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Discuss research into the explanation of the function of sleep

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Introduction

Discuss research into the explanation of the function of sleep There are three main theories for the function of sleep: Restorative theories known as homeostatic theories are the most intuitive ones as they suggest that the function of sleep is rest and recuperation in order to restore the body to full working capacity (Horne) During SWS, particularly stage 3 & 4 growth hormone is released into the blood in large quantities which helps to restore bodily tissues, suggesting that sleep serves a restorative function but there are two debates as to the precise nature this might take. Oswald's theory suggests the high levels of brain activity during REM reflect brain recovery while an increase in the body's hormone activity during SWS reflects restoration and recovery in the body. Oswald views REM sleep as essential for the brain repair and restoration, this is supported by the high levels of REM sleep seen in new born babies where it makes up 50-60% of sleep time gradually falling to about 25% as the child grows. ...read more.

Middle

very few reported deprivation had an interference with the participants ability to perform physical exercise and there was no evidence of a physiological stress response to the deprivation. There is a flaw to the restoration theory as Horne pointed out, that amino acids are only freely available five hours after meals and most people eat several hours after going to bed, therefore implying not much protein synthesis would go on during sleep. Furthermore the support for this theory comes from animal studies that found prolonged sleep deprivation of rats led them to die within 19days due to the interference with the immune system but to keep them awake they must be constantly stimulated and therefore stressed. This research suggests that sleep provides the only opportunity for restoration in some species. Moreover fatal familial insomnia is a rare inherited defect, preventing people sleeping when they become middle aged leading to death within two years. Autopsies revealed degeneration of the thalamus suggesting patients have brain damage and making it hard to generalise the findings. ...read more.

Conclusion

The simple idea is that new experiences are put into LTM during sleep as the animal is not controlling any behaviour. We can make two direct predictions: some forms of LTM should improve following sleep and LTM should be impaired in the sleep deprived. The main research into brain plasticity is by Hahn, Mehta & Sakmann who found that information is first stored as ST memories in the hippocampus and is transferred to the cerebral cortex where they enter long term memory during deep sleep. Therefore if a person doesn't get enough sleep they become overloaded with new incoming information making them confused, therefore giving this theory face validity. Also the little evidence there is to support this theory is scientific based providing objective quantitative data and is less likely to be subject to researcher bias, therefore giving scientific validity. However the theory is incomplete as it does not explain what happens to the disgarded information and is therefore reductionist. ...read more.

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