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Science


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Science


Sleep is the largest overlooked part of your life and a vital part of happiness.
— David K. Randall, Dreamland

The infographic to the right states what happens to our bodies during the five stages of sleep.  The most important sleep that we get is REM sleep, which takes up a quarter of our night.  REM sleep provides energy to our brain and body for performance - in order to be successful during the day, you need good REM sleep at night.  Our levels of cortisol, a hormone essential to maintaining balance in our bodies, decrease during bed time and increase when we snooze to aid us for day time activities. 

Sleep and health have a bidirectional relationship: “poor sleep compromises health and poor health disrupts sleep.”  Most people are unaware of how beneficial sleeping actually is for our bodies.  A sleep deprived brain acts like a brain under the influence of alcohol.  Lack of sleep impairs your prefrontal cortex, the brain region that is less active than usual after sleep deprivation.  Many brain areas are down-regulated when there is absence of sleep including dulled senses, loss of creativity and lateral thinking, disruption of new learning, and a negative mood.  It also affects your ability to concentrate, judge, make decisions and retain memory.  Sleep deprivation increases irritability, anxiety, depression, and the risk for major health issues, including cancer and heart disease.  After noon on a workday, it’s a myth that lunch is the cause of drowsiness, but it’s actually the disruption of circadian rhythms.  These rhythms play a huge part in sleep patterns.  Lapses of attention span, impaired working memory, and impaired procedural and declarative learning are all symptoms of a slight change in circadian rhythms.  Scientists are just discovering what happens to the brain during sleep.   

 

 

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Dream Away


Dream Away


Dreams (n.): a collection of images, impressions, events, and emotions that we experience during sleep

Dreams are one of the most researched areas of sleep throughout history.  I could lay out every theory that has been proposed on dreaming as there have been countless physicians and theorists that have studied dreaming.  Throughout years of research, dreaming has been seen as a vehicle for predicting the future, a way to communicate with the dead, and a way to travel beyond the physical limits of our body.  One of the most popular physicians that we all know is Sigmund Freud, who believed dreams were the vehicle for the mind to explore unconscious feelings, emotions, and desires.

Despite sustained scientific exploration and attention – and no shortage of theories – we still don’t know the answer to the most fundamental question: Why do we dream? For all the study and attention dreams have received, it’s rather remarkable how much we don’t know about dreaming – not only about its purpose, but also about the mechanics in the brain that make dreams happen.
— Michael J. Breus

According to "the sleep doctor" himself, Dr. Michael J. Breus, we normally spend 2 hours a night dreaming in REM sleep, experiencing on average 3-6 puzzled dreams.  How long a dream lasts varies, but based on past studies, they last on average between 5 and 20 minutes.  Recent studies are showing that “dreams serve as a broad, virtual-reality model of waking life – a proto-consciousness – that instructs and supports survival and growth" (Breus).

Breus is a clinical psychologist and a Diplomat of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine.  He is the "sleep expert" on WebMD and has appeared on The Dr. Oz Show numerous times.

He states that scientists study dreams in two ways: 1. Through dream content focusing on themes, emotions, images, and events.  2.  Brain and body activity while dreaming happens.  Scientists conduct this research through a few dreaming technologies with electroencephalography (EEG) being the most common tool, PET scan, MRI, and fMRI.

Some of the most common dream subjects are: school dreams, sexual dreams, falling, being late, flying, being physically attacked, and dreaming of someone dead actually alive.  These common dream subjects have been proven to occur in people of diverse cultures, backgrounds, and experiences.  The brain to stop creating new memories while sleeping.  Scientists are currently working on discovering if digital media influences the content and themes of our dreams.

 

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Sleep Aids


Sleep Aids


People overestimate the effectiveness of sleeping pills mainly because of the placebo effect: once we take a pill, our brains automatically think that it will make us feel better, or in this case, sleep.  Some of the more popular drugs, like Ambien or Lunesta, show no major improvements in sleep.  Studies show that these drugs make it harder to form short-term memories.  They suggest that after taking these drugs, your brain is tricked that you slept great, but for all you know, you could have been tossing and turning all night.  Your brain didn’t capture these moments into conscious thoughts so you think you’re sleeping better than you are.

According to IMS Health, 60 million sleeping pill prescriptions were filled in the United States last year.  This is an insane statistic that brings upon one of the most important ethical questions of my capstone.  Is it ethical to buy chemicals to put into your body to help yourself sleep?  One who uses drugs to help them aid sleep is cheating their way out.  Your body is being tricked into thinking you've had a good night's sleep.  Why not use a non-chemical approach that is healthier and more beneficial for your body?  Better pillows, mattresses and blankets are all okay to buy because these assist in establishing your sleep environment.  People can drink countless cups of coffee because caffeine is the classic go-to for staying awake.  The main question is: when does all this cross a line?

