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Sleep Deprivation Increases Brain Activity 225

SL33Z3 writes "Researchers at the University of California at San Diego have found increased brain activity in areas of the brain that otherwise stay inactive. The longer the students went without sleep, the more activity was found. Research found students to have better recollection after long periods of sleep deprivation. Check out the release here. " Heck, combine this with the news about caffeine and I'm all set!
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Sleep Deprivation Increases Brain Activity

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  • How about too much sleep? From personal experience, if I sleep more than 7 hours, I'll feel lazy the day after. I find a good night of sleep is around 6 hours, if that's what I get, I'll be in great shape for coding.

    Although I get an average of 5 hours.. but hey, combine that with coffee and you've got maximisation of time and efficiency :)
  • Where did you read that? It is totally incorrect - acethylcholine is a neurotransmiter, like serotonin and dopamine, for instance, and it is the one responsible for muscle contraction (and regulation of heart rate). It doesn't come in food, it is syntesized at the synaptic terminal from choline and acethyl coenzime A.

    And about cells dying and others taking place - that's also not true. Neurons have several axons forming synapses, and if one dies, the axons go with it - if one were to take it's place, it would have lost all the connections of the previous one. And since learning, memory, our personality, etc, is all due to the way the various axons are arranged, after some time we'd have these parameters altered: different personality, loss of memory, etc, and that does NOT happen.
    Sure, brain cells die, but with aging, and they are not replaced with new ones.

    -- Electron
  • Yeah, but you think you're doing a great job too, when in fact you're probably not doing as well as you thought.

    But yeah, that would scare the hell out of me. Four days on and three days off? Geez, how long can someone's body take punishment like that?
    pb Reply or e-mail; don't vaguely moderate [].
  • by pb ( 1020 )
    Sleep deprivation also causes hallucinations.

    Severe sleep deprivation resembles an acid trip.

    More brain activity is not always a good thing, unless you like having your neurons cross-linked.
    pb Reply or e-mail; don't vaguely moderate [].
  • 60 hours of no sleep, 6 hours of sleep, and another 60 hours of no sleep...

    I was trying to stay awake for the whole week, and failed. But I had a lot of fun, anyhow...
    pb Reply or e-mail; don't vaguely moderate [].

  • The extra activity is hallucinations..

    Ask any Crack/Meth/Coke-head.

  • *Mild* sleep deprivation seems to enhance creativity -- but there's a falloff rate there...

    You know that if you stay up past the point that you "get sleepy" that eventually the sleepiness wears off, and you get what is commonly referred to as a "second wind". This process seems to continue (at least for me) in a cycle (get sleepy, get nth wind, get sleepy, get n+1th wind, etc...) where the lengths of time between periods of sleepiness (aka: the "winds") get shorter, and the periods of sleepiness get longer.

    Now, I've noticed that at some point, (generally halfway through either the 2nd or 3rd wind) I seem to be a heck of a lot more creative. I also get a heck of a lot more work done.

    But, it gets increasingly hard to concentrate on a single task - my mind tends to wander a lot as the condition wears on.

    Coffee (and I'm assuming other stimulants as well) seems to have a lengthening effect on the "winds", but when it wears off, the "winds" shorten dramatically. (sort of like what we're all expecting to happen to Dick Clark - at some point he's going to age 60-100 years in a matter of minutes...I hope he's on camera...)

    This is just personal observation, of course, and has absolutely no medical founding (IANAD)

    (Sort of like the observastion that while I don't tend to eat red meat much, I crave it when I'm injured - almost like I'm looking for raw materials to rebuild the broken parts...)

    And yes, I'm aware that this post tends to ramble a bit...I'm on my 4th wind and ready for bed ;)

  • I'm currently taking a class called "the Neurobiology of Sleep and Dreaming" so I know a bit about the subject at hand.

    First of all, there are parts of your brain that have increased activity during sleep, especially in the brainstem (note that most researchers sperate sleep into slow wave and REM, since REM is really strange, but this statement applies to all sleep).

    Second of all, past sleep dep studies have shown that the main symptom of sleep dep is. . . feeling sleepy. Yes, cognitive functions are impared, but significantly less so than expected (it is suspected that most of those effects are due to attention problems rather than actual cortical processing issues).

    Third, the need for sleep decreases as you age, although I can't point to any studies on sleep dep. in the elderly (it is known, however, that significant sleep dep. in the elderly mimics Alzheimer's in that it causes misdiagnoses).

    Fourth, I suspect the 17 days rat sleep dep. death figure is due to use of the water tank method of sleep dep., where a rat is placed on a very small platform in a tank of water, such that it falls in the water if it falls asleep. This is highly stressful in addition to depriving sleep. An experiment where the bottom of a cage was rotated (the walls stayed still, so the rat was bumped by the walls which woke it up and it had to walk some before it stopped) when EEG signals indicated sleep for the experimental rat (a control rat was also in the cage but was allowed to sleep; I did not suffer ill effects) showed that it took 30 days for the rat to die. That's something of a nitpick, but implies that stress might also be deadly.

    Finally, to counter the story of the DJ, let me tell you the story of the 17 year old kid who stayed awake for 264 hours (11 days) in an attempt to break the world record (dunno if he succeeded) in 1965. By the last day he was really sleepy but could still perform tasks (the kind that scientists give people, I don't know specifics). Afterwards he slept for 14 hours 40 minutes straight, then was fully recovered with no aftereffects. Also, Kales in 1970 performed an experiment where 4 subjects were kept awake for 205 hours. They suffered eyelid tremors and decreased performance (which was suspected to be due to lack of motivation) and had a big REM rebound (lots more of their sleep was in REM than normal) for 4 days, then also fully recovered.

    A good book on the subject is "Sleep" by J. Allen Hobson (an expert on the subject who works at Harvard).

