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Medical Why do we sleep?

  1. Aug 13, 2012 #1
    What is you best guess or has science already solved it?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 13, 2012 #2
    There isn't any clear scientific explanation yet, but a lot of good evidence has been accumulated. When deprived of sleep and dreaming people will eventually hallucinate and sleep is when the body grows and rejuvenates itself the most including the nervous system and memory. Thus it appears to have significant physiological purposes.

    My own guess is it also serves to keep animals from harm. Depression, for example, is thought to be an adaptation to illness and wounds. It encourages animals to seek out a quiet hiding place and lay around for days licking their wounds so they can heal. Likewise sleep keeps animals resting in one spot during the time of day when they are most vulnerable. The tradeoff is they are also less alert, but more alert than you might assume. People, for example, tend to snore and make other noises in their sleep in direct proportion to the ambient noise level as a way to keep themselves asleep, while still remaining alert to strange noises. Only a for a few moments at a time during the night are they in such a deep sleep that strange noises cannot wake them readily.
  4. Aug 13, 2012 #3


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    well the first obvious though would be, thats its the body's natural way to rest and recuperate....

    one www site stated ....

  5. Aug 13, 2012 #4
    what animals don't sleep? it is said bacteria sleeps too.. but isn't it the heart of living things keeps beating.. heart cells never sleep right?
  6. Aug 13, 2012 #5
    Heart cells never stop, but then no cells in the body ever stop, really, until they die. I'm not sure how you would define sleep in a single celled organism. Certainly even primitive organisms have circadian rhythms, which might nearly qualify? http://ccb.ucsd.edu/

    It seems that genes associated with DNA repair are kicked up a gear during sleep, so maybe DNA maintenance is one of the (many?) reasons for sleep, and that would be something desirable to all but perhaps the shortest lived of organisms. http://neuroscience.mahidol.ac.th/intranet/2011/Allan Hobson_The Neurobiology of Sleep.pdf
  7. Aug 14, 2012 #6

    That's like saying "why do we eat" - "because we're hungry". "Why do we sleep?" - "because we're tired."

    The body doesn't actually need sleep, it's the brain that needs it. And yet the brain is very active when we sleep.

    Berkeley have free lectures on the topic of sleep online on their webcast. I've listened to them all but I still can't really answer this question. (Listen to them with VLC player and increase the sound to 2x, because the lady speaks incredibly slowly)

    Our brainwave patters change when we sleep, we have different phases of sleep and it seems all of them are essential, if you are somehow deprived of one (by being woken up) your sleep cycle will alter to make sure you get more of it next time. REM seems to be the most important. During REM your brain shows "alpha waves" which people also exhibit when they meditate . People dream during all phases of sleep, not just REM. Dreams seem to have a function as well, all mammals do it. (I don't know about other creatures) I mentioned here in another thread that they took a mouse and ran him through a maze while he was being read with an (I think) EEG. When he went to sleep afterwards the EEG gave the same readouts, so they knew he was dreaming about running through the maze, and you could actually see the readings from the path recreated turn for turn, he was running through it systematically.

    If people study and then go to sleep they will remember the information better than if they didn't sleep or if they revised and didn't sleep.
    If you don't sleep within 12 hours of the study usually this benefit is lost, (which sucks because we all know the best time to study is the morning and it's not exactly easy to take a nap in the middle of the day)

    They actually did a really horrible test on some poor unfortunate rats where they wouldn't let them sleep just to see if they'd die from sleep deprivation, and they did, after 16 days.

    All of this info is from the Berkeley webcast. A lot of it's really interesting, there was a lot of unscientific hippy stuff as well, but that was interesting in it's own right.

