Re: Alteration of sleep patterns.

From: Martin Ling (
Date: Fri Jun 30 2000 - 04:28:46 MDT

On Fri, Jun 30, 2000 at 01:58:36AM -0500, wrote:
> Greetings,
> I'm interested in the supposed effects of operating on unusual
> sleep schedules, generally, working throughout the night and sleeping
> throughout the day, with variations occurring with some frequency.
> I'm also interested in any currently available methods of dealing with
> these effects.
> As I understand it, melatonin is responsible for the reset of
> the biological clock and is released during the night.


Specifically, the retina is linked to the supra-chiasmatic nucleus (SCN)
in the hypothalamus, which is linked in turn to the pineal gland, where
melatonin is released. (In birds and reptiles, the pineal gland resides
beneath a thin part of the skull, and is directly light sensitive).

> I've frequently been told that when you are forced to operate on night
> hours, the best way to ward off sleepiness is to work in a low or no
> light environment, as this triggers the release of melatonin.

This seems the wrong way round; melatonin release is in general the
trigger for sleepiness.

> Further, are there any technologies in development that are
> feasible tools to reduce the general amount of sleep required by an
> individual?

I've been asking the same thing (the 'Sleep? What is sleep, citizen?'
thread on the list). Selection attatched.


-From: Martin Ling <>
-Subject: Re: >H Sleep? What is 'sleep', citizen?

On Mon, Jun 05, 2000 at 12:49:47PM +0100, Andrew wrote:
> Monday, June 05, 2000, 12:10:52 PM, Martin wrote:
> ML> It occurs to me that the need to sleep is an important bug we need to
> ML> eliminate from our programming.
> It occurs to me that much more research is needed into what sleep does
> for us before we eliminate it.

Of course. I was just wondering if much thought had been put into this
particular aspect of improvement.

> Note that not sleeping for more than 5 days or so can be fatal.

Dangers of sleep deprivation are often overclaimed. The generally
arising problems are incoherency,

One of the most famous examples of sleep deprivation is that of Randy
Gardner, who remained awake for 11 days (264 hours) in 1964. His vision
became blurred, his speech less coherent and he suffered from mild
paranoia; but there were no lasting effects and Horne (1988), concluded
from looking at a number of studies that no subjects have displayed
significant symptoms beyond those in Gardner's case.

> It is possible that sleep is used for training the neural networks in
> our brains, during downtime.

Possibly. It's also quite likely that REM and slow wave sleep serve
different purposes. Oswald (1966) proposed that brain restoration is
taking place during REM, and body repair during slow wave sleep. Cell
division does take place at increased rates during all stages of sleep,
and babies sleep lots. Studies of marathon runners and other athletes
found they underwent more slow-wave sleep after a race, but some lab
studies disagree.

There's interesting results from certain antidepressants (particularly
tricyclics) also. People taking these were observed to undergo less REM
sleep each night; furthermore, when the treatment was stopped they did
not show the partial catch-up of lost REM which has been observed after
sleep deprivation experiments. The action of these drugs is to boost
neurotransmitter levels (esp. serotonin and noradrenaline). Morgane
(1974) suggests neurotransmitters are being restored during REM.

Note that REM is concurrent with dreaming, and dreaming has been
suggested to have a number of functions. Both Evans (1984) and Crick &
Mitchison (1983) suggest consolidation of information, construction and
modification of schema, and discarding of irrelevant material take place
during dreaming.

> Research I bumped into a whle back indicates that when we first learn
> a new skill, we get a major boost in skill level over the first night
> following learning the skill. This indicates that useful work is
> going on while we sleep.

There's counter studies to this which fail to find significant
difference between skill levels in people who have slept after learning
and people who have just done something else for the same amount of

References slip my mind for those ones though.


-----[ Martin J. Ling ]-----[ ]-----

-From: Martin Ling <> -To: -Subject: Re: >H Sleep? What is 'sleep', citizen?

On Sat, Jun 24, 2000 at 05:40:05PM -0500, David Cary wrote: > > So I was a little bit upset when I thought I heard Martin Ling say > sleep deprivation is not dangerous. (But that's not what you really > said, is it ?)

No, it isn't.

My post was intended simply to raise the issue of the functions of sleep and its potential removal from human programming, as it occured to me it was one area for potential human improvement that seemed to have been overlooked.

To provide some fuel to potential discussion, I provided a brief outline of some of the theories and research, based on my limited knowledge of the area.

I was certainly not disputing the dangers of a lack of awareness. But a lack of awareness, although a known effect of sleep deprivation, is the cause of your accident and not the sleep deprivation itself.

I make this distinction because there are memes in circulation claiming that sleep deprivation is dangerous - 'dangerous' in the sense of 'not sleeping for X days will kill you' etc. It is claims like these that Horne was disputing. Incidentally, my intention was simply to state the opinions of various involved researchers, not any of my own - although I realise in retrospect that my wording did not reflect this. Sorry! :-)

> >Date: Thu, 8 Jun 2000 22:55:38 +0100 > >From: Martin Ling <> > ... > >Dangers of sleep deprivation are often overclaimed. > ... > > >From: "Joseph Larson" <> > >To: > >Subject: Re: >H Sleep? What is 'sleep', citizen? > >Date: Mon, 05 Jun 2000 07:59:55 PDT > ... > >Sleeping itself seems to have evolved because it is most efficient for an > >organism's physical and behavioral traits to be primed for either night or > >day activities, and to become inactive during the period when it is > >inneficient (same obvious utility as hibernation). > > This is a good theory. But it doesn't explain what I've heard about dolphin > sleep. I've heard that scans of dolphin brains show the distinctive > waveforms associated with sleep in humans. But only one hemisphere at a > time -- apparently their hemispheres alternate, taking turns "sleeping".

Yes, many species of dolphin sleep in this manner. I have a reference for research into bottlenoses. Somewhere...

Also of interest is the Indus dolphin, which 'microsleeps' for brief periods all through day and night.

> >Can we > >compress the mind-tuning tasks (and whatever else mammalian evolution has > >used the downtime for) into a shorter time period? Or during times when our > >brain isn't doing much anyway (watching tv, driving)-- we're probably doing > >a little already. > > Good question. In general, it's good to ask for *any* activity that uses up > our limited time, is there a better way ? One that takes less > time/energy/material, and/or generates more/better results.

Exactly the questions I intended to raise. Although at the extreme end of the spectrum, I was including the possibility of modifications such that whatever processes were really essential could be ongoing in the background, or redistributed in some way - anything better than requiring us to spend a large fractions of our lives unconscious.

> >>From: Andrew <> > >>It occurs to me that much more research is needed into what sleep does > >>for us before we eliminate it. > > Yes. The standard way of finding out what X does is to eliminate X from a > test group and see what differences occur between the test group and a > control group. > > I have already conducted this experiment (in a sense), and have discovered > that I definitely need all the sleep I can get.

I don't dispute, and never have, that we currently 'need' sleep - i.e, our functioning is impaired if we do not have it, to an increasing degree.

But the same 'need' applies to a drug addict.

I am not suggesting that we are merely 'addicted' to sleep, and need to wean ourselves off it. Removing the requirement for it will involve actual modifications. But I do suggest that there is no real logical reason it should be required, and could be considered one of those evolutionary cock-ups which does not easily remove itself by single mutations.


-- -----[ Martin J. Ling ]-----[ ]-----

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Jul 27 2000 - 14:14:48 MDT