Getting Your Ducks in a Row


Merganser Ducklings at Sunset

Merganser Ducklings at Sunset

On NPR tonight, there was an interesting science article. It started off describing the “first-night effect”. This is what researchers call people’s inability to get a good night’s sleep on the first night that they are in unfamiliar surroundings. I’ve suffered from this syndrome for years. I notice it most acutely while on business trips. I’ve always attributed it to my nerves about the next day’s meeting, but apparently it is much more primordial than that. Sleep researchers noticed that their subjects had trouble sleeping in the lab on the first night too. Hooking the subjects up to probes they found that slow-wave activity, which appears in deep sleep was more prominent in the left hemisphere than in the right. Their subjects were effectively resting only half their brain. This is the first time that this behavior has been observed in humans, but ornithologists have seen this in birds for years.

When a duck rests with another duck on either side of it that duck sleeps with both eyes closed, but a duck at the end of the row closes only one eye and leaves the eye away from the other ducks open. Unlike ducks, humans are not subjected to many marauding predators at the Hilton Garden Inn, but our brains have not adapted to this changed situation. For the next day’s big presentation, the best that you can do then is drink lots of coffee in the morning. Pictured are Red-breasted Mergansers at sunset on Lake Superior.

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