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The Enigma of Sleep

Christina Cardamone
News Writer

Sleep, a relief that all college students yearn for, is actually one of the most unsolved phenomena in the science field. Marcos Funk, a professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania has taken on the unknown questions and answers surrounding the activity of sleep as a project.
While pairing up with other various professors from respectable colleges and universities Funk has tried to gather the best information that he could though the topic has been found to be lacking in research and results. On Wednesday September 4, students found themselves waiting for Funk to share his findings with them though Funk admits with a laugh that there is “honestly not much”.
Many people tend to believe that sleep is an activity that we encounter when we’re bored or are lacking in stimulation. Funk began explaining that this preconceived notion is false. “The sleeping brain is still an active brain,” he says.
There are neurons that are constantly being fired in rapid successions at different moments and in different patterns. When the brain is monitored during sleep, research shows varying wave lengths created by the brain’s activity. At times the sleeping brain’s wavelengths look very similar to that of the waking brain.
As college students, we find ourselves getting less and less sleep as we delve farther into the semester. We spend more time awake because of studying and homework than we do sleeping. As much as we might like to blame school for our lack of sleep it’s actually a person’s age that is to blame. As we get older our amount of sleep decreases as our waking hours per day increase. Our amount of REM or Rapid-Eye-Movement sleep also decreases. It has not been fully proven as to why these decreases occur.
REM sleep is a state in which the brain’s wave activity looks as if it’s awake but the body is not. During this phase of sleep the body finds itself in a paralyzed like state. Though the body may be paralyzed the brain is still actively processing information. During the REM sleep the brain looks most like the waking brain. In all the research that Funk has encountered he explained that only two species have been known to have an REM phase: humans and birds.
While sleep is still a large mystery to scientists and researchers, we can understand that sleep and the behaviors that occur within and around it are the cause of evolution and adaptation. Our bodies are more aware of what it needs to survive than we recognize on a day-to-day basis. Being in tune with your body and its needs will provide a more restful night and you can awake feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the next homework assignment and exam.