't Wake up randomly at night. But as with our own kind, it is not normal.

Indeed, the cross-cultural study Siegel has shown that modern hunter-gatherers almost never dormant in winter and sometimes in summer, presumably to escape from the wild heat. And even then, he says, the average person slept a day every five days or so.

And here is another thorn in this myth. People, which were studied by Siegel, lived quite close to the equator. As you move to higher latitudes, the night can last up to 16 hours in winter, so the life in such an environment could make our ancestors from Northern Europe to break their sleep at this time of year. But despite this, people in Northern Europe, even today, prefer to sleep normal long night's sleep, sometimes waking up to briefly to visit the restroom.

Finding out where the legs grow from the two of the most common myths regarding sleep, Siegel decided to turn to other, more fundamental questions about the nature of sleep. Why are we doing this?

If sleep plays a role in memory consolidation or any other functions of the brain, why then the big brown bat sleeps 20 hours a day, while a gigantic and very complicated (and clever) the African elephant sleeps only for 2 hours?

Instead, Siegel wondered whether the dream not to be a biological requirement itself, but rather evolutionary way to maximize productivity? The work in Nature Review Neuroscience in 2009, he wrote that sleep may provide means for "improving the efficiency behavior by adjusting its temporal constraints and reducing power consumption when activity is not useful."

This is a common technique both for animals and for plants. Some trees shed their leaves in the fall and cease to photosynthesize. You can imagine it as a kind of Botanical slumber. Bears hibernate in winter to avoid useless consumption of energy to hunt and search for food, when it did not find.

Other mammals like the echidnas fall into a sleepy state known as torpor, where their metabolism slows to almost zero and helps to survive hard times. Perhaps the dream is merely our version of this "adaptive inactivity" that allows us to be productive during the day and avoid the surge and, historically, did not face the predators at night. Because we can easily Wake up if necessary.

In Short, sleep may be a manifestation of evolutionary laziness.

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