Thursday, January 3, 2008

How would never having to sleep change your life?

Scientists at UCLA are experimenting with a naturally occurring brain chemical that could turn into a “sleep replacement” drug. Click here to read about it.

The chemical, called Orexin A, appears to eliminate the effects of sleep deprivation without any other impact on the brain. This has been tried only on monkeys so far, so one has to wonder if our allegedly more complex brains would be otherwise affected. There are concerns about impact on other body systems, such as heart and lungs, since chronic sleepiness is linked to cardiovascular ills.

The article notes the military is keenly interested in this, for keeping soldiers alert for long periods, as well as pilots on long missions. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how this could vastly affect many professions, especially trucking. If a quick snort of Wake-Up Juice makes you good to go – and maybe better than a few restless sleeper hours in a noisy truckstop – the entire industry will be turning up their noses at this stuff, literally.

Me, I’m not selling my stock in Starbucks right yet. Simply switching the brain back to awake doesn’t mean the whole body and psyche will also restart. Seems like if nature had wanted us to stay up for weeks on end, She would have engineered our brains to pump out a constant supply of this chemical. We should be very careful about trying to second-guess her.

In the words of the poet Samuel Coleridge (From “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” about another member of the transportation industry):

Oh sleep! it is a gentle thing,

Beloved from pole to pole!

To Mary Queen the praise be given!

She sent the gentle sleep from Heaven,

That slid into my soul.