My Worst and Best Nights of Sleep

My Worst and Best Nights of Sleep by Kelly BulkeleyIn the previous post I noted that my monthly average ZQ over the past 3+ years (August 6, 2009 to December 19, 2012) has regularly hovered around 90, with the highest monthly average being 96 and the lowest 86.  Now, looking more closely at the data, I can see that my worst and best nights of sleep varied quite dramatically from that median, in both directions.

 

The ZQ is the Zeo sleep monitor’s overall sleep quality score, a number that accounts for total amounts of REM sleep, deep sleep, and time awake during sleep.  Using this metric, I was able to identify the extreme ends of my overall range of sleep.  My lowest ZQ was 57, on November 9, 2009.  On that night I slept a total of 4 hours and 48 minutes, with 1 hour 10 minutes of REM sleep, 55 minutes of deep sleep, and 5 minutes in waking.  My highest ZQ was 127, on January 7, 2012, when I slept a total of 10 hours 59 minutes, with 3 hours 37 minutes of REM sleep, 1 hour 27 minutes of deep sleep, and 0 minutes in waking.

Here are the 16 lowest ZQ nights from the last three years:

57       November 9, 2o11

58       January 21, 2010; August 29, 2011

60       September 16, 2011; July 16, 2012

62       October 3, 2012

63       June 16, 2012; September 10, 2012

64       December 16, 2009; May 20, 2010

65       August 12, 2010; September 9, 2011; September 12, 2012

66       November 4, 2011

67       March 15, 2010; January 6, 2012

I still need to double-check to see that none of these low ZQ nights was the result of faulty technology.  But assuming they’re all valid records of a given night’s sleep, I immediately notice a few things.  First, there are no consecutive nights of very low ZQ.  The closest are September 10 and 12, 2012, when my children were in the midst of ending summer and starting the new school year.   Second, many of the lowest ZQ nights came in the late summer and fall of 2011, when my family was moving to a new city.  It makes sense that my sleep would be especially disrupted during that transitional time.  Third, the low ZQ on October 3, 2012 was very likely due to my anxious feelings the night after the first Presidential Debate of the 2012 campaign between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

I suspect that some of these low ZQ nights came before an early-morning departure for a trip, or following a late and stimulating social event.

Overall, it looks like nearly all the low ZQ nights have some direct connection to an unusual circumstance in my waking life.

Here are the 13 highest ZQ nights from the last three years:

127     January 7, 2012

125     November 21, 2010

123     November 22, 2009

120     November 23, 2011

119     January 8, 2012

117     November 16, 2011; January 9, 2012

116     November 22, 2010

115     November 23, 2010, November 24, 2010, July 15, 2011

114     October 21, 2010, January 21, 2012

My highest streaks are January 7-9, 2012, November 21-23, 2011, and November 21-24, 2010.  Not surprisingly, all of these nights of very high ZQ took place during vacations at the same quiet and beautiful oceanside resort.  No mystery there!  Late fall and early winter seem to be the prime times for high ZQ, though I’ll have to separately analyze nights on vacations vs. nights at home to see if the influence comes from the changing season (longer nights) or the fact of being on a holiday trip, or some combination of the two.

It looks like the biggest rebound from a low to a high ZQ night occurred on January 6-7, 2012, when I went from a 67 to a 127.  The first night was prior to an early-morning departure for a vacation, and the second night marked the beginning of that vacation.

Again, my overall impression is that the highest ZQ nights occured in direct relation to certain kinds of unusual waking life circumstances at that time.

Here, it seems, is another instance of deep consistency in my sleep patterns. My worst and best nights of sleep deviate by a comparable degree from my normal ZQ baseline of around 90.  My worst nights are 30+ lower than the baseline, and my best nights are 30+ higher than the baseline.

Next step is to look at possible connections with dreams….

 

1001 Zeo Nights

1001 Zeo Nights by Kelly BulkeleyLast night (December 19, 2012) I recorded my 1001st night of sleep data using the Zeo sleep monitoring system.  I first started using the Zeo on August 6, 2009, and have worn it 81.25% of the time since (1001 out of 1232 nights).  Most of the non-Zeo nights have been due to miscellaneous technical problems.  I was surprised at how quickly I acclimated to wearing the headband while sleeping, and I have worn it consistently throughout this period, even on the non-Zeo nights. I’m confident that my data, even though it excludes roughly 1 out of every 5 nights, fairly represents my sleep experiences during this time.

