The science of sleep – still a lot to discover

Research in the area of sleep is thriving. Recent insights show that the more the demented are exposed to light during the day, the better they sleep at night. While sleeping, our brain is re-organizing, deleting and resetting information. Sleep also has a positive effect on our immune system. Roy Raymann, Senior Scientist in the User Experiences Group of Philips Research, elaborates on this ‘young’ science.

Evolving sleep research
The gold standard test for sleep research makes use of electrodes that are attached to the skin, mainly of the head or the skull. Nowadays it’s also possible to conduct sleep research in an MRI, which provides scientists with a better understanding of the brain structures involved in sleep. Within the field of sleep research, many areas of expertise remain to be defined, such as sleep disorders, optimal rest outlines for airline pilots, and the effect of nutrition and medication on sleeping and driving behavior.

Sleep for Health and Wellbeing
Roy Raymann is currently working on the non- pharmacological enhancement of sleep. “People usually do recognize the importance of sleep, but not the impact it has on our health and well-being. It is scientifically proven that structural lack of sleep seriously affects the performance of people and jeopardizes their health. For instance, Raymann continues, there is a significantly higher incidence of truck accidents between 04:00-05:00 am, medical errors significantly increase due to high-pressure schedules and related lack of sleep and lack of sleep may even lead to an increase in the chance of coronary heart disease and obesity”.

Seeking solutions to support a healthy and pleasurable lifestyle
”I have seen a lot of people with either minor or major sleep disorders and have seen the impact of the systematic loss of sleep on health, wellbeing, quality of life, mood and performance. Furthermore I know that these people are reluctant to take medication, which is a good choice, because pills bring you unconscious but not fully restorative sleep. With the strong focus on non-pharmacological intervention and a good sense of what helps give us a good night of sleep, like exposure to light, physical effort, or a warm bath, we are seeking solutions to support a healthy and pleasurable lifestyle in terms of sleep.”

A young science with a lot to discover
“The awareness of the impact of sleep loss is minimal in our society. We maximize our waking experience and try to minimize our non-conscious time, i.e. sleep. That is not possible. We have to realize that sleep is needed for restoration, but also for creativity, for learning, for our immune systems and so on. It might even be considered as a main requirement for good health and wellbeing. And sleep science has just been started. It’s a young science and there is still a lot to discover We now know for sure that sleep during the night is not an OFF state of the brain and body, but rather a silent processing state in order maintain your brain and body,” ended Raymann.