New studies in rat have shown that sleep deprivation lead to parts of the brain actually “going to sleep” while the rats were ostensibly awake and responsive.
It has long been known that neurons (brain/nerve cells) exist in two states – essentially ‘switched on’/awake or ‘switched off’/asleep/unresponsive. Whilst we are in non-dreaming (non-REM) sleep, large groups of our neurons flick between the two states, causing the slow oscillations that occur on an electrical reading of the brain.
During sleep deprivation, more and more of the rat’s neurons begin to flick into this off state… leading to parts of their brain being asleep and other parts being awake at the same time.
Scientists also tested the rats ability to learn new things whilst in this sleep deprived state. When the motor regions of the rats brains were asleep, they couldn’t manage to reach out for a sugar pellet. Scientists say that this gives us new insights into what happens when we miss out on sleep…. essentially, our brains fall asleep in sections, meaning that we make mistakes.
And on that note, I’m off to bed…. Goodnight!