The objective of this course is to give students the most up-to-the-date information on the biological, personal, and societal relevance of sleep. Personal relevance is emphasized by the fact that the single best predictor of daytime performance is the quality of the previous night's sleep. The brain actively generates sleep, and the first third of the course will overview the neurobiological basis of sleep cycle control.
Sleep will be used as a vehicle for teaching basic neuroanatomical and neuropharmacological principles. This information will provide a cellular-level understanding of how sleep deprivation, jet lag, and substances such as alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine alter sleep and wakefulness. It is now clear that sleep significantly alters physiology.
The second third of the course will cover sleep-dependent changes in physiology and sleep disorders medicine. Particular emphasis will be placed on disorders of excessive sleepiness, insomnia, and sleep-dependent changes in autonomic control. Chronic sleep deprivation impairs immune function and may promote obesity. Deaths due to all causes are most frequent between 4:00 and 6:00 A.M., and the second portion of the class will highlight the relevance of sleep for preventive medicine.
The societal relevance of sleep will be considered in the final portion of the class. In an increasingly complex and technologically oriented society, operator-error by one individual can have a disastrous negative impact on public health and safety. Fatigue-related performance decrements are known to have contributed as causal factors in nuclear power plant failures, transportation disasters, and medical errors.
Dr. Helen A. Baghdoyan lectures on The Neurobiology of Sleep.