Your Brain Stays Half Awake When You Sleep In A New Place
Science & Tech / /
How comes that we sleep with half of our brain more active when we are for the first time in a strange, new place?
If you’ve ever slept in a hotel, tent, or even slept over at a friend’s place, there is a chance that you will wake up the next day even more tired then you were the night before, even if you don’t remember turning and tossing in the bed. Well, that’s because when we first sleep in a new place, our brain is actually switched in survival mode, only turning off one of the hemispheres with the other one remaining more “awake”. Scientists from Brown University who discovered this phenomenon suggest that this phenomenon happen because it keeps au prepared to jump awake if we hear strange sounds. Their findings were published in the journal Current Biology.
This so called First-Night-Effect (FNE) was regarded by the scientists as a regular sleep disturbance for some time, but it was never before explored more detailed how it works. So using advanced neuroimaging techniques, Masako Tamaki and her colleagues carefully analyzed a number of snoozing brains to find the missing answer.
Strangely, as reported, what they found was that the sleeping brains showed asymmetrical patterns of sleep activity, with one hemisphere humming along while the other slept. And while the sprightly hemisphere wasn’t fully awake, it was much more active than the other—even responsive to external stimuli. Subjects in the study experiencing FNE, for example, were jolted awake by “deviant” sounds. A creaking door perhaps. Or a shrieking animal. For most of the subjects, the night watchman hemisphere of their brain was the left side, for inexplicable reasons.
This FNE phenomenon is common with animals as well.Dolphins and whales swimming along in the ocean are quite vulnerable when sleeping with one hemisphere at a time to avoid getting caught unawares.
“We know that marine mammals and some birds show unihemispheric sleep, one awake and other asleep,” said co-author Yuka Sasaki, in a statement. “Our brains may have a miniature system of what whales and dolphins have,” she added.
People who travel often due to their work are exposed to the side effect of slipping away from home the most. Using this knowledge, scientists are hoping to find a way to turn this mechanism off. According to Sasaki the hopes are quite justified having in mind that human brains are very flexible.