Re: curing sleep

Anders Sandberg (
29 Oct 1999 15:12:22 +0200

"Zeb Haradon" <> writes:

> I was wondering if anyone has any ideas on a possible "cure" for sleep - a
> drug or procedure which will eliminate the need to lay still with your eyes
> closed for 8 unproductive hours a day.
> As far as I know, scientists know very little about sleep. We know that REM
> sleep is required for mental well being. We know that the body is fine
> without sleep but the brain is not, so it's the brain that the attack should
> be centered on. The goal would be to understand exactly how sleep effects
> the brain, physically, and to replicate these physical changes with a
> device, or pill, that works in less then 8 hours.

The problem might be that these changes could be incompatible with conscious, useful activity. For example, one theory I'm currently rather fond of is that during deep sleep memory is consolidated by reinstatement of previous activity patterns due to the hippocampus (this ties into my memory research). If this is true, then you cannot use this time to do something else simply because all of your cortex is being subjected to boring re-runs of the most important things learned in the day. Maybe the consolidation could be enhanced (sounds like a great idea, since it could also possibly improve memory), but eliminating sleep might be too much.

(note that REM sleep is different; my current view is that it could be something similar for the basal ganglia and planning/motor memory. Lucid dreaming does not seem incompatible with it, but I do not have any data)

Now, there are people who do not sleep. Apparently some rare cases where the serotonin system has been damaged suffer from total insomnia. However, I don't think their mental state is quite normal. I'm not sure, but I would expect intrusions of sleep-like activity interspersed with normal activity, likely reducing efficiency and reasoning.

The best way of handling sleep is IMHO to set up a sleep schedule that doesn't interfere with one's projects. I like the idea of biphasic sleep (a siesta in the early afternoon), while Waldemar Ingdahl is a proponent of using half an hour of meditation (which IMHO is very similar to a nap) at that time to reduce the need for sleep during the night. The trick is to set up a schedule that works with one's ordinary life.

As for myself, I would dearly like to be able to control when I need to sleep. But not get rid of it - I think Endymion is worth envying.

Mortal: So what do you Jupiter brains do all the time? SI: We sleep.
Mortal: You SLEEP?!
SI: Sure. We sleep wonderfully.
Mortal: Aren't you thinking about life, the universe and everything?

SI:	Already did. Besides, we dream about it sometimes. 
Mortal:	But why all that brainpower then?
SI:	Do you understand how much capacity it takes to sleep *really* well?

Some sleep papers:

I have written an essay on sleep and sleep control which unfortunately is in Swedish, it can be found at

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y