Matt is back this week with his recurring series, ‘Sleep is Bloody Remarkable’. Today’s episode is all about why we are unique when it comes to sleep.
When we compare our sleep to that of all other primates, humans stand out in two ways. First, we spend far less time asleep, and second, and in bloody remarkable 😂 contrast, humans get more than double the amount of REM sleep.
Unlike many other primates, we humans are exclusively ground (or bed!) sleepers. In contrast, primates usually sleep arboreally, meaning in the branches of trees. During REM sleep, to prevent acting out our dreams, the brain paralyzes the body. But this is far too dangerous to do if you are sleeping up in the trees, lest you fall fatally down to earth.
Homo erectus, as the first obligate biped and, with fire to deter predators and blood-sucking insects, was able to sleep fairly safely on the ground. However, fire didn’t eradicate all the risks. This forced another [bloody] remarkable change: hominids had to become far more efficient in their sleep and thus shorter duration of sleep.
This re-engineering of human sleep became one of the triggers that rocketed Homo sapiens to the top of the evolutionary pyramid due to REM sleep’s supercharging of 1) our socioemotional, allowing us to form the cooperative societies that formed the basis of modern civilizations, and 2) cognitive intelligence, particularly our creativity, which was the fuel to our brain-derived engine of ingenuity that helped in the great advances of civilization.
“Simply put: we sleep, therefore, we are.”
Sleep really is bloody remarkable.
Please note that Matt is not a medical doctor, and none of the content in this podcast should be considered medical advice in any way, shape, or form, nor prescriptive in any way.
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