 

The stability of my sleep patterns jumped out at me when I first reviewed the data.  For more than three years the basic elements of my sleep–the amounts of REM, deep, and light sleep–have remained very consistent.  A typical night includes approximately 30% REM, 15% deep, and 55% light sleep.  These percentages vary to a degree, but I found the same fundamental proportions (something like 1/3 to 1/6 to 1/2) in nights of very short total sleep as well as nights of very long total sleep.

Using the Zeo’s aggregate sleep quality score, the ZQ, my monthly average has hovered around 90 for this entire period.  My highest monthly ZQ was 96, in November 2010 (a year of a particularly restful Thanksgiving vacation) and my lowest monthly ZQ was 86, in June 2010 (of time of moving houses).  My average ZQ was between 88 and 92 for 33 out of the 41 months for which I have data.

Over the next few weeks I’ll share more detailed analyses of this collection of data.  During this time I have also been keeping a dream journal (@500 reports), and naturally I’ll be looking at patterns of dreaming in relation to the Zeo sleep measurements.  Soon I should have all this material, Zeo + dream reports, available for anyone to study on the Sleep and Dream Database.

If you have any questions or hypotheses you think I should test with this data, let me know!

 

Who Sleeps Worst in the US? The Surprising Truth

Who Sleeps Worst in the US? The Surprising Truth by Kelly BulkeleyAn excellent guest post on Ryan Hurd’s Dream Studies website by A.L. Castonguay looks at sleep as a misunderstood public health issue.  Specifically, who in America is sleeping relatively well, and who is sleeping poorly?  The latter group is important to identify because inadequate sleep can lead to physical, emotional, and cognitive problems–not to mention disrupted, diminished dreaming.

Castonguay draws upon data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on sleeplessness in the US to discuss factors of age, region, employment status, and obesity, among other demographic variables.  Castonguay’s analysis shows that people who most often report sleeplessness, “defined as insufficient sleep (less than 7 hours per night) on more than 14 days within the past 30, are predominantly people of color…between the ages of 25-44, unable to work, and obese.”

These findings raise a number of questions about the cultural and behavioral influences on sleep.  I have also found in previous research that poor sleep corresponds to economic anxieties and employment concerns (e.g., Chapter 5, “Work and Money,” of American Dreamers).  I just received data from a new demographic survey of American adults, and a quick scan of the results point in the same direction–people at the lower end of the income scale sleep worse than people at the top end.

The obesity figures are striking, especially when shown on a regional map of the US.  The Southern part of the US has the highest proportion both of people who are obese and who get insufficient sleep.  We don’t know what’s cause and effect, but it seems there’s a strong and dynamic relationship between the two problems.

It turns out that the states with the lowest relative frequencies of insufficient sleep are California, Oregon, and the Dakotas.  Who knew?

One point Castonguay doesn’t mention that intrigues me is the relatively good sleep of Asians and Hispanics compared to other people of color (Black, American Indian, Multiracial).  The number of participants in these racial/ethnic groups may be low and thus less statistically representative, but the figures are consistent with hints I’ve found in my own research.

If, as the topline results indicate, culture plays a role in quality of sleep, we need a lot more detailed information about how individual people’s sleep experiences are shaped by the multiple strands of cultural influence, including ethnic background, economic status, education, family life, and eating behaviors.

 

Dystopian Dreaming

Dystopian Dreaming by Kelly BulkeleyWhile sitting in the audience and taking notes during the recent IASD conference in Berkeley, I found myself marking several instances where something the presenter said triggered my dystopian imagination.  I confess to being a long-time fan of science fiction and fantasy stories about frightening future worlds controlled by alien invaders, zombie hordes, inhuman technologies, totalitarian governments, and/or rapacious capitalists (I made a list of some favorites below).  I enjoy these stories as literary nightmares: vivid, emotionally intense simulations of real psycho-cultural threats, looming now and in our collective future.

