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Sleeping lamb Sleeping lamb (Dave Hamster/flickr/CC-BY-2.0)

Birds do it, bees do it...yet science still can't answer the basic question: why do we sleep?

Every creature on the planet sleeps--from giant humpback whales to teeny fruit flies. What does it do for us, and what happens when we go without? We take a peek at iguanas sleeping with one eye open, get in bed with a pair of sleep-deprived new parents, and eavesdrop on the uneasy dreams of rats.


Charles Amlaner, Steven Lima, Dr. Allan Pack, Hannah Palin, Dr. Carlos Schenck, Robert Stickgold, Dr. Giulio Tononi and Matt Wilson

One Eye Open

It's a dangerous world out there, with predators always lurking. So what on earth would give every single animal in the kingdom the gumption to think it could lay itself down each day, let down its defenses, and go to sleep? Well, turns out that many species might not be ...

Comments [26]

Sleep Deprivation

Ahhhh, babies. We get in bed with producer Hannah Palin, and her husband, and her baby Dominic, as they all try to go to sleep. An intimate portrait of the effects of sleep deprivation. And then we try to understand what sleep is for by looking at what happens when ...

Comments [19]


Astrologers and psychics, move over, labcoat scientists are getting in on the study of dreams. First up, Harvard Professor Robert Stickgold tells us about how he found a foothold into studying dreams, and published the first paper on the scientific study of dreams in 40 years with a little ...

Comments [44]

Comments [81]


what is the date this podcast aired?

Oct. 08 2017 12:56 PM
Caitlin Grimm

After listening to the "Who Am I?" episode and then this "Sleep" episode, a question popped into my head and I was wondering if anyone had an answer out there in the internet machine. So in the "Who Am I?" episode, it was said that the thing that makes humans and their sense of self different from all other organisms is that, as said by Robert K, "only humans can take images from the real world, divide them into parts, and then turn those parts into abstractions", which then allows us humans to take different distinct images and combine them in unique ways in our mind so as to create a story or conjure up combinations that don't actually exist in the real world (one of the examples given in the show was that we can imagine a car, and then change the color in our heads, etc.). But then, in the "Sleep" episode, there was a point where the discussion revolved around dreams in rats, and the sleep scientists studying the rats said that rats can run one maze one day and dream about maze 1, and then run a different maze another day and dream about maze 2. But then they proceeded to say that they recorded rats dreaming about a combination of the two mazes. That combination maze doesn't actually exist outside the dream world, so isn't that technically the manipulation of images/ creation of abstractions or stories that was said couldn't be done by any organism other than humans in the "Who Am I?" episode? These just seem like contradicting ideas and I'd love clarification if anyone can provide any!

Jul. 13 2017 09:41 AM
Rebecca R from Honolulu, Hi

I've re-listened to this pod cast a number of times over the years. But I'm curious- how does this help to explain nightmares? (I'm sure there's another one of your podcasts that couple probably answer this).

Thanks for science-ing!

Oct. 11 2016 10:07 PM
Sam from NJ

I am SO TIRED OF THIS GODDAMN PODCAST. there is so much background music constantly which makes it impossible for me, a hard-of-hearing person, to understand or follow what is happen. There isnt even a transcript posted to help the deaf and hard of hearing population follow. I am tired of being left behind and forgotten when it comes to podcasts. It is awful and you're are not the only one but with all your talk about the "human body" over and over it amazing that you forget how inaccessiable your podcast is.

Feb. 09 2016 06:54 PM

The minute they mentioned the "waves" that wash the brain when you sleep I knew immediately what they were talking about. I've had moments on trains, buses, or sometimes in bed where I will dip briefly into sleep and I can feel this wave wash over my brain. It's really strange. It's neat to hear a possible explanation for that sensation!

