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Background:

Some time ago I opened a question comparing drug widrawal and sleep deprivation symphtoms:

-What is the difference between drug withdrawal and sleep deprivation effects?

In fact, my main objective for that question was to know if there was by any chance, a possibility to live without sleeping.

I got a good answer for the "why we need sleep?" question, mentioning all the injuries that its deprivation causes.

so here are my questions now:

Q1: What does really happen in our brain during sleep that make us feel much more light when we wake up and that its deprivation kill us? is it memory cleanup ?

Q2: Is there any research done on the reprodution of those "cleanup" processes without sleeping ?

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Read the Wikipedia article on sleep: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep Sleep appears to have phyisiological functions (healing, rejuvenation etc.) that go beyond mere memory funtions. On the other hand people meditating or doing yoga report needing less sleep and feeling refreshed after their exercises. Both practices induce states similar to sleep (relaxation, brain waves, disregard of outside stimuli), which might explain how they can have similar effects. –  what Mar 16 at 10:38
    
yea, but what exacly in sleep / medidation / yoga, make that happen ? imagine you could identify it and reproduce it by just thinking (something like inner procedure activation - dunno if that concept even exists or how its called) –  Enoque Duarte Mar 16 at 17:28

3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

The so-called glymphatic system, pump washing the brain with cerebrospinal fluid during sleep, has already been mentioned in answer to the SE question "Do you need to sleep every night?" It seems more than just a memory cleanup process as if on a computer, but "has significant implications for treating 'dirty brain diseases like Alzheimer's" and understanding it "is a critical first step in efforts to modulate this system and make it work more efficiently" (Maiken Nedergaard). That should go towards answering Q2, at least if such interventions take place in the waking state at the experimental stage.

Another recent report concerns brain cells known as microglia, which also play a role in mopping up neurotoxic brain waste such as beta-amyloids. In addition they monitor the growth of synapses and prune connections between neurons so that the brain can refine its circuits and conserve resources, particularly during adolescence. Relevant maybe, as this is a period in life known for prolonged sleep. Some research on mice suggests a preference on the part of microglia for carrying out their work when the organism is in darkness. Hyperactive microglia however are conjectured to be implicated in Alzheimer's by stripping too many synapses when these are inadvertently tagged by the brain for destruction.

References:

"To Sleep, Perchance to Clean. Study* reveals brain takes out the trash while we sleep" University of Rochester News Room 17 Oct 2013

*Nedergaard M (corresponding author) et al "Sleep drives metabolite clearance from the adult brain" Science 18 Oct 2013

"The Mind Minders - a fertile, flexible brain couldn't live without its roving band of caretakers". New Scientist, 12 Oct 2013.

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There has been studies that shown that cerebrospinal fluid's circulation in the brain is dramatically(20x) increased during sleep. It is believed that during sleep, cerebrospinal fluid circulation helps clear out toxic by products of brain metabolism.

As a result, the cerebrospinal fluid could not only flow more freely but it could also reach further into the brain. In an awake brain, it would flow only along the brain’s surface. Indeed, the awake flow was a mere 5 percent of the sleep flow. In a sleeping brain, waste was being cleared two times faster. “We saw almost no inflow of cerebrospinal fluid into the brain when the mice were awake, but then when we anesthetized them, it started flowing. It’s such a big difference

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/12/opinion/sunday/goodnight-sleep-clean.html?_r=0

http://www.nih.gov/researchmatters/october2013/10282013clear.htm

Just a guess - if anesthesia improves cerebrospinal fluid flow, maybe then a combination of isolation/sensory deprivation tankand anesthesia would help achieve a cleansing effect? Either way, it does not appear that a human can be running around and working during such cleanup.

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This answer seems pretty obvious to me. Maybe? Yes with enough genetic engineering or chemical perturbation it might be possible to remove the need for sleep because it is uncertain if all multicellular organism sleep at this time. If it ever is proven that all multicellular organisms must sleep then the answer would be No.

Q1 I'll cannibalize whats comment

Read the Wikipedia article on sleep: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep Sleep appears to have phyisiological functions (healing, rejuvenation etc.) that go beyond mere memory funtions. On the other hand people meditating or doing yoga report needing less sleep and feeling refreshed after their exercises. Both practices induce states similar to sleep (relaxation, brain waves, disregard of outside stimuli), which might explain how they can have similar effects. – what yesterday

Q2 I will say there is a definate connection between states of consciousness and memory rejuvenation especially sleep and memory however the exact methods are largly unknown. Thought I was able to find one paper:

Taken together, these observations that signaling lipids participate in synaptic plasticity, cognition, and survival indicate that lipid signaling is closely associated with several functions (e.g; learning and memory, sleep, and experimental stroke) and pathologic events. Alterations in endogenous signaling lipids or their receptors resulting from drug abuse lead to changes in synaptic circuitry and induce profound effects on these important functions.

-Lipid signaling: Sleep, synaptic plasticity, and neuroprotection

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