The evolution of sleep science and its routines throughout the ages has been subject to a variety of studies. Here we are going to discuss the curious world of sleeping habits!
Written by Marialma Team
Back in the 1400s, the course of day to day life was determined by the sun and its absence. As electricity hadn’t been invented yet, people had little or nothing to do after sunset. So they slept. But they would do it in shifts: from sunset until midnight and then again from the early hours of the morning until daybreak.
In the early ’90s, a psychiatrist, Thomas Wehr, conducted an experiment where he placed volunteers in houses without any kind of electricity.
Without artificial light, their schedule revolved around the sun: they did their chores in the sunlight and by night they rested, due to the absence of light. Over the next couple of weeks, they started to have a segmented sleep schedule, like the one, observed in people from the 15th century.
Not only they had the same sleep schedule, as they felt more relaxed. In that sleep interval, the body released prolactin, the same hormone that is released right after the orgasms. So, the sleep science wasn’t hard to define!
Modern-day sleep science
In this day and age, our sleep schedule is very different. It is the direct result of the industrial revolution where a workday can last 16 hours, which diminishes the amount of time people can sleep. Even taking a nap during the day can be frown upon or seen as “not very productive”.
According to our sleep science today, the number of people relying on sleeping pills has increased over the years and anxiolytics that help people unwind and go to sleep are one of the most prescribed. The trouble is: they all cause addiction.
The pharmaceutical industry has yet to develop an efficient and risk-free drug. But there’s new hope in the horizon, a drug that inhibits the production of hypo creatinine, the neurotransmitter responsible for the sleep-wake cycle.
Instead of inducing sleep, this new drug simply cancels out the substance that is keeping you awake. However, this miraculous drug still awaits FDA approval.
Unfortunately, there is no perfect solution for the lack of sleep. There are several suggestions, however, that need to be taken into account for you to lead a healthy sleep schedule.
The key to a good sleep routine
The hormone that regulates our internal clock is melatonin. When there is a rise of melatonin you start feeling sleepy and that usually comes after sunsets. On the other hand, when melatonin levels are low you wake up, which usually happens in the mornings.
Then there was technology
Nowadays, there’s is something messing up our levels of melatonin: the variety of screens we are subjected to through the course of the day. That can disrupt our internal rhythm as our brains can’t distinguish between night and day with the same ease, so we struggle to fall asleep.
The best you can do to regulate your melatonin level – rather than take melatonin pills, which can have several counter effects such as changes in your menstrual cycle – is to control your exposure to light after sunset, so that means you have to cut the screen time.
A shortcut that can have the same effect is to adapt the light of your electronic devices, for instance, in the TV you can choose the mode “Cinema” where the light is warmer and there’s also an app for Mac and PC to help you regulate the intensity of your screen light.
But if you still toss and turn after following all this advice, don’t worry sometimes it is normal, however, if this happens every night, you need to see a specialist or change your routine.
💡 Did you know what happens in your body while you sleep?
Mouth: The saliva production drops and you have that dry mouth feeling. That is just the right environment for bacteria to spread, hence your morning’s bad breath.
Skin: When you are sleep deprived, you can experience an outbreak of oily skin and pimples due to the rise in cortisol levels. While the cortisol rises, other hormones like collagen drop. As the latter is responsible for keeping your skin clean and healthy…disaster can happen.
Brain: It’s cleaning time. Dead cells and beta-amyloid protein molecules are removed, the accumulation of which can lead to memory loss.
Muscles: The release of growth hormones occurs, which among other functions helps to repair muscle fibres. Therefore, sleep is essential to recover from an injury or after weight training.
Source: Belen Esparis, Sleep Disorder unit in Mount Sinai Medical CenterRevista Super InteressantePublished on 6 Apr 2014 Dreamland: Adventures in the strange science of sleep David K. Randall, W. W. Norton & Company, 2012. Take a Nap! Change Your LifeSara Mednick, Workman Publishing Company, 2006. The Slumbering Masses: Sleep, Medicine and Modern American LifeMathew J. Wolf Meyer, University of Minnesota Press, 2012.
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