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The Neurotransmitter Theory of Sleep

The Neurotransmitter Theory of Sleep

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The Neurotransmitter Theory of Sleep

115 pagine
1 ora
Sep 23, 2016


Despite the fact that we spend roughly a third of our lives asleep, science has still not been able to provide an answer as to why we and other animals sleep. While much of sleep physiology has been elucidated over years of scientific research, there has never been a thorough explanation of sleep that accounts for all of the observed sleep phenomena and uncovers sleep's primary purpose and why it evolved in the first place. Until now.

The Neurotransmitter Theory of Sleep integrates concepts from multiple disciplines and various models and theories (both old and new) into one unified explanation of sleep. Similar to how Einstein's General Theory of Relativity shed new light on the concept of gravity and supplanted Newton's ideas of gravitation, this book describes sleep neurophysiology in a new light and proposes an explanation that accounts for all the phenomena that have yielded numerous, seemingly disparate theories and hypotheses regarding sleep's primary purpose. This book is where it all comes together.
Sep 23, 2016

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The Neurotransmitter Theory of Sleep - Eduard Doumanian

The Neurotransmitter Theory of Sleep


Eduard Doumanian

ISBN: 978-1-4835810-4-0

To continue thinking unchallenged is, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, our practical substitute for knowing […].¹(p³⁴)

~ William James

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

~ Unknown

"How can a three-pound mass of jelly that you can hold in your palm imagine angels, contemplate the meaning of infinity, and even question its own place in the cosmos? Especially awe inspiring is the fact that any single brain, including yours, is made up of atoms that were forged in the hearts of countless, far-flung stars billions of years ago. These particles drifted for eons and light-years until gravity and change brought them together here, now. These atoms now form a conglomerate—your brain—that can not only ponder the very stars that gave it birth but can also think about its own ability to think and wonder about its own ability to wonder. With the arrival of humans, it has been said, the universe has suddenly become conscious of itself. This, truly, it the greatest mystery of all".²(p⁴-⁵)

~ Vilayanur Subramanian Ramachandran

To Dr. Richard L. Horner, PhD

For had I not had the pleasure of being present in your thought-provoking Sleep and Health lecture on February 4th, 2014, I may have never had my Aha! moment and The Neurotransmitter Theory of Sleep would likely have never come to fruition. Your inquisitive thinking, your hunger for the truth regarding sleep’s true purpose, your unapologetic disregard for the dogmatic principles clouding our understanding of sleep physiology, and your novel, introspective explanation of sleep have inspired and guided me to connect the pieces of this puzzle. A dedication in your honor would only be most appropriate.

To Dr. Alexander A. Borbély, MD

For your extensive contributions to sleep science and your renowned Two-Process Model of Sleep Regulation that has served as the bedrock for our understanding of sleep ever since its publication. Yours is a model that this author has dissected, integrated, and expanded on within this book. A model whose assertions conformed in every way with the novel ideas presented by The Neurotransmitter Theory of Sleep. A model that allowed my ideas to take root.

To Science.

Table of Contents




I. The Basics

II. The Cognitive Big Bang

III. Cognitive Inflation

IV. Continuing Expansion

V. Idea Acceleration

About the Author




I would like to thank Dr. Diana Colgan, PhD, for both editing my work and doing so on such tight budget and time restrictions. Her contributions to this book have significantly improved its readability and drastically expedited its publication.


