Sleep

Bad Kissengen, The City That Always Sleeps

Feeling rested? If not, you might want to consider a move to Bad Kissengen: in this little town in Germany, a big experiment is happening. Researchers are looking to unlock the secrets of sleep—and the daily rhythms of an entire community.

The World's First "Chrono City"

In his book Wild Nights, Benjamin Reiss details how a team of sleep scientists in Germany are trying to promote "optimal sleep and recuperation in everyday life," according to the team's leader, Thomas Kantermann. (You can read an excerpt of Wild Nights on Popular Science.) To do so, they gave residents of the town a small, wearable device with an app that tracks variables including sleep patterns, work, exercise, diet, mood, screen use, and social activities, Reiss says.

The project has been called the world's first "Chrono City" (chrono = time), and researchers hope the results of the tracking could lead to some big finds.

[[Thomas Kantermann at TEDxGroningen]]

The Synchronization of Life

In essence, the researchers hope that, once all the data comes back, they'll actually be able to build the schedule of the town around people's natural daily rhythms. Reiss describes a number of these benefits: for instance, they can optimize the start and end times for schools, depending on when children are most awake. They could recommend when patients should be scheduled for surgery to maximize both patient healing and doctor alertness. They could even help develop intelligent alarm clocks that went off within the short window that corresponded to a person's lightest sleep phase, or recommend changes to public lighting that mimicked natural light patterns.

The results? A restoration of balance, and a world that is well-suited to our body's circadian (biological) rhythms--something that the modern world seems to have lost. Reiss describes how researchers hope that their work could have huge benefits, for the individual and the community at large. Not only would individuals have more energy and better health, but the community could save energy and develop more profitably.

But really, we're most excited about the better sleep.

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  3. Fatal familial insomnia is a rare genetic disease that causes insomnia, dementia, and death. 02:12

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Key Facts In This Video

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Written By
Curiosity Staff
April 4, 2017