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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What is your view on the coronavirus?

Siri Beerends: I really embrace the idea that viruses can teach us a lesson in modesty. It is necessary that our position as the dominant species on the planet is being challenged. I also agree that it is a mistake to think that we are becoming Gods. But unfortunately, this is actually what is happening now. Corona doesn’t teach us to be modest, it teaches us how we can -as quickly as possible- go back to business as usual: saving our capitalistic economy.

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