Science of Sleep Morning Ex

In anticipation of a visit from Dr. Eve Cauter, professor of medicine at the University of Chicago; director of the Sleep, Metabolism and Health Center; and Parker’s 12th Annual Robert A. Pritzker Visiting Scientist•Inventor•Engineer in Residence, Upper School students enrolled in Topics in Psychology partnered with science teachers in presenting a Morning Ex on the science of sleep.

Before the presentation began, science teacher George Austin led the assembly in observing a moment of remembrance for the late Dr. Leon Lederman, Parker’s inaugural Pritzker Visiting Scientist•Inventor•Engineer in 2006.

Students opened their presentation by defining sleep and sharing a video that demonstrated what would happen if we didn’t sleep. Next, a pair of presenters shared data related to the optimal amount of student and adult sleep time during the week and weekend versus the revelations from a recent survey conducted at the school, as well as survey data related to the causes of student sleep deprivation at the school.

A trio of students then addressed the five stages of the sleep cycle and described the causes and conditions of sleepwalking and sleep talking. Presenters discussed dreams, considering questions of what dreams area, why we dream and what dreams mean and spoke about the different types of dreams we can have: ordinary, prophetic, recurring and lucid, as well as nightmares and night terrors. The topic of sleep disorders came next, including the causes, types and consequences of narcolepsy, insomnia and sleep apnea in the lives of those trying to get some shut-eye.

The final group of students helped illuminate the importance of sleep to our immune system, as we produce special white blood cells, called cytoxic T cells, that destroy infected cells when we sleep. A lack of sleep also results in decreased production of a hormone called melatonin, which regulates sleep and reaches peak production during sleep. To bring the assembly to a close, students provided several recommendations to help people get the sleep they need, including eliminating caffeinated foods or beverages at least one hour before bedtime; stopping screen time at least 30 minutes before bedtime; de-stressing with music, yoga or a soak in a tub; and keeping the bedroom cool, dark and silent.

Before they opened the floor to questions, the closing presenters reminded all students to do everything they could to ensure their ideal 9 to 11 hours of sleep nightly!

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