Is it possible to be awake and asleep … at the same time? Apparently it is, if you’re a rat.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and in Italy kept rats up four hours past the rodents’ usual bedtime. Even though the rats stayed awake, electrodes implanted in their brains showed that some brain cells went to sleep while neighboring ones remained active, the team reports in the April 28 Nature.
As far as the researchers could tell, the rats were fully awake and playing with objects the researchers had supplied to keep the animals up past their bedtimes. Only the electrodes implanted in two parts of the brain recorded the neuron naps. Rats with sleeping neurons were also prone to making mistakes during slightly difficult tasks, a finding that may have implications for sleep-deprived people.
If the finding applies to people it could mean that lost sleep is even more dangerous than previously believed, leading to slips of the tongue, driving mistakes, errors of judgment or other problems.
Study: Sleep Deprivation = Risk Taking