Pharmaceutical drug companies are benefiting from our sleep deprivation.  Is it ethical to profit from other peoples' flaws and misfortunes?  The sleep aid industry has become a competitive market and has created a massive amount of capital gain.  Because of this market, sleep disorders are being overlooked by 80%, which is hurting society in the long run.  How far are we willing to go to develop and enhance ourselves?

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Take a Nap


Take a Nap


A third of working adults in America (41 million people) get less than 6 hours of sleep a night.  According to a recent study from the CDC, 27% of workers in the financial and insurance industries and 42% of workers in the mining industry are sleep-deprived.  In 2011, a study was published in the journal Sleep about how much sleep costs United States businesses.  Sleep deprivation costs $2,280 per worker, or a cumulative of $63.2 billion dollars in lost productivity each year.  These are statistics that most Americans don’t even know about.  They continue to work, open 24/7 corporations, and not sleep.  If a simple nap throughout the day saves companies billions of dollars in lost productivity, why not nap for 20 minutes?  Because of this new standard of a 24-hr. operation, sleep is changing across the world.  For example, siestas are disappearing in contemporary Spain, workplace napping is now a trend, nighttime businesses are retreating out of major U.S. cities, and Indians call centers are adapting their hours to the same hours as U.S. companies.

The first cultural trend napping incorporates is this idea of a siesta: a midday of afternoon rest or nap.  Siestas are most common in the Mediterranean and Southern European countries, like Spain and Italy.  Around noontime, European businesses shut down and tell their employees to go home and take a break from their work.  Americans, on the other hand, live to work rather than work to live.  We work, and work, and work.  Even if the company we work for isn’t open 24 hours a day 7 days a week, we are still connected through our phones and other uses of technology.  In order to compensate for that, we are introducing the nap room life into our own workplaces.  Is this because we think it’s a smart idea from the Europeans?  Are we doing this because we view Europeans as successful?

Several companies across the United States have installed nap rooms in their offices, including companies such as Google, Ben & Jerry’s, Nike, and Zappos.  Nap rooms vary on how technical they are – they could be as simple as having a futon in a shoebox-sized room with a few pillows, or as technical as having a pod with a privacy visor, ergonomic, i2O technology with built-in speaker, and timed waking.

This hot new napping pod, “EnergyPod” is the world’s first nap chair created by Metronaps.  With an objective to fight workplace fatigue, the company has installed nap pods in offices, hospitals, universities, and fitness centers in many countries across four continents.  As these chairs are getting more and more popular, MetroNaps is continuing to make hip chairs.  Their most recent is the ZeroChair, which is a fancier reclining chair with wood and leather with an adjustable pillow.

GOOGLE

Google is a prominent company that holds a number of EnergyPods in their campus nap rooms across the United States.  Software engineer, Ken Steele, admits that he has used the nap rooms a few times.  According to Steele, he enjoys the luxury of having a nap room as he believes strongly that if there is a need, it can get taken care of.  He also says that more companies would be better off if they told one of their employees to go take a nap than sit at their desk.  I had watched The Internship and immediately became fascinated with Google and their nap rooms.  Steele invited me to tour Google’s campus in Cambridge, MA to see the nap rooms in person.  I walked through the doors of Google and could not believe that I was in the land of the Internet “Gods.”  The nap rooms in their Boston campus are secluded from everything to respect the privacy of their employees.  There were two kinds of nap rooms in this campus: futons in closet sized rooms in the library and a designated nap room with two MetroNaps’ EnergyPods.  Steele mentioned that you can reserve a nap pod on one of the many internal Google platforms. 

BEN & JERRY'S

Ben & Jerry’s is another popular company in the United States that implements nap rooms into their workday.  Their nap room was certainly not as high-tech as Google’s, however, Ben & Jerry’s still accomplished the notion of companies implementing workplace naps into their day.  The nap room has been established at Ben & Jerry's for 10-12 years now, thanks to Arnold Carbone, former head of Research and Development, who came up with this idea.

According to their Public Relations Media Maven, Lindsay Bumps, Ben & Jerry's saw that taking midday naps had positive impacts on their employees.  The most prevalent benefits the company sees in their employees are better work productivity and no stress.  They found that nap rooms help with the overall culture and a more confident and constructive work environment where everyone feels comfortable with each other.  The nap room was slightly colorful and far from high-tech.  Ben & Jerry’s keep it simplistic as possible: ONE futon sprawled out, a couple of pillows, and a blanket.  On the nightstand across from the bed, lies a couple of empty Ben & Jerry’s pints, some magazines, fabric refreshener, tissues, and a desk lamp.  There are a few old promotional signs on their wall, perhaps to fill the space. 

