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New study links sleep cycles to moon cycles

A newly published study adds to the long-debated evidence that humans are hard-wired to sleep less when the moon is full or the lights are on, probably due to the ancestral quirks of circadian rhythm.

The pattern has been documented in a variety of indigenous communities in Argentina — and at the University of Washington in Seattle, where bright lights and cloudy weather tend to dull even the full moon’s glare.

“We see a clear lunar modulation of sleep, with sleep decreasing and a later onset of sleep in the days preceding a full moon,” senior study author Horacio de la Iglesia, a UW biology professor, said in a news release. “And although the effect is more robust in communities without access to electricity, the effect is present in communities with electricity, including undergraduates at the University of Washington.”

The research was published today in the open-access journal Science Advances. It’s not the first study to report a correlation between lunar phases and sleep cycles. But it does make use of cutting-edge technology, in the form of wrist monitors, to track the sleep patterns of hundreds of experimental subjects reliably under natural conditions.

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Scientists use bands and Bing for sleep study

Sleepy woman
A study based on data from 30,000 users of Microsoft Bands confirms that sleep deprivation leads to reduced cognitive performance, at least when using the Bing search engine. (Bigstock Photo)

It may not be surprising that lack of sleep leaves you less sharp, but researchers have now quantified the effect with a surprisingly large sample: More than 30,000 people who wear Microsoft’s fitness bands and use Microsoft’s Bing search engine.

The results of the study suggest that a couple of short nights can slow you down for days afterward.

“When you don’t sleep well, it affects your cognitive performance, which means your work performance and lots of other things,” lead study author Tim Althoff said in a report on the Microsoft Next blog.

Althoff, who’s working on his Ph.D. in computer science at Stanford University, led the research team last summer during an internship at Microsoft’s research lab in Redmond, Wash. The resulting paper is to be presented in April at this year’s World Wide Web Conference in Perth, Australia.

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‘Martian’ spin-off video tackles sleep in space

Image: Sleeping astronaut
Do sleeping astronauts have to worry about being tied down in zero-G? (Credit: Fox / Armed Mind)

How do you get your Z’s in zero-G? Sleeping in space is one of the subjects tackled in a new video series from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment that capitalizes on the buzz generated by “The Martian.”

Fox’s “Life in Space” series is aimed at stirring up interest in today’s release of “The Martian” on DVD and Blu-ray. And speaking of “stirring,” one of the key issues on the International Space Station has to do with getting sufficient shut-eye without floating into your crewmate’s bunk.

NASA astronaut Drew Feustel, a veteran of two space shuttle flights, handles the question in a 46-second clip. It turns out that the accommodations are cozier than you might think.

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