    Brynn, who suspects that the DJ in question already had some stability issues
  • I think I'll stick to taking lots of Ginseng and Niacin, and coffee if I want increased brain activity.
  • So now I know why I always produce better code at 3 AM after drinking two liters of cherry coke...
  • So why not have glucose or other IV feeds directly into our brains?
  • It is well known that Lenin's Tcheka did systematize the use of sleep deprivation as a torture technique (among other ones) in its prisons, so as to have prisoners admit their crimes against the state. The technique has been used in all totalitarian regimes ever since. One advantage is that it doesn't leave obvious marks on the body of prisoners, when they have to be shown to the public during their "trial".

    -- Faré @ TUNES [].org

  • XFS might be pretty cool. I could really use the GRIO (Guaranteed Rate I/O) whenever I trying to explain things to people. No more stuttering while I'm trying to remember what I wanted to say. ;-)

  • Do you suppose we can get Stephen Tweedie to port ext3 to neurons once he's done?

    --Joe "Journal Neuron Not Found" Z.
  • Without the aide of chemicals? Three working days...finally crashed out after coming home from work the third day.. It was odd, I'd start to grow very tired during the day, and then every few hours a wind would kick in.. I also had quite a bit of stress at the time, and was working with a new job, so that may have contributed to it..(and no, I dont recommend staying up several days in a row during your second week of work at the office..:]..)

    "Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.
  • In the days of Stalin, sleep deprivation was used as a method of torture to get information out of people. This is a lot more effective than physical torture, since a person who is deprived of sleep doesn't think nearly the same as (s)he does after getting some sleep.


  • It's long been known, at least in the group of programmers that I associate with, that the best coding is done at the 2AM time. I've read tons of different studies throughout the years, one even in Popular Science, claiming that there is a reason for this. Basically, your instinctual skills kick in and you rely more on that than your "reasoned" judgement. Also, your brain activity is significantly higher (blood flow, brain waves, etc) at these times.

    Why? Traditionally, it is attributed to our carnivorous nature (anyone who claims humans are vegetarians has clearly not researched this well enough, only even in the last few thousand years have humans become omnivorous). Humans still contain the basic animal instinct to hunt. Hunting was best done at night obviously for the surprise effect (which unfortunately works both ways!), and hence a few hundred thousand years of evolution later and we are better coders at night.

    Of course, sleep deprivation is counterproductive, what I mentioned rather refers to working late. When I'm working on big projects I tend to get into the habit of working late and sleeping late. I can't count the number of times that working through being exhausted has resulted in bad code, regardless of time. If I'm tired at noon, I write crap at noon. I think the true mark of a coder is to dynamically alter your sleep cycles between "human" mode where you sleep at night and week up in the morning, and "machine" mode where you sleep in the morning and wake up in the afternoon.

    I think the survey was taking a more narrow slice of this, not quite what the submitter had in mind. Still interesting and provacative though. Remember, if its ambiguity raises too many eyebrows, a clarification will probably follow.
  • Yeah I like it when you can talk with the dead people after not sleeping a week. That and tlaking to your feet, those cut ups...

    Is this a good idea to tell people:

    (define direct_relationship(sleep, brian_activity))

    proc less_sleep
    inc brian_activity

    oh god I need a little more sleep...


    when:: little_sleep(me) :- well_screw(me)

    segmentation fault... woof woof
  • Well, at least we know the MPAA isn't losing any sleep...

  • Its not easy getting a fully packaged/ready to go neurotransmitter into the brain just by swallowing a pill. The blood-brain barrier keeps most stuff like that out. You can't give them a dopamine pill easily. You can try L-dopa, building blocks though.
  • The "blurb" is very misleading. Sleep depravation is not a good thing as it suggests.

    "Subjects had fewer correct answers and omitted more responses when sleepy than when rested."

  • that if you stay up long enough, your brain will just explode from all that activity? (it would if this were a Hollywood movie, I bet.)

    What a mess.

    (on the serious side, do we really know what sleep is for, anyhow? Perhaps this is similar to a hard drive thrashing when the filesystem has gotten too fragmented. More overhead required to the do same thing...)
  • sleep deprivation, in extreme cases, can cause hallucinations, even long after you have slept again. It is also possible that it can change your personality. Such as one radio DJ who stayed awake for 16 (i think) days. He began hallucinating, even after he had begun sleeping again. His wife said he had "changed" he had become more withdrawn. They were divorced about 3 months later.
    I'd say sleep is a dangerous drug

  • I seem to have problems sleeping often - I just can't fall asleep. My body tends to want to stick to a 30 hr waking day, and a 14 hour sleep. I routinely skip sleeping one night, every other night for weeks on end. If I can't fall asleep After 2 nights I give up and start taking sleeping medication. Your brain really can't function properly after a lot of sleep deprevation because it starts to change your thought process which is what the article was getting at. It should not be taken as an incentive to try to stay awake all the time.

    "I can only show you Linux... you're the one who has to read the man pages."

  • Well, maybe LSD doesn't have many side effects, and maybe it does, but it has at least a few, including flashbacks.
  • Does anyone know if it has any side effects like acid, or if it's once-off?
  • And about cells dying and others taking place - that's also not true. Neurons have several axons forming synapses, and if one dies, the axons go with it - if one were to take it's place, it would have lost all the connections of the previous one. And since learning, memory, our personality, etc, is all due to the way the various axons are arranged, after some time we'd have these parameters altered: different personality, loss of memory, etc, and that does NOT happen.

    Actually brain cells do regenerate. There was a lot of talk about this in journals this autumn. Do a search on neurogenesis to find out more. Brain cells have been found to regenerate in the hippocampus (an area associated with some aspects of memory) in human brains. Previously neurogenesis has also been found to occur each season in some song birds, once the need to learn a new song arises.

  • Energy. That's why we sleep.

    I doubt that. A lot of things happen in the brain during sleep. Sure, the activity is slightly lower, but if the sole purpose of sleeping was to recharge, then why does not all activity stop?

    If the brain does use up more energy than it receives during wake hours, I find it more likely that this is just the brain utilizing the wake hours more since it "knows" (in an evolutionary sense of course) that it can regain the lost energy during sleep.

