The Science of Sleepwalking

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If a member of your family sleepwalks, or you do, most of the time it’s nothing so much as odd, and sometimes comical. For some though, it’s a different thing. Welsh-Australian artist Lee Hadwin is only creatively productive when he’s asleep — the rest of the time he has no special talent for sketching, his métier. (How appropriate he exhibits at the Rise Gallery.)

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Lee Hadwin (LEE HADWIN)

Sleepwalkers can also be a danger to themselves (poor Olive Oyl), or violent to others: Toronto’s Kenneth Parks who drove, asleep, 23 kilometers in 1987 to brutally murder the mother-in-law with whom he had a fond waking relationship.

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Kenneth Parks meets the press outside court

The number of people who sleepwalk is around 4%, and it’s on the rise, partially due to sleep medicines like Ambien. Philip Jaekl, writing for Aeon, explains what the latest science suggests is happening when people exhibit this uniquely human characteristic.

Scientists believe sleepwalking occurs when two areas of the brain — the limbic region of the brain that deals with raw emotions and the area of the cortex that manages complex motor activity — remain awake while the areas that would otherwise mitigate their primitive impulses — notably…

Science Explains Why Early Birds Have Better Mental Health Than Night Owls

Good news early birds – scientists have discovered that you are likely to be happier than night owls. While 20% of us are night owls, 10% are larks, and most of us are somewhere in between the two. So if you are in that lucky 10%, you might just have the edge in terms of your mental health and well-being.

A good day starts with a good morning — larks totally understand this.

In this study by Christopher Randler,[1] early risers reported more positive feelings of well-being and more conscientiousness than night owls. They have also been found to procrastinate less. This could be attributed to their beginning as they mean to go on. As we all know, the first hour of the day can really set the mood for the whole day. If you are relaxed, you have a better chance of carrying on feeling that way throughout your day.

Larks also have more chance to exercise in the morning, and this seems to play a key factor in lowering levels of stress, while night owls tend to do less exercise.

Night owls don’t intend to sleep late, they can’t sleep or have deeper issues.

Those who are night owls can have a challenge getting enough sleep. A German study[2] found differences in chronotype (whether you’re an average, late or early sleeper) can mean that night owls have differences in the ‘integrity of their white matter’ of their brains. But what does this mean? It, unfortunately, means that you are more vulnerable to experiencing depression, and tend to show some less healthy habits, like smoking and drinking.

This could well be to deal with the difficulty of not getting enough sleep, as night owls tend to be sleep deprived. Not getting enough can make a huge impact on your life and your mood. If you’ve…

5 Sleep-Deprived Disasters

The following article is from the new book Uncle John’s Uncanny Bathroom Reader.

We tend to think of being very sleepy as, well, just being very sleepy. But if you’re in a position of serious responsibility—really bad things can happen. Here are a few examples.


Disaster: On January 28, 1986, the NASA space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after taking off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, killing all seven crew members on board.

Sleep Deprivation: The night before the disaster, NASA officials held a conference call with officials from Morton Thiakol, the company that designed the shuttle’s rocket boosters. One of Thiakol’s engineers recommended canceling the launch, due to the cold weather forecast for the next day, telling NASA officials that cold temperatures could adversely affect equipment in the boosters—which could cause an explosion. NASA declined to cancel the launch. An investigation into the disaster found that it was indeed caused by the cold weather. The investigation also found that sleep deprivation, caused by a culture of overwork at NASA, played a critical role in the decision by the managers to ignore the engineer’s advice: two of the top managers involved in the conference call had been awake for 23 hours straight at the time of the call, and they had slept for only three hours the previous day. “The willingness of NASA employees in general to work excessive hours, while admirable,” the official report into the disaster said, “raises serious questions when it jeopardizes job performance, particularly when critical management decisions are at stake.”


(Image credit: Pawel Kierzkowski)

Disaster: On June 1, 2009, during a flight from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Paris, France, Air France 447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 228 people on board.

Sleep Deprivation: Captain Marc Dubois, 58, the pilot on the flight with the most experience by far, had just one hour of sleep the night before. “I didn’t sleep enough last night,” he can be heard saying early in the flight on the plane’s cockpit voice recorder (which wasn’t recovered until May 2011). “One hour, it’s not enough.” And when his two younger copilots encountered trouble about three hours into the flight, Dubois was asleep in a bunk located just behind the cockpit. It was, it must be noted, a scheduled nap, because all pilots on especially long flights are required to take naps. But when the copilots started experiencing problems—including “STALL!” warnings blaring in the cockpit—and called for Dubois on the plane’s intercom, it took Dubois more than a minute to respond. And when he finally did get to the cockpit, he seemed confused and failed to take control of the situation, which a pilot of his experience should have been able to do. (The least experienced of the copilots, for example, was pulling back on the control stick during the ordeal—the exact opposite of what’s supposed to be done during a stall.) The plane crashed into the ocean less than three minutes after Dubois got to the cockpit. The time it took him to respond to the calls for help, and his…

You Can Now Wear the Eyes of Famous Portraits As You Sleep

Unlike art lovers, the subjects at the center of the world’s great masterworks have no need for shut-eye—and that’s the idea behind Belarus-based designer Lesha Limonov’s sleep mask project, “Masterpieces Never Sleep!” On the front of each sleep mask is a pair of eyes taken from a famous painting.

As designboom reports, Limonov created the masks for the International Rijksstudio Award. This year the competition asked participants to reinterpret pieces from…