Jan. 06 2016 11:12 AM
chris from Bongo-bongo Land

Very nice show. I enjoyed it almost as much as the first time it was aired. Maybe the third time I will enjoy it even more or less (?). Very subtle RadioLab's message, subliminal almost: recycling is everything! Like food scraps turning into compost and back into food - free fertilizers -, recycled Radiolab shows cost almost nothing to produce and become food (for thought) for new (and old) suckers (I mean listeners). Makes the existence of the archive on the website almost redundant since sooner -rather than later- all shows will be rerun. BRAVO RadioLab! In these dire times, with wars, and famine, and droughts, and floods, and terrorists lurking at every corner you manage to keep the hope alive, with limited resources (if only you would get more donations... ahh, wouldn't that be nice?); you bring new insights into the world of science and philosophy, and life, albeit new for some but still, why bother searching for new topics or new interviewees when the old ones are still relevant (for some)? Yeah, why bother? Keep up the good (old) work and remember, recycling is the mother of invention (or something like that...).

Jun. 09 2015 10:32 AM
Judith Frey from Woodstock, NY

Liked your program on sleep however would like to get some actual help with my own sleep problems that I've had
mostly all my life. Every 3rd night I can not fall asleep till 2, 3, or 5 am. Would you please direct me to someone who could help? Been working on the physcological path, but is there another I could look into?

Thank you

Jun. 08 2015 02:05 PM
Post motherhood from Texas

Dear Jamie from Alabama,
Perhaps we should reform all of creation to end predation...
Thank you to scientists who humanely experiment. Thumbs down to those who bring the childhood joy of pulling wings off of flies.
Your grandmother or close proximity

Jun. 07 2015 03:08 PM
Roger from Berkeley

What is the explanation for the moves and sounds dogs make while they're sleeping?

Jun. 07 2015 04:09 AM
joshua callaghan from indiana

i was curious about lucid dreams. ive had a lot lately and am gaining better control as i have more. have any of the doctors tried to examine this sleep phenomenon?

Jun. 06 2015 07:13 PM
rose from maryland

Dumb autocorrect....udica was supposed to be musical.

Jun. 06 2015 01:54 PM
rose from maryland

Great show. What is the udica piece the guitar player was playing. My grown son had a toy that played that melody, and I have been trying to find out what it is. It used to help him to go to sleep.

Jun. 06 2015 01:49 PM
Catniss J. Moore

Sleep, it's an interesting thing. It's crazy how everyone, animals, insects, we all sleep. Sleep is something that is necessary for our bodies. Sometimes thinking about the simple subject of sleep can be fascinating! Our minds "turn off." What happens!? It's so interesting.

Jan. 12 2015 04:21 PM
hoot from hot mokey

the hot dog man licks me

Dec. 19 2014 02:48 PM
Jamie from Birmingham, AL

I just finished listening to the program on sleep, and very upset with the documentation of animal experiments. I don't think that we should be drilling holes into the skulls of any creature. It seems that with the advanced technologies offered today we could learn using different humane methods.

Jun. 06 2014 03:53 PM

Why do we sleep? Why we cannot do without it? Why must we waste a third of our life away for sleeping when we could have evolved to do the same thing without sleeping.

Sleep is not a welcome thing, it is a flaw in our human body that is borderline disability that we have learned to put up with. We should ahve found a way to fold the proteins properly or what have you.

May. 05 2014 09:35 AM
LW from DC

Add me to the list of people who were disgusted by the many references to animal experimentation. It's time to evolve, people. Purposely causing others to suffer is not an ethical means of gaining knowledge. As Rousseau said, "What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?"

Mar. 03 2014 12:10 PM

Some fascinating information is contained in the program, but I would like to have heard more about what scientists are fairly sure of with regard to both sleeping and dreaming, rather than just two or three intriguing theories and some inconclusive research. With regard to sleep, why is it that most humans sleep a total of about seven to eight hours per day, yet some require much less than that? In the past and in other societies, it seems that many slept in two major periods over the course of 24 hours (mostly prior to the advent of electricity and the light bulb). And I saw a program about sleep some years ago where they profiled a cab driver who worked three jobs and seemed to require only an average of about 15 minutes of sleep per day. How is his brain accomplishing the cleansing action described in this show by one researcher?

