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Awake, asleep, or both?

September 15, 2010

Sleep is local.  Different parts of the brain are awake or asleep at the same time, just as people can be “active” while other  parts of their body are rebuilding through what we call “rest.”

These insights have actually been around for a while, but have been given further impetus by James Krueger’s recent work at Washington State.  He found that ATP, the main energy chemical of the cell, turns on a cascade, including cytokines, that begins the process of sleep (cytokines are heavily involved in immunity – feel sleepy when you get sick?)

And the phenomenon of turning on sleep doesn’t happen everywhere in the brain at the same time.

In fact people are relatively poor at determining whether they are awake or asleep.  People can wake hundreds of times during the night and not be aware they were awake; people in stage 1 sleep for ten minutes can be awakened, and half will tell you they were awake the whole time!

The American model of “lie down and die” with sleep turned on like a light switch is simply not realistic – no matter what sleeping pill manufacturers say.  Our levels of alertness, of arousal, of attention, are shifting back and forth throughout the 24 hour day.  Our levels of wakefulness and sleep are also on a continuum, not something you can instantaneously turn “on” or “off.”

So the importance of rest is that much greater.  In rest, we rebuild and rejuvenate.  We do it all the time.  We do it fast, so fast we generally don’t notice it.  And it keeps us alive.

And the advantage of active rest techniques is that they can  help you pay attention any time – get more awake, more alert, more aware, simply by using your brain the way it’s built.

Rest, sleep, Sarasota Sleep Doctor, well-being, regeneration, longevity, body clocks, insomnia, sleep disorders, the rest doctor, matthew edlund, the power of rest, the body clock, psychology today, huffington post, redbook, longboat key news

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