    IMHO, a more realistic theory about sleep is the one that states that sleep, especcially dream periods are used to sort the experiences of the say and store them. The weirdness of dreams would be caused by events being replayed faster than real-time by the subconscious, at a speed that consciousness cannot keep up with.

  • by chuckw ( 15728 )
    The internet does the same thing. When it hits an area of inherent unreliabilty it routes around it. This is much the same thing that the article was describing and in a general sense results in a lowering of the aggregate computing potential.

    It is also apparent from this that the brain values verbal skills over mathematical skills. It makes sense since the brain is simply not evolved enough to have multiple mathematical processing areas. Thak and Groo probably needed communication skills more than they needed the ability to balance their stone checkbook.

    The parietal area takes over the verbal skills when the pre-frontal area can't handle them anymore. My guess would be that the pre-frontal area of the brain is so new that it is not fault tolerant yet. It's neat to see this appear in other areas like stroke victims and people with forms of impact brain damage. I'm not a believer in the 10% theory. I feel like we use most of our brains although we have the potential to evolve them to include more and more memories and abilities much like FPGA. When another part of the brain evolves to take over something a damaged part can no longer handle, the overall system loses some proccessing power.

    In reality all you really need is the ability to move, communicate on a basic level, go to the bathroom, eat and have sex. The brain seems to protect these functions. Everything else is surplus and gives up its processing power if necessary. Lets face it folks we were born to attract mates and breed :-( This would probably explain why the stupidest among us tend to attract the most mates...

    Also, if you do not get enough sleep your "cron" process do not run and your system is left in a messy state, eventually becoming unusable...
    Quantum Linux Laboratories - Accelerating Business with Linux
    * Education
    * Integration
    * Support
  • I wonder if any mentioned one of the standard textbook psychology experiments of deprevation of R.E.M. (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. Basically they allowed the subjects to sleep but as soon as they entered REM sleep (usually after 90min or so, from memory) the subject was woken up. The experiment had to be abandoned because the subjects began to show symptoms of psychosis after 7 days (again from memory). The experiment has since not been repeated in any form or variation I know of. If you interested in finding out more pick up a modern 1st year psychology text.
    Startrek (The Next Generation) used the experiment as part of one of the expisode plots. Something causes the crew to no longer get their REM sleep and they go psychotic, I think Data saved the day :)

    WeirdArms (BA/BE, Psychology/Comp Eng) well at least at the end of this year when I graduate :P
  • It should be noted that where brain activity is concerned more is not necessarily better. If you are performing a brain death protocol more is absolutely better, however more brain activity (in terms of frequency in the time domain and amplitude in voltage) can actually be indicative of abnormal processes. (Epilepsy for one) Also other studies (using PET scans looking at glucose metabolism in the brain) indicate that people who are smarter (per IQ scores and comparing "normal" with Down's syndrome subjects) have lower rates of metabolism and thus "activity" than those with lower IQ scores. I also believe I recall a study examining metabolic rates of sleep deprived subjects versus subjects that have normal sleep times and metabolism was up in the sleep deprived subjects supporting this finding of increased brain activity in the sleep deprived. More is not always better folks. The brain works not like a combustion engine, but more like a massively parallel computer that requires intricate timing to allow for some time dependant tasks to occur. There is a balance with some circuts that behave in an excitatory fashion and some that behave in an inhibitory fashion. So it is not all about increasing clock cycles. When some circuits fire without appropriate controls you can get aberrant behavior ultimately leading to pathology (epilepsy, and perhaps some forms of mental illness)
  • God! You're forgetting about the excluded middle! This logic does NOT follow!! Next time try to think efore you make a post eveyone will laugh at. -llm
  • Yes, you apparently read the article unlike the poster submitter and editors. No, too harsh there, let's take a more happy view - they were all sleep-deprived and their parietals didn't pull them back up to normal - that sucks.
  • If I read the article correctly, the results seemed to be that lack of sleep caused parts of the brain to shut down. The functions of the part of the brain that shutdown were rerouted to other parts of the brain and overall brain activity was increased to compensate for the inefficiency. In particular verbal skills are rerouted to the numerical reasoning section.

    This result corresponds with my own college experiences. I always found that staying up all night writing a term paper due the next day was more productive than staying up all night trying to finish calculus homework. Programming lies somewhere in between; much is linguistic (verbal) and much is analytic. Hacking away late at night on new code can be awesome. But trying to find bugs in a complicated procedure at 4am is not fun. Maybe this research explains it, since debugging is more analytical and writing new code involves more language skills.

    -Nathan Whitehead

  • I had a roommate in college who suffered from (I believe) bipolar disorder or something similar. If he stopped taking his medication (which happened a little too frequently), he would be unable to sleep for long periods of time. He went through one really bad spell where I came back from the newspaper office and found him sitting on the edge of his bed in his underwear asking me why he was in Hell. Best way I could think to describe what he was going through was "waking dreams". His brain was processing all this submerged stuff that's usually dealt with when we dream. He ended up in the hospital for a few days so he could get his body back in balance. Not fun for him, or for me.
  • There was a Discovery show about sleep deprivation that included a bit about this. The man was Peter Tripp, I think. Near the end of the 200 hours he started seeing things. He keept thinking spiders were crawling out of his shooes. Very strange stuff. Doctors supposed that his brain was crying out so much for sleep (and dreams) that he was having very lucid nightmares while he was awake. As I recall from the show, his wife was then pregnent with their first child.

    Don't try try to stay awake that long at home.


  • Do you have this report online at all? I'd like to pursue this further.

    Maybe some relevant URLs?

  • This leads me to believe that the post is right and wrong. I can attest to your situation. Still the article from what I have read claims increased brain activity. Couldn't this attribute halucination? It doesn't neccisarily mean that you will be able to perform everyday tasks as well without sleep. I don't know very much about the brain but wouldn't increased brain use sort of be like overloading a computer? does it perform better overloaded? I don't think so. That is why we sleep; to release some of the load on our brains.
  • Your knowledge of neurons is out of date. New neurons do appear in the human brain. There are stem cells producing new neurons -- how they place themselves and train themselves is being studied.

