Sleep and Its Secrets: The River of Crystal Light

By Michael S.; Aronoff | Go to book overview
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Chapter 3
From Stuffed Teddies
to Hot Toddies

Sleep in the Young and
Sleep in the Old

"I had a good night's sleep!" We have often heard that phrase but what, in fact, does it mean? That you are well rested? Well, no, because you can lie in bed, awake but resting, and a whole night of this calm repose will still leave you sleepy in the morning. So it is more than just bodily or physical rest that must be involved.

If you were to witness the phenomenon of sleep from the outside, like an alien observer from Mars, you might assume that sleep is but a passive response to the environmental cyclical factors of light and darkness. But we have already established that sleep is not a simple and uniform state of physiological inactivity, providing only time out until the next rising of the sun. Rather, sleep is composed of a number of highly organized and coordinated activities involving the nervous, muscular, vascular, and endocrine gland systems. With periodic operations like 90-minute REM cycles, cycles of secretion of chemicals (like prolactin and growth hormone from the endocrine glands) reaching crescendos during each NREM phase, periodic flare-ups of skin electrical activity,

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