Category: Sleep and dreaming

When the school day starts later, teens get better sleep and feel more motivated

By guest blogger Emma L. Barratt

Getting out of bed is the first major hurdle of most teens’ weekdays. Often assumed to be the product of laziness or moodiness, this difficulty rising in the morning is actually due to adolescent sleep patterns. During teenage years, circadian rhythms are relatively delayed, causing teenagers to both go to sleep and wake up later in the day.

Even so, schools in the UK still demand that teens attend lessons from 9am or earlier, while high schoolers in Germany or the USA may start as early as 7:30am. This holds students to early rise times that are more suited to those in other age groups.

In an attempt to compensate for lost sleep during the week, teens often oversleep on weekends and reduce their sleep overall. As poor sleep routines are associated with cardiovascular issues, mood disorders, substance abuse and more, it’s easy to see why improving sleep in teens is an appealing target.

But what if school starting times worked with, rather than against, teenage sleep requirements? Research studies from years gone by indicate that such a change could be beneficial, but many lacked appropriate methods to measure potential effects of sleep interventions over longer periods of time.

This is precisely the gap that Anna Biller and colleagues in Germany endeavoured to fill with a recent study in Scientific Reports.

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Coffee can’t fix all the cognitive impairments caused by a bad night’s sleep

By Emma Young

Many of us “treat” a bad night’s sleep with a couple of cups of coffee the next morning. But just how much does caffeine really help? Research shows that it makes a big difference to tasks that require “vigilant attention”, or continuous monitoring. One theory even holds that the cognitive deficits caused by sleep deprivation are underpinned by impairments in attention, and this implies that caffeine could be a general cure for sleep-deprivation ills. However, a new study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition suggests that this is not the case. Caffeine indeed restored vigilant attention to regular levels in sleep-deprived participants. But it had barely any impact on another type of performance that is important for all kinds of jobs.

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Bedtime Music Can Disrupt Your Sleep By Triggering Earworms

By Emma Young

Do you listen to quiet music to help you wind down before sleep? If you do, you’re following the advice of all kinds of organisations, including the US National Institutes of Health and the National Sleep Foundation. However, this advice could be counter-productive, according to a new study by Michael K. Scullin and colleagues at Baylor University. The work, published in Psychological Medicine, found that bedtime music was associated with more sleep disruptions — and that instrumental music is even worse than music with lyrics.

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Why Do Basketball Teams Have a Home-Court Advantage? Natural Experiment During Pandemic Provides Some Answers

By Emma Young

When the US National Basketball Association (NBA) was forced to pause the season due to Covid-19 on March 11 last year, the fans were naturally devastated. When the season resumed five months later, with the top 22 teams bubbled together and playing every game in Orlando, Florida, this was great news for the sport, and the fans — and a pair of US researchers. Andrew McHill at Oregon Health and Science University and Evan Chinoy at Leidos Inc, in San Diego, realised that the restart provided a perfect natural experiment to explore the effects of travel on play. Their study, published in Scientific Reports, reveals some insights into causes of the well-documented sporting home-side advantage.

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Five Strange Facts About Dreams

By Emma Young

The latest episode of our PsychCrunch podcast explores the blurry boundaries between wakefulness and dreaming. Presenter Ella Rhodes examines that strange transition period between being awake and falling asleep known as hypnagogia. She also learns about maladaptive daydreaming, a condition in which people can lose themselves in their daydreams for hours at a time.

To coincide with the release of the podcast, we’ve examined five strange findings about dreaming from the psychology literature:

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Episode 22: Drifting Minds — Maladaptive Daydreaming And The Hypnagogic State

This is Episode 22 of PsychCrunch, the podcast from the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest, sponsored by Routledge Psychology. Download here.

In this episode, Ella Rhodes, journalist for The Psychologist, explores the boundaries between wakefulness and dreaming. What can we can learn about consciousness from the strange transition period between being awake and asleep, known as hypnagogia? And why do some people experience visions and imaginings that take them away for hours at a time?

Our guests, in order of appearance, are Dr Valdas Noreika, lecturer in Psychology at Queen Mary University of London, and Dr Nirit Soffer-Dudek, clinical psychologist at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel

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Men Who Sleep Less Are Seen As More Masculine: A Stereotype With Potentially Damaging Consequences

By Emily Reynolds

There are some curious cultural ideas around sleep, namely that there’s something virtuous or impressive about not getting very much of it. “Burnout” is often shorthand for success: if you’re successful it follows that you’re also pretty busy, in which case you’re less likely to get enough sleep. Margaret Thatcher famously boasted that she only needed to sleep four hours a night, as has Donald Trump — though whether that bolsters or damages the prestige associated with sleepless nights probably depends on your politics.

There may also be links between sleep and perceptions of masculinity, a new paper in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research suggests. In a number of studies, Nathan B. Warren and Troy H. Campbell from the University of Oregon found that not only do we associate sleep deprivation with masculinity, but that men who sleep less actually experience more favourable social judgements than their better-rested counterparts.

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Astronauts Need A Decent Night’s Sleep Too

By Matthew Warren

As I write this post, I’m struggling a little to put words onto the page. I didn’t sleep well last night, and my tiredness has taken its toll on my ability to concentrate. But at least I’m sat at my desk at home and not, say, in control of a massive hunk of metal filled with fuel and electronics, hurtling through space at thousands of kilometres an hour. Because a new study in Scientific Reports has found that astronauts need to get enough sleep too — and when they don’t, their performance suffers.

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Feeling Sleepy? Six Findings That Reveal The Nuanced Effects Of Poor Sleep

By Emma Young

We all know that too little sleep is bad for us. Matthew Walker, a UC Berkeley sleep scientist and author of the best-selling Why We Sleep, has gone so far as to declare: “The shorter you sleep, the shorter your life.” However, some researchers fear that our concerns about not getting enough sleep are becoming overblown — and that, ironically, they could be making the problem worse. In this feature, we take a look at evidence that “too little” sleep isn’t always the disaster that it’s held up to be. Continue reading “Feeling Sleepy? Six Findings That Reveal The Nuanced Effects Of Poor Sleep”

Night Owls May Use Poorer Emotion Regulation Strategies Than Early Birds

By Emma Young

Are you an evening person — an owl? Or a morning person — a lark? No end of studies have reported variations in the functioning of people who like to wake and go to bed late, versus those who are early to bed and early to rise. And now a new study, published in PLoS One, has found links between our “chronotype” and the way we handle emotions, reflect on our thoughts and feelings, and assert ourselves. Overall, owls do worse. And this, argues Juan Manuel Antúnez at the University of Malaga, Spain, could help to explain links between being an owl and poorer psychological well-being.

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