Can Wearing Orange-Tinted Glasses before Bed Improve Sleep? Only One Way to Find Out…

Neuroscience

By: Jordan Gaines Lewis, 5th year PhD candidate in the Neuroscience Graduate Program

In March, I wrote about the terrible sleep habits of the characters in House of Cards. I disapproved of Frank Underwood’s late-night computer work in the Oval Office, his new midnight iPad gaming habit, and Claire taking her laptop to bed with her.

But I must confess my hypocrisy.

Despite my preaching – and despite being a sleep researcher myself – the last thing I do before I flip off the lights and snuggle into my bedsheets is play games on my iPhone.

I know, I’m bad – but I also know I’m not the only guilty person here.

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Chhe (Wikimedia Commons)

Although evidence suggests that the blue light emanating from phones, tablets, laptops, televisions and e-readers can affect the quality of our sleep – in turn affecting our health and well-being – many of us can’t help logging in and tapping away when we should be winding down. A Time/Qualcomm poll of 5,000 people worldwide suggests that nearly a quarter of those between the ages of 18 and 24 generally don’t sleep as well because of technology. Even worse, 40-75% of folks across all age groups report keeping their phones within reach while they sleep at night.

But there might be a solution. Recently, orange-tinted glasses, or “blue blockers,” were touted by the New York Times as a good option for those who simply can’t avoid technology before bed.

As a concerned scientist, I decided to do an experiment on myself. I hopped onto Amazon, bought an $8 pair of orange glasses, and formulated my research plan. Without changing any of my other habits, would wearing these glasses an hour before bed improve the quality of my sleep?

Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder: People who get SAD in the Summer

Neuroscience

By: Lina Jamis, 2nd year student in the Anatomy Graduate Program

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Summertime sadness. (Image credit: Pixabay)

Snow-lovers rejoice—winter is coming!

And no, this isn’t an allusion to Game of Thrones. With the end of Daylight Savings, the days are becoming darker earlier, which for some can mean the onset of the winter blues. The medical term for this is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a condition caused by a mélange of changes in our biological clocks, serotonin levels, and melatonin production, all of which affect our mood.

While many of us are familiar with SAD, there are, in fact, people that get SAD in reverse. For a small group of people, the dark days of winter don’t elicit depression, but renewed vigor and improved mood.

Alcohol, Sleep, and Why You Might Re-think that Nightcap

Neuroscience

By: Jordan Gaines Lewis, 3rd year PhD candidate in the Neuroscience Program

1“Alcohol makes you sleepy.”

We’ve all heard it. Many of us have experienced it. A few of us even swear by it—enough to ceremonially partake in a glass or two of wine before crawling into bed.

A nightcap.

In fact, a little booze has been experimentally (and anecdotally) demonstrated to help us fall asleep faster and increase slow-wave, or deep, sleep in the first half of the night.

But its effect on other aspects of sleep—notably, the second half of the night—leaves little to be desired.

What causes alcohol’s strange and dichotomous effect on the sleeping brain? And the real question—do you accept the nightcap or not?

Sleep Cycle Apps: Precise, or Placebo?

Neuroscience

By: Jordan Gaines Lewis, 3rd year PhD candidate in the Neuroscience Program

sidebar_1Thanks to the Internet, it’s the age of self-diagnosis. People like to learn about (and treat) themselves through technology.

Especially when pretty graphs are involved (see fancy screenshot at left).

As a sleep researcher, I was interested in my friends’ use of sleep-tracking apps, and I received a pretty positive response when I prompted them for their thoughts:

“I’m a believer.”

“When I use it right, I feel less groggy.”

The website sleepyti.me and smartphone apps like Sleep Cycle use the average human’s sleep pattern to determine the best window of time that you should wake up. The idea is that interrupting the “wrong” sleep cycle stage, such as slow-wave (“deep”) sleep or REM (rapid eye movement, when dreaming occurs), results in grogginess upon awakening, as many of us can attest. Sleep researchers call this phenomenon “sleep inertia.”

It’s such a big deal that, in the sleep laboratory, we as techs are instructed not to wake participants if they’re in REM, even if the experimental recording time is over.

So when a friend told me that he only feels refreshed after (according to his sleep-tracking app) eight REM cycles, I got a little skeptical, given the average person will only experience four or five REM periods per night.

What’s the verdict on sleep-tracking apps? How do they work, and how accurate are they? Is it all a big scam, or perhaps the placebo effect at work?

Why Do People Sleep? Surprisingly, Nobody Knows

Neuroscience

By: Jordan Gaines, 2nd year PhD candidate in the Neuroscience Graduate Program

SleepWhy do people eat?

The answer is obvious: to convert food into energy for us to do work. We wouldn’t be able to move or think otherwise, and lack of food would eventually starve us to death.

Now consider: why do people sleep?

According to William C. Dement, renowned sleep researcher and founder of the U.S.’s first sleep laboratory, “the only reason we need to sleep that is really, really solid is because we get sleepy.”

In other words, after decades of research—nobody quite knows.

Getting a Sleep Study: What’s All That Stuff They Put on Me?!

Neuroscience

By: Jordan Gaines, 2nd year PhD candidate in the Neuroscience Graduate Program

Have you ever had a sleep study done?

Perhaps you or a loved one has been referred to a sleep clinic for insomnia, apnea, narcolepsy, or restless legs syndrome. Maybe you’ve participated in a sleep research study—and if you’re in central Pennsylvania, you may even be part of our laboratory’s adult or child general population cohorts!

The hallmark of getting a sleep study done is—well, looking something like this:

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Looks rather scary, right? Fear not—each component has a very simple purpose.