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Friday, June 02, 2017

Review: Secrets of Sleep Science

Secrets of Sleep Science has a misleading title. None of the "secrets" in the lecture series are secrets. They've pretty much all been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. What they are are little known facts.

For instance, one little known piece of research about sleep deprivation is that even after a 3 day recovery period, all it takes is a night of short sleep and you're back to your previous state of sleep deprivation. We know so little about sleep and how it affects us that we don't even know how recovery from sleep deprivation works, and what it takes to restore our optimal operating conditions.

The lecture series covers a great deal, with a big emphasis on animal studies, since that's what the lecturer's expertise is in. There's coverage of typical sleep problems like insomnia, sleep apnea, and even nightmares as a result of PTSD. (An interesting piece of research mentioned is the linkage between dreaming and learning, with the possibility that PTSD nightmares are a case of learning gone wrong --- the mind reinforces the traumatic event and the emotional responses to it instead of recovering)

One of the most fascinating titbits coming out of the lecture on sleep apnea was that central sleep apnea (where the brain basically forgets to breath) is a prime suspect in the cause of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). The circumstantial evidence (which is still under research) is that babies who have particularly regular breathing and heart rate have a higher incidence of SIDS. The current hypothesis is that this indicates that the control mechanisms in those infants are less sensitive to the environment.

What I like about the lecture series is that Professor Craig Heller does not mince words about the importance of sleep --- he cites over and over stories about how sleep shortage, untreated sleep apnea, or insomnia can lead to death (usually in combination with operating heavy machinery or driving). This grabs your attention and makes the entire series well worth an audit.


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