9/18 Open Thread: To Sleep, Perchance To Dream

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Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together

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It seems that my reading materials of late have been loaded with articles on sleep and various aspects thereof up to and including work being done on trying to "find a cure" for sleep (as if such a cure would be a good thing). There is information I have internalized about the importance of and biological processes served by sleep that might creep into this column unsourced, because they are just there, stuff that has been presented and expounded upon throughout most of my life by an assortment of psychologists, biologists, and other science researchers to mystics, gurus, and even less credentialed "self-improvement" wallahs of every stripe. My apologies, but it is part of our current cumulative cultural weltanschauung and somewhat as unavoidable as such. That said, I'm going to start with an article from Popular Science by Claire Maldarelli and dated April 11, 2017 titled How many hours of sleep do you actually need? found here: https://www.popsci.com/how-many-hours-sleep-do-you-actually-need/ Need is the operative word there, highlighted by the subheading It depends on how well you want your brain to work. I'm going to quote the lead paragraph in full, because it contains, to my way of thinking, a massive fallacy that I hope to remember to call out at some point:

Sleep is a time suck. If you multiplied the average recommended number of hours we should sleep in a day—eight for a typical adult—by the number of days in an average lifespan (78.8 years in the United States), that would amount to about 9,587.3 days. That's one third of your life spent unconscious. From an evolutionary standpoint, sleep is quite literally a waste of your time, yet it's fought its way through countless years of adaptation in nearly every living animal on Earth. So it must be important, right?

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Eight Hours Per Night

The author then dives into research that has been performed showing that under ideal conditions humans sleep roughly 8 hours per night. (I will note that this article doesn't explicitly state that such sleep is or need be continuous.) But, given that sleep is such a time suck, as noted above, a question that naturally arises is whether and to what extent we can get away with sleeping less and if so, for how long. (For the record, I happen to know the kid who set the record for continuously staying awake in 1964 - 11 days and 25 minutes, fwiw.) The author then looks at two studies, one by David Dinges and Gregory Belenky, both sleep researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, and one by the Walter Reed Army Research Institute., both in 2003. These and subsequent studies have shown that the effect of one completely sleepless night has the same cognitive effect as being legally drunk. (Hint to students: If you're being graded on the curve, persuade your fellow students to indulge in "all-nighters" before exams.) After 10 days of sleeping only 6 hours per night you also are cognitively equivalent to being legally drunk, or 3 days sleeping 4 hours per night. In fact, continuously getting only 7 hours of sleep starts to take a toll after about a week. The 8 hours "common knowledge", turns out be a really sound number.

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What Else?

After the testing, subjects were allowed 3 days recovery time for as much recovery sleep as they desired and then retested. They still had not returned to baseline levels. Not only is 3 days not enough to fully recover, but nobody rally knows how long it takes. According to Matthew Walker, the director of the sleep and neuroimaging lab at the University of California, Berkeley, the brain lacks any capacity to get back all that it lost, we never evolved a mechanism for recovering from sleep deprivation because

"Human beings are the only animal species that deliberately deprive themselves of sleep."

We may have no recovery mechanism, but as is well known, we have a near infinite capacity for self deception. When asked how they thought they did on the tests, subjects already objectively in decline said that they did great.

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A Ray of Hope
The author does toss out a suggested potential remedy, or further problem. Sadly, she includes a most annoying and ever more and more common misuse of the English language colloquialism for the fallacy of petitio principii which I have taken the liberty of correcting in situ.

But perhaps there is a positive twist—in the form of a mid-afternoon nap backed by science. Researchers who have looked at cultures that remain completely untouched by electricity, such as the Hadza of Tanzania, found that, especially in the summer, these groups tend to sleep biphasically: packing in six hours a night, and then a few hours again in the afternoon. This begs raises the question, Walker says, of whether human beings should stay awake for sixteen hours straight. In fact, everyone goes through an afternoon lull. Biologists have actually been able to measure this physiological dip in our alertness—what science calls a postprandial dip—through changes in our metabolic system, as well as adjustments in our brain waves, and in our cognitive reaction times. The universal cognitive pause means we might benefit from a nap around this time. “Perhaps human beings need to sleep biphasically for truly optimal performance, though that’s still unclear,” Walker says.
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Back to Normal, the Siesta

This brings us to my second article, such as it is, for today. Located here: https://www.popsci.com/weirdest-thing-mole-rat-baby-shark-second-sleep/ is an article by Claire Maldarelli that dates to June 26, 2019; Fact: Prior to the Industrial Revolution, humans had two sleeps a night. It seems that up until the 18th century, people slept in two chunks, dusk to midnight and 2 am until slightly after dawn. This left a 2 hour anti-siesta from midnight until two for whatever they felt like. The thing is, to me this seems strongly supportive of the idea that one needn't have 8 hours of continuous sleep, but simply 8 or more total hours of sleep within a 24 hour day. Given that there seems a commonality to the afternoon "lull", why not culturally formalize the siesta? We really don't need our current work-life patterns for either personal fulfillment or a successful economy,

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Gratuitous mini-rant and BS call out

Sleep is a time suck.