I think we could have done with less time spent on personal stories and more on current understanding about sleep and dreaming. You don't really define REM sleep or other basics, apparently assuming we all know what it is or else not caring enough to start with some fundamentals, or at least what is generally accepted as correct by scientists in the relevant fields.

Mar. 03 2014 02:19 AM

Though insightful, the scientists interviewed as to why we sleep (Why Do We Sleep?) for the most part based their reports on animal behavior and physiological, human brain activity. Yet there is far more to the human psyche than the physical, although Dr. Stickgold alluded to the emotional flavor of dreams. The most active of us at night may be dubbed parasomniacs, of which I am one. And agree with Mike Z’s mother that rather than a nightmare he was having a night terror (one form of parasomnia), in which patients like those of Dr. Shenck dive out a window and slide down a pine tree, or a husband attacks his wife violently in his liminal state, ironically trying to save her. There is a significant difference between nightmares and night terrors, from what I have researched and experienced. And perhaps the program could have been called ‘Why Do We Dream?” Overall, it provided some good ideas to sleep on!

Mar. 02 2014 07:17 PM
Aaron from Providence RI

I just love the line in the promo for this show: "And we don't know why? That's a shameful state of affairs!" Just such indignance at something so common to be prosaic is something I found quite amusing. Great line!

Mar. 02 2014 06:42 PM
Stephanie from Arizona

I couldn't help but laugh out lout at the segment about the 18 month old who wouldn't sleep. I've been there with my own almost 3 year old son, who was born right before I started a PhD program (I'm graduating this spring) and he's still up almost every night, at least once. Milk, fresh air, cry it out, whatever. All I know is I'm up A LOT :) I have also felt like a crazy person at many times in the past few years. Thanks for sharing your radio diary! "Honey, time to go to sleep..." Good luck, Mom!

Mar. 02 2014 03:30 PM
Joe Midzalkowski from Highland City, FL

I found today's program on sleep and dreaming fascinating. Some years ago I awoke one morning having had a very vivid dream about an encounter between a man in his fifties and a much younger woman at the wedding reception in Buffalo. I've never been to Buffalo. On waking the following morning the two had clearly remembered faces and names and he had revealed he was heading home to Ft. Lauderdale directly from the reception to board his sailboat for a solo circumnavigation of the world.
After six weeks of this story growing longer every night, I finally told my wife. She replied that someone was writing a book in my head and I needed to open a file on my computer.
I did so and joined local and state writers groups. With me still following my muse, the first book (Dave's Mermaid) ended with a cliff hanger. I resisted changing what had been part of my nocturnal inspirations and had to write a sequel (Fished from the Sea) to tie up the loose ending.
I plan to publish them through Amazon next month.

Mar. 02 2014 12:06 PM
Nora Jewett from Portland, OR

Dream research has not yet come up with any satisfactory answers as to why we dream. Perhaps it's just a way of entertaining ourselves while our brain cells go through a cleaning cycle. After all, look at how much we spend on entertainment when we are awake! My dreams generally have nothing at all to do with what happened during the day. They are more like Fellini movies. I think Salvador Dali and some of the other surrealists were better dream researchers than the ones mentioned in your show, and other ones I have read about. If everyone's imaginations were similar our world would be a boring place.

Mar. 01 2014 09:59 PM
Thaddeus from Portland

Two things
1. I recently (about a month ago) heard on BBC radio news article about Why we sleep, or What happens when we sleep (and thus why we need it). It fits in with the bit about proteins on your broadcast. It basically goes like this: When we sleep our brain cells shrink, that is, the pump fluids from inside the cell out of the cell. These fluids, much like lymph, can flow away from the cells in the large intercellular space that has now become larger. So, in essence, when we sleep we flushing out the intracellular fluids, cleaning of sorts. This fits, in my opinion, why it is hard to function if you wake 'too early', the cells have not yet reverted back to their normal capacity and operation. I'd love to hear a follow up show on this very interesting topic. I find it interest for I, on average sleep 4-5hrs a day, broken up into a mid-day nap and a late night 'sleep'. I also find, and fitting in with what you presented on your show, that 'sleeping on a problem' is the fastest way to find a solution. I am a software designer/developer and when I reach a difficult point, I take a nap. The solution is within minutes upon waking.
2. I think an(other) interesting episode would be on Lucid Dreaming. Depending upon my blood titre of various substances I can enter Lucid Dreams in which everything is in such a waking state that I can't tell I'm dreaming. The only way I can tell is when I will myself to close my eyes the scene doesn't change. Fascinating realm, sleep.

