The Purpose of Sleep
††††††††††††††† I hypothesize that the main purpose of sleep is to prepare the mind for the next day. The mind does this by turning unacknowledged thoughts into acknowledged thoughts. I consider unacknowledged thoughts to be the things that a person does not pay attention to during wake. Itís commonly called the subconscious or unconscious mind. These thoughts lie dormant near the center of the brain (hippocampus). During sleep, these thoughts are transferred from the hippocampus to the cerebrum. This is known as the standard model of system consolidation.
††††††††††††††† This hypothesis is based on ubiquitous experiences. For example, it is common to be stuck on a problem, then go to sleep, and then wake up with a solution. The solution is an unacknowledged thought that became realized. The solution comes from a completely different perspective and seems so obvious. Sometimes, something isnít even a problem and then, after sleep, you realize a better way to do something. This supports my hypothesis, because for information to remain unacknowledged, it must be very different from the acknowledged information. Another common experience occurs with music. A song will often sound bad the first time listening to it because information overload occurs. The listener does not acknowledge all the instruments playing and/or all of an instrumentís parts. They are unacknowledged thoughts disconnected from the acknowledged parts of the song. Thus, the listener deems the song as being too random. After going to sleep and listening to the song the next day, it will sound better because more of the song is acknowledged (read: ordered). The relatedness of the instruments and/or an instrumentís parts is realized. This occurs for songs with great complexity. Itís also possible that the song has so much randomness that it remains bad.
††††††††††††††† My hypothesis for how the brain acknowledges previously-unacknowledged thoughts is a bit outlandish: itís based on lightning in a storm. The cerebrum is full of acknowledged, organized thoughts; it is oneís perspective of the world, or sense of reality. I see the cerebrum as the clouds and the neurons as cloud particles. I believe a neuron (i.e. thought) that is used frequently during wake develops a negative electric charge, like the base of a cloud before lightning strikes. The hippocampus has thoughts related to this but completely unacknowledged during wake. This is like the surface of the Earth before lightning strikes, which induces an electric charge equal to but opposite the charge of the base of a cloud.
When a person is asleep, electrical impulses transfer unacknowledged thoughts of the hippocampus up to the cerebrum. A single impulse occurs in an instant and information becomes acknowledged as a result. In a storm, just before lightning strikes, nearly-invisible low-current branches descend from a cloud. The flash of lightning we see is actually traveling from the earth up to the same cloud, and known as the return stroke. The polarity between acknowledged and unacknowledged thoughts is neutralized by electrical impulses during sleep in the same way lightning discharges the electrical polarity between cloud and earth.
††††††††††††††† I believe sleepiness is the result of a heavily-used brain. More specifically, it is the result of an accumulation of electrical charges in the cerebrum and/or unacknowledged thoughts in the hippocampus. If someone does not get tired, he or she is not acknowledging thoughts and/or accumulating unacknowledged thoughts. He or she is not putting the cerebrum to use. Caffeine probably does not allow the brain to acknowledge thoughts and/or accumulate unacknowledged thoughts. If someone is tired but prolongs wake, he or she is probably no longer able to acknowledge thoughts and/or accumulate unacknowledged thoughts. If a full sleep is disrupted by an alarm clock, the person did not finish acknowledging the unacknowledged thoughts. On the plus side, it is known that thoughts can remain in the hippocampus for a week.
© Buism 2010