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關于睡眠你所不知道的驚人理論

The surprising truth about why we sleep and how much we need
關于睡眠你所不知道的驚人理論

They say that an elephant never forgets. It is also often stated that one of the functions of sleep is to consolidate memories. If both of those things were true, then you'd expect elephants to sleep a lot – but the truth is, the massive pachyderms, which have the biggest brains of any land mammal, sleep just two hours each night.

有人說大象永遠不會忘事。還有人說睡眠的作用之一在于強化鞏固記憶。如果上述兩種說法都對的話,就能推導得出"大象睡眠時間很長"的結論,但是實際上,這種無論體型還是腦體積都在陸地哺乳動物中排名第一的動物每晚卻只睡兩個小時。

Even though we sleep almost every night of our lives, it is also one of the most commonly misunderstood aspects of behaviour. It turns out that a lot of common ideas about sleep, much like the example above, are simply incorrect.

在我們的生命中,我們幾乎每晚都在睡眠中度過,但是睡眠卻是最受誤解的一種人類行為。很多關于睡眠的看法,就如上面的例子一樣,是完全錯誤的。

Have you heard, for example, that thanks to electric lighting and the faint glow emanating from the smartphone screens we stare at before going to bed, we get fewer hours of shut-eye than our hunter-gatherer ancestors?

例如,你是否聽說過這種說法:由于現代電氣照明,以及我們在睡覺前觀看智能手機屏幕時發出的微光,現代人的睡眠時間要短于我們打獵采摘的祖先?
 

睡前玩手機是否會影響你的睡眠質量?

"Many people have heard this so many times through the media that they believe it," says Jerry Siegel, director of the University of California Los Angeles Center for Sleep Research. He admits it’s a compelling story, even though it is – probably – completely untrue. "The trouble is we don't really have any data on this," he says. "The devices that we use to measure sleep weren't invented until long after the invention of electric light."

"許多人在各路媒體上都看到過類似信息,他們也對此深信不疑,"加州大學洛杉磯分校睡眠研究中心主任杰里·西格爾(Jerry Siegel)表示。他承認,這些文章很能震撼人心,哪怕它們有可能根本站不住腳。"問題在于,我們在這方面沒有積累任何數據,"他說。"睡眠質量測量儀的發明時間比電燈要晚好多年。"

Since it's impossible to figure out how much time our ancestors spent sleeping, Siegel decided to do the next best thing. He travelled to Tanzania, Namibia, and Bolivia, spending time with contemporary hunter-gatherer groups. These people are born into an environment that is as close as can be found today to the one our ancestors would have lived in.

要想知道我們祖先每天的睡眠時間有多長是不可能的,因此西格爾決定另想辦法。他跑到坦桑尼亞、納米比亞和玻利維亞這些國家去考察當地的狩獵/采摘部落。這些部落居民生活在目前能夠找到的和我們祖先十分類似的環境中。

For their entire lives, these hunter-gatherer societies have lived – and slept - without any of the modern devices we suspect disturb our own rest. Several thousand miles separate the two groups in Africa, while the third is descended from a group that migrated out of Africa, travelled through Asia, crossed the Alaskan land bridge before then moving through North America and into South America. Despite this remarkable divergence, all three groups sleep about the same amount of time each night: six-and-a-half hours, on average. According to Siegel, there's no reason to believe our ancestors would have slept any more than that.

這些狩獵/采摘部落居民在終其一生中都不會見到會打擾我們休息的現代化裝置。其中兩個部落位于非洲,相距數千公里之遙,第三個部落則是最早從非洲遷出,然后穿越亞洲大陸,跨越阿拉斯加大陸橋,通過北美最終抵達南美。盡管這三個部落彼此間相距遙遠,但是它們的居民每晚睡眠時間卻十分接近:平均6.5小時。西格爾表示,沒有理由認為我們的祖先當初的睡眠時間會超過這個標準。

For most humans – living in modern societies with all the trappings of technology and electricity – the amount of time they spend kipping is between six and eight hours a night. So not only did our ancestors not sleep longer than we do, but they may have got slightly less sleep than some of us.

大多數生活在現代社會、享受著科技和電力帶來的種種便利的現代人類,每晚的睡眠時間介于6到8小時之間。由此可見,我們祖先的睡眠時間不僅不比現代人長,甚至還不如某些現代人。

We also generally sleep in the comfort of our climate-controlled homes, on comfy mattresses with fluffy pillows, where our biggest worry is who is hogging the covers and whether to allow Fido to sleep on the bed too. Our human ancestors slept instead on rocks, dirt or possibly on tree branches, without the creature comforts of down comforters or central heating. They could not use blackout blinds to let them lie in long after the sun came up, nor could they hope to avoid weather or insects. They also had to worry about being picked off by the occasional predator or attacked by a rival group while they slept. It's no wonder they likely got little more than six hours each night.

我們一般在配備空調的臥室里睡眠,身下鋪著舒適的床墊,枕著松軟的枕頭,唯一要擔心的是睡夢中被子可能被伴侶搶走,還有是否讓寵物狗上床共眠。然而,我們的祖先卻只能在巖石、泥土或者樹枝上入睡,沒有羽絨被和中央供暖系統帶來的舒適。沒有窗簾在太陽升起后保持室內黑暗,也無法抵御風雨和昆蟲侵襲。此外,不期而至的野獸或者敵對部落也會在我們的祖先入睡時發動襲擊。難怪他們每晚的睡眠時間很少能超過6個小時。

Yet there is another myth about how our ancestors slept – that they napped in several short chunks through the night, rather than in one long slumber. On that too, according to Siegel, we're wrong. This erroneous assumption, he blames on our pets.