Unadulterated bullshit! Also, heh, a statement that truly "Begs the question", a glaring instance of petitio principii, asserted without argument or evidence. In fact, the evidence is that sleep is very productive time, the body and mind both regenerate, puzzles and problems are solved, activities and projects are rehearsed and much more. Sleep scientists, neurologists, biologists, pathologists and medical researchers have repeatedly informed us of yet more and more newly discovered benefits of sleep, and enunciated no negatives whatsoever. Nothing that any person can name is, with certainty, lost because of sleep. True, you maybe could've earned another buck fifty, but you could have had a heart attack or driven yourself into alzheimers in so doing, for a serious net loss instead of the phantom gain of some tiny increment of lucre. We spend time eating and eliminating too, but nobody indulges in these fatuous computations of how much of our life we "waste" performing those functions. The idea that sleep is wasted time, like the idea that leisure is wasted time is insidious and nefarious. It has twin equally ugly origins, both highly exploitive, religion and those historical classes that toil not but get fat off of the labors of others. Both want to maximize the pelf, rents, services and booty they extract from their serfs and thralls so they have ever demanded that we hoi polloi eschew all forms of "idleness" in order that we may toil longer as well as more assiduously for their benefit. This has been, in the modern era, greatly increased by those malevolent stop watch and slide rule bearing demons, the efficiency experts, who would time and motion all of us rabble to within a micro millimeter of fatal exhaustion in the name of enhanced profits for the exploiter classes..

/ RANT

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Hola campesinos! Quelle hombre dice da kine esos?

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Title Image is by Prabakaran Thirumalai and is public domain

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It's an open thread so have at it. The floor is yours
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Lookout's picture

feels great/restorative. Most nights I sleep nine hours (8pm-5am)- early to bed and early to rise. Just seems to be my biology - photo induced perhaps.

I try to get in an afternoon nap when I've got a night time music session that day. I like your idea of institutionalizing the siesta.

The split night sleeping pattern I've heard is due to having to get up and stoke the fire during the night for much of our history?

Well, lots of information to sleep on el! Have a good day c99ers.

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

enhydra lutris's picture

@Lookout
is what, 12.5% over? Sounds reasonable to me. I'm all over the map, have been all my life, I think it ties in to how fast my mind is racing at bed time.

The stoking the fire thing makes good sense, I'll go with that as a working hypothesis, maybe snack time to stoke the internal fire too given the meager rations in days of yore.

Have a good one.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

QMS's picture

The best part of sleep is the dream awareness. Sure, the body gets rest. But the mind running around the room opening curtains and windows into a creative non-reality can be fun.

Split nighter here, even without the need to stoke the fire.

Cheers!

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Listen to your higher mind.

enhydra lutris's picture

@QMS
to get back to sleep for the second session for a goodly percentage of my nights. OTOH, I do often doze back off, so I generally fit the pattern.

Yes to the mind's travels and ramblings, btw.

Have a good one.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

Centaurea's picture

Excellent rant. You saved me the trouble of saying it.

Sleep is a time suck

I cringed when I read that.
It says everything about that writer's value system and her apparent lack of self-awareness and critical thinking skills. She's bought into the prevailing American cultural ethic, to the extent that she doesn't or can't question it.

My father was born in the rural US South during the early 1900s. Some of his ancestors were fire-and-brimstone preachers and founders of the Southern Baptist denomination in the 1700s. "Ferocious" Southern Baptists was how they described themselves. The family ethos was passed down from generation to generation, regardless of the descendants' personal religious beliefs.

From talking with my Dad about his family, and from doing a lot of genealogical research, here's what their approach to life was:

Work yourself unmercifully until you drop. Then whip yourself like an old mule until you get up again, and then work yourself to death some more. Don't expect help from anyone, and don't offer help to anyone.

According to that worldview, anyone who doesn't comply is a lazy, worthless bum. I believe that the current "sink or swim", "I've got mine, who cares about you", "I'm not going to pay for anyone else's health care!" attitude is a logical extension of that mindset.

