First Night Sleeping Discomfort Explained

Sunday, April 24, 2016 - 20:00

A new study has revealed the reason people sleep poorly on the first night they stay in an unfamiliar place: one hemisphere of our brain anticipates trouble from predators.

According to a report published in the Current Biology journal and quoted by INQUISITR, human brains are similar in some ways to those of birds and sea mammals, which often put half their brain to sleep while the other half keeps guard.

Yuka Sasaki, associate professor of cognitive, linguistic, and psychological sciences at Brown University explains that during the first night of sleep, the two hemispheres of the brain show different patterns of activity. One side sleeps more lightly than the other and, for some reason, this is always the left side. In other words, the left side of our brains seems to be more awake than the right when sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings. This is why we feel so tired when waking up in the morning.

“We know that marine animals and some birds show unihemispheric sleep, one awake and the other asleep. While the human brain doesn’t show the same degree of asymmetry that the brains of marine animals do, the new findings suggest that “our brains may have a miniature system of what whales and dolphins have,“ said Sasaki.

Researchers have found that the degree of asymmetry seen in those brain patterns was related to the difficulty a person experienced in falling asleep, a critical measure in the first-night effect. The hemisphere with reduced sleep depth also showed greater response to sounds.

Ms Sasaki also added that people may be able to reduce the first-night effect by bringing their own pillow to the unfamiliar place or stay in hotels similar to their usual accommodation, which could help them learn to turn the ‘night surveillance’ off.

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