November 08, 2008
Sleepy Feeling Means Parts Of Brain Already Asleep

Do you feel sleepy? Then parts of your brain have already switched into a sleeping mode.

Feeling sleepy?

That’s because parts of your brain are actually asleep, according to a new theoretical paper by sleep scientists at Washington State University.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the researchers say, there’s no control center in your brain that dictates when it’s time for you to drift off to dreamland. Instead, sleep creeps up on you as independent groups of brain cells become fatigued and switch into a sleep state even while you are still (mostly) awake. Eventually, a threshold number of groups switch and you doze off.

So when you are fighting sleep you are really just keeping only part of your brain awake. Parts of your mind have already gone missing. You find yourself working more or less effectively without those parts? (maybe some hyperactive people work more effectively sleep-deprived? I'm just asking.)

This isn't a proven theory. But it makes a lot of sense.

Lead author James Krueger said the view of sleep as an “emergent property” explains familiar experiences that the top-down model doesn’t, such as sleepwalking, in which a person is able to navigate around objects while being unconscious, and sleep inertia, the sluggishness we feel upon waking up in the morning.

“If you explain it in terms of bits and pieces of the brain, instead of a top-down phenomenon, all of a sudden you can make sense of these things,” said Krueger. “The old paradigm doesn’t even address these things.”

Krueger teamed with fellow neurobiologists David Rector, Hans Van Dongen, Gregory Belenky, Jaak Panksepp and electrical engineer Sandip Roy on the work. Their paper, “Sleep as a fundamental property of neuronal assemblies,” will appear in the December issue of Nature Reviews/Neuroscience. It is available online at

If sleep were being directed by a control center, the whole brain would respond at the same time, said Krueger. Instead, it behaves like a self-directing orchestra in which most sections are more-or-less in sync, but a few race ahead or lag behind at any given time.

Click thru and read some of the evidence for why they think their theory makes sense. Interesting stuff.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 November 08 10:17 AM  Brain Sleep

Dov Henis said at June 2, 2009 8:06 AM:

On sleep, for adults and kids and "scientists"

A. FOR KIDS: Brain cells take a break
As you fall into deep sleep, some neurons pause their electrical activity.

B. Sleep is a most obvious evidence of genes' lifehood and their origin

Sleep made simple. Why do organisms sleep?

Sleep is an inherent Earthlife trait. Organisms sleep because their genes-genomes sleep. And for genes, sleep is inborn because genes were the first organisms evolved on Earth and they came into being, born, through the sun's radiation energy absorbed by RNA-type oligomers, and the newborn genes were active ONLY when exposed to sunlight, which was then - prior to bio metabolic energy production - their only usable energy. Thus sleep is an inherent Earthlife trait.

Dov Henis
(Comments From The 22nd Century)
Updated Life's Manifest May 2009

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