Sleep Science: From all Perspectives

   Sleep is an important aspect in almost every life form on this planet. From humans to birds, from animals to corals and from mammals to insects and fruit-flies, all life forms have some part of their daily routine dedicated to sleep. Though sleep is relatively same in all beings, sleep patterns, behavior and nature of sleep differs from one life form to another. For some sleep is rest while for others sleep is “insight in to yourself”. “To understand the insights science gives humans in to sleep, sleep patterns and behavior” one needs to study sleep and evaluate perspectives from all angles.

   Firstly, observing and analyzing sleep patterns and behavior of non-humans can give humans an insight in to their own sleep. Birds are one taxonomic group that is very closely related to humans as far as sleep patterns are involved. According to Dr. Niels Rattenberg (Neurophysiologist), the Bar-tailed Godwit would migrate several thousand miles over a period of several days without any sleep. Dr. Rattenberg explains this phenomenon through his research and experiments on bird sleep patterns and behavior. He explains that unlike humans most birds are semi-consciousness even while in sleep. Either as a result of fear from predators or long migrations, many birds often sleep with one eye open shutting down only part of their brains. Although birds do not always choose to keep an eye open while they sleep, when they do keep an eye open half of their brain is either awake or in a drowsy state. When performing experiments on duck sleep, Dr. Rattenberg observed that ducks in the center of a group usually slept with both their eyes closed symbolizing deep sleep just like humans. But the ducks on the corners of a closed box kept an eye open either as an instinctive guard from predatory birds or for other reasons yet to be explained by science. Many other birds migrate from place to place non-stop without getting any sleep. Some of the European frigate birds would leave their nest for first time and would be in flight for several months’ even years before returning to make their own nest for mating. Similarly, some of the marine Mammals would have a part of their brain attached to flipper down in the water allowing them to sleep and keep their nose above the surface at the same time. This way, they would be sleeping but be able to breathe in water. Crocodiles on the other hand showed less similarity in sleep pattern behavior compared to mammals, animals and other birds.

   Next, observing and analyzing the brain functions while a subject is sleeping can be a key insight to human sleep. According to Dr. Matthew Wilson (Neuroscientist, Dream Researcher MIT), recording brain cell activity while an animals is asleep or awake can prove useful in determining brain functions during sleep. According to Dr. Wilson, brain sleep responds to internal world as opposed to being awake which usually respond to external environment. There are different sleep states and deep sleep is one of the states where brain cell activity recording is most efficient. Different brain activities correspond to different functions. Although, one might be sleeping, the brain never turns off unless under the influence of anesthetic or in a coma. According to a study done in a lam by Dr. Wilson, rat brain cells were observed and recorded as it crossed a maze. During the observation, Brain activity recorded was for paleocortex part of a brain and neocortex part of the brain. As the rat moved through the maze, the necortex part (or the part of the brain that was awake) of the brain was used but as soon as the rat stopped, the brain cell activity in that part of the brain stopped while the brain activity in the paleo cortex part of the brain resumed as the rat reflected on where it had been through its journey (sort of like time travel). Brain cell observations were then compared as the rat was asleep. The rat brain went back in time and revisited memories in a flash and compressed time form. It was concluded that animals or rats just like humans take memories to learn and get an insight from those memories while asleep. It was also concluded that there were different forms of sleep namely ram sleep and non-ram sleep. Ram sleep was usually used to connect things and associated with being awake. Memory is often linked with “Lego blocks” where experiences are built through associations and links. Ram sleep often resulted on muscle tone loss as in of a cat or a dog. It was dreaming as if the events were actually happening. On the other hand, Non-ram sleep invoked the more primitive part of the brain and was explained as “the way I saw it is the way I remember”. During this non-ram phase the brain would turn on and off sending one in a slow wave sleep. To conclude, observing brain functions of a subject gave a deep insight in to animal sleep which is deeply connected with human sleep.

   Last but not least, studying sleep disorders also gives important insights and cures to human sleep behavior. According to Dr. Carlos Schenck (Minnesota Sleep Disorder Facility), most of the sleep disorders are connected with RAM phase of the sleep. When patients with sleep disorders were observed and recorded, they experienced real life events under RAM phase of the sleep. Their body would often respond with sudden and violent movements when the brain would be in this RAM phase. As the brain goes through the events of the day recalling memories and associating them, patients would often experience what they would experience while awake. These disorders were often violent and unpredictable. Hence, they would be treated with specialized drugs to avoid further complications like Parkinson’s disease.

   In conclusion, “To understand the insights science gives humans in to sleep, sleep patterns and behavior” one needs to study sleep and evaluate perspectives from all angles. New insights in to human sleep as well as human perception of the world means introduction of new consumer products. Since every brain has a unique perception, perception focused products equal to profit on a mass scale. One may use different marketing strategies for the same product. A you tube link on a product page may mean a complete different application than an essay written on the uses of the same product. The key is letting the consumer translate the application for a product that may have more than one application.


One thought on “Sleep Science: From all Perspectives”

  1. Pingback: WHO? – Tekksavvy

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