    Summary [] or details [].

    And how do you know we don't have altered personality as we age? Perhaps you haven't known people, and yourself, for decades. Remember, there probably is no single neuron controlling anything, and we're referring to replacing some with similar neurons.

  • Go right ahead and have proper professionals deliver more glucose to your brain. Evolution hasn't managed to deliver enough energy...although the Coca-Cola company has been trying to...
  • Whats the longest you guys have ever gone without sleep. I mean NO sleep. I gotta say I onlye made it about 60 hours...


  • How about XFS? sub-second recovery from a power fail. No more "waking up", your just ON!
  • We've got memory leaks, and as we stay awake too long without a reboot, our swap space gets more active. Simple. :o)
  • Dolphins will put half of their brain to sleep at a time. This allows them to maintain a state of semi-awareness, while resting. I wish we were built that way.

    We are, but it only appears during the college years, mysteriously entering remission until, if by pure luck or natural selection, you acquire a position in middle management.
  • The extra activity is the bits of your brain ganging together, saying "GET SOME F*ING SLEEP". So no surprises really.

    Microsoft Windows is quite similar. As the uptime goes along, junk processes are accumulated which use up CPU time...
  • My knowledge of this subject is limited (to what I've learned in AP psychology in high school) but I'll take a stab at this question.

    The brain does need sleep. Furthermore, it needs dreams. Dreams happen in REM sleep and everyone dreams every night, if they sleep normally. Even if you don't remember it, you do.

    (Another fact - sleepwalking does not happen in REM sleep and so sleepwalkers are not dreaming. Rather it happens in the deepest sleep stage. REM sleep happens in lighter sleep when the brain waves more closely resemble the alpha waves of awake but relaxed people. Sleepwalking involves deep sleep and delta waves.)

    People who take sleeping pills will fail to have REM sleep, so this can be harmful. When taken off sleeping medication, people who fall asleep will spend much more time in REM sleep. Also, people who are sleep deprived will enter REM sleep very quickly. It is apparent that the brain needs REM sleep.

    People tend to remember the preceding day's events better when they have more sleep, suggesting that REM sleep is involved in encoding short-term memories into long-term memory. Staying up all night to cram for a test might help but the information is not as likely to be remembered over a long period of time (what is forgotten will likely be forgotten very quickly - over time the amount of forgotten material levels off to a steady value - this is Ebbinghaus's forgetting curve).

    The brain is probably not "exercising itself" through dreams. Rather, it is busily sorting through the day's events and storing the important material in long-term memory. Dreams appear to be the way that our mind superimposes a structure on this activity. This is the reason we see sudden changes in setting or events in a dream - our neurons are firing, and the brain tries to fit this somewhat random activity into a rational pattern through dreams.

    Freud's ideas on latent and manifest content of dreams seem much less credible than the biological picture.

    The events in dreams often echo the preceding day's events or things that have been on our minds. This lends support to the idea that the brain is encoding short-term memories into long-term storage.

    Sleep deprivation may not hamper activity on some tasks - for instance, one research subject, a teenager who had been kept awake for several days, was able to beat the researcher in a game - pinball, if I remember correctly - even after several days without sleep.

    From personal experience, it seems that sleep deprivation hurts mathematical ability but enhances creativity.

    I don't have time to write more now, but hopefully this sheds a little light on the subject.
  • [Disclaimer: I admit that I have not yet read the article, I'm merely responding to the actual posting and not the article, as of yet, so I may be wrong. :-)]

    Okay, well, a quick glance at the the blurb, and some of the discussion posts, it seems the jist (or interpreted just, as it may be) of the article is that sleep deprivation increases brain activity in certain areas, improving memory. Well, I don't know about the validity about that, but I read a while back about a study they did in England which found that lack of sleep lowers your IQ. I believe they said a week of inadequate sleep will lower your IQ by a point. I for one don't wanna just go around getting dumber by the day, I'm sure I haven't got too many spare IQ points laying around. :-) I recall them saying something about becoming borderline retarded as a result of insufficient sleep... not good, probably. :-)

    Also, as I'm sure this has been mentioned a million times already. Sleep deprivation has seriously negative side effects on the body. The body uses sleep time to recuperate. Even geeks do enough physical activity to require some sort of rest. :-) You really can't make-up lost sleep either. People die from sleep deprivation... death generally has detrimental effects on your social life, so it's just a lose-lose situation, might as well sleep. :-)

  • As you said,

    Extra activation != increased brainpower I have seen reports of the study and they explain the phenomenon a little better to non-health pros.
    The increased brain activity is in a special area that is rarely used. It is, in fact, making up for the parts of the brain that start to SHUT DOWN during sleep deprivation.
    This means there is an increase in one section, but not necessarily an overall increase.
    When a person sleeps, the brain is resting and "repairing" (brain cells don't reproduce, but they don't necessarily have to die so quickly). If you deprive the brain of the repair period, it starts to degrade. After a few days of deprevation, one gets hallucinations because the brain is losing full functionality. After more than that, a person's whole personality can be changed for good and permanent brain damage can occur. The guy who went 200 hours without sleep came out a completely different person. His wife divorced him and he doesn't remember his kid's name, he was fired from his job and other "bad things."

    The point is: The extra activity is your brain trying to keep up functionality while other parts are turning themselves off (or not being productive).
    Secondly, every other study shows that productivity of the person degrades over time during depravation. The graph looks like a damped out sinusoid where ability goes way down during normal sleep hours, comes back up during normal waking hours (but not up to full power), back down again during the normal sleep hours, and back up again (even lower this time).

    Any doctor will tell you that sleep deprevation is bad and that if you have to for work or school, don't do it for more than a day or two and to at least take small naps in there. Any marginal gain by the time increase will be offset by loss of abilities.