Great shows, I catch it as often as possible

Mar. 01 2014 09:37 PM
R from minnesota

The latest scientific understanding of dreams is very useful in a practical way I'm sure, but the scientific explanations about dreams and dreaming don't really answer the deeper whys and hows. Despite how confident they are in their finalistic explanations of things. Can be entertaining though. Good show.

Mar. 01 2014 04:01 PM
Nancy from NYC

I once went through a period where I was having Really rational dreams, calm, confident, intellectual discussions and debates, that felt like they lasted all night long. I'd wake up completely exhausted, as if I hadn't slept. The weird part was I was much more intelligent in my dreams than in my life, holding my own in the debates with smart people on topics I didn't know about in my life and using words I also didn't know in my life. On waking I looked up some of the words and found I had used them correctly in my dreams.

Mar. 01 2014 01:39 PM
Rajul from NYC

By the way, Marcy, i don't know if you know this, but when humans have brain surgery, they don't need anesthesia, since they apparently do not feel it. So the same may be true with cats. Of course, you may still object to people doing "unnecessary" experiments like that on a cat, but that's a different issue and one that people may have varying views on.

Mar. 01 2014 01:29 PM
Rajul from NYC

Fascinating program! But you mentioned that all birds couldn't enjoy sleep fully, as we humans. What about birds in nesting cavities, such as owls, woodpeckers, wood ducks, etc.? Are they never able to fully disengage their brains? Unless there is always some threat of snakes slithering inside...

Mar. 01 2014 01:21 PM
Marcy from Brooklyn

What kind of monstrous experiments are you supporting with the program? Do you think torturing animals is a good idea for an experiment? Horrifying that you think it is interesting. How would you like a hole drilled in your head to see if your brain is working while you are asleep.

Mar. 01 2014 12:13 PM
Fran from seattle

What do you mean why? it's just there to be awesome.

Feb. 28 2014 03:03 PM
Marisa from Miami, FL

I think we all forget what sleeping actually does, like storing away all the memories from the day. Check out these health benefits of sleeping I have found:

Dec. 11 2013 10:56 AM
Celia from Italy

I'm listening to this at 3 in the morning, to keep my brain awake while i finsh my Art homework... The Irony is killing me. The episode is really interesting, though, and really interesting as always!

Nov. 12 2013 09:22 PM
todd from wp colorado

When i started working my first job wash a dish washer at red lobster. i would get home from work fall asleep and dream about doing dished all night, they would pile up, and I would not get a break, and i would do dished until I awoke.

crazy brain thingy.

Sep. 02 2013 12:11 AM
Lindsey from Portland, OR

So in this episode they say that people don't dream about word processing or surfing the internet. I do though! I often dream about working in Excel or formatting reports in Word if I spent all day working on one project in one of those programs. Any thoughts on why there was a generalization that people don't dream about those things?

Aug. 16 2013 05:37 PM

Does anyone know the song at 21:35?

Apr. 29 2013 04:36 PM
Brandon Scott

Great blog!! :) .Mine is

Mar. 20 2013 11:43 AM
Cris from Bucharest

I remember a theory about why we dream so vivid, why dreams are related to life events and facts and why we forget the dreams.

It was like order to close the synapses the brain has to close the stressing issues or opened synapses (unanswered questions) and it starts generating solutions for all opened synapses that's why the dreams have a strong connection with the reality and also sometimes they are solutions to issues on our mind. The more real they are the more easily a solution is accepted by our brain. Also we forget the dreams because if we would remember so vivid dreams we would not be able to make a difference of what really happened and what we dreamed in the long run...

I like this theory and I tend to agree with it.

