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The Universal Pastime: Sleep and Rest Explained von Horner, Richard L. (eBook)

  • Erscheinungsdatum: 13.08.2014
  • Verlag: BookBaby
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The Universal Pastime: Sleep and Rest Explained

Why the interest in rest and sleep? - All living things possess a sense of time. Like all animals - as well as plants, fungi and bacteria - we humans are hard-wired for a daily rhythm of rest and activity. The machinery that generates this daily rhythm resides in each and every one of our cells and it powerfully orchestrates our behavior. Setting aside time for rest and sleep optimally fits all living things and their bodily processes to the conditions of life. In fact, rest and sleep are deeply rooted in ancient biology, so much so that these characteristics have been conserved over the deep time that spans the three and a half billion years of life on earth. The dawn of the 24-hour industrial and technological society, however, occurred less than one hundred and fifty years ago. This time span constitutes only three human generations, and is but a 'blink of an eye' on the grand scale of natural history that spans billions of years. As a result of the technological age, humans are now the only living things that purposely ignore, disrupt and coerce the natural cycles of our cellular machinery to conform to artificially-imposed and often-irregular daily schedules. Given that sleep has major influences on body and mental health, the implications of understanding the states of rest and sleep, and why they exist, are large.


    Format: ePUB
    Kopierschutz: none
    Seitenzahl: 200
    Erscheinungsdatum: 13.08.2014
    Sprache: Englisch
    ISBN: 9781939389343
    Verlag: BookBaby
    Größe: 10769kBytes
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The Universal Pastime: Sleep and Rest Explained


I thought it useful at the beginning of this book to clearly identify my main motivations and aims for writing it. I do this not only to enable the interested reader to understand the mindset of a working scientist at a research-intensive University, but also to constantly remind myself to stick to these original ideals, not least because they form the essential foundation for the overall structure of the book. The primary motivation to write this book is my growing realization that it is an important responsibility for any scientist to communicate more with the public about the current state of knowledge in our chosen areas of research and teaching, for the reasons of promoting interest in science, increasing the awareness of new breakthroughs, and perhaps informing personal choices that can promote health or inform public policy. With this primary motivation in mind, the book is also structured to fill a particular niche. There are several well-written and informative popular books on sleep written by professional writers, but the direction typically chosen by such writers is not the one that I plan to take with this book. Rather, what I aim to tackle is the difficult problem of explaining why we actually rest and sleep, and to do so from fundamental principles of biology.

You may well ask do we really, at this point of our current state of knowledge, not really know why we sleep and dream? Well actually we do not, and this book aims to explain why and fix that knowledge gap. To bring you up to speed, on July 1 st 2005 one of the top scientific journals in the world - Science (www.sciencemag.org) - published its 125 th anniversary issue and highlighted the most compelling but unresolved scientific questions. Among those 'hard' questions were: What Is the universe made of?; What is the biological basis of consciousness?; Are we alone in the universe?; How hot will the greenhouse world be?; and will Malthus continue to be wrong? (The Reverend Thomas Malthus and his insight of 1798 are introduced on the first page of Chapter 1). Those questions, and the other one hundred and twenty identified in the anniversary issue of Science tackle big picture ideas. Interestingly, listed among the big unresolved questions were: Why do we sleep? and , Why do we dream?

In 2010 these questions remained unanswered and I decided to tackle them. I had researched aspects of the brain in sleep all my academic life and had taught an advanced undergraduate course on the subject for over ten years, as well as a graduate course. I was also looking for a new challenge and decided to tackle the biggest ones in the field: Why indeed do we sleep and why do we dream? To tackle such big questions, however, required lots of motivation to spend my 'spare' time differently. This choice requires an explanation.

The life of a working research scientist is an interesting and testing one, yet the activities and challenges of academic life will be unfamiliar to many outside of the profession. Academic appointments at research intensive universities come with the explicit expectation of the establishment of an active research program and publication of original research findings in peer-reviewed scientific and/or medical journals, preferably of high caliber because these garner the most prestige for both the scientist and the university. This process of research and publication in scientific journals can be thought of as a process of knowledge creation (or discovery) followed by its dissemination. These activities are viewed as so important that academic appointments at research intensive universities are made almost exclusively with regard to prior research activities and productivity, with judgments based on the number an

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