Neurology

Half Of Your Brain Stays Awake When You Sleep Somewhere New

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Whether it's a business traveler in a strange hotel room or a child at a sleepover, most people don't sleep very well in a new location, and research finally points to why. For a study published in May 2016, researchers from Brown University combined sleep-study techniques with brain imaging to precisely measure participants' brain activity as they spent their first night in a sleep lab. They consistently found that a particular network in the brain's left hemisphere remained more active than the right hemisphere, especially during deep or "slow-wave" sleep. Here's the part that will sound familiar to anyone who's experienced what scientists call the "first night effect": the network that stayed active, called the default mode network, is the one that causes that worried, depressed, obsessive voice in your head -- hence why you might find yourself up all night, reliving an awkward situation from high school. Researchers think this activity is a survival strategy to keep you safe when sleeping in an unfamiliar environment.

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. The default mode network of the brain's left hemisphere remains more active during the slow-wave phase of sleep the first night in a new place. 00:39

  2. The default mode network is the brain region concerned with introspective chatter -- the part responsible for the worried, depressive voice in your head. 00:49

  3. Marine mammals exhibit unihemispheric slow-wave sleep, essentially resting the brain's halves in shifts. 01:38

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