Asked by: Che Lowenstein, Hassocks

It’s well known that our sleep can suffer on the first night in a new environment. Sleep scientists noticed this decades ago when they started studying people in sleep labs, dubbing it the ‘first-night effect’.

One recent study found that the left side of the brain experiences lighter sleep than the right side during the first night. This may be an evolutionary mechanism to keep us alert to potential dangers in unfamiliar surroundings.

We’re more likely to wake up during the first night, and because we tend to remember our dreams better when we wake up a lot, this is probably why your dreams feel more vivid than usual.

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Alice is a Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths. She has contributed to several diverse research areas, including the longitudinal associations between sleep and psychopathology, behavioural genetics, sleep paralysis and exploding head syndrome. In addition to her scientific contributions she also excels in the public engagement of science. She has published two popular science book (Nodding Off, Bloomsbury, 2018 and Sleepy Pebble, Nobrow, 2019). She regularly contributes articles to the media and has had her work published in outlets including the Guardian, GQ UK, Sud Ouest, Slate Fr, Independent.