Friday, November 19, 2010

Sleepers vs. Non-Sleepers

A couple of weeks after moving into my new apartment, there was a power-outage that lasted from 10:30 at night to about 4:30 in the morning. It was July. I live on the top floor. My room got very warm very quickly.

During the power outage, my apartment was very quiet. Sort of. There are two types of noise: white noise, and non-white noise. I normally sleep with the air conditioner and a fan on. The building's ventilation system makes a certain amount of white noise. That was all silenced. Now, I could hear all the non-white noise, such as people talking in adjacent units, cars driving by on the streets, dogs barking in the distance, etc.

I didn't get to sleep that night until about 4:30 AM. When I told this story to the McQueens Robin laughed and said I was the only person she knew who wouldn't be able to sleep at night during a power-outage. I tried to explain the difference between white noise and non-white noise, and how I can sleep with white noise, but not non-white noise. She didn't buy it. Jack suggested that there seem to be two types of people in the world: sleepers and non-sleepers, and sleepers will never understand non-sleepers.

Sleepers are people that go to bed and sleep. They sleep because they want to sleep. Or because they're comfortable and tired. I was a sleeper when I was a teenager.  Actually, most teenagers are.

A non-sleeper can't just go to sleep. They need certain conditions to be in place. During the day, I am a sleeper. At night, I'm a non-sleeper. In the day, I can sleep while sitting upright on a noisy, hot, crowded bus with my head against the bouncing window. But at night, I need everything to be just so.

So I started contemplating the difference between sleepers and non-sleepers, trying to develop a theory as to what makes one one and not the other. Then I stumbled across Today's Articles. It turns out that science already has answers.

When you're awake, your brain produces high frequency brain waves. As you fall deeper into sleep, your brainwaves lower in frequency.  Every now and again, while sleeping, a spurt of higher frequency waves are produced. Those spurts are called "spindles". The scientists found that people who produce more spindles don't get woken up as easily as those who produce fewer spindles.

Unfortunately, the question of "how do I make my brain create more spindles?" remains unanswered.

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