Sleep Interview

On a sunny Wednesday afternoon in October, I sat down with Maryann for a short interview about her insight and thoughts on sleep. Maryann is a 3rd year Psychology Student from the University of Wollongong who has undergone thorough studies on the human brain and how it causes and contributes to various sleep related issues. I have conducted this interview well after my research on the future of sleep has been exhausted for Lab A. I have chosen Maryann as my interviewee because I am interested to know the facts and science behind what I have taken from my own research and understandings.

From this interview, I am aiming to gain some insight about the future scenario that my group has created and to validate its plausibility with legitimate facts.

Nearing the end of semester, Maryann and I – two University students – sit down sporting the iconic ‘sleep deprived student’ look, complete with our biggest eye bags and darkest dark circles. She jokes about how she would “love to treat (herself) to 80 hours of sleep” which, to both of us, sounds like a luxurious scenario during this stressful time of the year.

Maryann had taken a Psychophysiology subject earlier this year where one of its main focuses was on sleep. I keep the first question very broad in order to start the conversation which is when Maryann begins to recall some of the most interesting points that she had come across during her studies. After spending a few seconds travelling back in time to Psychophysiology, she brings up EEG’s which, I learnt, is the abbreviation for electroencephalogram. Through EEG tests, there has been proof that the brain is active during sleep and still processes external stimuli, and when it is not threatening, the sleeper stays asleep. We move on to a discussion about the REM sleep stage which “is also known as paradoxical sleep”. Maryann explains that the brain stays in a state of wakefulness and alertness, whereas your body muscles are almost in a state of paralysis. Already, I have found this to be evidence that our proposed 2050 sleeping scenario is possible, where the brain virtually stays active during sleep.

Things like learning during your sleep is definitely achievable according to Maryann, where “researchers found that people can be taught very simple information while they’re in stage 1 and 2 sleep”. This indicates that in the future, obtaining information and ultimately being productive whilst asleep is a real possibility with technological advancements.

In enthusiasm, Maryann is reminded of a unique case of a lady who could go through the entire sleep cycle in 1-2 hours each night and be perfectly well rested for the day ahead. “I’m so jealous” she jokingly adds. We discuss the scenario that my group has put forward and how people in 2050 can get through the sleep cycle in 20 minutes. Knowing that there has been cases of people reaching the REM stage in 1-2 hours, I wanted to know if a 20-minute sleep will suffice in the future.

Maryann sums it up perfectly. Realistically, sleep and its importance will increase because research is “consistently showing us that sleep is central for brain processes that underpin our functioning and development”, ensuring us that we still need the correct amount of sleep in order to function throughout the day. Maryann concludes her future predictions by hoping that in 30 years time, people will “become more aware of the importance sleep plays in their health and wellbeing”. In saying this, further learning can be implemented during sleep, but it cannot be the main purpose of why we sleep.

– Alissa Recil

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