Why you should care

Are you getting enough rest? Well, since you’re up anyway, let OZY fill you in on the science of sleep.

This OZY original series explores the past, present and future of sleep. How did you sleep? It's a critical question for everyone, and this OZY original series explores the present and future of sleep ... as well as its weird past.

This is an OZY Special Briefing, an extension of the Presidential Daily Brief. The Special Briefing tells you what you need to know about an important issue, individual or story that is making news. Each one serves up an interesting selection of facts, opinions, images and videos in order to catch you up and vault you ahead.

WHAT TO KNOW

Whether or not you’re among the 40 percent of Americans who aren’t getting enough sleep — that’s seven hours per night, by the way — you probably know how important and mysterious shut-eye can be. Sleep sustains us, keeps us healthy and confounds us: As a culture, we’ve made sleep deprivation a mark of how hard we’re working, even though increased sleep could help us become even more successful.

OZY’s original series The Science of Sleep is our own look at the future of how we rest. We’ll take you into methods of battling insomnia, some crazy sleep disorders and how American couples feel about sleeping alone (hint: they like it!).

HOW TO THINK ABOUT IT

Stop hogging the pillow. Just because you love someone doesn’t mean you love sharing the blankets with them. In fact, 46 percent of respondents to a recent survey said that despite being in a relationship, they’d like to sleep alone at least part of the time. According to sleep scientists, this number is rising, not just because couples are increasingly disturbing each other with screens in the bedroom but also because people are marrying later in life, having had decades to develop independent sleep routines.

Sawing logs. Snoring can be a major reason people want to sleep alone! But the tech world is coming to the rescue with a variety of newfangled anti-snoring devices, including one inserted into the nose to unblock a snorer’s airways and a sensor-pillow combo that repositions the offender’s head when they start to snore.

Not with a bang. For some, it’s not the sleeping that’s the problem; it’s the getting there. Nearly 30 percent of respondents in a study on exploding head syndrome say they’ve experienced the condition before. It’s not as scary as it sounds: Sufferers merely hear loud bangs or see flashes as they drift off. Their heads don’t actually explode. But there is no cure … or even much clarity as to what causes it. 

What a shock. Habitual insomnia sufferers are often willing to try just about anything to get some shut-eye. So why not so-called electroceuticals, which are electrostimulation devices that have long been prescribed for pain management? The FDA is on board with many of these devices, which send electric pulses through your nervous system at bedtime. But the sleep therapy community is largely still unsure whether they actually help anyone or if it’s just a new form of snake oil. We suggest you sleep on this one.

WHAT TO READ

Why We Sleep, and Why We Often Can’t, by Zoë Heller in The New Yorker

“Aristotle called sleep ‘a privation of waking,’ and a simultaneous longing for and resistance to that privation seems to lie at the heart of insomnia’s torment.” 

When It Comes to Sleep, One Size Fits All, by Susan Pinker in The Wall Street Journal

“Regularly sleeping too little seems to be much more damaging than having one or two bad nights. Getting four hours of sleep or less for an extended period is equivalent to adding eight years to one’s age when it comes to test performance.” 

WHAT TO WATCH

The Brain Benefits of Deep Sleep — and How to Get More of It

“While the light bulb and technology have brought about a world of 24-hour work and productivity, it has come at the cost of our naturally occurring circadian rhythm and our body’s need for sleep.”

Watch on TED on YouTube:

These Sleep Engineers Could Help You Hack Your Dreams

“These are no ordinary sleep scientists. They don’t just want to understand the role that sleep and dreams can play in our lives. They think we can actually tinker with it.”

Watch on Seeker on YouTube:

WHAT TO SAY AT THE WATERCOOLER

A record-setting sleep invention. You could call the Psycho-Phone, a 1920s invention, the first sleep app. Or you could just call it a phonograph that played messages while users slept. It promised listeners it would improve their mood, productivity and even their bodily functions. Though it’s largely been lost to time, the Psycho-Phone is evidence that we’ve long been drawn to self-improvement through sleep.

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