  • Sorry for the bold.

    I actually did do a /b to turn off the bold on the quote but it didn't get registered. I also put a (p) with the correct syntax, of course, and it didn't register, either. I guess I should have previewed more than once. I probably forgot the closing > and it messed up everything. Oh, well.

  • by xtype ( 41544 )
    Or not just read the article, but actually look into the topic and know what you are about to post about.
    Which is a very good idea and I hope that more people can learn to do this.

  • How, precisely, do you infect a living being with cancer?
  • If your brain doesn't need rest, then why don't you lie down in a fully-conscious state and just rest your body?

    I think probably there are parts of your brain that need less rest than others, so they spend the downtime running simulations (ie. dreams) to train themselves.

    Patrick Doyle
  • The study DID NOT find that sleep deprivation increases the memory capability. Indeed, it found that <i>despite the increased brain activity</i>, the brain cannot overcome the sleep deprivation and performs poorly.
  • by m3000 ( 46427 )
    Totally offtopic, but isnt it weird sometimes when similar topic posts are all made in a row? For instance, in this story, it's the basic first post crap, with some other stuff thrown in, and then boom, 3 straight posts commenting on the exact same thing (misleading headline). It happens in a lot of other articles too, where something might be factually wrong with the article, but no one makes any comments until about post 50, and then you get about 3 straight posts on it. It's sorta freaky.
  • You know what's even scarier? PHB's who equate less sleep = more brain activiity => more productivity.

    I'm sure a few memos will be sent out in some companies suggesting the idea of getting a solid 4 hours of sleep ever 3 days.


    .sig Instructions
    step one: place .sig here
  • Yep, agree.. I start to here voices and see things flying in the corners of my eyes..

    But I think there's some truth too the story. Several years ago aI heard the sam thing.. It was about a scientist in Japan who swore by sleeping only 4 hours every night.. It was said that it would make the brain capable of processing more complex stuff, but it would be slower at all processing.. I kinda recognize that..

    Anyway, I think I've lived pretty much this way since I was 14 or do (when I got my A500 that is, any connection ;) and, well, I do get the best test scores in the class.. But.. I don't think that's much of evidence..
  • I wouldn't know, my ext2 filesystem is self-defragmenting. ;)
  • Dolphins will put half of their brain to sleep at a time. This allows them to maintain a state of semi-awareness, while resting. I wish we were built that way.
  • The article states that sleep deprivation causes increased brains activity -- this is not necessarily a good thing.

    I recall a study comparing students that did well in math and students that did poorly. The students that did well had minor brain activity. The kids that did poorly had a LOT of brain activity.

    The results of this study concluded that this might have to do with "brain efficiency" and that the increased brain activity in the kids doing poorly was causing them more problems.

    I don't have URL for this study. It was about two years ago.
  • I do my best coding after 2PM ;-)

    I just sat down to write some more in motorola 68000 series assembler (for class, not fun) and I couldn't understand what the hell I wrote last night, until I realized I'm a god damn genius, and everything I wrote while well-rested this afternoon messed up the perfect code I wrote last night. Must have been that higher brain functionality :-)


  • In the past few weeks, I have actually noticed that.. Bah, who needs sceince to tell us about reality. While at work and semi-sleep deprived (not as bad as college students, but like 2 hours sleep and a long day), I can do the same work or more WHILE holding converstation with people around me, which normally can not be done on a good nights sleep. My job also calls for working either mornings or nights, and if I am working nights (till like midnight), I just with it more, while the people we serve are pissed off and taking it all out on you.... Would be nice to be in a bad mood at the same time as our customers, then we take agression out on them too.

    Its not what it is, its something else.
  • Remember your Psych 101 classes? More activity is indicative of poorer performance -- novices in a field always have much more brain activity than experts. This study tells me that the brain is having a harder and harder time as sleep deprevation increases! That's not good....
  • I forgot to add: The spamming idiots are sometimes posting 40 idiotic posts that need to be moderated down which does probably screw the setup we had before this became the norm.
  • haha, that's funny. You know how big the market is for pseudo science herbal medicines and such? The same goes for GNC, especially for fitness related drugs. People take these drugs then change their behavior, then take the drugs for the change in fitness level when it was really the change in behavior. There are, of course, many drugs that do have an effect -- but I'm just proving the point that there are many who do not or do little in the equation.
  • Huh? The caffiene story says it causes the dendrites to grow and grow more spines but we do not yet know what this does or doesn't do for long term memory. The sleep deprivation story says that sleep dev turns off parts of your brain and other parts get hyper to try to compensate. But in particular it says it lowers math ability. Last time I checked coding and math ability are pretty strongly correlated. So I would be very surprised if sleep dev improved hacking.

  • I read the article, and I don't see how you can draw those conclusions. I interpreted this to mean that the brain was trying its best to adapt to critical conditions. When sleep deprived, various parts of the brain begin to shut down ( as a self defense mechanism, or simply because they cieze to function ). But in order to maximize the human capacity to think and survive, other more dormant portions of the brain are activated to take over certain operations. The specific operation sited in this article was linguistics.

    I don't really see why linguistics would be important for survival. They said math skills went down the toilet ( because it is such a complex and consuming activity that there weren't any reserve portions of the brain to divy activity out to ).

    They specificly raise the health risks of sleep deprevation, and how much poorer those test subjects performed. What it does show, however, is the incredible adaptibility of the human mind. Much like Terminator 2, re-routing neural connections on the fly to redundant reserve systems.

    What this also suggests to me is that we are capable of using other portions of our brain when we try hard enough.. Perhaps we can meditate and awaken those dormant sections. Who knows, maybe during finals, we can get a suddent burst of intelligence even. :)


    The spell checker was the single worst contributor to the modern written word.
  • yeah, I saw that too!
    It was on The X-Files....It's a cool program, but I don't think everything is true :-)
  • I would imagine its not too dissimilar from a computer hard drive.

