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Science wakes up to sleep

Scientists have made strides to unravel one of life's great mysteries: why sleep matters. New studies reveal how health, creativity and memory all depend on a good night's rest. And with sleep deprivation now seen as a form of torture, political attitudes are changing too

By Philip Hunter   January 2009

It is difficult to believe that a mix of Big Bird and Black Sabbath could bring a person to their knees. But, as officers in the US army’s psychological operations (PSYOP) know, few combinations are more effective at breaking a prisoner’s will. In Iraq, Sesame Street and heavy metal were combined to keep prisoners awake for long periods. “They can’t take it,” an officer was quoted as saying in 2003. “If you play it for 24 hours, your brain and body functions start to slide…your will is broken.”

Sleep is one of the enduring mysteries of human consciousness. We need…

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