What happens at the transition into sleep?
One horizontal moment there’s a Ferris wheel of colourful, conscious images playing through your mind, and then, click.
But, wait, what just happened? Apart from taking yourself to bed and lying down, you had little actual say in what just took place.
The janitor closing down your conscious brain has slowly made his or her way round each department, first sight then sound, then to fear to pragmatism to hunger to everywhere, every cerebral nook and cranny. Each receptor and pathway that has spent the last 12 hours on overdrive sending and receiving millions of signals is now comfortably numb. And you fall (why fall?) asleep.
As insomniacs or narcoleptics would be quick to remind you, it seems as though this switch is governed elsewhere, the scientifically defined periods of sleep begin in a haze of mystery.
The moment is notoriously blurry. Studies have shown that the first period of sleep is littered with alpha-band activity (conscious reactions to stimuli), so much so that the sleeper can feel awake. When there is an abundance of focused stimuli around you, the cinema perhaps, you recognize moments, and can even interact with them as if awake. But what about when you are trying to keep your eyes open, whose in charge now!?
The fact is that your brain has been receiving signals and set the sleeping wheels in motion a good while ago, since the sun went down, and now that you are in that safe place (bed) it can finish you off.
Everyone’s brain releases extra adenosine to help the slumber take hold (its what gets inhibited by caffeine). But then thats the point, everything sleeps, from dogs, to deciduous trees to hedgehogs to half a dolphin at a time. It is a worldwide phenomenon that each individual experiences almost involuntarily.
It is one of those glorious or terrifying moments when you realize that you are not in complete control, where biology is laying down the law, where the subjects that must adhere to the rules pertaining to life on earth includes you, where the complex human laying along side the scruffy dog don’t amount to a bean on a hill o….or perhaps you just fall asleep.
Live until 70 and this will happen about 25568 times (not counting snoozing, napping or being knocked out), like clockwork…