Tell your average American that workers in some countries get a month of vacation per year, by law, and they recoil in disgust. "That's bizarre! Bunch of lazy bums! No wonder the USA is exceptional! We work 'til we drop! We're the greatest! We're so great, we don't need no stinkin' healthcare or vacations, or even decent pay! Only pathetic lazy entitled wusses need decent pay!"

"Sleep is a time suck" is based on the belief that humans have to be doing, doing, doing, accomplishing, accomplishing, accomplishing, producing, producing, producing, 24/7/365.

Americans even approach their "leisure" activities in the same way. When they go for a walk, they strap on their FitBit to count their steps. They have "goals", and doing something just for enjoyment doesn't count. Doing anything doesn't count unless you can actually count (measure) it.

Americans' lives are ruled by the clock. "A time suck." Why sleep, or meditate, or relax, or daydream, when you could be DOING SOMETHING PRODUCTIVE instead of WASTING TIME!!!!

Huh. Looks like I went on my own rant here after all.

Good. Looks like I had a productive 30 minutes writing this comment Biggrin . Hmmm. Do you think I should do a word count, though? And factor in the amount of time I spent writing those words, to make sure I haven't been a victim of the dreaded Time Suck.

Blum 3

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"Don't go back to sleep ... Don't go back to sleep ... Don't go back to sleep."
~Rumi

"If you want revolution, be it."
~Caitlin Johnstone

enhydra lutris's picture

@Centaurea
and is down below randtntx's post and music video.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

Wally's picture

Nap time at the very end of the video (everything is fine):

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enhydra lutris's picture

@Wally
to mind the other Uncle Joe for those of us of sufficient age. I suspect he never napped and seldom slept, or he wouldn't have lasted so long. This one, meh.

have a good one.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

bondibox's picture

Anyone know what boneheaded thing he said?

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F the F'n D's

Centaurea's picture

@bondibox
he proposed that Amy Klobuchar would make a great "compromise candidate" at a contested convention.

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"Don't go back to sleep ... Don't go back to sleep ... Don't go back to sleep."
~Rumi

"If you want revolution, be it."
~Caitlin Johnstone

enhydra lutris's picture

@bondibox
Never really got into Maher, he was mostly simply irritating for me. I do hear that he's getting neoliberal to conservative these days, but can't testify as to the accuracy of that.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

Sleep has underdog status in our culture. Adequate sleep, along with healthy food free of toxins, clean air, clean water, are all given short shrift, as if we don't need any of it.

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enhydra lutris's picture

@randtntx
on air concert he and Bonnie Raitt and others did long ago, high as a kite. GEt too tired and you're wasted, yep --

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

enhydra lutris's picture

Yeah, USians have it pretty bad, all work and all that, plus the need to outdo all of our "competitors" who, it turns out, are `100% of the rest of the population. JUst consider the word "loser" for a moment? If everything is a competition, then aren't all but one ultimate victor "losers"? So why not accept it, kick back and be a happy loser? After all, "nobody likes a sore loser", right?

have a great one.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

Anja Geitz's picture

Thought the information about sleep patterns prior to the industrial revolution was very interesting. Although I can't imagine going to bed at 6pm, I do like the idea of naturally waking up at 6am.

(Hmmmm...I wonder what people used for alarm clocks before electricity or batteries?)

We spend time eating and eliminating too, but nobody indulges in these fatuous computations of how much of our life we "waste" performing those functions.

Personally I do some of my best thinking during these activities. Smile

Always enjoy stopping by the OT's around here. A great day to all!

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There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

enhydra lutris's picture

@Anja Geitz
query -

(Hmmmm...I wonder what people used for alarm clocks before electricity or batteries?)

There is reason to believe that male chickens might have played some role in that process. In fact, Bob Dylan implied as much "When the rooster crows at the break of dawn, look out your window and I'll be gone ..."

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

Anja Geitz's picture

@enhydra lutris

The cock-a-doodle-do of the rooster. Is there a snooze button on that thing?

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There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

magiamma's picture

et al

Read this very early this morning but the day got away. There was a sleep study, probably one of a very many, at the Stanford Sleep Lab. They found that different people have different cycles. Some are 22 or 24 or 26 or the like. So if a person is not on a 24 hour cycle they have to do catch up nights. There are morning people whose temperature is higher in the morning and lower at night and visa-versa. And yes most folks wake up in the night around 2a to stoke the fire and keep the saber tooths away. Confirming that I was a morning person made a big difference to my sleep patterns. Thanks for the ot. Have a good one...

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enhydra lutris's picture

@magiamma
a great one.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --