The end of sleep?

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The end of sleep?

A U.S. soldier takes a break during a night mission in the Pesh valley of Kunar Province, Afghanistan, August 12, 2009. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

New technologies are emerging that could radically reduce our need to sleep - if we can bear to use them

Jessa Gamble is co-owner of the Last Word On Nothing blog and author of The Siesta and the Midnight Sun: How We Measure and Experience Time (2011).

3900 3,900 words
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Work, friendships, exercise, parenting, eating, reading — there just aren’t enough hours in the day. To live fully, many of us carve those extra hours out of our sleep time. Then we pay for it the next day. A thirst for life leads many to pine for a drastic reduction, if not elimination, of the human need for sleep. Little wonder: if there were a widespread disease that similarly deprived people of a third of their conscious lives, the search for a cure would be lavishly funded. It’s the Holy Grail of sleep researchers, and they might be closing in.

As with most human behaviours, it’s hard to tease out our biological need for sleep from the cultural practices that interpret it. The practice of sleeping for eight hours on a soft, raised platform, alone or in pairs, is actually atypical for humans. Many traditional societies sleep more sporadically, and social activity carries on throughout the night. Group members get up when something interesting is going on, and sometimes they fall asleep in the middle of a conversation as a polite way of exiting an argument. Sleeping is universal, but there is glorious diversity in the ways we accomplish it.

Different species also seem to vary widely in their sleeping behaviours. Herbivores sleep far less than carnivores — four hours for an elephant, compared with almost 20 hours for a lion — presumably because it takes them longer to feed themselves, and vigilance is selected for. As omnivores, humans fall between the two sleep orientations. Circadian rhythms, the body’s master clock, allow us to anticipate daily environmental cycles and arrange our organ’s functions along a timeline so that they do not interfere with one another.

Our internal clock is based on a chemical oscillation, a feedback loop on the cellular level that takes 24 hours to complete and is overseen by a clump of brain cells behind our eyes (near the meeting point of our optic nerves). Even deep in a cave with no access to light or clocks, our bodies keep an internal schedule of almost exactly 24 hours. This isolated state is called ‘free-running’, and we know it’s driven from within because our body clock runs just a bit slow. When there is no light to reset it, we wake up a few minutes later each day. It’s a deeply engrained cycle found in every known multi-cellular organism, as inevitable as the rotation of the Earth — and the corresponding day-night cycles — that shaped it.

Human sleep comprises several 90-minute cycles of brain activity. In a person who is awake, electroencephalogram (EEG) readings are very complex, but as sleep sets in, the brain waves get slower, descending through Stage 1 (relaxation) and Stage 2 (light sleep) down to Stage 3 and slow-wave deep sleep. After this restorative phase, the brain has a spurt of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which in many ways resembles the waking brain. Woken from this phase, sleepers are likely to report dreaming.

One of the most valuable outcomes of work on sleep deprivation is the emergence of clear individual differences — groups of people who reliably perform better after sleepless nights, as well as those who suffer disproportionately. The division is quite stark and seems based on a few gene variants that code for neurotransmitter receptors, opening the possibility that it will soon be possible to tailor stimulant variety and dosage to genetic type.

Around the turn of this millennium, the biological imperative to sleep for a third of every 24-hour period began to seem quaint and unnecessary. Just as the birth control pill had uncoupled sex from reproduction, designer stimulants seemed poised to remove us yet further from the archaic requirements of the animal kingdom.

Any remedy for sleepiness must target the brain’s prefrontal cortex. The executive functions of the brain are particularly vulnerable to sleep deprivation, and people who are sleep-deprived are both more likely to take risks, and less likely to be able to make novel or imaginative decisions, or to plan a course of action. Designer stimulants such as modafinil and armodafinil (marketed as Provigil and Nuvigil) bring these areas back online and are highly effective at countering the negative effects of sleep loss. Over the course of 60 hours awake, a 400mg dose of modafinil every eight hours reinstates rested performance levels in everything from stamina for boring tasks to originality for complex ones. It staves off the risk propensity that accompanies sleepiness and brings both declarative memory (facts or personal experiences) and non-declarative memory (learned skills or unconscious associations) back up to snuff.

It’s impressive, but also roughly identical to the restorative effects of 20 mg of dextroamphetamine or 600 mg of caffeine (the equivalent of around six coffee cups). Though caffeine has a shorter half-life and has to be taken every four hours or so, it enjoys the advantages of being ubiquitous and cheap.

For any college student who has pulled an all-nighter guzzling energy drinks to finish an essay, it should come as no surprise that designer stimulants enable extended, focused work. A more challenging test, for a person wired on amphetamines, would be to successfully navigate a phone call from his or her grandmother. It is very difficult to design a stimulant that offers focus without tunnelling – that is, without losing the ability to relate well to one's wider environment and therefore make socially nuanced decisions. Irritability and impatience grate on team dynamics and social skills, but such nuances are usually missed in drug studies, where they are usually treated as unreliable self-reported data. These problems were largely ignored in the early enthusiasm for drug-based ways to reduce sleep.

They came to light in an ingenious experimental paradigm designed at the government agency Defence Research and Development Canada. In 1996, the defence psychologist Martin Taylor paired volunteers and gave each member of the duo a map. One of the two maps had a route marked on it and the task was for the individual who had the marked map to describe it accurately enough for their partner to reproduce it on their map. Meanwhile, the researchers listened in on the verbal dialogue. Control group volunteers often introduced a landmark on the map by a question such as: ‘Do you see the park just west of the roundabout?’ Volunteers on the stimulant modafinil omitted these feedback requests, instead providing brusque, non-question instructions, such as: ‘Exit West at the roundabout, then turn left at the park.’ Their dialogues were shorter and they produced less accurate maps than control volunteers. What is more, modafinil causes an overestimation of one’s own performance: those individuals on modafinil not only performed worse, but were less likely to notice that they did.

The friendly fire incident resulted in a court martial, but in the media it was the drugs that were on trial

One reason why stimulants have proved a disappointment in reducing sleep is that we still don’t really understand enough about why we sleep in the first place. More than a hundred years of sleep deprivation studies have confirmed the truism that sleep deprivation makes people sleepy. Slow reaction times, reduced information processing capacity, and failures of sustained attention are all part of sleepiness, but the most reliable indicator is shortened sleep latency, or the tendency to fall asleep faster when lying in a dark room. An exasperatingly recursive conclusion remains that sleep’s primary function is to maintain our wakefulness during the day.

Since stimulants have failed to offer a biological substitute for sleep, the new watchword of sleep innovators is ‘efficiency’, which means in effect reducing the number of hours of sleep needed for full functionality. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) – the research arm of the US military – leads the way in squeezing a full night’s sleep into fewer hours, by forcing sleep the moment head meets pillow, and by concentrating that sleep into only the most restorative stages. Soldiers on active duty need to function at their cognitive and physiological best, even when they are getting only a few hours sleep in a 24-hour cycle.

Nancy Wesensten, a psychologist for the Center for Military Psychiatry and Neuroscience at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Maryland, has a mission to find ways to sustain soldier operations for longer, fighting the effects of acute or chronic sleep deprivation. She has argued that individual's sleep should be regarded as an important resource, just like food or fuel. Working with the Marine corps, Wesensten is not trying to create a super warrior who can stay awake indefinitely. She does not even see herself trying to enhance performance, as she already considers her subjects the elite of the elite. Everyone has to sleep eventually, but the theatre of war requires soldiers to stay awake and alert for long stretches at a time.

Whereas the US Army and Air Force have a long history of adopting stimulants — pioneering modafinil applications and dextroamphetamine use in 24-hour flights — the Marines generally will not accept any pharmacological intervention. Like Wesensten, Chris Berka, the co-founder of Advanced Brain Monitoring (ABM), one of DARPA's research partners, told me that she is cautious about the usefulness of stimulants, ‘Every so often, a new stimulant comes along, and it works well, and there’s a lot of interest, and then you don’t hear anything more about it, because it has its limitations.’

Some failed Air Force missions have drawn attention to the dangers of amphetamine-induced paranoia. Less than a decade after a 1992 Air Force ban on amphetamines, ‘go pills’ were quietly reintroduced to combat pilots for long sorties during the war in Afghanistan. On 17 April 2002, Major Harry Schmidt, who had trained as a top gun fighter pilot, was flying an F-16 fighter jet over Kandahar. Canadian soldiers below him were conducting an exercise, and controllers told Schmidt to hold his fire. Convinced he was under attack, the speed-addled pilot let loose and killed four Canadian soldiers. The friendly fire incident resulted in a court martial, but in the media it was the drugs that were on trial.

With military personnel in mind, ABM has developed a mask called the Somneo Sleep Trainer that exploits one- or two-hour windows for strategic naps in mobile sleeping environments. Screening out ambient noise and visual distractions, the mask carries a heating element around the eyes, based on the finding that facial warming helps send people to sleep. It also carries a blue light that gradually brightens as your set alarm time approaches, suppressing the sleep hormone melatonin for a less groggy awakening.

Sleep ideally contains multiple 60- to 90-minute cycles, from slow-wave sleep back up to REM, but a 20-minute nap is all about dipping into Stage 2 as quickly as possible. The idea of the Somneo is to fast-track through Stage 1 sleep, a gateway stage with few inherent benefits, and enter Stage 2, which at least restores fatigued muscles and replenishes alertness.

For Marines at Camp Pendleton near San Diego, four hours of sleep or less is one of the rigours of both basic and advanced training. As a character-building stressor, night after night of privation is a personal endurance test but, as Wesensten has argued, it runs counter to other goals of their training, such as learning how to handle guns safely, and then remembering that information in a month’s time. Berka agrees. ‘We demonstrated cumulative effects of chronic sleep deprivation, even prior to deployment, and it was having an impact on learning and memory,’ she explained, after ABM had brought brain-monitoring devices into the camp for 28 days of measurement. ‘It was defeating the purpose of training for new skill sets, and command acknowledged this was important.’ It’s not cheap to equip dozens of trainees with night goggles and train them to distinguish foes from friends — all the while paying out salaries.

Darkness and diet are ways of practising ‘sleep hygiene’, or a suite of behaviours to optimise a healthy slumber

The Somneo mask is only one of many attempts to maintain clarity in the mind of a soldier. Another initiative involves dietary supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish oils, sustain performance over 48 hours without sleep — as well as boosting attention and learning — and Marines can expect to see more of the nutritional supplement making its way into rations. The question remains whether measures that block short-term sleep deprivation symptoms will also protect against its long-term effects. A scan of the literature warns us that years of sleep deficit will make us fat, sick and stupid. A growing list of ailments has been linked to circadian disturbance as a risk factor.

Both the Somneo mask and the supplements — in other words, darkness and diet — are ways of practising ‘sleep hygiene’, or a suite of behaviours to optimise a healthy slumber. These can bring the effect of a truncated night’s rest up to the expected norm — eight hours of satisfying shut-eye. But proponents of human enhancement aren’t satisfied with normal. Always pushing the boundaries, some techno-pioneers will go to radical lengths to shrug off the need for sleep altogether.

Charles ‘Chip’ Fisher, an entrepreneur from New York, sits in front of a full bookcase, hands folded, ready to pitch his product to the internet. On a polished dark wood table in front of him rests the device, consisting of a power source that delivers electrical current to two spongy yellow spheres. To begin the online instructional video, Fisher dips the sponges in a glass of water and tucks them, dripping, under a headband, just above his sideburns. The device is dialled up, and Fisher blinks calmly into the camera as the pulses penetrate his skull to the prefrontal cortical area of his brain. What distinguishes his device — FDA approved since 1991 — from the kind of quack products flogged to impulse-buyers is that it is staggeringly effective at treating insomnia, among other ailments. It’s also part of a new class of armament in the war against sleep.

Fisher is the president of Fisher Wallace Laboratories of Madison Avenue in New York, and the consumer electronics industry has been a family affair for him since the golden age of the vacuum tube, when his father’s company marketed the ubiquitous Fisher Radio receivers. His pitch has all the trappings of a late-night infomercial — the testimonials, the money-back guarantee, the clips from mid-tier CBS television shows — every kind of emotional argument likely to sway a rationalist away from a purchase. Fisher acquired the patent for a transcranial stimulation device from the brothers Saul and Bernard Liss, both electrical engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He sees the body as a collection of materials, some more conductive and others more resistant to electricity. ‘The need to pierce bone and skull means we need a higher carrier frequency, which is the 15,000 Hz frequency. That’s combined with 500 Hz and 15 Hz,’ Fisher told me. ‘It took eight to 12 years to derive those values. The body is influenced by frequencies between zero and 40 Hz.’ Those searching for a treatment for insomnia are Fisher’s biggest and fastest-growing market. Someone with intractable insomnia will try just about anything to get some sleep.

Transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) is a promising technology in the field of sleep efficiency and cognitive enhancement. Alternating current administered to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex through the thinnest part of the skull has beneficial effects almost as mysterious as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), its amnesia-inducing ancestor. Also known as ‘shock therapy’, ECT earned a bad name through overuse, epitomised in Ken Kesey’s novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962) and its 1975 film adaptation, but it is surprisingly effective in alleviating severe depression. We don’t really understand why this works, and even in today’s milder and more targeted ECT, side effects make it a last resort for cases that don’t respond to drug treatment. In contrast to ECT, tDCS uses a very mild charge, not enough directly to cause neurons to fire, but just enough to slightly change their polarisation, lowering the threshold at which they do so.

Electrodes on the scalp above the hairline, in line with the temples, deliver a slight, brief tingling, after which there is no sensation of anything amiss. ‘We use that tingling feeling to create our sham paradigm,’ Andy McKinley of the US Air Force Research Laboratory’s Human Effectiveness Directorate told me. ‘The control subjects receive only a few seconds of stimulation — not enough to have any cognitive effects but enough to give them the same sensation on their skin.’ After a half-hour session of the real treatment, subjects are energised, focused and keenly awake. They learn visual search skills at double the speed, and their subsequent sleep — as long as it does not fall directly after the stimulation session — is more consolidated, with briefer waking periods and longer deep-sleep sessions. To combat insomnia, this type of treatment is used daily in two-week sessions, according to clinical recommendations by Richard Brown, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. The mechanism might lie in its anti-anxiety effects: patients familiar with Xanax or Valium describe their post-tCDS mood as a clear-headed version of taking these medications.

Negative effects on the brain have not yet been observed, and the FDA has approved some devices, such as the Fisher Wallace Stimulator, for unsupervised home use, but long-term effects are still unknown. The neurologist Soroush Zaghi and his team at Harvard Medical School are on the trail of how, exactly, these clinical outcomes are achieved. Once this is established, potential dangers will be easier to look for.

Using a slightly different technique — transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which directly causes neurons to fire — neuroscientists at Duke University have been able to induce slow-wave oscillations, the once-per-second ripples of brain activity that we see in deep sleep. Targeting a central region at the top of the scalp, slow-frequency pulses reach the neural area where slow-wave sleep is generated, after which it propagates to the rest of the brain. Whereas the Somneo mask is designed to send its wearers into a light sleep faster, TMS devices might be able to launch us straight into deep sleep at the flip of a switch. Full control of our sleep cycles could maximise time spent in slow-wave sleep and REM, ensuring full physical and mental benefits while cutting sleep time in half. Your four hours of sleep could feel like someone else’s eight. Imagine being able to read an extra book every week — the time adds up quickly.

Never mind that if we are to speak of maintaining natural sleep patterns, that ship sailed as soon as artificial light turned every indoor environment into a perpetual mid-afternoon in May

The question is whether the strangeness of the idea will keep us from accepting it. If society rejects sleep curtailment, it won’t be a biological issue; rather, the resistance will be cultural. The war against sleep is inextricably linked with debates over human enhancement, because an eight-hour consolidated sleep is the ultimate cognitive enhancer. Sleepiness and a lack of mental focus are indistinguishable, and many of the pharmaceutically based cognitive enhancers on the market work to combat both. If only it were possible for the restorative functions that happen during sleep to occur simply during waking hours instead. One reason why we need to shut down our conscious selves to perform routine maintenance is that our visual system is so greedy. Glucose metabolism is a zero-sum game, and functional MRI studies show a radically different pattern of glucose metabolism during sleep, with distinct regions activated either in active or sleep states but not in both. As soon as we close our eyes for sleep, a large proportion of available energy is freed up. Just as most planes must be grounded to refuel, we must be asleep to restore our brains for the next day. A radical sleep technology would permit the equivalent of aerial refuelling, which extends the range of a single flight (or waking day).

Such attempts are likely to meet with powerful resistance from a culture that assumes that ‘natural’ is ‘optimal’. Perceptions of what is within normal range dictate what sort of human performance enhancement is medically acceptable, above which ethics review boards get cagey. Never mind that these bell curves have shifted radically throughout history. Never mind that if we are to speak of maintaining natural sleep patterns, that ship sailed as soon as artificial light turned every indoor environment into a perpetual mid-afternoon in May.

Our contemporary sleep habits are not in any sense natural and ancestral human sleeping patterns would be very difficult to integrate into modern life. In the 1990s, the psychiatrist Thomas Wehr of the National Institute of Mental Health in Maryland put subjects on a natural lighting schedule and observed complex sleeping rhythms. Falling asleep at dusk and waking at dawn, volunteers experienced a sort of anti-nap in the middle of the night — a two-hour period of quiet, meditative repose during which prolactin levels spiked. This is backed up by historical records from pre-industrial times: early modern English households observed ‘first sleep’ and ‘second sleep’, with the time in between used to pray or socialise with family members.

Human enhancement is now being driven by military imperatives, at least in the US, because civilian society is more conservative in its approach. Dedicated divisions such as the US Air Force’s Human Effectiveness Directorate try to make humans better at what they do naturally. It’s a missed opportunity for a society-wide push to understand and reduce our need to power the brain down for hours every day. Every hour we sleep is an hour we are not working, finding mates, or teaching our children; if sleep does not have a vital adaptive function to pay for its staggering opportunity cost, it could be ‘the greatest mistake the evolutionary process ever made’, in the words of Allan Rechtschaffen, the pioneering sleep researcher and professor of psychiatry at the University of Chicago.

In her award-winning Beggars trilogy of the 1990s, the American science fiction writer Nancy Kress posited a world in which genetic modification has become de rigeur. One of these ‘genemods’ — cooked up by gifted children let loose in a lab — eliminates sleep and even bucks the sci-fi convention of dire side effects, instead endowing the fortunate Sleepless with bonuses of greater intelligence and emotional stability. The side effects are, instead, societal — the unevenly distributed technology becomes the basis of a social schism, in which a perpetually productive elite rules a sleep-dependent majority of Livers. Kress presciently anticipated the ethical implications of our emerging era of what the neuroscientist Roy Hamilton of the University of Pennsylvania has dubbed ‘cosmetic neuroscience’, or the tailoring of our ancient brains to suit our modern demands.

Should technologies such as tDCS prove safe and become widely available, they would represent an alternate route to human longevity, extending our conscious lifespan by as much as 50 per cent. Many of us cherish the time we spend in bed, but we don’t consciously experience most of our sleeping hours — if they were reduced without extra fatigue, we might scarcely notice a difference except for all those open, new hours in our night time existence. Lifespan statistics often adjust for time spent disabled by illness, but they rarely account for the ultimate debilitation: lack of consciousness. Now a life lived at 150 per cent might be within our grasp. Are we brave enough to choose it?

Read more essays on human enhancement and sleep & dreams


  • ramesh rghuvanshi

    Making the life easy mankind inventing new and new technology and we are become more and more lazy couch potato ,that is real cause to wrest the sleep.If man work hard in daytime natural sleep occurred in night.Real enemy of sleep or say our health is our greediness for easy life.

  • Itchy_Robot

    but ... I love sleeping!!

    • gwern

      And I love eating and walking my dog, but that doesn't mean I want to spend 8+ hours every single day doing them.

  • Jeremiah Stanghini

    I think it's important to experiment and test new hypotheses, but I wonder about the vast number of unintended consequences that may result from reducing the number of hours of sleep required to function at capacity.

  • walter

    The day has 24 hours and we only work 8 of them? What a
    waste. Lets get rid of sleep, then we can all work 12 hours a day. Hey,
    emotions like love or intimacy are so passé, they get in the way of
    productivity, lets get rid of them too so we can concentrate on the really
    important things. Eating? How animal like, besides it requires lunch brakes. Let’s
    take pills to get rid of the need to eat; we can work right through lunch. All this
    work and stress getting you down? No problem, a pill will make you forget all
    your problems, literally, so you can concentrate on the important things. Who
    needs pleasure, food, sex, sleep, friends or family when can just work, shop,
    work, shop, work, shop…

    The future is gross and disgusting.

    • andalau

      Slippery slope? Although, I do agree with your sentiments. I love sleep.

    • Kevin

      I do like your idea of "lunch brakes" though! Screeeeeeeee-chomp!

    • Dac

      I wholeheartedly agree.

    • Nick Fair

      Exactly, Walter, you've hit the nail on the head. What a thoroughly depressing and poorly-premised article

    • Lu

      Agreed; they want all this extra time to spend on facebook and other moronic distractions

    • Jeremy

      You just basically described the entire plot of Fringe.

    • Christofer Haglund

      Your pessimism astounds me, and all it does it illuminate your very narrow world view. Personally I'm disgusted that this has been upvoted so prominently, and I'm grossed out by you and unfortunately many others' noxious and tainted outlook.

      Why do you automatically assume that the extra waking hours would be spent working or shopping? Is that what YOU would do? If so, then you only have yourself to blame. If not, why do you assume everybody else would? I know I would spend the time pursuing personal projects, such as my writing, or attempting to broaden my knowledge. Imagine all the books you could read! You could literally spend 4 hours each day perusing Wikipedia (or taking a proper course on a subject, since I'm sure you're fundamentally opposed Wikipedia for undoubtedly a host of presumptious reasons), completely guilt free! It could be 4 hours extra to spend with your family each day. Four hours for your hobbies!

      Jesus Christ man, have you no imagination? Have you not an ounce of positivity in you? It is you who sees nothing but work and shopping in your foreseeable future, but don't you dare impede on my desire to effectively increasing my life-span by 50%, and live a longer, fuller life. Seriously, that 21 of you completely agreed with this asinine post, and not one of you thought beyond the simplistic, reflexive regurgitation offered, makes my skin crawl in horror. For shame all of you.

      • Flávio Bossa

        Like everyone cares about what your saying Christofer.
        Walter is totaly right, sleep and so many other things are needed, why someone need to cut that? Thats sick... future would be gross and disgusting as he says.

        If nature made us this way we should keep doing things this way and enjoy living as normal humans, i rather have 16 hours awake and value the time i have than make it longer to do something not productive... society is making people look for ways to sleep less TO KEEP WORKING and just to do stuff that you DONT LIKE OR IS GOOD FOR YOU, or you think the point of creating that would be just to make things perfect?
        I wake up everyday to work when i rather would stay in bed a bit more because thats way more confortable for me but its society that ruins that making us have less time for things we really like and make us look for solutions to handle what they tell us to do... shouldnt be that way but the oposite, we have a rythim and needs too, or society see us as humans and gives a chance to live our personal lifes too or people should put limits and say stop, but all should do that, not just one or two.

        Rather see them create machines/robots to work for us and we receive money for theyr work while we enjoy our lifes, sleep, make exercise, go for a walk, be with gf/bf, have sex, be with friends and family, etc... than sacrifice my health to work like a robot and one day die without enjoy anything, if you want more time for things theres the solution, just dont agree with stuff that completely ruins part of us as human beings to turn us machines or something not human at all.

        • Christofer Haglund

          Wow, you can imagine a world where robots do all the work for us, leaving us to frolic and have fun, but you don't see the value in a technology which would allow us to sleep fewer hours WHILE RETAINING AS MUCH REST AND REGENERATIVE BENEFITS as a standard night' sleep would, and therefore give us 50% longer life-times to "make exercise, go for a walk, be with gf/bf, have sex, be with friends and family, etc."?

          • Gus

            I totally Agree Christofer, I dont think anyone here understands the benefits of doubling our conscious state of mind on this plantet. If we had more time regardless of what the government would want us to do with it, we would have more time to play with. If you want to spend it working and making more money, spend it working, if you want to spend it doing nothing, spend it doing nothing, the point is this, no one benefits from our decommissioned state when we are sleeping, we are unusable and all we get back is dreams, fun dreams if we're lucky, but if we could stop the need for sleep, then effectively we would have twice the amount of time to live our lives and do what we love before our inevitable death.

          • greysurfer

            If The Creator God had intended us all to sleep just three hours, don't you think He would have made us that way to start with? Meddling with Nature never has beneficial results in the long term.

          • Gus Bliss

            To greysurfer aka deranged religious guy: Considering what we know in science , it is highly unlikely that a "God" exists in the way that any religion depicts. Your statement is completely diabolical in that there are many life-saving scientific practises such as blood transplants and organ transplants, which as im sure "the creator god" had not intended for us to do, yet we do it because we have learned letting people who can be saved, die by relaying on a so called God, or accepting there preventable death because we see God chooses them to die is just ludicrous and simply stupid. What I would like to suggest, is that you move away with your family to a island and live on your own , grow your own food and live in your own little bubble. & should one of you get ill or sick, dont coming running to a doctor for scientific solutions as im sure your God means well when he gives you or another random person cancer.

          • LennySkaviski

            LOL, you´re being sarcastic, arent you? in case you arent: god made you to live in caves, to die of staph infections and to gather and hunt.... do you take antibiotics? do you drive cars?do you shave? how dare you, if god wanted men to not have facial hair, he would've made them without it. Don´t mess with nature and your lord and get away from you computer... it´s a sin!

          • Overleaf

            What makes you think there is a creator god, besides that you were scared the bejeezus out of you as a kid with stories of heaven and hell?

          • LennySkaviski

            Agree w both of u a 100%. We have so much to discover, to learn, to do and so little time. Imagine if incredible minds like newton or einstein had twice as much time to figure out our world... There´s a long way to go though, in this case specially cause sleep has such a big part on the learning process... but sure we´ll find a way to manipulate neurotransmitters to do it faster and more efficiently....

