By Richard Wiseman, Spin Solutions Ltd, March 8, 2014, 1447248406
Night School is a fun and easy read. I first heard about it on David McRaney’s You Are Not So Smart Podcast #24, which is a interesting podcast if you like psychology, especially around cognitive biases. Wiseman is entertaining to listen to as well.
If you are having trouble sleeping, you are better off reading this book than Why We Sleep, which has a lot more theory. Night School explains the reasons behind the suggested cognitive behavioral techniques. I am fortunate that I’ve fallen into many of these techniques over the years just on my own. I wake up without an alarm, and I try to go to bed when I’m tired (usually early, I’m an lark). My experience is that these techniques work, but you have to work at them.
Took about a month to read, and finished at the start of October 2017.
[k101] Around a quarter of drivers admit to falling asleep at the wheel, and fatigue is responsible for thousands of fatal road accidents each year. Poor sleeping habits also reduce productivity, prevent learning, disrupt relationships, cramp creative thinking, and sap self-control. As we will discover later in this book, some of the latest research suggests that poor sleep in adults is also associated with depression and obesity, and may cause children to exhibit many of the symptoms associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
[k453] First, take a look at the tiny black dot towards the middle left of the diagram (1). That is your ‘suprachiasmatic nucleus’. This pinhead-sized group of about 10,000 neurons acts as your internal clock and merrily tick-tocks away every moment of your life. Second, the other black dot towards the middle right of the diagram (2) is your ‘pineal gland’. This pine-cone-shaped structure (thus the term ‘pineal’) is only about the size of a grain of rice but, nevertheless, has long fascinated philosophers, neuroscientists, and hippies.
[k461] important. At certain times of the day the suprachiasmatic nucleus causes the pineal gland to produce a sleep-inducing hormone called ‘melatonin’, making you feel drowsy and tired. Your internal clock sends these signals as part of a highly predictable pattern that repeats itself every twenty-four hours.
[k843] Your brain makes up just 2 per cent of your weight but uses 20 per cent of all the energy your body produces. When you are sleep deprived your body struggles to extract glucose from the bloodstream, and so your brain cannot think straight.
[k882] Several large-scale studies have shown that spending nine or more hours asleep each night is associated with a range of medical conditions, including diabetes, obesity, headaches, cancer, and heart disease. In addition, some long sleepers suffer from a condition known as ‘hypersomnia’. As well as spending a lot of time in bed, they tend to be extremely sleepy during the day, do not feel any more alert after they have taken a nap, are highly anxious, feel constantly tired, and experience memory problems.
[k889] Starting in the mid-1980s, researchers from University College London spent twenty years examining the relationship between sleep patterns and life expectancy in more than 10,000 British civil servants. The results, published in 2007, revealed that participants who obtained two hours less sleep a night than they required nearly doubled their risk of death.
[k1237] It is important to associate your bedroom with sleep. As a result, many sleep scientists recommend that you only sleep and have sex in your bedroom (although, presumably, not at the same time), and try to avoid working, surfing the web, or watching television in there.
[k1358] The insomniacs were convinced that they had only slept for an average of about three hours per night, whereas in reality they had been asleep for an average of nearer seven hours.
[k1588] Although the process is still not fully understood, many of these sleep scientists believe that sleepwalking and night terrors are the result of the brain struggling to move from deep sleep to wakefulness. During a normal sleep cycle, we’ve learnt you move from Stages 1 and 2 (light sleep), through Stages 3 and 4 (deep sleep), back to Stage 2, and then experience REM. This cycle takes about ninety minutes to complete, and is repeated several times throughout the night, and, as you move between the lighter stages of sleep and REM, you often experience micro-
[k1599] For instance, let’s examine the issue of movement. When you dream, almost all of your body is paralysed in order that you do not act out your dreams and hurt yourself.
[k1706] She told her cheating husband that he could have his breath as long as he remained awake, but that it would be taken away from him the moment that he fell asleep. German folklore experts have not been able to discover the end of the story, but one assumes that it involves Ondine changing her Facebook status to ‘single parent’.
[k1716] If this passage becomes too constricted, the airflow becomes turbulent rather than smooth and this, in turn, causes the sides of the throat to vibrate. When these vibrations become significant they create a rough sound that scientists refer to as ‘snoring’.
[k1719] In one study, researchers tracked trainee doctors, looking at the relationship between snoring and their final grades. The results were remarkable, with 42 per cent of the snorers failing their exams compared to just 13 per cent of the non-snorers. These nocturnal noises can also cause tension in a relationship, with snoring being the third leading cause of divorce in Britain.
[k1930] Those in one group were instructed to go to bed thirty minutes earlier each night, while those in the other group were asked to stay up thirty minutes later than usual. Three days later researchers tested the children’s performance on various educational attainments tests. The results revealed that the small amount of sleep loss was equivalent to the loss of two years of development, with sleepy sixth-graders performing like fourth-graders.
[k1936] America topped the ‘sleep-deprived’ league table, with an amazing 80 per cent of thirteen and fourteen-year-olds not getting enough sleep.
[k1938] The project also revealed that the issue was especially severe in more affluent countries, with the researchers speculating that this was due to the excessive use of mobile phones and computers late at night.
[k1945] Psychologist Amy Wolfson from the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts surveyed more than 3,000 high-school students, and discovered that A- and B- grade students were going to bed about forty minutes earlier, and sleeping around twenty-five minutes longer, than those getting lower grades.
[k2037] Half of these volunteers were then allowed to take a twenty-minute nap while the others remained awake. When the researchers repeated the tests four hours later they found that the power nap had significantly boosted the volunteers’ memories.
[k2065] Napping is often seen as a form of laziness. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hundreds of experiments have demonstrated the enormous benefits associated with even the shortest of sleeps, and so it is vital that you make napping part of your daily routine. Putting your head down for just a few minutes each day will help you develop a better memory, be more alert, increase your reaction time, and boost your productivity. Perhaps most important of all, it may even save your life.
[k2982] Each night your dreams act like a ‘nocturnal therapist’ who helps you to identify concerns in your waking life, and tries to find innovative solutions to your problems. Over the years these therapists have worked away night after night, helping millions of people, and inspiring countless writers, musicians, and scientists. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the research shows that it’s possible to make the most of your ‘nocturnal therapist ‘ by learning a few simple dream-based techniques.
[k3091] During the night the woman’s eye movements suggested that she was having the best of times for one fifteen-second period. Throughout this time her vaginal activity was at a maximum, suggesting that lucid dreams do indeed have the power to stimulate the genitalia and create genuine sexual experiences.
[k3096] Stephen LaBerge and several other sleep scientists have developed a variety of psychological techniques to help you gain conscious control of your dreams.
[k3483] The Night School Manifesto Here are ten techniques that will allow everyone to get the most out of the night.