Trouble Sleeping In Hotels? Scientists Reveal Your Brain Stays Half Awake In Unfamiliar Places

Animal instinct is designed to protect us from predators.

Ever wondered why you find it harder to get to sleep in a hotel or in a new place?

Well scientists have discovered that it's actually a 'survival mode' that goes all the way back to when we used to live in caves and grunt for fun.

Scientists at Brown University discovered that this First-Night-Effect (FNE) is an uncontrollable reaction by the brain when it recognises you're sleeping in a new location for the first time.

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What then happens is that rather than allowing your body to go into a full sleep only half of the brain shuts down, keeping the other half in a 'sentry mode'.

While not fully awake, the left hemisphere was always in a state of alertness with increased sensitivity to what was going on around it.

Sleep scientist Masako Tamaki and her colleagues discovered that those who were in this half-awake state were woken up more easily by 'deviant' sounds like a creaking door or a screaming fox.

Humans aren't the only animals to have this defense mechanism, in fact both Dolphins and Whales have a far more advanced version which allows them to get a full night's rest while still staying alert in case a predator is nearby.

Best Apps For Sleep And Sleep Tracking:

3 Minute Mindfulness
It might sound silly but something as simple as breathing properly can make all the difference when you're trying to get to sleep. When everything gets on top of you it's difficult to shed that baggage when you get into bed. 3 Minute Mindfulness is a simple, smart way of clearing your head. You can use three different short breathing techniques both on your iPhone or through the Apple Watch app with gentle cues telling you when to inhale and exhale. It's not rocket science, but sometimes not-rocket-science is just what you need.
For some of us, there's nothing more supportive to nodding off than a familiar sound that helps us feel safe. Windy provides that sound in a beautiful and simple way. Gorgeous hand-drawn landscapes provide the backdrop to expertly recorded soundscapes from a quiet field, to a gently running stream in the woods. There's a timer and it'll run in the background as well so you can just hook your phone up to speakers/headphones and feel transported to the countryside.
Sleep Cycle Alarm
Sleep Cycle Alarm
Your alarm goes off, you've had a reasonably good night's sleep and yet you wake up feeling like you've spent all night at a warehouse rave. This is where Sleep Cycle Alarm comes in, it's a sleep tracker/smart alarm that wakes you up at the best time. Set a 30 min window and the app will wake you up during your lightest sleep phase. There's a superb sleep tracking function as well that lets you add things like how much coffee you drank. Insightful, easy to use and potentially a real game-changer.
For those suffering from chronic sleep problems, Sleepio is the all-in-one solution. Developed by sleep experts at Oxford University, it's a comprehensive sleep manager that tracks, analyses and then helps to improve sleep by looking at all the possible root causes for sleep problems. It then uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques to help you fight back. Compatible with Apple Health and Jawbone's range of fitness trackers Sleepio does come with a subscription cost but with an absolute arsenal of tools provided it could be worth every penny.
Max Richter - Sleep
Max Richter Sleep
OK so this isn't an app, but you'll need an app to use it. It's an album of music but it's one that's very special indeed. Composer Max Richter's album Sleep is 8 hours long, and there's a reason for that - it has been written to help you sleep. Known for his haunting, minimalist soundscapes Richter has a habit of going off the beaten track (he casually re-wrote Vivaldi's Four Seasons) and an 8 hour album is no exception. Don't think this is just a gimmick though. 'Sleep' is an aural triumph that will gently seep into the background, creating a warm blanket of sound that'll eliminate the city around you.
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