Secrets of Sleep

By Alexander Borbely; Deborah Schneider | Go to book overview

8
Sleep and the Brain

Which came first--the hen or the egg? In the alternation of sleep and wakefulness, which of the two states interrupts the other? Is the onset of sleep an active process or a mere cessation of wakefulness?

-- NATHANIEL KLEITMAN Sleep and Wakefulness ( 1963)


Is Sleep an Active or a Passive Process?

After the First World War a dreaded disease spread through Europe, the virus infection Encephalitis lethargica, which often resulted in death. Fever and agitation characterized the early stage of this disease; after a few weeks lethargy and drowsiness followed, and, above all, unnaturally prolonged sleep. The question arose about what structure of the brain could be responsible for this pathological need to sleep. When the brain tissues of patients who had died of the disease were examined under a microscope, it became evident that the infection was connected with changes in the cells of the interbrain (diencephalon). Was this the cause of excessive sleep? Later, in the 1920s, animal experiments enabled scientists to investigate in more detail the brain structures involved in the regulation of sleep.

At that time the discussion was dominated by one fundamental question, which led to heated controversy among the experts: Is sleep a passive process arising solely from the cessation of the waking state, as the Roman poet Lucretius already

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Secrets of Sleep
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface to the American Edition vii
  • Preface ix
  • 1 - A Historical View of Sleep 3
  • 2 - Scientists Investigate Sleep: The Different Stages of Sleep 16
  • 3 - Sleep: A Theme with Variations 31
  • 4 - Dreams 48
  • 5 - Sleep and Sleeping Pills 70
  • In Conclusion 86
  • 6 - "I Didn't Sleep a Wink All Night": Insomnia and Disorders of Sleeping and Waking 87
  • 7 - Sleep in Animals 105
  • 8 - Sleep and the Brain 122
  • 9 - The Search for Endogenous Sleep Substances 136
  • 10 - Sleep Deprivation 151
  • 11 - Sleep as a Biological Rhythm 170
  • 12 - The Purpose of Sleep 191
  • In Conclusion 204
  • Appendix: - Sleep Disorders Information Leaflet 207
  • Notes 210
  • Bibliography 213
  • Index 223
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