關于人類祖先的睡眠還有另外一個傳言——他們晚上時睡時醒,睡眠被分割成幾段,不會睡上一個完整的覺。西格爾說,這種說法也是不符合事實的。他說,人們是看到寵物的睡眠狀況才有這種想象的。

"I think the origin of that [idea] is people have cats and dogs, and that's what cats and dogs do – they do sleep that way," he says. "But primates don't." We are but the latest in a long line of species that tends to snooze in one long, uninterrupted block of sleep each night. That's not to say that apes and monkeys don’t take the occasional mid-day nap, or that they don't wake up in the middle of the night from time to time. But, just like in our own species, that's not quite the norm.

"飼養貓狗作為寵物的人看到貓狗這樣睡覺,就以為人類的祖先也是這樣,"他說。"但是原始人不會這樣睡。"人類是一系列保持完整睡眠的物種中進化得最晚的一個。猩猩和猿猴也會在白天打盹或者在半夜醒來。但是和人類一樣,這些現象都不是常態。"

Indeed, Siegel's cross-cultural study found that modern hunter-gatherer groups almost never napped in the winter, and only napped slightly more often during the summer, presumably as a means of escaping the worst heat of the day. And even then, he says, the average person only took a daytime nap every fifth day or so.

西格爾的跨文化研究發現,現代狩獵/采摘部落在冬天幾乎從不打盹,在夏天打盹的次數稍多,這可能是算避開白天最熱的時段的途徑。但是他說,即便如此,平均每人每5天里才會打盹一次。

But there is one tiny way in which the myth holds up. The people Siegel studied all lived fairly close to the equator. As you move to higher latitudes, the night can last up to 16 hours in the winter, so living in that kind of environment may have led Northern European ancestors to fragment their evening slumber during that part of the year. But because we have cleaved our sleep patterns from the natural cycles of the seasons, even in Northern Europe most modern-day humans sleep through the night, perhaps just waking up for a quick visit to the bathroom.

但是,傳言可能有一點點對的地方。西格爾所研究的部落全都位于赤道附近。在高緯度地區,冬季夜晚會長達16小時。在這種環境下生存的北歐原始人很有可能在冬季夜晚時睡時醒。然而,現代人已經不再按照四季的自然節律入睡。哪怕在北歐地區,大多數現代人也不會在冬夜中斷睡眠,頂多半夜起來去上次廁所而已。

Having settled two of the most pervasive myths regarding sleep behaviour, Siegel has now turned to other, more fundamental questions about the nature of sleep. Why do we even do it?

否定了關于睡眠行為的兩個最流行的傳言后,西格爾現在開始把注意力投向關于睡眠的另一個更為根本性的問題。我們為什么必須睡覺?

If it played a role in memory consolidation or some other brain function, then you wouldn’t expect the big brown bat to get a whopping 20 hours a day, while the much larger and cognitively complex African elephant survives comfortably on just two.

如果睡眠是為了強化記憶或其他大腦功能的話,那么如何解釋大棕蝙蝠每天要呼呼大睡20小時,然而體型巨大、智力更強的非洲象只需睡上2小時就足夠呢?

Instead, Siegel wonders whether sleep may not be a biological requirement itself, but rather evolution's way of maximising productivity. As he wrote in Nature Reviews Neuroscience in 2009, perhaps sleep provides a means of "increas[ing] the efficiency of behavior by regulating its timing and by reducing energy use when activity is not beneficial."

西格爾認為,睡眠本身可能并非一種生物學需求,而是在進化過程中產生的、實現生產力最大化的一種行為。他在2009年發表于《神經科學自然評論》(Nature Reviews Neuroscience)雜志上的一篇論文中寫道,睡眠的作用可能是"在生物活動不再有益的時間段,通過優化時間使用及降低能量用量而提高行為效率"。

It's a common trick in both the animal and plant kingdoms. Some trees shed their leaves in the autumn and cease photosynthesising, which could be thought as a kind of botanical slumber. Bears hibernate in the winter, in part to avoid fruitlessly expending energy hunting and foraging at a time when there is not much food to be found.

無論在動物界還是植物界,這都是一種十分常見的生存策略。有些樹會在秋天會脫去樹葉并停止光合作用,這可以看作是一種植物冬眠。熊在冬季會冬眠,從而避免在食物匱乏的季節徒勞無功地四處捕獵和覓食。

Other mammals, such as echidnas, enter a sleepy-state known as torpor, where their metabolism slows down to barely a whisper to help them get through hard times. Perhaps sleep is simply our version of such "adaptive inactivity", allowing us to be productive during the daylight hours while avoiding overexertion - and, historically, exposure to predators - at night, while still permitting us to awaken easily if necessary.

其他哺乳動物,例如針鼴鼠(echidnas)在食物匱乏的季節會進入一種昏昏欲睡的"麻木"(torpor)狀態,這種狀態下,針鼴鼠的新陳代謝率會大幅下降。而睡眠可能是人類的一種"適應性活動抑制"(adaptive inactivity)行為,它讓我們在白天保持清醒,在晚上則避免過分活動引來捕食動物。必要時,還可以讓我們在夜間迅速醒來。

Or, to put it another way, maybe it's selective laziness.

換句話說,睡眠可能是一種"選擇性懶惰"(selective laziness)。
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