From Dr. Mercola:
Whether you’re traveling two hours or 12 hours, your first night of sleep in a new bed is usually not restful. While some of the difficulty you’ll experience when you travel is linked to jet lag, there is another factor.
Research published in Current Biology has found that the first night effect (FNE) of disturbed sleep, often regarded as a typical sleep disturbance when sleeping in a bed other than your own, is actually the result of interhemispheric asymmetry.1,2
In other words, one hemisphere of your brain is more vigilant during sleep than the other side in order to monitor your unfamiliar surroundings during sleep. These findings, the result of advanced neuroimaging techniques, explain why your first night at a hotel or your relatives’ doesn’t always give you the rest you need.
Left Brain, Right Brain
Your brain is the most complex organ in your body, responsible for controlling and monitoring all your systems. Your brain is made up of two halves, commonly called the left and right side. The medical term for “side” is “hemisphere.” The right hemisphere of your brain controls the left side of your body, and vice versa.
A typical healthy brain will have approximately 200 billion nerve cells and hundreds of trillions of connections, called synapses.3 Electrical impulses travel over synapses, relaying information.
Only recently has the technology been available to examine those synapses and determine and categorize their function. The number and strength of active synapses fluctuate at different times in your life and with waking and sleeping.4
In general, the left and right hemispheres of your brain process information differently. But to function and communicate, the two sides must work together to see the whole picture and then the details.
Left-brain thinkers are often more analytical and verbal, while right-brain thinkers are more non-verbal and intuitive. Left-brain thinkers are logical and right-brain thinkers are creative.
One side of the brain is not superior over the other, and both are needed to give you a balanced approach to evaluating any given situation.
At one time, sleep was considered an inactive or passive state when both your body and brain were in the “off” position. Today, we know it is during sleep that your brain does most of the housekeeping duties, getting rid of damaging toxins.5
This house cleaning reduces your risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia as you age. During sleep, your brain goes through characteristic cycles of activity, affecting your perception of quality, restful sleep.
The two most distinctive cycles are rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep cycles. Many sleep experts believe that you dream more frequently and more vividly during REM sleep.
Your pattern of REM to NREM sleep is distinctive during the night. The average length of time in the first REM/NREM cycle is between 70 and 100 minutes, while the second and later cycles are usually between 90 and 120 minutes.
Scientists have not identified a