The Week in Sleep News: December 1, 2023

Brock Purdy shares the secret to his swift recovery: Sleep!

Two people sitting up in bed reading newspapers. Text reads: Sleep News December 1, 2023

This week in sleep news...

Taking 10,000 naps a day

Can you imagine falling asleep for four seconds at a time? While for us humans that may seem like a nightmare, researchers have found that this is the reality for chinstrap penguins who fall asleep thousands of times a day. While studying the birds on King George Island in Antarctica, researchers found that the penguins fall asleep more than 10,000 times a day. This allows the birds to keep a constant eye on their nests, protecting their eggs and chicks from predators. Although they may only get seconds of sleep at a time, these penguins still manage to get 11 hours of sleep a day without ever slipping into longer sleep cycles.

Sleep loss impairs decision-making

A new study shows the impact of sleep deprivation on the decision-making processes. The research found that going even a single night without sleep dampens neural responses to decision outcomes. The study, which involved 56 adults, found that sleep deprivation disrupts the brain’s response to risk-taking, potentially altering risk perception. These findings emphasize the importance of adequate sleep, especially for professionals in high-stress roles like politicians and first responders, and suggest the need for specialized training or fatigue-risk management in such fields.

The link between sleep and chronic pain

While scientists have known there’s a link between sleep and chronic pain, they’ve never been able to nail down exactly what that link is, until now. In a new study in Nature Communications, researchers identified NADA, or N-arachidonoyl dopamine, as a potential link that is keeping sleep deprivation and chronic pain in an endless cycle. NADA is a type of neurotransmitter that targets a cannabinoid receptor in the brain that helps control the body’s perception of pain. The study found that sleep deprivation seems to reduce the brain’s NADA supplies and without enough NADA, we might feel pain more acutely, even if the level of pain has not changed.

The team of researchers hopes to use this information to design a new, non-narcotic treatment that can manage chronic pain associated with sleep loss or other instigators.

Red-hot 49ers quarterback credits sleep as key to recovery

San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Brock Purdy had a healthy secret to his swift recovery from injury: sleep. In an interview with The Athletic, Purdy shares that sleep made the difference and expedited his recovery. “Going into surgery, the doctor was telling me the importance of sleep,” Purdy said. “My teammates, guys who had been through injuries like mine, were telling me, ‘Dude, sleep is going to be your best friend.’ And so I made it a priority. That was No. 1 on my list,” he told The Athletic. The sleep helped him beat his estimated recovery timeline by about six weeks. These days, Purdy gets nine hours of sleep a night and reports excellent sleep hygiene, despite the team’s arduous travel schedule.