New Technologies to Make Us Sleep Less, and Better

Daniel Blokbergen
May 19th 2013

Having 50% more “conscious lifetime” might sound like an appealing proposition to anyone with a hectic schedule. This could be achieved not necessarily by living longer, but by cutting down on the biggest time-waster of all: Sleep. Living life at 150% is an interesting proposal, but as Jessa Gamble debates in her essay at Aeon Magazine, “are we brave enough to embrace it?” The argument she raises is whether our custom of sleeping eight hours is culturally created. While previous scientific endeavors have been aimed at curtailing sleepiness itself, the current objective consists of restricting sleep to all but its most restorative stages.

The Somneo Sleep Trainer, resembling a special mask, is being developed by Advanced Brain Monitoring (in conjunction with DARPA). It guides a soldier's sleep pattern, ultimately making a four hour rest feel like eight. Transcranial direct-current stimulation, or tDCS, is another promising technology in sleep efficiency in that it allows subjects to combat insomnia as well as feel energized and focused after a few sessions. Yet another technique, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), induces “slow-wave oscillations” and effectively manages to put us earlier into deep sleep.

All such techniques, once past their developmental stage, could deeply affect our notion of what normal, natural sleep is. The question remains whether such technologies will be readily embraced, triggering a shift to a culture that adopts a more “optimal” sleep pattern. There might be considerable societal ramifications, for instance, by creating a schism between a more productive elite and a sleep dependent majority. So much for the notion of a good night’s sleep.

Story via Aeon Magazine. Photo by Carlos Barria / Reuters

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Should men be able to give birth to children?

Koert van Mensvoort: Is the artificial womb frankenstein-like symbol of (male) engineers trying to steal the magical womb from women? Or… is it a feminist project and needed to reach through equality between the sexes? I personally lean towards the latter. To me it feels like progress if a girl can tell a guy to carry the womb for a change.

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