Hello and welcome to my 4th round of research on the question "How does sleep effect our ability to learn and retain knowledge?”.


Being dead honest here, I had planned on doing 3 rounds and then my conclusion, so for this round I have decided to go over the questions and thoughts of the people who replied to my previous rounds, and next post will be my conclusion/metamorphosis.

So here goes.

The questions and thoughts:

  • Does light or other external factors affect sleep? (Sophie Holland)
  • Why do some people find it easier to fall asleep in some environments compared to others? (Rhea Manhas)
  • Why can we not sleep sometimes, even when we are really tired? (Etta Lainchbury)
  • What could help us sleep better? (Popular demand)


Does light or other external factors affect sleep? (Sophie Holland)

Yes, yes it does, it most definitely does. Though depending on how we look at it, it either effects it directly or indirectly. Light affects us in two ways in regard to our sleep. Indirectly, the amount of light that we receive effects the hypothalamus, which at this moment doesn’t affect your sleep in any way, except for the fact that the hypothalamus controls your circadian rhythm. If you don’t already know what the circadian rhythm is, it’s an internal clock within the body that tells your body when to increase certain hormones and chemicals and lessen others such as melatonin. So what would happen  is that the light would enter through the eye which would give a signal to the hypothalamus, who would in turn adjust in response to how much light the eye was saying it had received, and so change the amount of hormones it’s releasing and so change your circadian rhythm or at least throw it off, as the circadian doesn’t change in the snap of a finger. Though that could also be considered directly, depending on how you look at it. The other way it could affect it though, would definitely be directly. It’s second fashion would be that your cells also respond to light, though that isn’t the only factor in this one, they also respond to temperature, surrounding and if this is your first time in this environment, and more. The idea is that if the right conditions (they aren’t actually necessary, but they do help greatly when it comes to going to sleep) aren’t met what will happen is that you r cells will go out of sync. What I mean by this is that while your other internal clock is saying, “hey its late”, your circadian rhythm is saying “you know, I think it is but I’m getting the sense I shouldn’t go to sleep now” and then half your cells are saying “we don’t like it, we no need sleep”, and the other half are saying “whatever you say circadian rhythm”. It’s kind of similar to a family on a road trip, there’s the clock that’s definitely correct saying it’s late, there’s the parents saying hey we should probably go to sleep, but continue driving and staying up, and then there’s me who doesn’t want to sleep cause it’s uncomfortable and cold, and then there’s my brother who’s gone to sleep. If you would like to know more about it you can always look into my previous rounds, as they are mentioned there as well. (1)

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Why do some people find it easier to fall asleep in some environments compared to others? (Rhea Manhas)

One possible reason is that, they are simply comfortable sleeping in that environment, after the first time you fall asleep somewhere it becomes easier and easier. The first time you sleep in a new environment the brain is more active then it usually is, this is presumed to be an evolutionary reason as it is the same case with other animals as well, but they have it much more extreme, we are watching out for other predators. So, following that idea if we are in a setting/environment where we aren’t very comfortable, say a classroom filled with 29 other people, it would be difficult to fall asleep, while if you were very comfortable in that setting it would be much easier. (1) Though there could be another reason, narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a condition where our body’s control over how awake and how asleep we are isn’t very well controlled, and so it’s possible to suddenly feel really, really tired in the oddest of places, and while it is presumed that 1 in every 2000 people are affected by it, only 25% of people who it severely effects actually seek treatment, so it’s entirely possible that one of these people might actually have this condition. Interestingly enough this condition is presumed to be caused by genetics, a reoccurring instance it would appear when on the topic of sleep. (2) Another possible reason is that, that’s simply their way of dealing with stress. The idea behind this is called “learned helplessness”, if before you learned that no matter what you tried to do a, terrible situation couldn’t be resolved then your response when running into problems was to simply give up, or sleep in this case, you have no reason to fight, where as if you grew up being able to fix your problems or situations you are more likely when you run into problems to try to solve and not give up, so you would stay awake. (3) of course, all this changes from person to person, hell the reason might be something else entirely it all changes from person to person.

