Daily Smart Fact

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Daily Smart Fact #5: Your alarm clock may be the culprit for your bad night of sleep

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Key Takeaway: Tiny light rays from a digital alarm clock can be enough to disrupt the sleep cycle even if you’re not fully awake.

I had a bad night of sleep last night.  When I was younger and even through my college days, I slept like the dead.  My first trip back home for the winter holidays after my finals is a perfect example of that.  I fell fast asleep in my seat on the plane shortly after take off.  An hour later, I woke up only to find out that we were back on the tarmac.  Confused, I asked my neighbor what was going on.  The man was incredulous “you slept through that?”  It turned out that there were some engine problems and we had to land back down.  The engines were screaming so loudly, my neighbor said he had to plug his ears with his hands.  Yup, I slept through that whole episode.

Nowadays, I can wake up from a pin drop.  We have blackout shades in our room because the light disrupts our sleep.  So I decided to learn more about how sleep works and what the cause could be for a restless night.  Here’s some facts I found from The National Sleep Research Project.

  • Tiny luminous rays from a digital alarm clock can be enough to disrupt the sleep cycle even if you are not fully awake.  The light turns off a “neural switch” in the brain, causing levels of a key sleep chemical to decline within minutes.
  • To sleep, our body temperature needs to drop off.  Body temperature and the brain’s sleep-wake cycle are closely linked.  that’s why hot summer nights can cause a restless sleep.  The blood flow mechanism that transfers core body heat to the skin works best between 18 and 30 degrees. As you get older, the comfort zone shrinks to between 23 and 25 degrees – one reason why older people have more sleep disorders.
  • Some studies have shown that women need up to a hour of extra sleep than men, and not getting it may be one reason why women are more susceptible to depression than men.
  • A new baby typically results in 400-750 hours of lost sleep for parents in the first year (YIKES!)
  • Anything less than 5 minutes to fall asleep at night means you’re sleep deprived. You should ideally take 10 to 15 minutes to fall asleep.
Thanks brucebeh for the photo.

Written by Bea

May 17, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Biology

Tagged with ,

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