The #1 Sleep-Hacking Tip of All Time, And a Theory of the Quantum Mind

Turn your heater off.

Having tried all sorts of exotic and strange ideas, there’s one that’s correlated more strongly to peaceful, rejuvenating sleep than any other… sleeping in a cold room.

No, I don’t mean catching frostbite. Good covers or sleeping bags are allowed. For whatever reason, though, being your own source of heat is bloody magic when it comes to sleeping well.

Sleeping in a cold room as a way of improving sleep has some interesting implications for more exotic theories too.

The only coherent explanation for “quantum mind” phenomena that I’ve found so far relates to the intersection of thermal equilibrium and biophotonic emissions.

Now, Max Tegmark fans have probably been watching my excursions into this stuff with skepticism. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have an answer to his points about the relative time scales of biological vs quantum processes, except to note that a minute of thought about what we can do suggests the body isn’t limited to operating at the clock speed on which he bases his argument (even if e.g nerve impulses are). And all Swedes carry a well-known bias against this stuff anyway *grin*

Right, so how could this quantum mind stuff work? And why would it have any connection at all to sleeping in a cold room?

Bearing in mind that I’m NOT a physicist, biologist or medical researcher, just someone who’s read a bunch of papers —

First of all, we know that biological organisms emit photons. Often just in ones and twos. FA Popp as well as BT Dotta et al (http://www.worldscientific.com/doi/abs/10.1142/S0217984994001266 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S030439401200208X) showed that much. There’s a growing body of evidence that these photons are how cells can communicate and coordinate without having to rely on the very slow action of nerves and chemical signaling.

Now, well over a decade ago, W Ludwig pointed out (no English translation available) that biological systems operate well away from thermodynamic equilibrium with their environment. To his mind, that’s very similar to another system we know and love — the laser.

In a laser, you get coherent radiation because the unique chemical structure allows for a so-called population inversion: a situation where the lasing medium has been deliberately “pumped” off equilibrium. There are more electrons occupying higher levels than there are electrons in the ground state.

Because these electrons don’t really belong in those higher levels, all it takes is a single photon (at the right wavelength) wandering by to resonantly couple with a “hung up” electron and shake it loose, letting it drop back down to ground. As soon as that electron drops, it loses the energy it had in the higher state. That energy in turn gets emitted as a single photon — a photon moving in lock-step with the original photon that happened to meander past and set off the whole process in the first place. Now you have coherent radiation.

On the basis that a biological system is both capable of emitting photons and capable of being far off equilibrium, Ludwig and others suggested that these biophotons ought to exhibit coherence. (Cancer researchers have started taking note of this recently: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0079610711000393)

Specifically, Ludwig noted that the further away from thermodynamic equilibrium that a biological system found itself, the greater the degree of coherence we ought to see.

If a biological system reaches thermodynamic equilibrium with its environment, on the other hand, there isn’t any coherence — that’s what happens in cold-blooded animals, as well as in dead bodies. Photon emissions are chaotic, if any — like what you see from a light bulb, not a laser. In people, Ludwig and other researchers found that getting too closely to chaos was associated with Alzheimer’s and allergies, where the patient reacts chaotically to external influences.

On the other hand, the further a system gets from equilibrium, the less it can adapt to its environment. Each photon emission triggers a big cascade. At some point, in Ludwig’s eye, you get too much order — in the brain, something like epilepsy, where the entire brain oscillates as one.

Therefore, there’s a sort of ideal point, a healthy balance between one extreme and the other.

The idea of an “ideal point” is my best guess at why ambient temperature correlates with subjectively observed sleep quality. If we see sleep as a time for the body to make repairs, and accept the idea of intercellular photonic signaling, it stands to reason that during sleep it’s particularly critical for the body to be a healthy distance away from thermal equilibrium with its environment.

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