We spend roughly a third of our lives asleep yet the full explanation
of sleep is not entirely clear (Theories of sleep). What is clear, however,
is that as we move towards sleep we become more disconnected from the
real world. This, of course, has important consequences if we are controlling
machinery such as a car. It might seem obvious that one ought not to fall
asleep while driving a car yet in our survey of over 10,000 drivers we
find that 1 in 6 drivers report that they have fallen asleep at the wheel
in the last two years. As we move to a 24 hour society we can expect an
increase in sleep related problems.
Theories of sleep
- Here the idea is that sleep promotes the restoration and recovery
of biochemical and physiological processes. While this seems intuitively
reasonable there is not a great deal of evidence
- Energy conservation
- During sleep there is a reduction in metabolic rate. However, it is
not clear that the saving is enough warrant the natural selection of
- Allowed humans to avoid predators who were better prepared to hunt
at night (e.g. better night vision). But this could be achieved by inactivity
so why sleep.
- Memory consolidation
- Here the idea is that the function of sleep is to transfer information
from temporary memory to long-term memory.
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