26 - Jessa Gamble (Circadian Rhythms & The Science of Sleep)

Tue May 16 2017 (57:20)

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This week we chat with science journalist Jessa Gamble, author of The Siesta and The Midnight Sun: How Our Bodies Experience Time, about time in the body, circadian rhythms, lunar cycles, and the science of sleep.

– Topics We Discuss:

• Cultural dimensions of human communities at different latitudes;

• Organic human rhythms versus high-frequency trading algorithm digital rhythms;

• The evolutionary history of circadian rhythms and sleep;

• What are we going to do when we settle on other planets with days of different lengths?  (Like Mars, with a 24 hour and 25 minute day…)

• NASA scientists trying (and failing) to live on Earth on Martian time;

• The natural history of biphasic human sleep and the (VERY RECENT) cultural construction of the “8 hour night”;

• How the lengths of our circadian cycles actually differ from person to person;

• The ethical complexities and possible social consequences of research into human enhancement;

• How Douglas Rushkoff learned to hack his monthly schedule to align with lunar cycles and increase his productivity by 40% by doing LESS work;

• The differences between how humans and dolphins sleep;

• How and WHY we might want to defeat sleep once and for all…



– Media We Reference: (Links are for my Amazon affiliate account - buy ANYTHING on Amazon through these links and a % of the sale supports this podcast, at no cost to you.)

• The Siesta and The Midnight Sun: How Our Bodies Experience Time by Jessa Gamble

Northern Exposure (episode with Joel Fleischmann going manic due to 24 hour sunlight)

30 Days of Night by Steve Niles & Ben Templesmith

Insomnia (Stellan Skarsgård & Robin Williams)

• Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now by Douglas Rushkoff

An American Tail

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Harari

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Harari

One Taste: Daily Reflections on Integral Spirituality by Ken Wilber


– Links:

The Last Word on Nothing: http://www.lastwordonnothing.com/about-us/jessa-gamble/


Here’s her TED talk:https://www.ted.com/talks/jessa_gamble_how_to_sleep


And here’s her archive of articles at The Atlantic:https://www.theatlantic.com/author/jessa-gamble/


On salt intake in Russian Cosmonauts and how we might be wrong about salt: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/08/health/salt-health-effects.html


Giulio Tunoni at the University of Wisconsin and their Sleep Center’s work to minimize the amount of necessary sleep: http://centerforsleepandconsciousness.med.wisc.edu/


On the correlation between lunar cycle phase and neurotransmitters: http://justadandak.com/present-shock-matching-the-rhythms-of-the-moon/


Vlad Vyazovskiy’s Oxford Sleep Lab: http://vvlab.org/index.php/80-research/24-vladvyazovskiylaboratory


– Jessa Quotes:

“The almost-definition of being sleepy is, you cannot really learn anymore.”

“Sometimes, the awful consequences that are supposed to be punishment for acting like a god don’t actually happen.”

“What we’ve decided to do [with sleep research] is look at the fact that we’re all sleep deprived, that it’s making us unhealthy, that it’s making us accident-prone, that it’s making us stupider – because sleep is the most effective cognitive enhancer that we know about.  The fact that we’re sleep deprived is then met with a whole slew of people who say, ‘Well, so we need to sleep more.  This is the solution.’  But there are other things that we could be doing, like seeing if we can cut down on our actual NEED for sleep, so we can do more of the things we’d like to do more of.”

“What I would encourage people to do, if they’re zooming out on the problem or question of sleep, is to think about quality of life, what makes life great, and maybe take a page from the actuarial tables – which adjust for things like disability, years spent with crippling diseases and so on.  And surely being unconscious has to be the most debilitating of all states.  And if we’re spending a third of our lives in this state, could this be different?  And should we put some effort into looking into this?”

– Michael Quote:

“Multicellularity was a technological singularity.  Photosynthesis and Glycolysis was a technological singularity.  Written language, and before that even, spoken language, was a technological singularity.  So it’s good to keep that in perspective.”