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Surprisingly, we don’t know what sleep is

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<em>Sleep</em> is Always a Good Idea PrintFrom The Scientist:

Why can science still not define this most basic biological process?

This may come as a shock to the uninitiated, but a conclusive definition of sleep still eludes scientists and probably will continue to do so until the function of sleep is fully established. That’s not to say science doesn’t have a working definition of sleep.

Here is the paradox: although it seems sleep is conserved across the animal kingdom, our most precise definition of the phenomenon relies on recordings of the neocortex, the least-conserved part of the vertebrate nervous system (and altogether absent in invertebrates).

While a subcortical definition of sleep across vertebrates would already be a leap forward, it would still not easily apply to the invertebrate nervous system, and hence would not provide a truly universal definition of sleep for all animals. Evolutionary conservation lends support to the hypothesis that sleep serves a fundamental physiological need, and the best way to define sleep would be to identify this need. So instead of relying on an output (EEG, behavior) or a regulatory (neuronal circuits) definition of sleep, the ultimate definition will directly answer the simple question: why do we sleep?

Sleep likely has multiple functions, but a large and growing body of evidence supports a primary role for sleep in the regulation of nervous system plasticity … .More.

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See also: Why do we need less sleep than chimps

and

Raymond Tallis: Sleep is still a biological – and psychological – mystery

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Comments
Sleep? It's for resting as in part of it you don't dream, some is for apparently working emotional issues out. (I watched the TV show Frasier so I know what I'm talking about). It is also for some people to take too seriously, like my sister-in-law who told me according to her dream God said we should name our son something we had no intention to name him. I informed her that if God wants me to name my son so and so then He should talk to me instead of somebody who watched too much TBN. jimmontg
Sleep is for thinking beings. Plants don't sleep. Thats the definition. Thinking beings need to rest/recharge. I agree with researchers that its about reving up the memory operation . It does seem to be about some adrenaline thing in the brain but probably its just about memory function. Robert Byers
As far as the brain is concerned, REM sleep gets rid of bad synaptic connections that accumulate during waking hours. Without REM sleep (the kind that causes dreams), brain fog gets progressively worse and eventually turns into full blown dementia. Some medications, such as H2 antagonists like ranitidine (Zantac), cimetidine, famotidine, etc., disturb REM sleep and should be avoided. Mapou
I would say other than us going into maintenance mode sleep also allows time for uploading? Andre

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