Playa Life: Sleep Habits

Without getting too technical or requiring a complete understanding of the benefits of REM sleep, it is common knowledge that sleep is beneficial. It’s also known that going without sleep for too long increases risk of accidents. Lack of sleep impairs cognitive processes such as attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving. It affects the sex drive and in prolonged chronic cases it can lead to health issues like heart problems, stroke, and diabetes.

Scientists have gone to great lengths to fully understand sleep’s benefits. In studies of humans and other animals, they have discovered that sleep plays a critical role in immune function, metabolism, memory, learning, and other vital functions. When first arriving in an environment like Black Rock City one would think that sleep would be even more important but the lights, flames, and pulse of the playa beckon to some like a siren. These people go go go until they crash some time two days later. This can be referred to as this-is-the-second-sunrise-I-have-seen-today syndrome, and can leave a burner looking like this:


Sleep on the playa can be made more difficult when considering the heat, the noise, and the constant presence of dust. The best way to get the most of the Burning Man experience is to design your shelter around these factors. A great strategy to avoid this environment temporarily is to burn in an RV or a tricked-out, hexa-yurt. If you are stuck in a tent, eye shades, ear plugs, shade cloth, spray bottles, and twenty blocks of ice from Artica.

The assumption, with all the harsh conditions and the way too many things to be explored, getting sleep on the Playa might seem impossible. However, the actual data is quite encouraging.


This first graph shows a comparison of sleep time on the Playa with regular schedules in the default world. Almost a third of Burners said they slept just as much on the Playa as they usually do, with nearly that much getting more shut-eye. Slightly fewer people reported sleeping just 1-3 hours less than they are used to, followed by a group of around 14% citing 3-5 hours less time in bed. The least common reponse was sleeping 5 or more hours less than usual, which, as explained above, may affect well-being quite seriously.


The next chart displays the hours of rest only. The image shows that a little more than 32% of the population maintained a normal 7 to 9 hours of sleep during the week. The second largest group represented was around 25% of the population, who slept 5 to 7 hours a night. About 20% of respondents who slept more than most, at 9 to 11 hours a night! The remaining 20% of Burners were divided almost equally on the fringes of sleep values. The two groups were those that slept less than five hours per night, and those who managed 11 or more hours per night.

Written by: Crow
Edited by: Veronica

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