Mar. 20 2013 09:31 AM
Aleta from Tulsa, OK

I've always been really interested in sleep and dreams and have studied it loosely throughout my life. This was one of the best shows I've ever heard on NPR! I sat in my car and listened to the entire show. Couldn't tear myself away. Good job guys!

Mar. 19 2013 03:16 PM
Eric Hamell from Philadelphia

It annoys me that on this show, as on others I've heard, people make sweeping generalizations about dreams. And they're always different generalizations. Apparently, for some reason this is a topic on which many people unaccountably feel entitled to assume that everyone else is just like themselves.

For instance, one of your guests said, "We never surf the Net in dreams." I beg your pardon! I've done that many times. The same person went on to say "the colors in dreams are always vivid, Technicolor." In fact most of my dreams are in black and white, as has always been the case. It is true that in the infrequent ones that have color, that color is usually vivid -- perhaps because, black and white being the default, when color is there it's there for a specific reason and hence is emphasized. But it's usually not there at all.

Mar. 18 2013 08:59 PM
Pavel from Woodstock, NY

I think I have an answer to the question "why do we sleep?".
First, I need to make a suggestion for all those brain scientist to learn at least a little bit of computer science.
Every computer room manager knows that s/he from time to time to run file/Db reorg for all indexed files and/or Data Bases. It is necessary because over the time those files and DBs are giving very slow response. I heard and read many times that the human deprived on sleep has very slow reactions.
Unfortunatelly not every computer professional today knows why over the time files and DBs develop slow responce. It is actually a result of a lot of updates that are handled by bunch of new pointers created to help processing the data.
The data from the files is being loaded in the primary memory during reorganization and then loaded back to disk memory in organized way.
I think that though human/animal memory is not built exactly the same was as computer memory there are some similar elements and/or procedures.
When you drive your car on the street or express way you see other cars, people, houses and many, many other objects. All these objects and/or sounds we accumulate in our memory. These conscious and unconscious memories are stored in our memory in very chaotic way. This leads our brain to work harder and harder and responce slower and slower the same way as computer files and DBs.
That is why we need to sleep to reorganize our memories.
During our sleep our brain(computer) sorts out all the memorized events and objects in the primary memory, delete some of them and them load the needed ones to our secondary memory in organized way.
When pieces of memory are loaded into our primary memory we see dreams in some strange way sometimes.

Mar. 18 2013 02:52 PM
Jerry K from Lumberton, NC

I recently read in Smithsonian Mag that the human brain made a significant leap in development when humans started using fire. The fire kept the predators away at night so humans could get a good night of uninterrupted dream sleep.

Mar. 17 2013 07:37 PM

Thanks, this show was really interesting. I have a mild form of schizophrenia. I experience visual and occasionally auditory hallucinations involuntarily and used to mistake them for reality. My condition is genetic, not related to any drug use. I have had been aware of my condition for over 10 years and manage it with therapy and lifestyle, not medication. I have known for many years now that when I do not get enough sleep, especially more then one day in a row, my hallucinations become worse and my ability to "control" my reaction to them worsens (I forget they arent real and react like anybody I suppose would react to whatever I am seeing.) My therapist is also aware that sleep is VERY important to my management of my disease, but not exactly sure why. I should mention I am a very heavy sleeper as well, but only sleep about 7 hours at a time. This show was really interesting for me. THANK YOU!

Mar. 17 2013 04:14 PM
Toni from Philadelphia

Enjoyed the Sleep show a lot. A question: what about other kinds of problem solving, especially in creative work? I have
Been writing the same ten pages of my current book for several days,never two days in a row, and wish there could be an "aha!" breakthrough like those you describe. But with writing, I haven't experienced it, as your game-players and the rat in the maze did.

Toward the end of the program there was mention of putting things together in new ways -- creativity -- rather than more direct "How To" learning. I'd like to hear more about that.

Keep up the good work! Great show.


Mar. 17 2013 02:11 PM
Gabriella from Columbus, Ohio

Wow, i really related to the mom with the son who couldn't sleep. I nearly lost my mind when my son was an infant.

