Science journalist Andrea Anderson explains why it's so hard to sleep in a strange place, what neural mechanism underlies the "first night effect" and how this effect can be explained from an evolutionary point of view.When we go to sleep in a new place, the first to suffer our dream.
A recent study has shown that this so-called "first night effect" may be the result of a partial waking of one of the parts of the brain, which seems to stand guard.
Scientists from brown University and Georgia Institute of Technology have used brain imaging technology and wave track, called polysomnography, to record activity in four networks of the brain in 11 people during sleep during two nights (a week apart). The subjects fell asleep at my usual time, and the brain was scanned for approximately two hours one sleep cycle.
While the participants were sleeping, the right hemisphere showed a consistent activity in slow-wave sleep, which is not depended on the night. However, the average slow-wave activity decreased in the left hemisphere during the first night — asymmetry that was more pronounced in those who took longer to fall asleep.
The results, published in may in the journal Current Biology, suggests that systems in one hemisphere of the brain remain active when people are in an unfamiliar situation during sleep — an obvious survival strategy, reminiscent of asymmetric sleep. Asymmetric sleep, unihemispheric sleep is the phenomenon when one half of the brain sleeps, and the second is awake, which is found in some animals.
Since the results represent only one sleep cycle, it remains unclear whether the left side of the brain performs the function of maintaining attention, as noted by the senior author Yuka Sasaki, a researcher of cognitive, linguistic and psychological Sciences at brown University. It is possible that in some point of the night right hemisphere assumes the duties of the guard dog.
Based on anatomical sites with a muted slow-wave activity, the researchers suspect that the "first night effect" includes a neural network with the default mode system of interacting brain areas involved in the process of dreams and the appearance of spontaneous thoughts.
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Although this network is usually focused on internal, evening alertness plays the role of the incremental tasks that the network takes over, says the gift of Maniac, a scientist from Massachusetts General Hospital Psychiatry.She notes that the differences in activity of the left hemisphere of the brain, "connects us with the rest of the animal Kingdom", offering "a reasonable evolutionary" scenario, which explains the effect of the first night.published
Source: Why we toss and turn in an unfamiliar bed/Scientific American