Sleep is a biological drive, like hunger or thirst. It only takes one bad night to recognize the effects of lost sleep and the adverse impact it can have on daytime performance. However, it’s easy to go years without questioning what it is about sleep that makes it so important that we spend more time doing it than any other activity. It takes up roughly a third of a lifetime. But what for? People have been asking that question for millennia, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that sleep science really started to pull back the sheets and uncover the answers to that question. The subsequent decades of research have shown sleep to be fantastically interesting and multifaceted. So much so that it took seven streams to cover the main facets in this collection. And we’re still just scratching the surface of what there is to know about this topic.
A good place to begin the journey is with a review of the state of sleep today. The most important insight from sleep science over the past several decades has been that sleep is important and that you curtail it at your peril. Not so long ago, it wasn’t unusual to hear political leaders or corporate executives brag about their ability to function on little sleep. But today, there is far too much evidence that sleep is critical for health, well-being, cognitive functioning, and performance, Unfortunately, it has become clear that a large proportion of people across the globe are short-changing themselves nightly by not sleeping enough. It has become clear that sleep deprivation comes at an immense economic and societal cost. Health authorities have begun to identify sleep deprivation as a public health epidemic.
The holy grail of sleep research is to find the primary function of sleep. the function that would explain why all animals that have been studied display sleep-like behavior. This stream reviews the immense variability of sleep patterns among different animal species. We also explore the sleep habits of pre-industrial humans. Then we take a closer look at the functions of sleep for restoring the body, consolidating memory, enhancing learning, and resetting emotions.
Considering we spend a large proportion of our lives sleeping, you’d think we’d be pretty good at it. But it turns out that many of us are doing many things wrong. By replacing our bad sleep habits with good ones, it’s possible to significantly improve sleep. There’s a lot to think about: sleep schedules, bedtime routines, optimizing the sleep environment, healthy lifestyle choices, incorporating occasional naps., etc.
It’s time for a deep dive into the world of sleep science. This stream provides a birds-eye view of the discoveries that enabled a far deeper understanding of sleep. Explore the different stages of the sleep cycle. understand the mechanisms that regulate sleep and waking, notably the circadian and hemostatic systems. Take a look into the brain to understand what role brain wave, neurotransmitters, and hormones play in orchestrating the symphony of sleep.
Sleeping is not always easy, particularly in a 24/7 globalized world. Here, we identify ways to overcome the most common sleep disruptors. Whether it’s insomnia or just sleep procrastination, there’s bound to be something in there for you.
Dreaming is one of the most fascinating aspects of sleep. It’s hard to resist trying to interpret these vivid and sometimes bizarre visions that come to us in our sleep. But do they really have meaning? Why are some of them so terrifying that they wake us up? And what about lucid dreaming? Can people really control their dreams?
Sleep deprivation is one of the toughest parts of being a parent. It’s virtually inevitable with an infant. But sleep challenges can continue for years if toddlers do not learn to sleep on their own. This stream reviews what researchers know about how children sleep and explores methods that parents can use to improve their children’s sleep, not to mention their own.