      • Bebio Amaro

        I studied in the architectural field at univ. It was in the time that computers were starting to get used in a widespread fashion to design architectural projects. In the beginning, everyone seemed happy to exchange their drawing desks for a computer. "Finally, the days of sleepless nights endlessly drawing sheets, and getting back pains, and having to revise paper drawings at the last mine are over! We can make changes instantly and draw so much faster than before!".
        But after a couple of years, everyone realized the horrible truth: just as software improvements allowed us to continuously make drawings faster, deadlines kept getting shorter, the volume of necessary work and legislation requirements kept piling up, budgets have decreased, forcing people to work on more projects at the same time to make as much money as they did before, and the structural complexity of the projects has increased dramatically. Basically, we are just as overworked and overtired as before, with wrist and shoulder pains.

        The basic reason why people voted in favor of that guy's post is that as soon as it becomes a cultural norm to sleep less, companies WILL demand an ever-increasing portion of that time. Have you seen what it is like to work at Google? Why do you think they have all those perks, like laundry and child care services? If you talk to those engineers, they will tell you that they spend most of their time working there, in fact they work a lot more hours than the average worker. I've done research on how companies strive to create a working environment that is more conductive to creativity and innovation, and to create better knowledge workers, but the majority of their attempts is just a shameless grab at the worker's free time, by fusing personal time and private time on the same building, and trying to make the work part "fun".

        So, please, do reflect carefully on your undying optimism for these new technologies.

        • Christofer Haglund

          Yeah, heaven forbid your employer tries to make your work fun. I think many people at Google spend a lot of there time there because they like it. Pretty poor example to choose if you're trying to villify coorporations. I mean, they give you 20% of paid work-time to work on your own projects. I'm not saying we're to release these pills into the wild already - hell, they're not even a "thing" yet! But come on, let's talk optimistically about this new tech, and by discussion and criticism steer it towards the positive ramifications, instead of shooting it down out of panicked fear.

          • Conor Carr

            You’re an interesting one Christofer. You seem to be preaching reasoned and considered argument, as well as open mindedness and optimism. Yet you've posted two posts here in which it seems pretty evident that you haven't taken the time to consider what others are saying, and almost scolding these two people for having their views. It's a good way to be contradicting and undermining to your argument. You also haven't seemed to have picked up on the fact that the first poster was being facetious, whilst the second was backing up the point with fact and personal experience that you kind of brushed off as if it were harmful propaganda.

            Looking at your profile you seem to react strongly to people’s comments on hereregularly. You seem cranky. Perhaps you need to take more naps.

          • LennySkaviski

            ad hominem much huh?

          • G

            Brilliantly done. I tip my hat to you for that one.

          • Overleaf

            Walter was facetious? I don't think you know the meaning of that word. Check a dictionary. Walter was nihilistic and depressing and throwing a temper tantrum. Christopher on the other hand is positive, rational, and meaningful.

            Bebio made no sense when he said - if you have more time, then corporations would take it away from you. Corporations don't have the power to do that and corporations cannot dictate to the labor market.

            Besides who asked you to evaluate the character of Christofer?

          • G

            No, let's not indulge in chirpy consumerism for everything that bears the adjective 'new.' If that's what you want, go to (not, which has more thoughtful content) and 'follow' all the cheerleading.

            As for all those cheerful slaveys at Google, some of them may believe they are working toward Life Everlasting via mind-upload to the Borg of their own creation, but 'upload' is pseudoscientific hogwash and dead is still dead. Just watch what happens when they start having kids to take care of.

        • Christopher Burd

          "Jesus Christ man, have you no imagination? "

          Have you?

          Have you thought out the implications of this for, oh, Bangladeshi sweatshops? Or consider the inexorable spread of performance-enhancing drugs in professional sport. Suppose sleep-abolishing drugs follow the same pattern for knowledge workers, becoming, in effect, not something you choose, but something you have to do to stay competitive.

          Add to that the absurd hubris of these researchers:

          "[Sleep] could be ‘the greatest mistake the evolutionary process ever made’

          ...says a Univ. of Chicago academic with an impressive title. Oh yes, evolution is just that stupid. I think a process that can turn a gerbil-like creature into a whale in 50 million years can be counted on to get sleep right.

        • Overleaf

          Lol, if corporations could make you work more hours, for the same pay, they would not have to wait for a 4 hour sleep. Labor has a value. Many people charge by the hour. If your employer wants you to put in 50% more hours for the same pay, then go somewhere else. Your hatred of corporations, which is simply where a lot of people come together to produce, is astounding.

      • Walter

        I think you are living in a different universe, ruled by
        different rules, and one I would like to live in if it were real, but I might
        as well wish for Middle Earth. I have nothing against technology itself, hey I
        still wish for a star trek universe, holodecks and all. But the sad truth is
        technologies do not exist in a vacuum. They are shaped by the culture that
        gives birth to them. Think back about the predictions people made at the beginning
        of the 20th century. Technology would free us from labor; we would
        have all have more free time. With technology we only need work a few short
        hours to accomplish the same level of productivity as before. But it was all
        BS. We now work more than before.

        As an immigrant I am shocked at how medicated American society
        is, and is mostly medication to cope with the streets of daily living. Socially
        isolated? No problem, rather than fix the problem we medicate you so you won’t
        care anymore. You cannot deny the reality of this without being deliberately

        So, I would love more free time, to do with it as I wish. But
        we all know that time really doesn’t belong to us. Maybe in the future, if we
        live within a different economic paradigm, you might have a point, but not now.

        • Overleaf

          What nonsense. Your time is yours and you choose what to do with it. Nobody forces you to work hard. You don't like chasing technology, well then don't do it. You don't like to take medication, then don't. You don't like America, then why did you immigrate here? You don't want to work hard, then go on welfare and stay home watch TV or sleep. Just stop the elitist sermonizing.

          Basically what you are saying is that people (except you) are too stupid, and they don't know what is good for themselves -- only you know what is good for them. Talking about elitism.

          The work week has progressively shrunk. Today the average government worker works only 33 hours a week. A century ago, 60 hour workweeks were pretty common. It is called productivity. And it is these very same technologies that you bemoan that allows us to work 33 hours a week.

          I still don't know what the point of your rambling is, except to show there are cynical and nihilistic people who can't see something as good, even if they benefit from it immensely.

      • Fifi Gaia

        Are you sure that sleeping less will make you live longer with the same quality of life? You might have overlooked benefits of sleep in various studies -- body repairing, replaying events to memorize information, improving mood. There is no such things as freebies.

        Also, it is noble to think that people will spend more time for the good of the world, but most people will likely wasting it on useless activities. Remember how Internet was supposed to solve all our problems? It brings good (ex: Wikipedia) AND bad (terrorist coordination).

      • babby660

        Why get so angry because someone is worried about upsetting the natural order of things by designing pills to eliminate the need for sleep? Haven't humans messed enough with nature? In many cases this interference with natural patterns has produced less than positive results.