    They said on the webcast that simple organisms have periods of high activity and periods of low activity. They don't go into detail, the obvious question would be whether these periods of low activity followed a cycle similar to sleep or whether they just corresponded to a drop in temperature (night) or a lower abundance of food which cased the organism to "rest" just because reactions in its body were hindered.
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2012
  8. Aug 14, 2012 #7


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  9. Aug 15, 2012 #8
    Two days ago I only slept for one hour, the next day.. i was so fatigued, and tired easily. If sleeping simply supported the brain, how come the body feels fatigued? You would say the brain controls the body. Well. Body impacts the brain too. In many studies. Lack of sleep also affects the immune system. So I think we must first study what is the origin of the subjective feeling of fatigue? How is the the qualia of fatigue produced and located (the body feedback mechanism and actuators)? This is related to the reason why we sleep.
  10. Aug 15, 2012 #9


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    Dolphins too. They're said to sometimes swim in circles during this state.
  11. Aug 15, 2012 #10
    I was taught that one of the reasons that we sleep was to allow the mitochondira to replenish depleted ATP stores. Adenosine (the breakdown product of ATP) serum levels are known to increase during waking hours and be a factor in promoting sleep (http://www.nature.com/nrn/journal/v11/n8/box/nrn2868_BX1.html ). I think caffiene works by blocking adenosine receptors, if I remember rightly. ( http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/glossary )

    Here is some evidence about ATP brain concentration levels increasing during sleep too - but only in the bits of brain that are actually 'asleep'. Perhaps it could be likened to defragmenting a hard disk, in that any progrems being used do not get defragmented? http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2917728/
  12. Aug 15, 2012 #11

    Well there's two questions

    Why do we sleep at all?
    Why do we sleep rather than doing something else?

    We know that our cells need inactive periods for example, but why can't we take them in the 10 minutes when we're waiting for a bus or in the 10 hours some people spend watching TV a day. Why is it that you can spend the whole day sitting and yet you body is exhausted if you don't sleep?

    This is why I think of it as being something the brain needs, but yeah, you're completely right, it's all connected.

    That's really interesting! I didn't know that.

    To me this is a perfect answer to why we sleep at all, it's one very good reason. But it's no reason at all for "Why do we sleep rather than doing something else?". And sleep is so complicated and involves so many different types of brain wave patterns and it's such a strange experience and it's so dangerous for a wild animal..
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  13. Aug 15, 2012 #12
    When I don't sleep. I can feel my body heating up the next day. Heating up means the blood circulates faster giving me feeling of more heat. So not only in the brain but it seems the muscles need something in sleep.. somethat that can only be refleshed or recharged during sleep. Depleted ATP? but if one just stay still at bed without actually sleeping.. it doesn't work too.. one has to actually lose consciousness for the muscles to charge up... but why???
  14. Aug 15, 2012 #13


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    Have you read about circadian rhythms? There are a variety of biological processes that operate in cycles, in many species (including bacteria) these processes seem to be roughly in sync with each other and with the 24 hour day.

    If you're looking for an evolutionary answer as to why we sleep I'm unaware of the current research in the field but here is a journal dedicated to the subject a quick google brought up.
  15. Aug 15, 2012 #14
    Can anyone show studies or proof that all the energies of muscle movement come from ATP stores? I think I read an article before that they are not enough.. like the sodium, potassium, etc. pumps in the cell surfaces needed so much ATPs that majority of them are used them that the rest need other sorts of energies... and some suggest solitons or davydov solitons are used by muscles for movements.. what is the consensus of this?
  16. Aug 15, 2012 #15
    yeah other than ATP, you got CTP, GTP, TTP, UTP, but mostly ATP, and there is phosphocreatine
  17. Aug 15, 2012 #16


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    what about NAD/NADH?
  18. Aug 16, 2012 #17
    what part of the brain that says this arm or feet is mine and belongs to me? lack of sleep can tires it such that it's like there is disconnection between them.. maybe this is the origin of fatigue? lack of sleep can produce fatigue.. so sleeps seems to benefit this part of brain that says the body part is yours... maybe the pariental lobes?

    when half of dolphin brain is asleep, the side of body connected with it goes limp too such that the dolphin swim round and round... is there an animal or organism where the brain is asleep but the whole body completely active (and not limped)?
  19. Aug 16, 2012 #18
    lol and FADH oh i guess NADPH loses the race
  20. Aug 16, 2012 #19
    i know this is dumb question but for birds which have one side of brain sleeping at a time and only one wing flapping.. how can they stay afloat in air?
  21. Aug 16, 2012 #20
    Who says there's only one wing flapping?

    My first instinct was to say "they don't sleep while flying" but then I remembered migratory birds.
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