Leonardo da Vinci, Catnapper Extraordinaire
How did da Vinci find time to sleep?
One of the mysteries about Leonardo da Vinci is how he managed to excel as an artist, architect, sculptor, inventor, etc., etc. and still find time to sleep.
Legend has it that the master catnapped for fifteen minutes every four hours, for a total of one and a half hours of sleep a day.
This unorthodox sleep schedule makes biological sense, according to Claudio Stampi, a researcher at the Institute of Circadian Physiology in Boston, Massachusetts. Most animals, he said, naturally sleep this way. During a three-week study, a graphic artist who adopted the same format of sleeping said he liked it so much that he volunteered for follow-up experiments.
Additional studies with solo ocean racers have suggested that contestants with the shortest sleep episodes did better than those who slept longer.
Stampi advocated a short sleep schedule for medical interns, emergency fire fighters, and others who need to remain attentive day and night; however, the average person is probably better off with eight hours of "shut-eye".
Do we sleep to refresh the body?
According to researchers, they have yet to find any vital biological function that sleep restores. As far as anyone can tell, muscles don't need sleep, just intermittent periods of relaxation. The rest of the body goes along seemingly unaware of whether the brain is asleep or awake.
Whatever combination of exotic or mundane things sleep turns out to be for, researchers admit they still don't know what the ideal amount of sleep is needed to keep our bodies and brains in good working order.
So, how much sleep should we get?
Most researchers take a decidedly practical position. "If you feel sleepy the following day, if you have episodes of sleepiness or a feeling of major fatigue throughout the day, it means you're not sleeping enough" said Dr. Pierre-Herve Luppi at the University of Lyons in France.
You don't have to know what sleep is for you to know that it's good for you!
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