Dear Dave: The Science of Sleep
Dear Dave – I’m an engineer for a technology company here in the Triangle. Lately, I’ve become interested in the process of sleep and dreams. Do you have any data points to shine a light on the science of sleep? – Dave in Durham
Much research has been and continues to be done on sleeping and dreaming. In fact, universities all over the world fund laboratories dedicated to sleep science. There is even one in Scranton, housed at the UPA School of Medicine.
Conventional wisdom suggests that our sleep needs change as we age. “Quiet, Dave, the baby’s sleeping!” It turns out that sleep science backs my wife’s claims up.
The Better Sleep Council advises that babies require up to 16 hours of sleep per day. Between the ages of 19 and 55, we need half of that, about 8 hours. After 65, most of us can get along just fine on 6.
Other sleep scientists have compared human and animal sleep patterns.
Koalas, the world’s drowsiest animals, sleep away 22 hours of every day. Giraffes, on the other hand, doze less than 2 hours daily – and even that gets broken up into 5-10 minute naps.
Another branch of sleep science is taking up the mantle of thinkers like Plato and Freud and turning its attention towards one of life’s last unsolved mysteries: dreams.
Today, most scientists are pretty sure that everyone dreams. If you don’t, it’s probably evidence of a personality disorder. Not all of us, however, dream about the same things.
Research from the Better Sleep Council suggests that men dream 70% of the time about other men, while women dream equally about men and other women.
We don’t all dream the same way, either. The Better Sleep Council estimates that nowadays, 12% of people dream exclusively in black and white. Before color TV, that number was even higher.
The way you sleep may even say something about your personality. Research suggests that people who sleep like a log (on your side, arms down, legs straight) are social butterflies. Starfish (on the back, arms above your head) tend to be good listeners. And soldiers (on your back, arms down) are – as you might expect – quiet and reserved.
A Good Night’s Sleep
Above all, today’s sleep science highlights the importance of staying well rested. No matter our favorite sleep position or daily disposition, we all benefit from a good night’s sleep. Stop by the store anytime to talk sleep statistics — and test a few mattresses while you’re at it.
Dave E. McCord
The Better Sleep Store
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Photo by Stewickie.