Duérmete ya

Duerme. Duérmete ya, hijo mío. This little saying gives the lyrical basis for the Spanish translation of Sleepyhead, except stripped down to just “Duérmete ya”, an imperative translating as “Sleep now”, there is also a sense of urgency. This is appropriate, as a campaign to improve sleep would probably achieve greater benefit for public health than any other single intervention. The work of epidemiologist Francesco Cappuccio and colleagues over the last ten years and more has clearly established that sleep deprivation (where there is routinely less than 6 hours a night) significantly increases the risk of obesity (by 57%), hypertension

Do jellyfish sleep?

I like “quoughts” (questions that provoke thoughts) and “Do jellyfish sleep?” is a good one. Jellyfish are interesting for lots of reasons, one of them being their place on the evolutionary landscape. The first jellyfish-like creatures (the ancestors of modern jellyfish) pitched up during the Cambrian explosion, more than 500 million years ago and are one of the first animal groups to boast organised tissues and a nervous system. There is nothing that could be described as a brain, but jellyfish neurons work in exactly the same way as vertebrate neurons. So do jellyfish experience anything akin to vertebrate sleep?

Donald Trump, basketball and the dangers of late-night tweeting

Donald Trump is famous for his late-night tweeting. Does this pattern of behaviour reduce his ability to perform during the day? He might be interested in research presented yesterday at the Sleep 2017 conference in Boston showing a correlation between late-night tweeting and the next-day game performance of professional basketball players. Over the course of six years, from 2009-2016, researchers drew data from the Twitter accounts of 90 National Basketball Association (NBA) players. In particular, they were interested in any athletes who made tweets between 11pm and 7am on the night before the game. On average, late-night tweeters scored fewer

Deep sleep, brain magnets and memory

Deep non-REM sleep appears to affect how well we commit a new task to memory Sleep specialists like to divide sleep into one of two states: rapid eye movement sleep (REM) and non-rapid eye movement sleep (non-REM). Since the discovery of REM and its tight link to dreaming in 1953, there has been a lot of research focused on this paradoxical wake-like state. But as we experience much more non-REM than REM during the night, non-REM or deep sleep might be the more important of the two states. It’s likely there are many functions of non-REM. It could simply be

The horrors of sleep deprivation

The definitive demonstration of the horrors of sleep deprivation appeared in a celebrated paper published by sleep research pioneer Allan Rechtschaffen and his colleagues in Science in 1983. They used rats. What nobody had managed until then was to design a set-up in which both experimental and control animals received exactly the same conditions but different amounts of sleep. The solution Rechtschaffen and co. came up with is as ingenious as it is disturbing. They installed a pair of rats in neighbouring cages. In the bottom of each cage was 3cm of water, but by standing on a record-player-like disk

Five nights in Stanford

I’ve just returned from a mind-blowing trip to Stanford University, five days of back-to-back interviews with some of the most important figures in sleep research. It’ll all be in the book. This was made possible by a generous grant from The Society of Authors. I got to meet William Dement, a legend in the field of sleep medicine and the reason why Stanford has such a high concentration of great doctors and researchers interested in sleep. I spent several delightful hours in the company of Christian Guilleminault, less well known than Dement but, in my view, an equal partner in