    A) You have have it spinning constantly, giving you an improved speed on the return of information. Downside: Shortens life span of said drive, burns more energy and can begin to make scary grinding noises. :)

    B) You can keep you hard drive in the occasional "sleep mode" by spinning it down when not needed or at least after a determined time where it isn't being accessed. This can save on energy, drive life span, and less grindy noises down the road. Downside: Data access takes a bit once you have to wake it up. You also finding it inadvertantly dozing on you once in a while. (Mine does while playing Diablo...arg! :(

    Basically, everyone has a happy middle ground somewhere in there between A & B. I could be off. My brain's spinning down now anyway. Its a Friday! :)

  • by fence ( 70444 )
    So, Katz was behind your personal DoS (Denial of Sleep) attack!
  • See this [].

    Echidnas (Australian spiny ant eaters) have no REM sleep.
  • This is a well-known phenomenon among military special ops types.

    It is common among Ranger school students.


  • Actually He's not so much makig fun of fear of clowns as he's quoting an episode of the simpsons in which homer instils this fear in a young bart.

    hell of a funny episode.
  • Exactly. Nowhere does this article mention that long term memory is improved. In fact, it says the opposite, and I quote: "Subjects had fewer correct answers and omitted more responses when sleepy than when rested" So in now way does the study support this statement: WRONG "Research found students to have better recollection after long periods of sleep deprivation" WRONG All they said is that when subjects are sleepy, they noted a slightly greater activity in the porietal lobe, which is associated with long term memory, that's all. Here: TOP: Activity of a rested brain doing subtraction BOTTOM: Activity of a sleep-deprived brain doing subtraction Which would you rather be?
  • Exactly. Nowhere does this article mention that long term memory is improved. In fact, it says the opposite, and I quote:

    "Subjects had fewer correct answers and omitted more responses when sleepy than when rested"

    So in now way does the study support this statement:

    WRONG "Research found students to have better recollection after long periods of sleep deprivation" WRONG

    All they said is that when subjects are sleepy, they noted a slightly greater activity in the porietal lobe, which is associated with long term memory, that's all.

    Here: look at this image. rt.jpg

    TOP: Activity of a rested brain doing subtraction BOTTOM: Activity of a sleep-deprived brain doing subtraction

    Which would you rather be?

  • Looks like the /. coders are going to have to "deprive their sleep" in order to restore normal operations!!!
  • If you read the study you see they are not saying that sleep deprivation increases your abilites, just that the brain tries to compensate by becoming active in regions that it normally is not. Whether or not this compensation is an improvement is up for debate, and I for one doubt that it is.
    With that in mind perhaps the title 'Sleep Deprivation Increases Brain Activity' is a bit misleading, especially when coupled the comments below the title?

    Come on, I have seen /. complaining about other news sites doing this, try to keep yourselves to the same standard.
  • In extreme cases, brain cells can even be killed by overexcitation, although personally I'm only aware of drug models for this phenomenon.

    Oxygen deprivation effects are partially due to excitotoxic effects. The malfunctioning (due to oxygen deprivation) neurons dump NMDA which causes neighboring neurons to self destrict. That's why there was interest in NMDA antagonists. That is anso a partial explaination for barbituate coma reducing brain damage due to hypoxia (if the barbituates don't kill you, of course).

  • It's also well known that sleep deprivation decreases life expectancy. Remember the DJ in 1959 who spent 200 hours on the air without any sleep. Then they found he was permanently brain damaged. He had increased brain activity all right but he was a vegetable. Ever since then when a radio station wanted to pull a stunt like that they had the DJ taking intermittant naps.

  • I have many episode of sleep deprivations before, and I took acid many times in my younger days too.

    What I can is that those two things are NOT the same.

  • Ha, it only goes to show that brains and muscles have a lot in comon.

    Muscles fire (contract) individual fibers to provide the needed amount of force. A fiber either fires, or it does not. After a fiber fires, it needs to rest and heal.

    Sore muscles result from many fibers needing rest and healing. Muscle fatigue comes from many fibers having fired, and few being left available to keep the work going.

    The speed with which muscle fibers recover is proportional to their level of conditioning. So an athletic person is ready to go again sooner that a sofa-spud.

    What does this have to do with brains?

    A conditioned brain is able to recover from effort more quickly, while a stagnant one needs a long weekend.

    A brain that has used up it's 'normal' operating capacity (analog to 'conditioned' fibers) will start to recruit typically unused areas to keep the work going. Sleep deprivation is a way of keeping the normally used areas from getting adequare recoup time, thereby forcing the 'lazy' areas to take up some slack.

    Sleep deprivation cycles, along with an inter-disciplinary training regiment (variance in modes of thought, analytical, creative, perceptive, linguistic, mathematical...) is for the brain exactly like cross-training is for the body.

    And it sounds suspiciously like going to college. :)

  • I've always wondered exactly what purpose it is that sleep serves. It is obviously not just for resting our organs and muscles - I see no reason for the impossibility of creatures whose bodies need no sleep.

    It is obviously a necessity for the brain. Perhaps for consciousness to occur, there have to be periods of unconsciousness for some kind of routine "maintenance" that the brain's neural network performs on itself, somehow tied in with dreams.

    I have absolutely no background on this - the above is just my random musings as I started learning about neural nets and AI. I was hoping to start a discussion or catch the eye of someone who has studied this extensively. What is the current state of human knowledge about sleep? Is it still mostly a mystery?

  • Energy. That's why we sleep. [] (NPR story here [])

    A few years ago someone wondered: "Why are there no higher animals which do not sleep?" It clearly would be of great evolutionary advantage to not have to sleep. So there must be some very basic reason.

    Answer: Brains use more energy than blood can deliver. The purpose of sleep is to recharge energy.

    Mixed with neurons are glial cells, which store glucose during sleep. They then supply glucose to neighboring neurons while the brain is awake, supplementing glucose from the bloodstream.