        Our bodies & those of other mammals obviously require downtime in order to perform functions best done when the brain is turned off. Yes, there might be some times when it would be desirable to stay awake for 24 hours, but to make a regular practice of wakefulness would be a mistake, I think.

        I've suffered from sleep apnea for many years without realizing it. When I was finally diagnosed, the condition had already damaged my heart, according to the docs. They said I have atrial fibrillation & installed a pacemaker-defibrillator in my body to make sure the old ticker stays on track.

        I now sleep hooked up to a machine that keeps my breathing passages open, so prevent me waking up frequently to catch my breath.

      • Overleaf

        So well said. Bravo.

    • hypnosifl

      Well, it could go that way. But if we're talking about the future, I wouldn't count on the current capitalist ascendency lasting--as automation continues to replace more and more jobs that were once done by people (probably including almost all manual labor once robots get a bit better at navigating real-world environments), I think it's likely people will vote in something more like a Scandinavian-style social democracy where everyone is guaranteed a decent living standard regardless of their contribution, and people who work will tend to have much shorter hours (if most manufactured goods can be produced with virtually no human labor, their prices should drop by a lot, so guaranteeing everyone a nice middle-class living standard would be more feasible). Have you seen this aeon piece by John Quiggin?

    • Ryan C.

      The future is only gross and disgusting if we allow centralized spheres of power to dictate it. It's entirely possible that the workers of the world will indeed, one day, unite and insist on reasonable work schedules. And if we can make the basic necessities of life cheap enough to produce and distribute, then we could feasibly allow everyone to live comfortably for free and work only at what they wish to.

      • Overleaf

        As you march towards the socialist paradise, don't forget that you still need people to construct the gulags. So not everyone could work at whim.

    • Guest

      Try going 4 or more days without sleep and see how well you can concentrate or do anything.

    • G

      You speak for me. But we do have some choice in the matter, if we are willing to exercise our power.

      Union organisers died heroically in the early 20th century, for protesting and demanding the reduction in work hours to the 40-hour week.

      Today we find ourselves under relentless pressure to work nights and weekends, and for the most part we do it out of fear of becoming unemployed. However, with strong union organising (yes, fellow high-tech workers: we are nothing more than the skilled trades of today, not some kind of privileged superheroes, but rather new types of plumbers and mechanics, carpenters and masons, etc.), we could collectively stand up to the pressure and just say NO. With collective bargaining, we can make it stick.

      Once we start doing that, we can gain the political power to get laws passed to limit the work day, protect sleeping, protect eating food, and protect the God-given or nature-evolved right to the ownership of our own time.

      Ponder this: the word 'robot' comes directly from the Polish word for 'worker.' The right to eat, sleep, and yes the right to goof off, are fundamental human rights worthy of going to war to protect.

      • Overleaf

        Collective bargaining is freeloading on production at the cost of the consumer. All it does is to funnel money from poor people and consumers to the pockets of fat cat union workers who produce half as much as the rest of us.

    • Overleaf

      Nobody is forcing you to work like a mule. So it is not your business if a person wishes to have a life of work. To each to his own, and live and let live. This is the dumbest moralizing I have seen for a while now.

  • zbeast

    I've used Provigi, the downside of this drug is that you lose your imagination .
    So your creativity goes out the same window as your sleep..
    I choose sleep over stay awake pill's..
    We need to sleep I say deal with it.

    • walter

      hey, imagination gets in the way of productivity. All those hours spent day dreaming could be put to better
      use working. Who needs imagination?

      • Alldy

        All productivity is a result of someone imagination.

        • Tom

          I'd say instead that all technology arises from the imagination and technology has the potential to make our work more productive. Imagination is essential for increasing our work-productivity, not so much for maintaining it.

      • Overleaf

        Listen, you don't seem to like to produce. That is fine. You can go on welfare and watch TV all day. But for the rest of us, we derive meaning, pride, and dignity from being productive and creating wealth for society. The same way that we support your parasitic lifestyle, you should respect the rest of us who work and are mighty proud of it, and stop putting down us workers.

    • Dale Healy

      I have sleep apnea and my sleep Dr gave me some Provigil It did very little to keep me awake a normal 16 hours.

      • zbeast

        I'm not a doctor and I don't play one on tv but...
        I recommend a cpap machine or the use of supplemental oxygen.
        What's happening is the o2 level in your blood stream is dropping.
        This makes your brain think your suffocating so you wake up and you don't get the sleep you need. A pill won't fix that.

      • Shotofop

        zbeast is right. Get cpap and get your life back. Don't be one of those who says I could never wear that thing. You don't care what it looks like when you're sleeping soundly, and when you can get thru an entire day without blanking out.

  • goodepic

    Mentioned a few times, but I wonder with the magnetic and electro techniques discussed at the end, those either are widely available or seem like they could be pretty close. But we don't really understand what sleep does for us, and don't really understand if it's actually a good idea to only get sleep in the deepest sleep stages. Sure we could feel mentally as alert with half as many hours, but there's all kinds of processes that happen in the body while we're asleep, and maybe we need those hours in non-deep stages too?!

    I say this only cause I could see being VERY drawn to a little device that let me feel energetic, rested, and fully mentally capable with only 4 hours of sleep unlike the 8+ I need now to feel that way! But then will the rest of my body malfunction at 50 from lack of other stages of sleep and overuse?

    • Shotofop

      Right. It's more scientific materialist B.S. As if the body were a car that needs periodic maintenance, so let's find some chemical or intervention that will enable it to spend less time in the shop. It's the driver, not merely the car, that needs the break. Read the Seth books by Jane Roberts to help understand what sleep really does.

  • Richard Edwards Breed IV

    what a wonderful writer! oh, and great, colorfully written article! i would marry her twice...given half a chance. marriages, usually go the other way...off2 zleepzee

  • Daria Huddy

    I have the natural ability to "latch" and "unlatch" my sleep times, by taking short "power naps" of usually 1/2-1 hour at almost any time of day/night in addition to my already short "constant" sleep time of 4-5 hours, which is very useful for my heavy Internet use, and I find the need to sleep very annoying as I love to constantly engage my mind on both creative and technological levels simultaneously as I am extremely "task oriented" and a lonely bed is like an "anticlimax" and this kind of electronic enhancement has been thought of frequently.

  • Frank Doe

    I work graveyard but my family and the rest of the world lives during the day. For years I've done the 45 minute power nap every 4 hours.

    I cut out caffeen and have a healthier diet.

