It’s not those uncomfortable hotel pillows that keep you from getting a sound sleep on a first night away from home.
It’s you — one half of your brain, to be exact.
That’s what researchers learned when they set out to better understand what’s known as the “first-night effect” — the phenomenon of sleep quality often being noticeably worse on the first night you spend in new surroundings, like a hotel room.
Their findings, published online in the journal Current Biology, suggest that on the first night in a new place, one half of the brain remains more active than the other during a deep-sleep phase called “slow-wave sleep.”
The researchers, primarily from Brown University, conducted three experiments with a total of 35 volunteers. The researchers used several methods to measure brain activity during two nights of sleep, a week apart, in a sleep lab.
It appears the more-awake half of the brain is “in a state of readiness for trouble,” a news release from Brown University explains.
When the researchers stimulated the more-awake half of the brain with irregular beeping sounds, they found that volunteers were significantly more likely to wake up and were faster to act upon waking compared with when researchers stimulated the more-asleep half of the brain.
On the second night of sleep, however, the researchers noticed no significant difference between the two halves of the brain.
Lead author Masako Tamaki tells CNBC the results were “quite surprising”:
“When people sleep in a new room, we are not really sure if the room is safe or not to sleep deeply. It could be possible that we keep this one brain hemisphere vigilant so that we can monitor and detect something unusual in our surroundings.”
For tips to help you get a better night’s rest, check out “18 Affordable Tips to Help You Sleep Like a Baby.”
Have you experienced the first-night effect when away from home? Let us know what you make of these findings — leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.