    When the energy is exhausted, neurons stop working properly. That's why there are hallucinations (particularly in pattern-matching neurons such as peripheral vision). It's probably also why the brain secretes chemicals which increase blood flow -- it's trying to get more glucose to keep functioning during whatever crisis is keeping it awake.

    So, why might areas which are normally quiet showing more active in this study? Maybe because the blood flow has been increased in the exhausted areas, and also the neighboring cells which were least-used are now trying to activate because their exhausted neighbors can't work?

    This paper does not seem to be on the net, so see Google search [] of related comments.

  • As trauma victims lose recent memories upon sleep and some brain structures are devoted to REM, long-term memory storage, obviously there are some maintenance functions making use of sleep time. But those have been added to sleep during evolutionary changes to our brains.

    Even very primitive animals sleep, although they don't have the need for as much maintenance. Apparentlyt we're all suffering from the same energy delivery deficit.

  • it only takes about three days to start hallucinating. Things get real strange, it definitely warps things immensely. Great for brainwashing.

  • Of course you're right... I mean come on, anybody who has been sleep-deprived for a substantial period of time can testify that there is no worse feeling.

    True story: I've been through officer training for a certain Army (er... figure it out). As trainees we were sleep-deprived for 4 weeks: an average 5 hrs of sleep a day, with an occasional Sunday 6 or 7 --this while exercising 4-5 hours a day, doing chores, being on duty, etc. etc, for the remainder of the day... During Week 3 I was sitting in a nice, cozy, warm room taking notes for some class. At that point, I was halucinating at night or early in the morning pretty regulary (in fact this was a common experience among my class-mates). But that day, while I was taking notes, I fell asleep. Writing. Notes. I was woken up --by my trainer no less-- and found out that I had written down my dream/halucination/what have you. Not much, a dozen words or so and then a squiggly line trailing off...

    I should have kept that notebook. But I have never been more scared for my own well being before or since.

    Yeah, you go and try out the poster's theory...

    engineers never lie; we just approximate the truth.
  • when i program perl late at night i write tons of it nice and fast, and it works, but then the next day i notice tiny problems that i couldnt see when writing it, and even going over it... and yeah there are some algorthms i try to think up for doing certain things and i just get stumped ....wonder if like sleeping every other 15 mins would combine both fast simple code and complex problem solving and create a super human programmer? =)

    $mrp=~s/mrp/elite god/g;
  • i still live at home =)

    (selling software doesnt make me enough money yet heh)

    $mrp=~s/mrp/elite god/g;
  • It would be interesting to know the ages of the subjects. Did the youngest people do better while sleep-deprived?

    Also, how did the study compensate for time of day? Many teens do not function well until late evening, and some researchers would be mislead to believe that it was sleep-deprivation causing the increased performance, not simple circadian rhythms.

    In addition, I would expect people at all ages to have a small performance boost around morning -- when they would normally be getting up. This would be the body "thinking", "Crud, I guess I'm not getting any sleep tonight, might as well try to last until tomorrow evening".


  • but when im up over 24 hours and i start to write code it comes out one line right after another, and usually has less bugs

    I've noticed that I can churn out code efficiently while tired, but I have more trouble searching for bugs and trying to solve complex algorithmic problems []. Is the same true for you?

    I think our brains are designed to do repetitive tasks efficiently while tired, but are better at complex problem-solving while awake and relaxed.


  • Contrary to popular belief, your brain is constantly regenerating brain cells. Brain cells do not live forever, they die and are reborn like every other cell in the body.

    There is a catch, however, and its the reason scientists once thot no brain cells could ever be regenerated... they need acetylcholene. Acetylcholene isn't usually found anywhere in your body except one place - the protective "lining" of brain cells. So when it goes to regenerate one, it rips an old one apart and builds the new cell inside, so it seems like no progress is being made. There is one food that contains acetylcholine, though. Fish! It really IS brain food! (I'm not joking, BTW) You can buy choline tablets too at health food stores. Lots of people call it a "smart drug" but it doesn't increase intelligence, it simply stops the brain from autocannibalizing cells when regenerating. Nootropics (smart drugs) is an interesting field. Most are just like caffeine spinoffs (keep you more alert) and a lot are just lies in a bottle, but there seems to be a lot of study done on acetylcholene.

  • The ability of the brain to function following Slashdot deprivation appears to vary with the task at hand, and in some cases the brain attempts to compensate for the adverse effects caused by lack of Slashdot, according to a study published in the Feb. 10 issue of Flamebait.

    A team of researchers from the UCSD School of Medicine and the Zelot Affairs Healthcare System, San Diego used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology to monitor activity in the brains of Slashdot-deprived subjects performing simple verbal learning tasks.

    They were somewhat surprised to learn that regions of the brain's prefrontal cortex (PFC) displayed more activity in direct correlation with the subject's sense of Slashdotness; the Slashdotier the subject, the more active the PFC.

    Furthermore, the temporal lobe, a brain region involved in language processing, was activated during flaming previous posts in troll subjects but not in Slashdot deprived subjects. Additionally, a region of the brain called the parietal lobes, not activated in troll subjects during the posting exercise, was more active when the subjects were deprived of Slashdot. The parietal region normally performs somewhat different functions in the learning process than the temporal region. Although subjects' memory performance was less efficient with Slashdot deprivation, greater activity in the parietal region was associated with better memory.

    "Only in recent years have we begun to realize the prevalence and severity of Slashdot deprivation in our population, with a significant number of people doing first posts work, suffering from karma lag and so forth," said J. Natalie Portman, M.D., professor of psychiatry at the UCSD and the San Diego VAMC, and an author of the Flamebait paper. "Yet, we don't know very much about how Slashdot deprivation impairs sexual performance, and how precisely the brain reacts to lack of Slashdot. These findings are just a beginning, and as we learn more, perhaps will be able to devise interventions to alleviate the behavioral impairments associated with lack of Slashdot."

