Why do I fall asleep in lectures?

18 July 2013


Girl asleep



Why am I not able to stay awake during lectures at university? Lectures I find riveting and most of the time, there's not much else I'd rather be doing than listening to my professors talk about receptor theory or neurophysiology. The same as when I'm driving at night, my eyelids droop and I fall into microsleeps before just putting my head down on the bench and sleeping (not while driving!). It's not so much sleep deprivation either; I get enough each night (unless there's an assignment due in the morning). Lots of people I've spoken to have the same experiences - long, inactive periods leave them unable to stay awake. Why? Hey guys, love the show - it's amazing.
Thanks so much! Keep it up!


Hannah - Well Joel, I think part of the reason is that lecture theatres generally seem to be quite dark. So we know that blue light actually stimulates your brain and your body to wake up. It does this by affecting this little region in your brain that's called a suprachiasmatic nuclei. It's this little region that's about the size of a pinhead and if you kind of - I don't suggest you do this at home - but if you put a pencil up your nose, basically, you'd get to the suprachiasmatic nuclei. There's about 20,000 nerve cells there and they're the kind of master body clock in your body and your brain. It regulates your sleep wake cycle. Blue light affects these suprachiasmatic nuclei to wake you up. In dark lecture theatres, there's not much blue light going. So maybe you could bring in a blue wavelength rich light. There's also other little tricks to keep yourself awake. So, giving your self extra stimulation another way. So for example, if you're driving in a car, maybe turn the radio on, maybe listen to the Naked Scientists to get some extra stimulation so that your brain is kind of awake and thinking, and maybe open the window to get some air rushing in and to stimulate your somato sensory cortex with the breeze. Chris - So basically, what you're saying is that a room which is - regardless of what's being presented, warm, quiet, dark, they're all sorts of feature similar to your bedroom probably and so, it does lull you into a fairly snoozey state.


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