sábado, 24 de diciembre de 2011
To Sleep on the Subway, Maybe, but to Dream? Poor Chance
image: Marcus Yam for The New York Times
By CHRISTINE HAUGHNEY
Published: December 7, 2011
A ride on the New York subway can be a sensory overload: musicians perform for change; conductors plead to those who hold open train doors to relent; and passengers, often in unimaginably close proximity, subject one another to all sorts of sights, sounds, smells and touches, preferably inadvertent.
Amid all of that, some New Yorkers nevertheless manage to fall asleep. Seats are found, trains begin their rhythmic rattles of movement, and eyelids flutter closed. Gritted jaws loosen, furrowed brows release and heads nod.
People outside of New York may wonder how in a city that never sleeps, so many New Yorkers manage to doze on the subway.
There is no law against it, but those who take subway catnaps do so at their own risk; a recent Metropolitan Transportation Authority committee meeting featured a presentation on how criminals seeking iPhones slice open the pockets of dozing passengers.
So are these naps really worth the trouble?
Dr. Carl Bazil, director of the Epilepsy and Sleep Division at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, offered to try to find out.
After Dr. Bazil stepped into an uptown A train on a recent morning, he tried to guess what stage of sleep the nappers onboard were in. He said that to reach Stage 1 sleep, the least restorative of the five stages, riders must be able to slow down their eye movements. To get Stage 2 sleep, riders must relax their muscles and stop moving their eyes entirely.
As Dr. Bazil watched the riders sitting across from him, the nappers’ eyelids fluttered when train doors opened. The riders also seemed to clench their messenger bags and backpacks with death grips.
“I suspect all you get is Stage 1 sleep; it’s not going to be restorative,” he said. “It’s kind of wasted sleep.”
At a reporter’s request, Dr. Bazil wired up a sleepy subway rider to study his brain waves as he tried to nap. He enlisted Dr. Brandon Foreman, a 30-year-old neurology fellow, whose 2-year-old son, Jude, still does not sleep through the night. Neither does Dr. Foreman.
But he has observed how the subway lulls his son to sleep, so he tries to replicate the train’s stops and jerks when he puts his son to bed. Dr. Foreman is no stranger to subway napping: He began doing so when commuting from Brooklyn during his residency, and said he coveted any sleep he could get.
“Lectures, classes, I can pretty much sleep anywhere,” Dr. Foreman said. “But it’s not usually a great sleep. It’s more the nodding off.”
Both doctors met at the end of a long workweek after Dr. Foreman had been up every night dealing with his son’s cold. As Dr. Foreman yawned, Dr. Bazil had a technician attach 25 multicolored plastic wires to Dr. Foreman’s head, connecting them to a monitor slightly larger than an iPod to track his brain waves. Then Dr. Foreman covered the wires with a long sock and a winter hat.
The pair got onto a southbound A train at 207th Street. After Dr. Foreman chose a corner seat, Dr. Bazil sat across from him to take notes. When the train left the station at 6:09 p.m., it seemed unlikely that Dr. Foreman would get any sleep. The train’s operator screeched the cars along as if she were training for Formula One. She shouted into the loudspeakers that her train was late, and peeled from stop to stop.
Dr. Foreman yawned, folded his arms, crossed his legs and shut his eyes. He opened his eyes when the train stopped. His eyes fluttered when several neurologists boarded and chatted over his shoulder. The train jostled. He opened his eyes and yawned deeply.
By 6:18 p.m., two minutes after Dr. Foreman left the 168th Street station, he looked as if he was falling asleep. He first held his head up and kept his arms crossed. But he let his head nod back and forth slightly. Then his head fell, and he dozed until 59th Street — no doubt aided by the uninterrupted run from 125th Street. As the doors opened at 59th Street, Dr. Foreman jumped up and hopped off the train.
After they briefly celebrated what looked like a successful subway nap, the doctors boarded an uptown train to see if Dr. Foreman could fall asleep again. Dr. Foreman found a seat lodged between two passengers. He put on his jacket hood, crossed his legs, folded his arms and let his head fall. While the conductor was quieter on this train, Dr. Foreman could not get back to sleep. At 145th Street, when a vendor stood before him and shouted that he was selling four DVDs for $10, Dr. Foreman opened his eyes widely.
“No luck,” he said.
Dr. Bazil was more pleased with the results. After downloading the data about Dr. Foreman’s brain waves, Dr. Bazil found that Dr. Foreman had slept for 10 minutes out of a 23.5-minute ride. For three and a half minutes, Dr. Foreman reached a Stage 2 level of sleep.
“It looks like it is definitely possible to get small amounts of restorative sleep on the subway, but only very small amounts,” Dr. Bazil said. He added that some studies show “even a brief nap that includes Stage 2 sleep can improve performance.”
But Dr. Foreman was less persuaded that he got any productive sleep.
“I don’t feel rested,” he said. “It’s not like I took a nap in bed.”
Fuente: The New York Times