This is Your Brain on Sleep

November 29th, 2012 | By Mallory Smith | Posted in Art & Society, Innovation | Comments Off

‘Travelodge Future of Sleep’ study, carried out by award-winning futurologist Ian Pearson, has investigated the impact of new technology on sleep.

Not getting enough sleep can make you irritable, hysterical, or unable to process information. Todd Maddox, a psychology professor at the Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Texas in Austin says, “The brain regions that are impaired when you are sleep-deprived are the same ones that are impaired with aging.” We all perform better when we’ve had enough sleep. Sleep is restorative. This is because while you are sleeping a number of important processes are going on. One theory is that sleep lets  the brain resets itself, “Sleep may also be important for consolidating new memories, and to allow the brain to ‘forget’ the random, unimportant impressions of the day, so there is room for more learning the next day.” Another theory is that sleep lets you solve problems. At Georgetown University, researchers found that during naps the right hemisphere of the brain was extremely active and busy transmitting information to the inactive left hemisphere of the brain.  The right hemisphere is responsible for creativity  and big-picture thinking, while the left is analytical and skilled at things like language and processing math, so “The new findings suggest that it’s possible naps, by enhancing the creative side of the brain, help us solve problems.”

So sleep is important. How will we regulate and leverage it in the future? We’ve seen futuristic movies like The Fifth Element, or Cloud Atlas, in which machines put a person to sleep for the appropriate amount of time and then wake them up. Will we all be sleeping in special pods?  Apparently by 2030 sleep technology will be able to offer us, among other things, a variety of new services while we sleep: lessons that we learn in our sleep (like language or skill learning), control over our dreams, virtual love making, medical diagnosis, and internal (in our brain) sleep-cycle alarms.  Research has been done on hotels of the future that will supposedly provide the perfect atmosphere for sleep, providing everything from fabrics that produce your favorite scent and tactile experience, to 3D skins you can upload that turn your hotel room into your home. The value of sleep is being discovered as more and more research develops, and it is clear that technology will drastically change the way we sleep in the future.