Everyone of us will sleep tonight. Some less and more fitfully than others, but without at least four hours of it, our brains [and our society] will suffer the consequences.
In this case, the consequences may not be immediate, but they will be cumulative. Neurologists at the University of Rochester have studied sleep with the conclusion that it is like a rinse-cycle which flushes out toxins that have built up throughout the day. Look, no one can deny we live in a toxic world; why then wouldn’t this toxic milieu affect out brains? As professor Maiken Nedergaard told BBC.com:
“The brain only has limited energy at its disposal. It appears that it must choose between two different functional states: awake & aware or asleep & cleaning up.”
She reports that among the residue removed during sleep is beta-amyload, a plaque-like substance that is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s. This suggests sleeping tonight will help limit your prospects for future dementia. In the meantime, it may also limit your worst compulsions. Compulsions that might range anywhere from over-eating to over-aggression.
Nedergaard doesn’t tell us terrorists and serial killers come from lack of sleep. However, she among other researchers raises some nagging questions about not getting enough of it. In wartime, jailers are known to use sleep deprivation to get what they want from prisoners. With each new neurological study, we are becoming more acquainted with the heights and depths to our brains. Even to the point some defense attorneys have tried to use a defendant’s brain functions to exonerate their actions.
Here’s a picture.
If Professor Nedergaard were called as an expert witness in a serial-killer case, could her expertise explain an insomniac’s homicidal behavior? Or would the prosecution on cross examination ask her to admit: “Isn’t there far more to this defendant than his physical brain? isn’t there is also some ethical/ moral/ spiritual dimension we call the mind? so that he, all of us for that matter, are a transcendent whole greater than the sum of our biological parts?”
OK, I’m no lawyer, and that question might not be allowed in a court. Still, I’d like to know her answer.
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