ARGUMENTS

I’m not saying that every employee at every company in the United States should take a nap every day.  Based on my research, contacts, and intellect, companies with nap rooms are extremely successful.  However, that does not mean that companies without them are not.  I have heard, read, and listened only positive things about nap rooms in companies.  Naps are integrated into the workday for safety and performance and to reinforce the work ethic of employees.  Short, 20-minute naps at work will help you concentrate, judge, make better decisions, and retain memory.  If you nap, you will have less irritability, anxiety, and depression while being at work.  It’s a smart idea to nap at work in order to avoid lapses in attention span and to regain focus. 

We also need to erase these napping stereotypes.  In today’s society, we correlate napping with laziness.  If a healthy person says, “Oh, I just took a two-hour nap,” we jump to two conclusions: you’re either jealous that the person is napping or the napper must have not had any work or they’re avoiding their work.  Napping stigmas will be hard to erase from society since they’re already established observations.  If someone naps, people may think there is a lack of ambition and low standards in that person.  We are more understanding if certain age groups nap: children, the elderly, and the sick.  Why can’t all age groups nap?

Many research students, organizations, and journals are testing the benefits of napping versus not napping at all.  Studies show that a simple 10-minute nap produced the most benefits: reduced sleepiness and improved cognitive performance.  Not only does it enhance performance, but it helps you reduce mistakes and accidents.  After a nap, you have better cognitive skills and you help clear your mind of unnecessary info.  Naps lasting 30 minutes or longer produce grogginess, which is caused by sleep inertia.  Sleep on a regular basis is the best solution for staying alert and feeling your best. 

After researching companies and the American work ethic, I have come to the conclusion that Americans are addicted to work.  We are addicted to the feeling of being busy.  Yes, a lot of American corporations are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but there is a bigger picture to this argument.  I believe that our work ethic is a disease: a disease that’s nationally spread in Americans to other businesses across the world.  Spain is eliminating their siesta to keep up with their global competition.  They are removing one of their traditions.  This is a major problem.  Are countries losing their identities because of working too much?  Has the world really shifted from tradition to not even caring?  The world is made up of 196 countries.  Are these countries losing their culture and essence for everyone else?

I don’t think this disease will ever go away.  This constant global work environment will just keep getting worse.  We are becoming more and more connected each day.  Technology will never deteriorate and be behind the times.  It is one constant in our lives that will always be one step ahead of us.  Because of being forever connected, humans will always be working.

Corporate culture is defined as “the belief and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions."  Some examples that make up this culture are its dress code, business hours, office setup, and employee benefits.  Nap rooms and other elements of the workplace are creating a new corporate culture.  This new corporate culture should be more collaborative and interactive, but also employees should be required to take care of themselves.  Whether this means taking 20 minutes out of your day to nap or going for a walk outside, companies should understand and appreciate this new culture within the workplace.  Companies with nap rooms and napping policies should be recognized, as they are role models for the future of corporate America.  It’s time to step away from the dry, stiff, and boring office and move into an accepting, judgment-free, and interactive corporate world.

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Electronic Use


Electronic Use


In today’s world, we cannot escape screens.  Everywhere we go, we are always carrying around our smartphones.  Schools are handing out tablets to their students of all ages and are not thinking about the consequences.  Throughout our educational career, we are asked to type countless essays on our computers and laptops.  Adults are expected to work on their laptops depending on their occupation and work even more from home.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, 95% of people use some type of computer, video game, or phone at least a few nights a week within the hour before bed.  This excessive amount of screens is a problem, especially for our sleeping habits.

The explanation is simple: Modern screens emit a blue light that has been shown to affect your circadian rhythms, delay the release of melatonin, and make it harder to fall asleep.  Photoreceptors in our retinas sense lightness and darkness, which signals our brains if it's day or night.  Because of these little guys, our circadian rhythms, or day-night cycles, align.  Light is one of the most important agents in establishing our circadian rhythms.  When we look at our smartphones, tablets, and laptops, our eyes and brains are simply being tricked into thinking we are looking at the sun.  Staring at these screens constantly, especially before we go to bed, is keeping our brains awake.  Our brains need time to unwind before going to bed, so it is suggested to stop looking at screens an hour before bed.  Yoga and other relaxation methods are recommended to help calm the mind - so save that last text for the morning.

72% of children ages 6 to 17 sleep with at least one electronic device in their room.  The difference between getting less sleep on school nights compared with other kids who don't have an electronic device in their bedroom adds up to at least one hour per night.  Parents are constantly advised to remove technology from their children's bedroom, so later sleep and health issues don't occur.