    The idea is that you train your body to fall into REM sleep the second you start your nap so you are in REM Sleep for 40 - 45 minutes

    I take a nap every 4 hours and that is all the sleep I get. I wake up rested and refresh. It works because when you sleep 8 hours you end up getting 40 - 45 minutes of REM sleep anyway. So, I've conditioned my body to get the same rest by going into REM Sleep as soon as I fall asleep.

    Now, I understand that have no idea what the long term effects I will have to deal with but this has worked for that last 8 years and I get to enjoy life during the day like the rest of the world.

  • David Poehlman

    "This isolated state is called ‘free-running’, and we know it’s driven from within because our body clock runs just a bit slow"

    I cant stand this statement... the reason for this is simple... THE EARTH DOES NOT HAVE AN EXACT 24 HOUR ROTATION! Our circadian rhythms are based on the fact that the earth makes one full rotation every 23 hours, 56 minutes, 4.06 seconds (googled for exactness). say what you will but all animals, including us, follow this. we are just the only ones who try really hard to fight this with our measuring of time and our need for some semblance of order.

    • Iridium77

      Why would our body adopt a clock that is only relevant to star gazers? How would the evolution of that even work? The sun is a lot more relevant to us than the stars, so the Sun's 24 hours schedule would seem to be a much more appropriate evolutionary choice.

      • Sean Lijek

        The sun doesn't have a 24 hour schedule, it has a 23 hour, 56 minute, and 4.06 second schedule. That's what he meant.

    • Overleaf

      The author did not say that our inner clock is exactly 24 hours. There is no reason why the inner clock should sync with earth's rotation rather than the sun's cyclic movement. So the author is correct. It has nothing to do with the fact that the sun "rotates" 4 minutes slower (you are sure it is not faster?) than the earth rotates.

  • monthofsundays

    The stats showing that more US soldiers now die from suicide than in conflict prompt me to ask whether the "military imperative" might not be having altogether too fabulous an impact on the early test subjects of these technologies. Who knows where these solutions could be tested next: perhaps in those wonderful Chinese factories were they are already having such fun making our shiny tech baubles.

  • zanzabar

    I have chronic insomnia, so I hardly sleep anyway. The downside to my unwanted lack of sleep is that I am always on the verge of mentally falling apart. These possibilities could cure that problem and provide more usable time in the day. I'm all for it.

  • Lin

    "Natural" is of course not equals to "optimal" but why do we always want "optimal"? We certainly need health science to free us from pain and illness, but as the article said cutting sleep is just "cosmetic neuroscience". Personally I'm neutral to the idea, but I don't think it's necessarily a positive thing.

  • Ayesha Khan

    Its not what you do, its the way you do it. In the same manner its not what you think its the way you think about it. Some issues are self created, now the human nature will not rest at ease without experimenting. The scientists, and researches are now after sleep, looking for ways, and methods to eliminate, or minimize it, but when sleep itself is the cure then whats the problem. It is for sure that we cannot possibly frustrate nature, and if we try to do so it will surely retaliate. Confusing one's self by the frequently introduced terminologies, and strategies by the scientist --we cannot ignore the facts--Stay close and obedient to nature --the best remedy --

  • Joe Jenson

    Perchance to dream? Not "sleeping" would eliminate that experience, no? Another step leading to humans as cyborgs, the author and others may think this is something wondrous I for one do not.

  • PJ London

    "Even deep in a cave with no access to light or clocks, our bodies keep an internal schedule of almost exactly 24 hours."

    Sorry but that is simply untrue. Please do some research, where the day/night cycle is disturbed (including Space station) the sleep pattern goes all over the place from 15 hrs awake to 52 hours, people keeping a diary are out by 20 -30%. One person settled around 25 hr cycle and some never settle into a permanent cycle.

  • Just Me

    Sleep is an essential requirement and and as Chiappialone writes at reducing sleep reduces the amount of Prana (Life force received) and reduces the ability of the body to function. Quote and link below.

    Article extract: "University experiments to keep young men awake for extended periods resulted in OOBEs and signs of pre-eminent death. The experiments were stopped."

  • Dimitri Ledkovsky

    The "enhancements" entertained in this article are totally about transhumanism. Beware what you wish for! Do we really need to make room in this world for addled uber mensches?

  • greysurfer

    Someone got it right here; as soon as people need less sleep, the employers will be onto it like a shot; in just the same way as the mobile phone has made almost everyone instantly available and contactable. The Global Elites would love to have every poor sod working a 20-hour day.
    Forget it. Sleep is the body's way of mending, resting and healing. Some people need lots, others get by on a few hours. If people start taking drugs to stay awake longer, then they deserve all the problems that unintended consequences will bring.

  • Abinico Warez

    If you do not sleep, you go insane - you start dreaming while awake, and that's not good. You cannot distinguish between reality and hallucination - these two merge into one - you'll end up hurting yourself or someone else. Get a good nights sleep.

  • Egregore

    If you don't sleep you cannot astral travel which means your soul can
    never awaken its consciousness and obtain a solar body to replace our
    lunar one. That means you stay as a human, animal, plant or mineral
    forever as you repeatedly return in subsequent lives. The elite love
    that because they want this to be their heaven. That's why they play God
    here. They know they can't go to the real one.

    Everyone goes to heaven eventually. It's just a matter of how much suffering you have to endure during your 324,000 lives. If you don't sleep you don't dream either. When we dream we enter the 5th dimension. Sleep is an opportunity to end your suffering early and become a true "HUMAN" instead of what we are now which are intellectual animals.

  • Andrew

    Would people who are blind have different sleep needs after they become blind? I wondered this after reading about how much glucose metabolism is required for our visual system, that is unavailable for other functions while the visual system is in use.

    Could blind people need to sleep less?

  • Brad Arnold

    I've always considered sleep an evolutionary adaptation to rodents wanting to go out at night. Those that fell into a sleep coma didn't go out at night, and as a consequence didn't fall victim to night stalkers. That is why it is ironic that the article calls sleep time "missed opportunity," when the missed opportunity was a night time snack for a nocturnal predator.

  • Bluetrees

    I think the technology is pretty cool, but the whole thing will be fruitless and meaningless. Most people, with their current state of mind, are mosty unable to enjoy living in the present, always reaching out to goals and pleasures situated in the future, and longing for more time to be able to 'achieve' goals/happiness.

    Alan Watts described this effect in his book 'The Wisdom of Insecurity':
    "The miracles of technology cause us to live in a hectic, clockwork world that does violence to human biology, enabling us to do nothing but pursue the future faster and faster."

  • SmilingAhab

    "Are we brave enough to choose it?"
    Not until we know just why we sleep in the first place. Oh sure, there's all the mitochondrial changes, and the toxin flushing (the brain has no lymphatic system and uses a different, sleep-dependent method of toxin removal), and some studies to indicate that information builds up like old magazines, dirt and dust, and sleep is how the "maid" kicks out the owner - the prefrontal cortex - in order to clean house, and all of these are symptoms of sleep... but don't explain the whole kit 'n caboodle.

