What is the difference between sleep and unconciousness?

James Teo james at teoth.fsnet.co.uk
Sat Feb 24 20:14:14 EST 2001

On Sun, 25 Feb 2001 00:46:22 GMT, thedeej at nospam.geocities.com (The
Deej) wrote:

>What if someone sustained damage to the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which I have 
>been told controls circadian rhythm in the brain? Or for that matter any part 
>of the hypothalmus?

Well, damage to the circadian centre at the suprachiasmatic nucleus 
destroys the clock but doesn't disable the brain's sleep initiators
which is in the mid brain and brain stem. Thus damage just alters the
rhythms of alertness and sleep; you can still sleep but in little
distributed short naps throughout the day (like in the really old, or
the neonate) instead of having the normal biphasic day-night sleep
pattern. (ref: The Promise of Sleep, by William C Dement, founder of
Stanford Sleep Centre, 1999, PAN books)

>Someone else on a neurology forum referenced a Cuban man who had encephalitis 
>as a kid, which wrecked his either thalamus or hypothalamus, and he didn't 
>sleep for forty years. Apparently he "rested" or went into a light stage of one 
>and tiny bits of two sleep, no 3, 4 or REM.  He needed to "rest" though, and 
>felt it akin to meditation. Anyways, they couldn't induce any sleep with any 
>medication on him. He was apparently evauated at the Stanford Sleep Center back 
>in the 80's but I haven't been able to find any reference to this study.

Don't know anything about that.  Definitely would be very interesting
if you could find the reference to that and pass it on to me. Dement's
book doesn't mention it nor does my other neuro books.

The sleep initiators are in the brain stem and mid brain so I find it
difficult to imagine a disease process which would selectively damage
that centre without killing the individual.

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