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Why can we not sleep sometimes, even when we are really tired? (Etta Lainchbury)

Well let’s see, one reason possibly could be that you had your lights on just 5 minutes ago so your body still thinks that it’s not yet time to go to sleep, or possibly you are in a hotel (new environment) so your brain doesn’t really want to go to sleep, as it’s not somewhere it considers safe. Another reason might be that you have just take in a plane from one part of the world to another, and so your body has not yet adapted to your new schedule, and is still thinking in terms of where you were before, it’s also possible that you might have a problem or condition such as insomnia which makes it difficult to fall asleep. (1) Other reasons for not being able to sleepy include; your mind actively thinking about something that is keeping your attention, being very into something / being very aware of things / ”heightened arousal”. The first part might happen if say you have a next day or some other stressful event that you just can’t stop thinking about, at this point your mind is simply unable to really fall asleep as it needs to stay awake to think about / worry, it would be bad if we were to fall asleep while thinking about important things (engaging things would be better, but to our mind they are considered to be important). The second part is that our body is active, and so it wants to stay active, it’s still in the mindset that it should be awake and paying attention, this can be caused by a few things one of which is exercising before going to bed, and another common one would be caffeine (or really any other stimulant), as these both cause our body to have a reaction where we are, awake. (4)

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What could help us sleep better? (Popular demand)

One thing that helps sleep is exercise or being active. It helps us sleep better (and at times longer), just so long as we don’t do it near to when we go to sleep (preferably end your exercise 3 hours at least before going to sleep, as exercise has been shown to “awaken” us for up to 3 hours) as then we are making our body feel awake and impeding our ability to effectively fall asleep. (1) It’s recommended  that you do any activity that you find relaxing or calming before going to sleep as that will get you in the mood to sleep, you’ll be relaxed and ready to fall asleep. In fact, that’s often the problem with people who have trouble falling asleep, they can’t relax or calm down so if you can find an activity or thing to do before going to bed that makes you relaxed and calm it should greatly help you fall asleep. (4) There are also a few other things that you can do, one such thing would be adjusting the temperature of the room that you are sleeping in, as when the body goes to sleep it prefers to be a tad colder. Another suggestion is to make a schedule of when you sleep and to stick to it, as when you vary in the time you go to sleep it screws with your circadian rhythm who prefers  to stay in one way and stay that way, so by staying a schedule you will be going to sleep at the optimal time to go to sleep as your body is also prepared. Another thing to take into consideration is just what position you go to sleep in, and while it is dependent on preference, it’s best to avoid sleeping on your back as it has some been shown to lead to sleep apnea and other problems such as snoring. A few other things that may be of use would be, reading, trying to stay awake (5), and if it’s still bad there are certain tablets/supplements that you can take, an example of this would be melatonin (a hormone that helps your body fall asleep, makes you sleepy) supplements which are taken by people with problems due to jet-lag. (1,5)

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  1. https://www.pa-mojabutterfly.c...in-knowledge-round-1 & https://www.pa-mojabutterfly.c...ain-knowledge-round-2 & https://www.pa-mojabutterfly.c...in-knowledge-round-3
  2. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-di...s/guide/narcolepsy#1
  3. https://www.theatlantic.com/he...lling-asleep/282422/
  4. https://www.sleepio.com/articl...ired-but-cant-sleep/
  5. https://www.healthline.com/nut...fall-asleep#section1


Links for pictures, in order from first to last appearing on my round:



Original Post

Hey Bogdan,

I found this post very interesting because the questions are very relatable to the readers. As a person who enjoys her sleep and can quite frankly sleep anywhere, I find it interesting that our brains are always constantly active and it seems to be a common issue in most of these questions. Perhaps if you continue with this question next cycle, you could look into the brain specifically and into the reasoning of why people have difficulties sleeping? Although it isn't all mental issues that prevent people from sleeping, there are other factors such as room temperature and setting but your active brain does have a major role. The brain is an intriguing organ that has many unique and interesting parts that can answer many of our common sleeping questions. Overall, this was a great way to conclude your research round and it was filled with detailed information that was easy to read.

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