 

At the IASD conference I realized I could turn this interpretive process inside out.  I began to look at dream research from the genre perspective of dystopian fiction.  What would an uber-villain in such stories find appealing in state-of-the-art dream research?

 

Let me be clear, these are my own shadowy speculations and in no way reflect anything directly said or intended by the presenters!

 

Sleep paralysis induction.  There is now a proven technique for inducing the nightmarish experience of sleep paralysis–that is, causing someone to enter a condition in which their bodies are immobilized but their minds are “awake” and vulnerable to terrifying images, thoughts, and sensations.   I can imagine this technique being put to nefarious use by military intelligence agents, state-controlled psychiatrists, and cybernetic overlords.  The ability to trap a person within a state of sleep paralysis would be a horribly useful tool for anyone bent on total mind control.

 

Transcranial magnetic stimulation.  This technology enables the direct manipulation of neural activity during REM sleep, targeting specific regions of the brain.  If the technology were refined with malevolent purposes in mind, it could potentially disrupt people’s normal dreaming patterns, controlling what they do and don’t dream about.  An evil scientist could thus invent a kind of anti-dream weapon, a magnetic beam aimed at the head of a sleeping person and programmed to stun, control, or destroy.

 

Disrupting PTSD memory formation.  Trauma victims can diminish the symptoms of PTSD if they perform a series of distracting cognitive tasks with six hours of the trauma, thereby disrupting the formation of long-term traumatic memories.  The future militarization of this method seems inevitable.  Anything that alters memory can be used by evil governments to manipulate people against their will, either to do things they don’t want to do (black ops soldiers) or forget things that have been done to them (massacre survivors).

 

Remote monitoring of a person’s sleep.  The Zeo sleep monitoring system (which I’ve used for three years) has now developed a wireless version that instantly relays the user’s sleep data from the headband via a bedside mobile phone to the Zeo database.  This kind of technology opens the door to real-time remote monitoring of people’s sleeping experience, and potentially the ability to reverse the flow of data and influence/shape/guide people while they sleep.  If enough people were linked into the system, it could serve police states as a valuable tool in 24-hour mind-body surveillance.

 

My interest in these morbidly malevolent scenarios is not entirely theoretical.  Over the past few years of developing the Sleep and Dream Database I’ve been thinking of the darker possible applications of this technology, less Star Trek and more Blade Runner.  If it’s true, as most researchers at the IASD are claiming, that dreams are accurate expressions of people’s deepest fears, desires, and motivations, then it’s also true a real potential exists to put that dream-based information to ill use.

 

Projecting even farther forward, I wonder if there might be some kind of future inflection point where the amount of data we gather suddenly reveals much bigger patterns and forms of intelligence than we had previously been able to recognize or scientifically document.  What would happen if this leap of knowledge enabled our collective dreaming selves to somehow unite to challenge the dominance (one might say totalitarian regime) of waking consciousness?

 

I think about all this as I continue building up the SDDb, trying to make good decisions and avoid the nightmare pitfalls.  Dystopian fantasies help me clarify what’s at stake, where the dangers lurk, and how the future may unfold.

 

You may be familiar with Arthur C. Clarke’s 1953 science fiction short story “The Nine Billion Names of God.”  If so, you’ll understand why, as I work on developing new database technologies for dream research, I meditate on the phrase, “The Nine Billion Dreams of God.”

 

 

 

Dystopian Films and TV: Blade Runner, 12 Monkeys, Children of Men, Logan’s Run, The Matrix, Soylent Green, V for Vendetta, Battlestar Galactica, The Prisoner, Gattica, Terminator, Alien, Total Recall, 28 Days

 

Dystopian Novels: The Hunger Games, Fahrenheit 451, Neuromancer, 1984, Brave New World, The Time Machine

 

 

What I Learned at the 2012 IASD Conference

What I Learned at the 2012 IASD Conference by Kelly BulkeleyHere are excerpts from notes I took during the recent conference of the International Association for the Study of Dreams, held in Berkeley, California, June 22-26.  In parentheses I’ve put the names of the people who were presenting or commenting at the time.

