The Week in Sleep News: May 19 2023

This week scientists dive into how we can control dreams through an in-depth study from MIT.

Two people sitting up in bed reading newspapers. Text reads: Sleep News, Week of May 19, 2023

This week in sleep news …

Lack of sleep in male military population linked to obesity

Despite sleep being one of the components of the Canadian Armed Forces Physical Performance Strategy, problems with sleep are common for those in the military population, according to a new study from Statistics Canada. Study participants were asked questions related to sleep, such as how often they have trouble falling or staying asleep, how often they wake up feeling refreshed, and how often it's challenging to stay awake when they want to. The research showed that short sleep duration and borderline sleep duration were associated with obesity for men, but not women. While shorter sleep duration was found to be associated with obesity in men, the study found that women were much more likely to sleep for the recommended amount of time (seven to 10 hours); however, they were more likely to report issues falling asleep or staying asleep, as well as worse quality of sleep.

Dream control

Dreaming is a mystical, uncontrollable thing for many of us, but science is looking into how we might learn to control what we dream about. Researchers invited 50 volunteers to either stay awake or take a nap in a lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Those in the nap group lay down with an eye mask while wearing a glove-like device with sensors that measure heart rate and muscle tone changes to track sleep stages.

A computer linked to the device then relayed audio cues to inspire the wearers to dream about specific subjects (in this case, trees), waking them up repeatedly to hear what was on their mind.

In one of the other testing groups, they weren’t told to think about anything at all, and in two other groups, people stayed awake either thinking about trees or just their general thoughts. This research found that all of the volunteers who used the glove reported dreaming about the cued object (trees).

After these sessions, all volunteers took creativity tests. Overall, participants who dreamed about trees scored 78% higher on the creativity metrics than those who stayed awake just observing their thoughts and 63% higher than those who stayed awake thinking about trees. Participants who napped without hearing the prompt still got a creativity boost, but those who dreamed about trees still performed 48% better. The full findings of this study were published in Scientific Reports.

How watching the clock impacts insomnia, use of sleep aids

We’ve all watched the clock tick by at one point or another while desperately trying to will ourselves to sleep, but new research from Indiana University suggests watching the clock while trying to fall asleep exacerbates insomnia and increases the use of sleep aids. Participants completed questionnaires about the severity of their insomnia, use of sleep medication, and the time they spend monitoring their own behavior while trying to fall asleep. Researchers conducted mediation analyses to determine how the factors influenced each other. They found that monitoring sleep has a direct impact on sleep medication use because as people grow more frustrated over sleeplessness, they are more likely to use sleep aids in an attempt to gain control over their sleep.

In sleep-centric social media...

Sleep benefits performance for everyone, even Queen Bey. Beyoncé brings us into her bedroom with a piece of her tour set for Renaissance.

A tweet from Renaissance World Tour showing a picture of Beyoncé with a makeshift bed behind her.
Twitter // @RenaissanceWT