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The Future Of Sleep

It’s been a big few weeks for Nobel Prize nominees and none more so that than the surprise winners of the Physiology or Medicine category as three US scientists won for their work in Circadian rhythms (in fruit flies no less). Now this highlights some pretty amazing work in trying to decipher why and how we sleep, and how these patterns affect our day to day lives.

We’re pretty fascinated with this stuff here at HQ as we’re constantly trying to find new ways to be our most productive, creative, incredible selves. The more we read, the more we’re seeing some interesting trends in how sleep affects us and how we can better understand it and make it work for us long term(it even came up as a leading theme in some recent research we undertook in what it takes to ‘glow’… more on that soon).

So read on our dozey friends, take a few minutes to indulge in this week’s brain food and nip off for a ZZZs afterwards. Science dictates it might just be what you need.

Circadian What?

Let’s kick off with some pretty mega news. Three scientists in the States have been studying fruit flies and it turns out their research was so impressive in deciphering our own relationship with the moon (yes the moon) that they won a Nobel Prize for it.

In essence they have helped us understand the fundamentals of “how plants, animals, and humans adapt their biological rhythm so that it is synchronised with the Earth’s revolutions”.

circadian rhythm
Source: Nobel Prize

It turns out this 24hr rhythmic cycle between day and night has profound impacts on everything from heart rate to body temperatures to behaviour – and it’s all controlled by a specific gene in our body, the Period gene. Findings showed that this gene encodes a protein that accumulates in the body at night, while the fruit flies slept, and degraded during the day, while the flies were awake. All in all having huge ramifications on not only our understanding of our own sleep patterns, but also tools to ensure we are getting the best snoozin’ in as possible.

Early mornings for us then.

Learning, And The Rest

So this is cool.

Scientists from Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris found evidence that we can learn during sleep… This “suggests that our brains are capable of both learning and suppressing information during different phases of sleep”. This process of prioritisation could be incredibly important for the way we forget inconsequential important and retain the the important stuff.

If only we’d know this at school… Dammit.

No Rest For The Brainless (or not)

If there was ever an argument for the deep rooted importance in sleep for living things it’s this. Scientists have found that even Jellyfish exhibit sleep-like behaviour. Doesn’t sound a major deal but Jellyfish are so primitive that they don’t even have brains… and this research is the first of its kind to find this snoozing behaviour in anything without our mental muscles.

Jellyfish in their tank. (Caltech)
Jellyfish in their tank. (Caltech)

They dub it a ‘conserved’ behaviour. I.e. “one that arose relatively early in life’s history and has persisted for millions of years” and it is this that might be able to help us understand the evolution of why living things need rest in the first place. It’s fascinating.

The Ritual Of Dormiveglia

We found this great observation piece in Quartz this morning, all about the importance chiawalla (tea sellers) in perking up Indian office-workers in their afternoon lulls in wakefulness. So when you’ve not got sleep, you’ve always got tea and community connections to get you through.

“The thing about rituals is that we don’t think much while performing them. But when skipped, a vague incompleteness lingers. Tea drinking is something like that in India. Especially for us office-goers trying to shake off the languor of a soporific post-lunch session.”

Just can’t do without it. (Reuters:Shailesh Andrade)
Just can’t do without it. (Reuters:Shailesh Andrade)

Another great takeout. The Indian word for the state between wakefulness and sleep and a half-state called ‘dormiveglia‘. That’ll be our London office in about 4 hours….

Do Robots Dream Of Electric Sheep?

Random fact. This was the name of the post-apocalyptic thriller that Bladerunner was based on…

This article explores what the future could look like and how close to the bio/android “replicants” of Blade Runner 2049 we could ever get…

blade 2049 replicants

The big question though. Do androids actually dream of electric sheep?