 

Jung’s focus on the number 4 is “dangerous” and promises a “seductive wholeness.”  (John Beebe)

 

In electrophysiological terms, as measured by the EEG, lucid dreaming can be described as meditation in sleep. (Jim Pagel)

 

A challenge for lucid dreamers: How to distinguish a failed lucidity technique from a sage warning from the unconscious. (Jeremy Taylor)

 

The pioneering French filmmaker George Meliere drew upon the fantastically creative, compelling illusions of dream experience to create a tradition of visionary cinema that we see today in “The Matrix” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” (Bernard Welt)

 

In a sample of 170 German school children, those who talk with their parents, siblings, and friends about dreams tend to have higher dream recall, suggesting a positive relationship between dream socialization and recall. (Michael Schredl)

 

People who are high dream recallers seem to have more activity in the brain’s tempero-parietal junction and medial prefrontal cortex, in both waking and sleep conditions.  These brain areas have been associated in waking with mental imagery and mind attributions (theory of mind), respectively. (Jean-Baptiste Eichenlaub, et al.)

 

Sleep laboratory researchers are perfecting a method of awakening a person several times during the night at precise moments in the sleep cycle in order to induce an experience of sleep paralysis. (Elizaveta Solomonova)

 

Neuroscientists are experimenting with the use of transcranial direct current stimulation to directly affect the brain activity underlying dream experiences.  (Katja Valli)

 

Reflective awareness in dreaming can give humans an adaptive edge because in dreams we have the ability to anticipate, explore, and practice possible selves and possible worlds.  This ability can be cultivated through disciplined intentional mental practice.  We can change our brain anatomy simply by using our imaginations.  (Tracey Kahan, quoting Norman Doidge in the last sentence)

 

The “Inception” app is “worth a free download.” (David Kahn)

 

The mantra of the quantified self: If you track it, it improves. (Ryan Hurd)

 

In dream education with adolescents and young adults, the most relevant aspect of dreaming to their waking lives may be relational skills and emotional intelligence, helping them better navigate the complex currents of friendship, romance, and family life. (Phil King and Bernard Welt)

 

Dream Recall and Political Ideology: Results of a Demographic Survey

Dream Recall and Political Ideology: Results of a Demographic Survey by Kelly BulkeleyAn article with the title above just appeared in the IASD journal Dreaming, vol. 22(1), March 2012, pp. 1-9.  It’s the latest in a series of research projects I began in 1992 on the interaction of politics and dreaming.  The abstract for the new paper is below; links to the other projects are below that.  All the data for the new project are available at the Sleep and Dream Database (SDDb). 

Here’s a pdf file of the article:

Dream Recall and Political Ideology final

A brief report on the study just appeared in the “Week in Ideas” section of the Wall Street Journal.

The results of this new study are consistent with my previous findings suggesting that American liberals tend to be worse sleepers and more expansive dreamers than American conservatives, who tend to be better sleepers and relatively minimal dreamers.

Abstract: This report presents findings from a survey of 2992 demographically diverse American adults who answered questions about dream recall and questions about their political views. Participants who described themselves as “liberal” or “progressive” (n = 802) were compared to people who described themselves as “conservative” or “very conservative” (n = 1335). Previous studies have suggested that political liberals tend to have higher dream recall than political conservatives. The results of the present survey provide new evidence in support of this hypothesis. On all 11 questions asked about different types of dream recall, people on the left reported higher frequencies than people on the right. The same pattern was found when the two groups were divided by gender: Liberal males reported consistently higher dream recall than conservative males, as did liberal females compared to conservative females. These findings indicate that political ideology is at least one of the cultural factors influencing dream recall frequencies among American adults.

2008.  American Dreamers: What Dreams Tell us about the Political Psychology of Conservatives, Liberals, and Everyone Else (Beacon Press).

2006. Sleep and Dream Patterns of Political Liberals and Conservatives. Dreaming, vol. 16(3), pp. 223-235.

2002. Dream Content and Political Ideology. Dreaming, vol. 12(2), pp. 61-77.

1995. Political Dreaming: Dreams of the 1992 Presidential Election.  In Among All These Dreamers: Essays on Dreaming and Modern Society (State University of New York Press).