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Doctors Study Quality of Sleep New Yorkers Get on the Subway

Ever wonder how anyone could sleep on the subway? Dr. Carl Bazil, director of the Epilepsy and Sleep Division at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, recently completed a study to see what type of sleep a person actually gets on the subway.

Dr. Bazil has studied sleep patterns and the various stages of sleep for 20 years. He enlisted the help of Dr. Brandon Foreman, a 30-year-old neurology fellow, to find out what state of sleep he would reach while napping on the subway.

After a night of little sleep, Dr. Foreman was hooked up to a sleep monitor that tracks brain waves and the pair boarded the subway in New York. After a 23.5 minute ride, Dr. Bazil found that Dr. Foreman slept for 10 minutes. For three and a half of those minutes, Dr. Foreman reached a Stage 2 level of sleep. During Stage 2 sleep, the brain begins to produce bursts of rapid brain wave activity and body temperature and heart rate decreases.

“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.

Dr. Bazil explained that brief naps that include Stage 2 sleep can improve a person’s performance; however, Dr. Foreman reported that he did not feel rested after the study.

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