Physiological Basis of Sleep: Theories on the Functions of Sleep

15 October 2021 It is well established that sleep is fundamental for the health and well-being of us all. Sleep plays an intrinsic part in many behavioural and physiological functions – it is essential for many vital functions including development, energy conservation, brain waste clearance, modulation of immune responses, cognition, vigilance, disease and psychological state (Zielinski M. et al. 2017).  Therefore, as medical practitioners and researchers from all fields of medicine, it is important to develop a solid knowledge base on the functions of sleep, as it can have various implications on patients and research interests. 

Theories on the Functions of Sleep 

In the recently published Sleep Medicine Textbook, 2nd Edition, there is an entire chapter dedicated to exploring the functions of sleep.  “The beneficial effects of sleep are manifold. The present chapter provides knowledge on the function of sleep by an overview of the major principles and methodological approaches, as well as the leading theories in the field. Theoretical proposals range from the appropriate timing of activity (ecological hypothesis), through rest (energy conservation), recovery (detoxification, restoration of frontal lobe functions and mood), neural plasticity/memory consolidation (rapid eye movement [REM] sleep- centred hypothesis, two- stage model, system and synaptic consolidation), and neural network maintenance (reverse learning, neuronal group theory, dynamic stabilization, synaptic homeostasis hypothesis) to immune system functions (sleep- to- immune interactions).   Several specific theories formulate similar conceptual backgrounds and predictions, whereas others are contradictory in terms of the nature and functional significance of sleep. The idea of a multilevel functional system is proposed, according to which the functions of sleep were multiplied during phylogeny, embedding the new evolutionary achievements of thermoregulation and complex central nervous systems.”  Summary by:  Róbert Bódizs R. (2021). A. Physiological Basis of Sleep 4. Theories on the functions of Sleep. In Bassetti, C., McNicholas, W., Paunio, T., & Peigneux, P. (Eds.). Sleep Medicine Textbook (2nd ed., pp. 41-55). Regensburg: European Sleep Research Society.   To dive even further into this topic, we invite you to purchase your very own copy of the Sleep Medicine Textbook 2nd Edition, now available in print and digital versions.  Buy Now

Sleep Science School 

To underscore the importance of understanding the functions of sleep, the ESRS recently concluded the 3rd Edition of their Sleep Science School on “The Functions of Sleep”. For four days, 40 participants were treated to 8 faculty lectures on topics from synaptic phosphorylation and memory consolidation to the glymphatic system and cognitive functioning.  For further insight into these topics and more, ESRS members can view the faculty presentations on demand. Not an ESRS member? Join today to get access this material and other membership benefits. 

ESRS Announcements

Sleep Europe 2022 Call for Symposia 

All ESRS members are invited to contribute to the program by proposing a symposium. The deadline for submissions has been extended until 18 October 2021. Find out more on the criteria and procedures here.  

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Recent publications from ESRS members: 

  1. Hrozanova et al. (2021). An observational study of sleep characteristics in elite endurance athletes during an altitude training camp at 1800 m. Sleep Health.
  2. La Morgia et al. (2021). Chromatic Pupillometry in Isolated Rapid Eye Movement Sleep Behavior Disorder. Mov Disord.
  3. Huttunen et al. (2021). Assessment of obstructive sleep apnea-related sleep fragmentation utilizing deep learning-based sleep staging from photoplethysmography. Sleep.
  4. Feige et al. (2021). Event-related potentials in insomnia reflect altered perception of sleep. Sleep.
  5. Vestergaard et al. (2021). The effect of sleep-wake intraindividual variability in digital cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia: a mediation analysis of a large-scale RCT. Sleep.
  6. Harki et al. (2021). VE-cadherin cleavage in sleep apnoea: new insights into intermittent hypoxia-related endothelial permeability. Eur Respir J.
  7. Waltz et al. (2021). Impact of obstructive sleep apnoea and intermittent hypoxia on blood rheology: a translational study. Eur Respir J.
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