The basis of The Neurotransmitter Theory of Sleep revolves around a previously suggested concept: that sleep is for the replenishment of macromolecules—specifically, neurotransmitters. I posit that the wakeful brains of animals that must sleep are gradually losing neurotransmitter stores throughout wakefulness.i Sleep, then, is a time of neurotransmitter replenishment for yet another bout of wakefulness. However, whereas conventional wisdom would lead us to believe that neurotransmitters are replenished in much the same manner that we imagine refilling a fuel tank or charging a cell phone battery, this is not the case. Instead, throughout sleep neurotransmitter quantities fluctuate markedly around the optimal baseline capacity, an idea that can be visualized with an analogy: Imagine a neuron and its neurotransmitters as akin to a glass filled, to some extent, with water. If a neuron’s baseline neurotransmitter capacity were represented by a certain watermark, it would be as if something like half-full were its ideal baseline capacity rather than 100% full. Now imagine that that glass were only 20% full when sleep ensues (i.e. after a certain period of wakefulness). Instead of merely increasing to 50% and then remaining constant throughout sleep, it would increase past 50% to, say, 70%. Subsequently, it would fall back below 50% to, say, 30%, rise to 65%, fall to 35%, and then consistently fluctuate between 60- and 40 percent.ii This strange phenomenon can more readily be gauged from hypnograms of more complex animals (e.g., humans) because evolution has arranged these upward and downward trajectories into separate sleep states—namely, non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, respectively. In animals with two sleep states, NREM and REM sleep are the predominant periods of neurotransmitter synthesis and expenditure, respectively. These fluctuations in neurotransmitter quantities occur as NREM and REM sleep cycle back and forth numerous times throughout the normal resting period.

This seemingly superfluous property of the brain actually has a powerful impact. It is precisely because, during sleep, neurons fire in a cyclic pattern that nature’s biological computer rewires itself so adeptly.iii Theories regarding the biologic need for sleep might offer seemingly unrelated hypotheses, one camp contending that sleep is required for the replenishment of neurotransmitters and another that sleep sustains brain plasticity. These may seem like unrelated propositions but are actually flip sides of the same coin. As Darwin explained, traits that allow organisms to increase their fitness will be evolutionarily favored. An organism better able to learn from experience and modify its behavior accordingly (i.e. a more intelligent organism) will sooner be able to devise ways to exploit its environment and other living creatures for its own benefit.³, iv In the struggle for survival, natural selection would favor the heritable traits that enhance the capacity for brain plasticity and, consequently, intelligence.³

Nonetheless, natural selection must act on something tangible to elicit these abilities. It does so by sculpting the properties of the cells that govern consciousness (i.e. neurons) to exhibit certain functional characteristics that promote learning and, therefore, brain plasticity. Natural selection indirectly bolsters the capacity to learn and modify behavior (i.e. brain plasticity) by directly shaping the neuronal mechanisms that allow for it (i.e. the manner of neurotransmitter replenishment). No amount of plasticity or rewiring—whether in sleep or in wakefulness—can be made possible without repeated reactivation of memory traces via impulse conduction and neuro-neuronal communication.v The molecules that allow for the transmission of impulses from one neuron to another that lie at the heart of every chemical synapse are, indeed, neurotransmitters.

Keywords: sleep, CPD, neurotransmitter, fluctuations, NREM, REM, rewiring, plasticity


a.   The Main Objective

Finding simple yet accurate answers to the questions ‘Why do we sleep?’ and ‘Why do we dream?’ has, over many years of scientific research, yielded a plethora of theories, models, and principles. This book attempts to explain and justify the primary—and only the primary—purpose of sleep and why it evolved as an adaptive trait.

b.   Disclaimer

The Neurotransmitter Theory of Sleep has not yet been accepted by today’s sleep neurophysiologists—this is the first publication to propose such a theory. Time will tell if and when the ideas presented here become a part of mainstream science. The ideas presented in this book will likely face scrutiny and be judged in both a positive and negative light. Nevertheless, The Neurotransmitter Theory of Sleep unifies scientific concepts across many disciplines, and is a testament to what I learned during my undergraduate years, studying disparate subjects out of curiosity.

This book is one man’s introspection into the ultimate purpose of sleep. The Neurotransmitter Theory of Sleep is special to me not only because it is mine but because, to date, I do not find a better explanation that takes into account the variety of explanations and unites them under one banner. It follows Occam’s razor in that it makes the fewest possible assumptions and offers the simplest possible explanation. From one thought (in the form of a question), I was able

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