  • I more or less said that the brain works harder, not nessasarily better, or at least better for any sustained period of time. I would have to think it would be really bad long term, not just for your brain but your health would have to suffer. What good would a +2(Insightful) brainbonus due you if you were laid up sick all the time.
  • Although the depravation maked the brain work harder, pulling in other resources from other parts of the brain, the overall effect is actually quite dammaging. Not my field at all, however there was a pretty in depth article I read a couple of weeks ago that basically said there was a direct corelation between lack of sleep for extended periods, like 48 hours, and unrecoverable dammage to the brain overall.

    Me I take the safe route, I view non-sleep time as that annoying period between naps, and limit all non-sleep time as much as possible.

  • This is pretty accurate. That guy from the 50's ended up dying about a year later, can't remember if he did the deed himself but I do recall that he went off the deep end, not like shooting up a mall but divorced or left his wife, forgot the names of his kids etc., A full blown personality change.

    And if that's not really revelant, the folks from NYC would gain insight into how to finally kick the rat problem.

  • Coulrophobia, or the fear of clowns, is a very real disorder.

  • by MrP- ( 45616 ) <> on Friday February 11, 2000 @05:08PM (#1283516)
    i always had a feeling that this was true, i program my best after i dont sleep for a while.... like if i am up for 4 hours and i start to program, im slow and i always get stuck one what to do next, but when im up over 24 hours and i start to write code it comes out one line right after another, and usually has less bugs... this also happened when i went to school, id do work right after and it would be a pain, but if i did it right before i went to bed it was fast and easy and i usually got better grades.... yay ill never sleep again! ::walks into kitchen from some coffee.... scares mom to death when she sees his lower eye lids all blue and hanging 4 inches down his cheek::

    $mrp=~s/mrp/elite god/g;
  • by dennisp ( 66527 ) on Friday February 11, 2000 @07:13PM (#1283517)
    Please allow me to make a few comments about the slashdot moderation system:

    I think it works pretty well for what it's supposed to do. The problem is a) the nature of the site being general tech news; and b) the quantity of users. We can either a) give all users random moderation points; or b) give a limited group of users moderation points based on criterion such as being moderated up themselves; or c) a mix of both. I think this is best theoretically if tweaked properly.

    However, some problems exist such as a) the default linear setup combined with the fact that this is just a news site means lots of good comments at the end of the forum get lost; b) not enough people meta-moderate; c) people mark down comments that they do not necessarily agree with but may be valid points of view, or comments that are slightly off topic but are good extensions of the current conversation; d) people given moderation points often just want to get rid of them. This is a news site after all, and responsibility to the integrity of moderation isn't exactly a priority. Many people just scroll down a bit and moderate comments that vaguely look good. Why? Again, probably because this is just a news discussion site and expending the effort to read all the comments in a story would take many, many hours.

    So, I agree with you that it might be good to increase the moderation points available. However, this must be done in a manner that will give points to those who deserve them and not to those who will moderate posts down just because they do not agree with a point or those who will just moderate because at first glance the post looks good.

    In short, not enough people meta-moderate so at a macro level, increasing the amount of moderation points to everyone would be bad. It would be a bit better only increasing the amount to those who are consistently moderated up but that does not guarantee that those who moderated them up properly looked at their posts. So we either give a select group a lot of points and allow them to moderate - or we give the group at large a lot of points and hope that they use them wisely. Not enough people meta moderate so this is why such a system can seem broken. The bottom line? It's a discussion news site. Expending the effort is just too much in this situation.

    Even then, meta moderation does not give you the thread. This creates a problem because the moderation might be relevant to the post and thread that it replies to. The solution? Tell everyone to quote every time what they are responding to. This is done most of the time, so this is not too much of a major problem.

    There is also another improvement that I want. Randomly displayed threads. There are some very good comments that get lost in the noise because we only have an option for newest and oldest in threads or by themselves. This isn't a problem for the 100 comment stories but becomes a large problem for 250+ comment stories. The first problem with randomly displayed nested and threaded comments that comes to mind is that the flow of the discussion often comes linearly, even if not the same thread. However, I think it would be welcome to most slashdot readers. Anyway, to tie this into the moderation problems, it would probably have to be the default setting for proper moderation to occur. Either that or a the owners of the site generating a lot of noise about it.

    Wading through so much information and finding signal in noise isn't much fun. I usually just ignore moderation and scroll a lot.
  • by richj ( 85270 ) on Friday February 11, 2000 @04:54PM (#1283518)
    Boy, I'd hate to be one of *their* test subjects. When these guys actually did get to sleep, the VA probably accidentally amputated their legs and then lost the medical records.

    The things I've seen at the VA Medical Center East Orange NJ, it wouldn't suprise me!
  • by DefConOne ( 17385 ) on Friday February 11, 2000 @03:09PM (#1283519)
    My interpretation of the article is somewhat different than that of the poster. I think that the following line does NOT mean that "Research found students to have better recollection after long periods of sleep deprivation"

    Although subjects' memory performance was less efficient with sleep deprivation, greater activity in the parietal region was associated with better memory.

    My interpretation of that line is that, overall, students had WORSE memory performance when sleep-deprived, but those students who had greater activity in the parietal region performed better than those with lower activity -- but still worse than they would have had with a good night's sleep. Am I correct in my reading?

  • by Winged Plum ( 65204 ) on Friday February 11, 2000 @03:00PM (#1283520)
    Sleep deprivation can also kill you. I did a 12 page report on sleep and its effects on the human body, and have about 5 pages of stuff on sleep deprivation. A guy in the 1950's, I believe, did a radio show for 200 hours straight, and suffered SEVERE mental damage from it. Also, rats who have been deprived of any rest at all have died after 17 days. People with fatal familial insomnia, which causes the victim to be deprived of sleep for months upon months, will eventually kill after 9 to 12 months. If you want more information on sleep, deprivation, and disorders, e-mail me at and I'll send you the report. I'll feel special, too. : )

Air is water with holes in it.