If only sleep were a waste of time

Melinda Beck on sleep in the WSJ: “For a small group of people—perhaps just 1% to 3% of the population—sleep is a waste of time.”

Oh don’t I wish! I do hate having to give up one-third of my life to sleep. So, I’d like to call sleep a waste of time. Only, it really isn’t. Don’t get me wrong, sleep feels awesome. But that’s only because I need it. The down time is good for me, but must I really spend eight hours horizontal? Yes, I must, more or less, or I don’t function well. It is so frustrating. There are other things I’d rather be doing. But, given the consequences, I can’t really say I’m wasting my time when I sleep.

Turns out, all-nighters can feel good too, if only briefly.

Brain scans also showed that the subjects who had pulled all-nighters had heightened activity in the mesolimbic pathway, a brain circuit driven by dopamine, a neurotransmitter that typically regulates feelings of pleasure, addiction and cravings.

The boost of dopamine after an all-nighter may help explain why sleep deprivation can alleviate major depression in about 60% of patients, although the effect is only temporary.

Been there, done that. I don’t pull all-nighters. But I am very familiar with nights of sleep four to six hours long. They don’t hurt, so long as they don’t come too frequently. A few per month is not that bad. A few per week for months on end — yes I’ve done that — is a ticket to insanity.

More here.


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