Wednesday, September 15, 2010

TED Talks Sleep, Circadian Rhythms

The far-reaching, free exchange of ideas known as TED takes on sleep and circadian rhythms in the latest streaming TEDtalk.

In the video, environmental journalist Jessa Gamble shares some things she picked up while living in the 24-hour darkness of northern Canada in the wintertime.

Gamble praises the benefits of setting an early bedtime, and waking for a couple hours in the middle of the night, before sleeping until sunrise.

The speaker's approach to sleep isn't all that different from the split sleep schedules used by astronauts and shift workers. The concept is called biphasic sleep, and research shows it can be just as effective as normal nighttime sleep.

The key is allowing enough time to complete sleep cycles. It takes about 90 minutes to reach restorative REM sleep, so short naps won't cut it.

Some of the other concepts the speaker introduces are also grounded in sleep medicine. She mentions how people living in bunkers drift forward by small increments every day. Its true the brain relies on timing cues such as light or a wristwatch. The same phenomenon occurs every day in neon light-filled casinos.

Learn more about the natural body clock and alternative sleep schedules on the Sleep Education Blog.

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