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Why do we sleep?

A paper from my Uni days: NEUR 3750

Russell Foster, Neuroscientist (circadian rhythms)


The human who reaches the age of 90 will have spent 32 years of those ninety entirely asleep. It is as important, if not more so, than it is consuming. In fact, this 36% of our lives is the single most important behavioral experience we have. Why then have we adopted Thomas Edisonโ€™s outlook, that sleep is โ€˜a criminal waste of time, inherited from our cave daysโ€™? Is sleep not important at some level?

๐˜š๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฑ ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ง๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ ๐˜ธ๐˜ช๐˜ฎ๐˜ฑ๐˜ด - ๐˜”๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜จ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ต ๐˜›๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ค๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ

๐˜”๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ๐˜บ ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ๐˜ท๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ ๐˜ด๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฑ๐˜ด

Sleep has gone in & out of fashion over time, at first glance it isnโ€™t productive, but is it really just a luxury? These days it seems that we have used Thomas Edisonโ€™s light bulb to occupy the dark, acting as though sleep is some sort of illness. So why do we abandon sleep? Some believe that sleep simply helps us conserve energy & recover (in reality the difference in calories between the sedentary person & the one asleep is 110 calories), it is also known to be needed for restoration & maintenance (replace and rebuild) but thereโ€™s more to it than that. In fact, there are a whole raft of genes that are only โ€˜turned onโ€™ when youโ€™re asleep.

๐˜š๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฑ, ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฉ ๐˜จ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ด๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฑ, ๐˜ฏ๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆโ€™๐˜ด ๐˜ด๐˜ฐ๐˜ง๐˜ต ๐˜ฏ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ด๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฉ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ ๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ท๐˜ฆ ๐˜ ๐˜ง๐˜ณ๐˜ช๐˜จ๐˜ฉ๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ - ๐˜š๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ฌ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด๐˜ฑ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ

Once upon a time the average for the human population was 8 hours (what is needed), today it is closer to 5. Micro sleepsโ€ฆItโ€™s happened to most, if not all of us, when we are sleep deprived we fall asleep involuntarily, which can be a disaster if we are drivingโ€ฆthen thereโ€™s the poor memory, poor creativity, increased impulsiveness, poor judgement, sustained stress, the list goes on. Sleep loss leads to low immunity, which leads to cancer, increased weight gain (sleep deprived people are 50% more likely to be obese) due to the hormone ghrelin, glucose resistance witch can lead to diabetes II, & a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. It is important to point out that the neural networks responsible for mental health are overlapping with the ones responsible for normal sleep, in other words, sleep disruption precedes mental disruption.

If so much harm can arise from sleep deprivation it must be important to our brain. As mentioned above there are certain parts of the brain that are only active during the sleep state. It should be obvious now that sleep is essential to brain function, especially when it comes to processing, creativity & memory consolidation. Task learning is smashed in sleep deprived individuals, as is the ability to find novel solutions to complex problems. It would make sense then, that something so seemingly complicated would not arise from one structure, but from a whole raft of different interactions in the brain that are responsible for sleep.

Basically, the hypothalamus (the bodyโ€™s biological clock) has projections in to the brain stem which bathes the cortex. So what can we do?

๐˜Œ๐˜ฏ๐˜ซ๐˜ฐ๐˜บ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฉ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ๐˜บ ๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ท๐˜บ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ธ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ด๐˜ญ๐˜ถ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ - ๐˜š๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ฌ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด๐˜ฑ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ฆโ€™๐˜ด ๐˜‘๐˜ถ๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ถ๐˜ด ๐˜Š๐˜ข๐˜ฆ๐˜ด๐˜ข๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ

Many try to cope with a tired brain by using stimulants to fuel the waking state, then at night, alcohol as a sedative. The problem with alcohol is that while it may bring the body โ€˜downโ€™, it is harmful to the much needed neural processing that takes place in the sleep state. Instead the individual seeking a better nights sleep should make the bedroom a haven for sleep; dark, slightly cool, 30 minutes before they plan to go to bed light exposure (to include electronics) should be decreased. No stimulants should be taken after lunch time and biological light should be sought out first thing in the morning, as it helps to set the biological clock.

๐˜๐˜ง ๐˜บ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏโ€™๐˜ต ๐˜ด๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฑ, ๐˜บ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ ๐˜ค๐˜ข๐˜ฏโ€™๐˜ต ๐˜ง๐˜ญ๐˜บ


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