Mar. 17 2013 01:53 PM

Great program. Re: sleeping cats. Over the years I've had cats that will seemingly sleep through anything. Loud noises, bouncing on the bed when he/she is sleeping on the bed, clapping hands near cat, meowing to cat, etc. However, open a can of tuna in the (downstairs)kitchen and they will zoom down from the upstairs bedroom. Or, if one cat is sleeping on the bed and the other (dominant) one jumps on the bed the other immediately jumps off. Nothing new about this, but may be of interest to new pet owners.

Mar. 16 2013 09:05 PM
Jim Hilsabeck from Napa valley, California

Having spent many years in broadcasting as a writer/voice and production director i have a suspicion of just how much work goes into each program. I want to say thanks; I love your shows; each is a little masterpiece—a gem.

Again, Thank You so much.

PS:After years of listening to your shows i finally had to see how Jad spelled his first and last name; it was driving me nutz!


Mar. 16 2013 05:08 PM

The guitar piece is Romanza.

Mar. 16 2013 05:06 PM
judi young from mulino,oregon

Awsome show! Love the program. I sleep in vivid colors and always with start to finish story lines,lots of charactures,drama,plots & resolutions.When Im awake,Im exhausted! I wish I had time to be a novelist!

Mar. 16 2013 04:42 PM
robin g

What is the name of the classical guitar piece on todays episode? My father taught that to me as a kid and I've never known the name of it!

Mar. 16 2013 03:40 PM
Jason S

There was some music early in the show, light twinkling music. I thought it sounded like Colleen's "I'll Read You A Story". "'ll+Read+You+A+Story

Any verification? I'll have to try and check the podcast when I can find it.

Mar. 16 2013 03:27 PM
Susan from New York

Do any of the studies consider sleep gender differences, or even gender differences by species/ordered social behavior?

The "ducks" segment suggests a social order, but does not identify social/gender implications. I have observed that wild geese, whom I believe mate for life, and other birds, mourning doves most closely, seem to trade off guard duty within the pairing. While one goose eats or sleeps, the mate stands sentry nearby, and undistracted.

From my own observations, :-), men seem to sleep much more soundly than I do, and I am blessed with excellent sleep-ability. Possibly romantic pre-occupations have on occasion distracted me from deeper sleep. However, is it possible that within a given specie, physical strength affords more secure sleep as related to confidence in ability to respond to threat? A defense advantage? The weaker predisposed to flight and reduced element of surprise; the stronger more able and willing in fight?

I have twice become the adoptive guardian of cats, in both instances mature cats. The first was a female who seemed always to sleep with one eye open for weeks or months. I was so happy the day she finally slept through without stirring and waking when I entered the room! From that day forward she seemed finally to be able to sleep regardless of my movements. My second cat adoption was a male and female pair. Similar pattern of adjustment for the female, but from day one, my boy cat never seemed to have any difficulty sleeping at will, whenever, wherever, regardless of whomever. Such a boy!

As all of my dog pets have been male, I have no comparisons relative to gender, but my last dog continued to sleep, in my bed, after I rose, brushed teeth, fussed around, watered plants, etc. He was often still asleep on my shoulder after I put his leash on him and carried him down three flights of stairs to his first morning outing! So sweet...

Is this a boy thing?

Mar. 16 2013 01:12 PM
carolita from NYC

"...and somehow Tetris gets in there everytime." !!!!
I had to stop playing Tetris on my phone because the Tetris dreams were driving me nuts. And when I was a software tester, I used to have dreams that took place in windows. I'd close one dream like a window, and another window would be waiting. When I worked in production, the dreams were all about making a mistake in the budget of a shoot, missing planes, forgetting something on a list.
I'm now a cartoonist. Could not take the dreams that come with gainful employment.

