Exam Day

Today I write an exam. It was originally scheduled for last Friday but my wife went into labor a few days before and I had to move it (using my laptop in the delivery room three hours before my son was born. Wife, incandescent with rage from pain: “WTF are you doing on your computer?!”).

Anyway, the exam isn’t until 5pm so I’ve got some time for a little sharpening up. And of course I turn to Barker:

If you can’t get in a full night’s sleep, you can still improve the ability of your brain to synthesize new information by taking a nap. In a study funded by NASA, David Dinges, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and a team of researchers found that letting astronauts sleep for as little as fifteen minutes markedly improved their cognitive performance.

The challenges that the brain had grappled with during the daytime replayed in the mind as the subject went to sleep… (S)ubjects who spent more time dreaming about the game demonstrated a greater improvement in their skills the next time they played than those whose brains hadn’t relived its experiences during sleep.

Ugh, I slept horribly last night because I strained an abdominal muscle playing soccer yesterday. I’m actually convinced it’s a studying injury triggered by the running around. Ok, nap today, got it.

Here’s some more interesting stuff:

Dement— one of the premier researchers in the history of sleep science who you may remember from an earlier chapter— received a commission from a company that had recently built a prototype of a high-tech mattress. Inside of it, warm air flowed through billions of tiny, ceramic beads. The end result was the feeling of a cushion built out of heated mud.“Everyone in our lab agreed that it was the most comfortable bed they had ever lain on,” Dement later noted. The company that hired him asked Dement to determine how well people slept on its product, which was expected to retail for several-thousand dollars, compared with a conventional mattress. To make the final result more dramatic, Dement decided to include a third option in his study: sleeping on a concrete floor with no padding. Volunteers gamely spent a night on each of the three, and Dement’s team later evaluated the results. “We were absolutely flabbergasted,” he wrote. There were no significant differences in the quality of a volunteer’s sleep or the total number of hours spent sleeping on the three surfaces.

A bit surprising, actually. I’ve slept on all manner of mattresses and agree that they probably don’t matter up to a point (I actually think that a concrete floor is better than a lot of soft mattresses out there). But wouldn’t the psychological effect alone of sleeping on a concrete floor make people uncomfortable? Questionable science!

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