Sleep 04: What is it?

I've been posting more about sleep these past few months. I suppose that means I should be getting more.

Regardless, WNYC's NPR program, Radio Lab, recently did a show that focused on Sleep.

Radio Lab is a fascinating series. They take a big topic like Morality, Mortality, or Sleep, and spend an hour exploring what it means from a scientific and metaphysical perspective. It's framed with two hosts chatting with one another about what they just learned about the topic. They ask questions and joke, but they do it all in a respectful and profession manner. It comes across as two guys, who love learning about things, having a conversation over a beer.

In Sleep, I found the animals stories fascinating. I learned that dolphins, for example, can put half their brain to sleep, while they other stays awake. This way they don't drown. Ducks can do the same thing. They tell the story of 4 ducks on a log. The two ducks in the middle go completely to sleep, with both eyes closed. The two on the ends, however, keep their outside eye open to watch for predators. When the do this, the half of their brain connected to the closed eye sleeps. After awhile, they get up, turn around, and let the other half sleep.

Somewhere in the evolutionary chain, land based mammals lost the ability to sleep just one hemisphere at a time. I don't know if that's a good thing.

You can download the audio from the entire show here. You can also just stream it. And, if you'd rather, you can download just individual segments.

If you like Radio Lab, you can also subscribe to the free, weekly netcast through iTunes.

It's fascinating stuff.

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