Mar. 16 2013 12:54 PM
Mike Z from New Jersey

This video reminded me of when I was young, grade school. I used to have these terrible recurring nightmares. Each nightmare started the same way, I was in a large grey room empty except for a faceless figure across the room and every time I would look at this figure it would move farther and farther away, Like the room was stretching, and at some point I would wake up and I would experience the same experience of the room I was in stretching. There was something about this which frightened me so much that I would be screaming and crying for hours. My mother later told me that what I was experience was a night terror and that each night she would worry about me hurting myself in a crazed half awake state. Luckily it seems that I no longer get night terrors but sometimes when someone trys to wake me up while I'm in a deep sleep I say things that I don't remember, quite odd and a bit scary.

Mar. 15 2013 11:39 PM
lisa kemmerer from Wyoming

I continue to be shocked by NPR's treatment of animal experimentation.

In tonight’s sleep and dream program, the issue of drilling holes in the skulls of lizards (and based on other animals used for this research, also cats, birds, and dolphins), was handled with flip humor—the lizard is soon back on his or her feet, so what could be wrong with invasively drilling into the lizard’s skull for our own scientific interests?

NPR would never treat such exploitation of any disempowered humans in this way—indeed, they might also be back on their feet quickly, but it is wrong to drill holes in the skulls of others because we are interested in their sleep. If the chuckling researchers truly think there is no moral concern with what they are doing, why are these methods never used on human beings?

I am very tired of this kind of indifference with regard to animal experimentation in NPR programming.

Mar. 15 2013 10:05 PM
Trevor Clark from Portland

Listening to your closing credits had me yawning constantly. I remember hearing that just thinking about a yawn causes you to yawn. Why is that?

Mar. 15 2013 04:00 PM

That's why we say sleep with one eye open!

Mar. 14 2013 08:52 PM
irratio from Netherlands

One of most intriguing episodes, thanks!

@casey: Those two mechanisms are not mutually exclusive. I guess it's a combination of strengthening the useful signals while getting rid of the useless noise. First you reinforce synaptic connections of emotionally flagged content by simply replaying it. Then you integrate the new content with old flagged content from the archive by making cross-connections. Then you wash over it to reduce baseline noise.

Mar. 13 2013 10:34 AM
KKampa from Austin Texas

Listening to this at work is making me sleeeepyyyy...

Sep. 27 2012 02:25 PM

I'm curious how sleep as a means of "rewiring" or strengthening synapses is reconciled with the notion that sleep acts as a volume dial, reducing or quieting the experiences of the previous day.

Sep. 06 2012 03:21 PM

Hey! Olivia Block!

Jul. 18 2012 06:23 PM

Both music intermissions are by the band Casino versus Japan. First song is called Troidic, second is Marilyn set me free.

Jul. 10 2012 10:41 AM
Andrew Hansen from St. Mary's University

I can relate to seeing the images of organic chemistry reactions when trying to sleep. Radiolab should do a podcast about how the brain constructs maps of one's environment via neuronal signal patterning, very substantive stuff. Acausal consciousness amidst biochemical reactions and the illusory nature of free will, that is the stuff of life (well, for me at least).

Mar. 07 2012 02:06 PM
Heather from Minneapolis, MN

John, I don't dream in color, either. My dreams are mostly gray and muted. Oftentimes the faces aren't clear, even when I'm dreaming about someone I know well. Occasionally, a color or two will be vivid in my dream, but that's rare for me.

Mar. 06 2012 08:29 PM
John from San Antonio, TX

So does everyone dream I color? I feel left out, it's always dark and colorless in my dreams with shapes and outlines of things. Never any real color. What does that mean?

Mar. 06 2012 03:54 PM

"Browsing the net never turns up in people's dreams, but tetris does." I have dreams about browsing the net all the time. I'm browsing the net in the dreams and then I don't realize it's a dream until I see a headline that sounds interesting and go "I'll read that" and then realize I can't read anymore because I'm asleep and then I'll wake up.

Mar. 04 2012 07:57 PM

Very interesting! I'd be curious about organ regeneration/deterioration related to sleep.

Jan. 11 2012 01:17 PM
Brett Geale from Coolum Beach, Australia

Who produces the music?

Dec. 11 2011 08:08 PM
Michele Wood from Torrington CT

What an interesting topic! But unfortunately, those yawns at the end there were quite contagious, and you have me yawning should explore why hearing or seeing a yawn sends someone else into a fit of yawning.