    However, several of these devices can help with sleep, and those living in chronic pain such as myself would love them. It would also be nice to have an anxiety treatment that doesn't feel like a bad acid trip for the first hour after I take them.

    But unfortunately, all advantages go to the top when the top is defined by what society runs on. Donald Trump and the aristocracy run on 4 or 5 hours of sleep - why not two?

    All hail our sleepless overlords, for now they never need to stop watching.

  • Catherine Barber


    Ideally - to be able to have more quality-sleep in less time would be BRILLIANT. I agree, the whole technology's got to be absolutely proven to be long-term safe - and, sadly, maybe it'll turn out never to be able to be entirely safe. Which I would find a huge pity.

    But - if it CAN be proven to be entirely safe - as well as truly effective - oh, and affordable too - I would GO FOR IT. And, hey, would it matter if all one wanted to do with all this lovely extra waking-time would be to surf the Net, go on Facebook, email one's friends, post on Forums.....? I would also like to be able to read more, study more, write more, explore more, have time to fit in walks alongside all the chores, just be able to take more time doing anything. And, OK, yes, to daydream more as well.

    It's up to each individual how they'd choose to spend this time. OK, if they really wanted to use it to further their career and money-making ambitions, why not? Not MY idea of fun, but hey.....

    And thank goodness I'm not religious, so I don't have hang-ups about this all being 'against God's will' and stuff like that. If the technology's there and it's proven safe and effective - and hopefully affordable as well - then why not GO FOR IT.

  • Ingolf Stern

    i think the world would be better off if there were sleepier soldiers. do we really need soldiers to be more active?

  • zeev kirsh

    another pointless technological direction sought by 'transhumanism'

    why is it after so many years of studying technology , i have come to the conclusion that the transhumanists are just a bunch of lord of the rings elf worshiping technology magic fanatcising utopians

    google is building self driving cars. stanford is building neurological chips, the military is building all sorts of technolgoical goodies.

    scientists around the world are making great strides in gene regulation, epigenetics, and a whole host of other areas . phyicists, chemists, geologists and cosmologists are all making great strides in the underlying sciences.

    what have the so called 'transhumanists' contributed to these areas or to even opining about which areas of science or technology are worth exploring?

    living forever and not sleeping? seriously the not-so-original comparisons between transhumanists and vampire worshiping teenage 'goth' girls is not so inaccurate.

    the funny thing is when you call these people out for the buffoons they are , they accuse you of being anti-technology or luddite or some such rubbish.

    the history of technology and science was not built by religious worshipers of a magical future that doesn't exist. francis bacon, amongst others, who laid down some of the foundation for formalizing modern empirical methodology climbed a mountain to put a chicken in ice. to see if it would rot slower.

    that is science. not dreaming about future robots. the man who sits home and dreams and accuses others of being luddites for criticizing his foolishness will eventually be left behind and ignored in history. having , at best, merely served as a thorn to those around him.

    if there happens to be at least one group of associate transhumanists called 'grinders' or 'hackers' than i at least will give them some kudos. they at least build some of the things they want to happen.

  • zeev kirsh

    transcranial stimulation is quackery, just as much as anti-depressants are quackery. just because something works 60% of the time causes horrible side effects 10% of the time, does nothing 30% of the time all while taxing your liver , and other homeostatic systems-----------------I've worked with people building a transranial stim hat. it is nonsense and the clinical literature and patents behind the technology, are a low tech, low money version of the pharmaceutical industry ssri snake oil being sold. the transcranial stim crowd is not yet as proficient at cherry picking and publishing those cherry results at the pharmaceutical industry. but if they can get enough big money, i'm sure they will learn the trade. after that, a big IPO of a transcranial stim product company for sure. the markets love a good growth story.

    well, JUST BECAUSE OF ALL OF THAT doesn't mean we understand how or why it works. cultivated capitalist popularity of profiteable consumable disposabel crap , fast food, fast pill, fast electricity into your brain--------------------is responsible for many a person being conned into buying bullshit. you know, because sciencE!

    Here is the nutshell of what i'm saying.

    Transcranial stim = accupuncture = a range of other bullshit like 'testosterone' treatment for 'low T' and pill popping for mild depression.

    Just because something has an effect some of the time, doesn't mean its' worthwhile to pay attention to . It takes some measure of experience to develop this wisdom in a world where scientific jargon has become a mask for all sorts of bullshit. every hear about the turboencabulator? it's a great physics experiment that you wouldn't understand. it's too complicated. but it's the basis for perpetual motion so don't worry, it's going to change the world.

    einstein himself said that if you cannot explain something in simple terms, its because you don't understand it. jargon and ambiguity cover over a conspicuous absence of simple causal descriptions, because there are none.

    when something has no effect at all, it's an obvious fraud and harder to sell beyond the ponzi stage. the sad part is that all the jargon and nomenklatura used to sell the produce will create an aura of scientific authority that allows for a truly profound depth of bullshit to be spewed. this bullshit goes deep.

  • Jon Nixon

    I have suffered from insomnia most of my life. When I go two or more days without sleep, life is dull, uninteresting, tedious, and downright painful. My creative drive, which I value highly,vanishes.(Provigil does nothing but wake me up enough to let me know how exhausted I am, BTW) I have often imagined how wonderful life would be to have a "normal" sleep-wake cycle, and not have to fight the beast tooth-and-nail.........

  • PostmanSays

    There is an irony here. Just as we find that we can automate a large portion of the labor, causing an array of crises involving employment, we find that we may be able to keep people working productively for more hours a day.

  • Bad Science TM

    The 24Hr cycle is man made, it has been proven time and time again with studies that deprived of a day/night cycle, such as a cave as suggested early in the article, that humans actually level out somewhere around a 35-36 hr cycle instead. Bad Article research is bad

  • jsebring

    The latest research of sleep clears this article's "rabbit hole" of assumptions just as sleep clears the toxins from the brain.

    Research shows sleep's primary function is to remove neurotoxins or cellular waste specifically for the brain alone. The brain has a unique way of channeling out waste since it doesn't have a lymphatic system, sleep puts the cells in a pumping action to move fluid throughout the brain to create a cleansing affect, washing out toxins. Our body's cells (outside of the brain) have a lymphatic system that does this all the time but the brain simply has no room for a lymphatic system. Think of it as a switch between a thinking state (awake) to a cleansing state (asleep) where we are unable to do both cleansing and thinking at the same time unless some drug does that but drugs always have side effects.


  • Haylee Upton

    Is there a way to get sources used in essays on Aeon? I'd like to read into some of the things mentioned here.