Looking to catch up on the latest discussions and research in the world of shuteye? I've got you covered. Here's this week's Nightcap, SLEEP 2017 edition.
Thousands of sleep researchers headed to Boston on June 3 for the 2017 Sleep conference , the "annual scientific and clinical meeting for sleep medicine physicians, and sleep and circadian researchers," run jointly by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society. Over the course of the five-day conference, sleep bigwigs took the podium for panel discussions on pressing issues in the world of rest, including diversity in sleep research, spaceflight effects on sleep and performance, and the genetics of sleep disorders. And let's not forget about the famed poster sessions: Each day, researchers from around the world put up (hundreds of) posters showcasing their latest work. There was a lot to take in, but here are nine studies that caught my eye.
Can't sleep, must google
The most popular times of day to google "insomnia" are late at night and early in the morning, according to researchers from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. For their analysis, researchers looked at online search data from cities in every US time zone as well as countries including Australia, Canada, England and South Africa. The results suggested that people hit the internet to read up on insomnia when they're actively dealing with symptoms. And, given that staring at brightly lit screens interferes with sleep, these google info-sessions may be a factor in perpetuating the disorder.
Slightly tired people are loose cannons
Sleep loss has been linked to risky behavior in mulitple studies. But that doesn't mean that the most exhausted person in the room is also the most likely to jump off a bridge or go on a Crokodil binge. Because, according to psychologists from Iowa State University, we're most prone to taking risks when we're moderately tired rather than full-on sleep-deprived. Here's their explanation: Sleep loss makes us prone to risky behavior because it impairs mental processes involved in self-control. But, when we're really exhausted, we lack the oomph to follow through on shortsighted impulses. A moderately sleepy person, on the other hand, has both the blunted self-control and energy needed to take risks.
Savor yourself to sleep
Rumination, meaning the act of repeatedly hemming and hawing over negative thoughts, can get in the way of getting to sleep. Positive types of repetitive thought, on the other hand, have been proposed as a way to promote sleep. But the topic hasn't been the topic of much research. So, to learn more, researchers at the University of Alabama, VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, Virginia Commonwealth University and South Texas Veterans Health Care System looked at the relationship between sleep, rumination and a type of positive repetitive thought, called savoring, which entails focusing on positive emotional experiences. Rumination was associated with poor health and disturbed sleep (and being female), while savoring predicted lower levels of disturbed sleep. The findings, though preliminary, point to savoring as a potential technique for combatting sleep issues.
MVPs aren't sending late-night tweets
NBA players scored fewer points and took fewer shots when they'd sent tweets the night before a game, according to preliminary data from sociologists at Stony Brook University. To study the relationship between tweeting the night away and throwing bricks, researchers analyzed seven seasons worth of game stats and twitter account activity for 112 NBA players. Is tweeting distinct from other late-night activities? Probably not. As study co-author Jason Jones explained in a press release, "Twitter is currently an untapped resource for late-night behavior data that can be used as a proxy for not sleeping."
Less screen time, same sleep time
Many (though not all) Orthodox Jews eschew the use of modern technology including smart-devices. It might be reasonable to assume, then, that Orthodox children who aren't exposed to circadian-busting blue-lit tablets would exhibit healthier sleep. But that's not necessarily the case. Researchers at Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters and Eastern Virginia Medical School surveyed Orthodox and non-Orthodox parents about their kids' nightly sleep habits and saw similar results from both groups. Across the board, parents reported sleep duration within the recommended range and Orthodox parents actually reported more irregular weekend bedtimes.
Giving up sleep is not a productivity hack for teens
Theoretically, it's possible that teenagers would cut back on sleep to make time for other healthy activities, like exercise. But what's theoretically possible isn't what's happening, based on a preliminary investigation by researchers from the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and the Seattle Children's hospital Research Institute. For their study, researchers compared how 39 teenagers spent their days during a period of normal sleep vs. a three-week stretch of reduced sleep (6.5 hours/per night). During the short-sleep experiment, teens spent more time than usual doing sedentary activities. They did not, however, use their extra hours to work out.
To remember more, run around and rest up
Sleep is thought to play a vital role in memory. Exercise, separately, appears both to facilitate recall and improve sleep quality. So researchers from the University of Montreal and the University of Glasgow sought to see if exercise and sleep, combined, affect memory more than either of them do alone. For the study, young adults completed a memory task after doing one of three activities: moderate-intensity exercise, hour-long naps or both. And the group who did the exercise-nap combo scored highest on the memory task.
Share a bed, share a sleep disorder?
A research team lead by psychologists at Monash University in Australia ran a study on 32 partners of adults seeking treatment for insomnia. Insomniacs, they found, are more likely to share their beds with normal sleepers than fellow insomniacs. But, even though the participating partners didn't have sleep disorders, researchers found, they still didn't get the recommended amount of sleep — almost half of them averaged less than seven hours of sleep. This suggests that dozing next to an insomniac might get in the way of a full night's rest. And the relationship appears to go both ways: Normal sleepers may unintentionally contribute to their partners' insomnia by encouraging nighttime and daytime activities that contradict healthy sleep practices, such as drinking coffee and watching television in bed.
Insomniacs can't escape reality in their dreams
Dream incorporation refers to the act of incorporating aspects of your external environment (e.g., alarm clock sounds or people in the vicinity) into your dreams. People might be susceptible to dream incorporation for a number of reasons. And psychologists at Laval University in Quebec wondered if insomnia might be one of them. Their hypothesis? Insomniacs continue to process information from their environments after they fall asleep because they hit the sack in a hyper-aroused state. And their prediction bore out: Insomniacs incorporated more elements from their environments into their dreams than normal sleepers.