Sep. 16 2011 10:18 AM
Yannis Pavlidis from Boulder, CO

How about the old saying:
" sleep brings sleep".

It has happened to me several times. The more I sleep the more sleepy I am.

Jul. 07 2011 11:48 PM
A. Torp

So the noise from that sleeping kitten's brain... that's the sound of one cat napping?

Jun. 26 2011 03:20 AM
MJB from Michigan

Oh man!

Can I EVER identify with the forced sleep deprivation brought about by KIDS. And the thing is that I know I will not achieve regular sleep levels again for the next 2 or 3 years. This just sucks all the pleasure out of the "joys of parenthood" for me.

Personally, I beleive I will hit my parenting stride during my boys' adolecent and teenage years. I'm much better suited for those sets of challenges, because all this sleep deprevation garbage and constant whining is just squeezing the very life-force out of me.

May. 26 2011 10:08 AM
Carter from Miami, Florida

Psychonaut was correct with "Casino Versus Japan"

Try giving their other tunes a listen too.

Related: This was a great episode, as usual. I'm just starting to listen to all of them.

Apr. 21 2011 03:55 PM

Listened to many episodes already, but just heard this one for the first time... I actually sleep better in hotel rooms than at home (perhaps from touring with bands) and when I'm at home I actually seem to dislike sleep. Whatever that is...

Apr. 03 2011 02:38 AM
Miles Wimbrow from Baltimore, MD

I almost stopped listening to this episode because I cannot stand to listen to crying, screaming, children. Really.

I live in an apartment building with very thin, wooden floors. My neighbors above me don't go to bed until after 3:30 in the morning. I lay in bed listening to their footsteps and curse their existence.

I never thought sleeping could be so stressful.

Feb. 06 2011 11:06 PM
corel from WI

What is the song at 21min.? That is my question...

Jan. 30 2011 11:59 PM
Freshbreakfast from Oakland, CA

I was also struck by the dreamy, downtempo song at around the 40 mark, and Shazam seems to be incorrectly attributing the song to Marilyn Monroe (when I fall in love).

However, I'm almost certain this is a loop from Groove Armada track "At the River", layed over another drum loop. Anyhow, that Groove Armada song is quite dreamily blissful. So if you're looking for the full song of the sample at 40:00, you should feel most of the same effect with Groove Armada track:

Jan. 21 2011 12:22 AM

Song from dreams section 40 minutes in:

Dec. 19 2010 03:20 PM

I would also like to know the song at 40 mins!

Dec. 19 2010 03:17 PM
Mike Holland from Sxphw, NC

I listened to one of these shows while wearing headphones and fell asleep. I remember dreaming about friends from highschool days meeting in a restaurant, and at some point the class smarty stood to give a toast... he started in, but instantly started reciting an ad for something you guys had on your show about another show... I'd already listened to this show prior to sleeping, and when he made his toast, at first it was funny, the folks at the table laughed, then I realized I'd heard this in the ad, and started to realize that my dream was putting your words I was hearing on the fly, into his mouth... It was like a poltergeist took over his body, but when I realized all this I think that's what fully pulled me to wakefulness; then I tried to scribble all this down, but later, trying to read my sleepy scribblings realized why dream research may be impossible at the level of house-hold funding.

Dec. 17 2010 07:54 PM

Oh man.... Let me just say that my daughter, who is 20 months old right now, will not sleep. I happened to be listening to the sleep episode the other day while in the haze of sleep depravity, and suddenly felt a little bit better. I can totally relate to Hannah's experiences with children and sleep deprivation. We finally got her to sleep a couple nights in a row and thought she had finally ended her fight against sleep.... Not the case; we battle on!

My daughter lives the "sleep is for the weak" motto, and with the wild schedule of the holidays shows no sign of relenting.

Dec. 15 2010 01:58 PM
jordan from connecticut

can anybody tell me what song that is at 40 min in? i really like it. also, this was an awesome episode.

Dec. 03 2010 02:48 PM

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