First Night Effect: The Phenomenon Behind Why People Hardly Sleep In A New Place

By Kristine Walker, Parent Herald April 22, 08:37 pm
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Have you ever wondered why you hardly sleep in a place that's not your house? Perhaps in a hotel or during a sleepover in your friend's house? Well, you are not alone and scientists have a good explanation of this phenomenon known as the "first-night effect."

In a study published in the latest edition of Current Biology, Brown University scientists found half of the brain may remain alert when people sleep in a new location. This "first-night effect" phenomenon reportedly allows people to be safe from danger in a new environment.

"Even when you look at young and healthy people without chronic sleep problems, 99 percent of the time they show this first-night effect-this weird half-awake, half-asleep state," Brown University's Yuka Sasaki said, as per The Atlantic.

"First-Night Effect" Phenomenon

Scientists have already known about the "first-night effect" (FNE) or "adaptation night" for more than five decades. But researchers at Brown University wanted to better understand the neurological factors causing the phenomenon, hence, they conducted an unusual experiment.

Based on the experiment, researchers found that a particular network in the left hemisphere remained more active than the right hemisphere. According to Gizmodo, the observation occurred during "slow-wave" sleep or the deepest stage of non-REM sleep.

In addition, the scientists also found that humans may be a bit bird-brained, where they can switch off half their brain when sleeping. The awake part of the brain can make fly or flight decisions to protect them from the dangers in a new or unfamiliar location, CNN notes.

"These characteristics of the network may be advantageous as a night watch," Brown University research associate and study coauthor Masako Tamaki said.

Tamaki, however, said that he's unsure whether the "first-night effect" phenomenon can be completely removed. But he stressed FNE may be reduced.

"Well, you might be able to reduce first-night effect, but we are not really sure if you can remove the effect completely," Tamaki said.

Tricks That May Help Reduce "First-Night Effect"

Since scientists are not quite sure how to remove the "first-night effect," there are a couple of tricks that may be helpful. As per the researchers' advice, bringing our own pillow or choosing a hotel room that's similar to your own bedroom can help alleviate the "first-night effect."

Sleep masks, earplugs and calming sounds can also help but don't worry too much since worrying wakes the brain. Experts also suggest turning off your electronic devices such as smartphones about 90 minutes before going to bed because the light or sounds from the phone or laptop can send your mind racing.

"You can bring something that makes you feel comfortable with a new place, like your pillow," Tamaki suggested. "Also, it's good to arrive in a place at least two nights before your important event so that you can have a good sleep the night before."

Conclusion Of The "First-Night Effect" Research

In conclusion, "first-night effect" occurs in one hemisphere of the brain during deep sleep.This phenomenon underscores the brain's potential to be on high alert for danger during the first night in unfamiliar surroundings, Fox News reports.

"The present study has demonstrated that when we are in a novel environment, inter-hemispheric asymmetry occurs in regional slow-wave activity, vigilance and responsiveness, as a night watch to protect ourselves," the study concluded, EurekAlert! quotes.

So, have you experienced the "first-night effect" phenomenon? Sounds off below and follow Parent Herald for more news and updates.

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