posted by admin on May 8

Another possible explanation of why we sleep is the chemical theory. We are all aware of the fact that certain chemical substances induce sleep; we have all heard of sleeping pills. When we take a sleeping pill, the drug is absorbed into the blood and acts on the brain. The drug induces sleep. When the drug wears off and is eliminated from the body, we wake up.

Is there a sleep-inducing, naturally occurring chemical in the body? Also, does this chemical accumulate in the day like a waste product from our metabolism and require elimination? When the chemical reaches a certain threshold, does the brain become drugged and cause us to fall asleep? Whilst asleep, is this chemical eliminated from the body, causing us to wake up refreshed? A French scientist in 1913 called this hypothetical chemical sleep poison or hypnotoxin.

This is shown in the example of Siamese twins. Siamese twins are two twins born together with some parts of their bodies attached. They share the same blood circulation. It is observed that one twin can be wide awake whilst the other is fast asleep. If there is a chemical in the blood causing sleep, then the two twins should be waking and sleeping at the same time. This clearly demonstrates that ‘natural sleep’ is not due to a chemical or a drug circulating in the blood. On the other hand, if one twin is given an appropriate dose of sleeping pill, after this is absorbed into the blood the two twins sleep at the same time. This shows that sleep induced by sleeping pills is very different from natural sleep, and the chemical theory is unable to explain why we need to sleep.

However, in spite of this, there is still considerable research taking place to examine the possibility of the presence of hypnotoxin. Claims were made that extracts of spinal fluid from sleep-deprived animals when injected into waking animals would induce sleep. US scientists called this substance in the spinal fluid factor S (S for sleep) and Japanese scientists called it sleep-promoting substance or SPS. Sleep-deprived animals were used for the source of this substance as it was believed that factor S or SPS accumulated greatly in these animals, since only sleep could eliminate it.

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