The Reason Sleep Is Disturbed On First Night In Unfamiliar Surroundings

Study helps explain the ‘first night effect’.

Study helps explain the ‘first night effect’.

It can be hard to sleep on the first night in a new place: such as on holiday or when visiting friends.

Dr Yuka Sasaki, author of a new study, said:

“In Japan they say, ‘if you change your pillow, you can’t sleep.

You don’t sleep very well in a new place.

We all know about it.”

The reason could be down to the fact that one of the brain’s hemispheres stays more awake: alert for trouble.

For the research, scientists measured people’s brain activity on the first night in the sleep lab.

They focused on the part of the sleep cycle in which deep sleep occurs — sometimes called slow-wave sleep.

The sleepers were played irregular beeping sounds while they were asleep to examine the brain’s alertness.

The study’s authors conclude:

“The present study has demonstrated that when we are in a novel environment, inter-hemispheric asymmetry occurs in regional slow-wave activity, vigilance and responsiveness, as a night watch to protect ourselves.”

The study was published in the journal Current Biology (TamakiĀ et al., 2016).

Image credit: Alex

Author: Dr Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004.

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