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Science

Sleep Is the Ultimate Brainwasher 210

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the brush-those-axons dept.
sciencehabit writes "Every night since humans first evolved, we have made what might be considered a baffling, dangerous mistake. Despite the once-prevalent threat of being eaten by predators, and the loss of valuable time for gathering food, accumulating wealth, or having sex, we go to sleep. Scientists have long speculated and argued about why we devote roughly a third of our lives to sleep, but with little concrete data to support any particular theory. Now, new evidence (abstract, full text paywalled) has refreshed a long-held hypothesis: During sleep, the brain cleans itself." During sleep, the Cerebrospinal fluid fills channels in the brain, collecting waste products. It uses a lot of energy, leading to the hypothesis that the brain can't clean up waste while also processing sensory input.
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Sleep Is the Ultimate Brainwasher

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  • by DavidHumus (725117) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @03:54PM (#45157383)

    I wonder how well this accounts for the extremely variable sleeping periods of various animals? See http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/chasleep.html [washington.edu] .

  • Neat. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I used to imagine it as the brain defragmenting itself. Imagine that! A computer guy seeing biological topics through a computer-geek lens!

    • Re:Neat. (Score:5, Funny)

      by SJHillman (1966756) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @04:09PM (#45157589)

      For teenagers, it's more like a cron job running rm -rf /knowledge/school/exam_answers/*

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        For teenagers, it's more like a cron job running rm -rf /knowledge/school/exam_answers/*

        Okay, how to I root my brain to edit my crontab???? Then I can finally not me fail english, which I that unpossible.

        • For teenagers, it's more like a cron job running rm -rf /knowledge/school/exam_answers/*

          Okay, how to I root my brain to edit my crontab???? Then I can finally not me fail english, which I that unpossible.

          By an alarm clock.

        • Find this book: "Mind Games", published around 1970. Find some friends, go through the exercises (doing each set a few times per week until you've mastered each level or whatever), over a period of about 2-3 months. This was the 'textbook' for a cool class I took a long time ago, called "Altered States of Consciousness Problem Solving Workshop". The purpose of the class was to research the potential for setting subjects with a problem, have them go into these altered states, and then record the result

          • by sg_oneill (159032)

            Nieztche probably isn't the best example. Its beyond doubt he was a brilliant philosopher. He was also completely and utterly mad as well. The guy had crippling mental illness (Possibly from Syphilis) and as a result I'm not sure its wise to draw too many conclusions from his behavior or even his claims about his behavior.

            That said, he did one of his greatest things whilst suffering from his madness, wrote an entire book about how his good friend Wagner (the composer) was an antisemetic nationalist bastard

            • Nietzche was just one example from an interesting book, "The Creative Process" [amazon.com], originally published in the 1960s IIRC - apparently it's still in print. It's a collection of 50 essays by well-known thinkers including Nietzche and Einstein, I was just paraphrasing from long-ago memory. Most/all of the essays involve that plateau-leap-plateau-leap cycle of creativity. So it's not just him.

              WRT the Nazi collection, another book points out something interesting - another philosopher that was "adopted" by the

    • Yeah, and a perhaps even more adequate analogy would seem to be the 'garbage collection'...

    • by tepples (727027) <tepples@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Thursday October 17, 2013 @04:46PM (#45157997) Homepage Journal
      Remember how Defrag in Windows 98 used to move the little colored blocks around? One night I got more or less the same thing. When I was about 11, several years before Windows 95 existed, I dreamed I walked into an M/E Root Beer restaurant (apparently a fictional counterpart of A&W restaurants) and in the back room, an anthropomorphic rabbit was sorting a bunch of pieces of paper with pictures on them into various piles. I looked at a few of them, and they appeared to be my memories.
  • by christianT (604736) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @03:57PM (#45157429)

    Humans suffer from major memory leaks and must be shut down periodically due to poor garbage collection.

    • by Yaur (1069446) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @04:00PM (#45157475)
      I don't think its shutting down, so much a suspending all of the threads while the GC runs.
    • Humans suffer from major memory leaks and must be shut down periodically due to poor garbage collection.

      Except for C programmers who can go on and on without any apparent performance deterioration.

  • by Arkiel (741871) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @03:59PM (#45157463) Journal
    ...with a better word than "brainwashing?" Since that already means something that does not match the contents of the article.
    • There are a lot of science articles published in a day. Most titles, a given scientist is only going to glance at them once. The journal and the authors have an interest in making it memorable.

