Ever wondered what sleep may look like in the future? We explore how sleep may go from science fiction dream to eyes-wide-shut reality.
Science fiction has imagined a vast array of realities. While many of them seem like an impossible dream (#stillwaitingonmyhoverboard), some technological advances dreamed up by sci-fi have since become a reality. Consider the tablet computer – an iteration of which notably appeared in Star Trek.
A feature of much sci-fi is imagining what sleep may look like in the future. Whether it's allowing astronauts to sleep through the boring, lengthy periods of intergalactic space travel, or the hacking of sleep for punishment, productivity or for more nefarious purposes, sci-fi writers have explored an array of alternatives to the standard 8 hours a night.
Of course, where sci-fi goes, actual science often follows. So we've explored just which future sleep fantasies may become a reality.
Call it hypersleep, cryosleep or stasis, the basic premise behind this is a sleep pod that puts space travellers to sleep, allowing them to bypass many of the mental and physical strains required of interstellar travel. Think Alien (and the rest of the franchise), 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Event Horizon.
As well as allowing movie directors to skip many of the boring moments of space travel and quickly get to the action, cryosleep also means ships don't have to carry the huge amount of food and supplies that would otherwise be required of a months- or years-long journey, thereby saving considerable weight, space, and energy.
While it might seem like a far-fetched fantasy, reports are NASA is currently working on the technology as part of a human mission to Mars. While not ‘cryo' sleep, instead people would enter a state of torpor, in the much the same way mammals hibernate during winter.
In fact, scientists already use this technology to induce comas in critical trauma patients, although this usually only lasts for a few days, not months. It works by lowering the core body temperature of the patient, slowing down their vital functions and allowing the brain to enter a “sleep state”, from which they can be awakened when required.
While many of us regularly get by on less, research has shown that the optimum amount of sleep time for adult humans is around 7-9 hours a night.
But what if humans could function on less sleep? Much, much less.
Television series Dr. Who explored just such an idea during the series 9 episode titled Sleep No More. Using a machine known as Morpheus, workers are able to truncate a month's worth of sleep into just 5 minutes, allowing them to work more.
Similarly, the 1990s novel Beggars in Spain, imagined a future in which genetic engineering has allowed certain people to eliminate the need for sleep altogether, while at the same time endowing them with greater intelligence and productivity.
Research already exists for there being a genetic link between people who can function, and thrive, on very little sleep. University of California human geneticist Ying-Hui Fu was part of a team that unlocked a gene variation that allows some people to function on less sleep, without the adverse side effects normally associated with sleep deprivation.
Scientists hope this gene will lead to the production of medical stimulants that would allow people to go days or more without the need for sleep.
Of course, when we sleep, our brain doesn't entirely shut down.
While there are tech tools that allow you to exercise some control over your dreams, there is still much that we don't understand about the dream state.
Sci-fi has imagined dreaming as a way to alter or create entirely new realities. In Inception, military technology allows ‘extractors' to enter the minds of their targets while they sleep in order to gain valuable information. The Portable Automated Somnacin IntraVenous device (or PASIV) is used to enter the subconscious of dreamers and manipulate the locations, events and people there in order to plant ideas and influence the target when they awake.
Scientists have been interested in what happens when we dream and people who are naturally gifted lucid dreamers are helping researchers uncover more information.
Normally, being able to communicate while asleep would be incredibly difficult because the body is essentially paralysed during the REM stage where dreaming occurs. However, using predetermined eye movements, sleep subjects are able to communicate with researchers as they dream. While this research is at the early stages, it's hoped that lucid dreaming will allow researchers to understand more about the subconscious and how our mind works during sleep.
While these advances in technology are some ways off, Sleeping Duck has combined the latest in research and engineering to create the very best mattress for your sleep today. Click here to find out just what goes into the most comfortable mattress on the market.