      It's not like researchers are going so far as to pay for advertising their papers.
    • by GrandCow (229565) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @04:12PM (#45157635)

      ...with a better word than "brainwashing?" Since that already means something that does not match the contents of the article.

      BEEP BOOP I am a robot can't detect a joke.

      Brainwashing is a perfect word to use here since that's exactly what's happening.

      • by jamesh (87723)

        ...with a better word than "brainwashing?" Since that already means something that does not match the contents of the article.

        BEEP BOOP I am a robot can't detect a joke.

        Brainwashing is a perfect word to use here since that's exactly what's happening.

        "brainwashing" != "brain washing". And I don't think it was that the OP didn't get the pun, it's just that the pun was crap. As I said above, I would have gone with a pun on "dirty mind" if it was my headline.

    • by jamesh (87723) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @04:13PM (#45157651)

      ...with a better word than "brainwashing?" Since that already means something that does not match the contents of the article.

      Agree. A "dirty mind" joke would have gone down far better.

  • So that's where Bill Gates got the idea about having to reboot Windows every day back when. It's really a form of cleaning the computer. It's good for the system, don't ya know.
    • Great, now the extreme overclockers will be replacing the liquid in their cooling rigs with cerebrospinal fluid.
      • THAT IS A GREAT IDEA FOR A BOOK/MOVIE!

        You should get to it before someone else does... I'm thinking something along the lines of Larry Niven's body banks... or the premise of the (terrrible) Repo Men
  • Gives to time to better process and analyse the data that you collected during the day. Most of what you learn, you learn in your sleep, while unconscionably looking over the stuff that you just did not get while awake, distracted by all the other input going on.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 17, 2013 @04:21PM (#45157737)

    A higher order species that has brains that can "cleans" itself without requiring sleep would have so much evolutionary advantage that they would rapidly take over the entire planet (sort of like flowering plants). Why hasn't 3+ billion years of evolutionary produced such a species?

    • by jeff4747 (256583) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @04:51PM (#45158053)

      There's advantages and disadvantages to every evolutionary option. It's not clear that not sleeping is a very large advantage.

      Sure, it means being active for an additional 8 hours a day. But being active also means needing more food. Being active all night in a time before artificial light means more injuries. It also means missing out on the social effects of sleeping - "sleeping together", even without sex, reinforces relationships.

      • One reason that many predators sleep so much is to conserve energy so that they don't have to hunt so often. Cats, of course, are just one of the more extreme examples.
    • by marcosdumay (620877) <marcosdumay&gmail,com> on Thursday October 17, 2013 @04:55PM (#45158109) Homepage Journal

      We, sleeping creatures are "lucky"* that by "coincidence" the day is divided in two parts so different that an animal well adapted to one of them don't fare very well on the other. So, most animals adapt to one of those parts, and just protect themselves the best way they can at the other. For nearly all animals, being awake wouldn't make much of a difference.

      * Lucky that we adapted to exactly the environment that we evolved on. What a coincidence, isn't it?

    • There'd probably be a huge overhead to doing this kind of thing while awake. Enough to make it completely impractical. Also, evolution doesn't tend toward perfect, it only tends toward "lives long enough to have children."

    • by Waccoon (1186667)

      Sitting in the dark gets boring.

      Now we have electricity and can have light and entertainment 24/7. I find it likely that within the next 100 years, it will be common and possibly healthy to have 4 hours or less sleep a night.

  • by BoRegardless (721219) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @04:29PM (#45157837)

    Mid-day sweeping keeps the cobwebs out.

  • And wish to engage in brainwashing of your own, how should sleep deprivation feature in your... um... "protocol"?

  • What does this imply for the idiots who figure they can just replace most or all of their sleep with Modafinil? I'm guessing there are going to be a few sad stories in the future.

    • I'm hoping someone comes up with a power flush technique like with oil or transmission oil changes at Jiffy Lube. Step into a booth, plug in, five minutes later you're good to go another twenty four hours... or twenty three hours and fifty five minutes.
  • I've run into a few people who always brag about only needing a few hours sleep every night.
    I've always sort of thought they were full of waste products.
  • How to explain those folks?

    (Google it yourself)

  • In our evolutionary past, we had to specialize in order to be competitive in a particular niche. That specialization prevented our earliest forbears from being competitive in the radically changed environments of both day and night. So all the way back in the evolutionary tree to bacteria, we see a circadian rhythm. Some creatures are better adapted to night, others to day. They spend their off-cycle conserving energy and being difficult to spot. Holding still accomplishes both. So sleeping became a s

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