Hypothesis: loss of consciousness is not necessary for sleep.
Suppose that one of the reasons that we fall asleep is that the body and mind must be immobile for a certain period of time. For instance, I’ve noticed that I am capable of having sessions where I don’t move for a while dosing off (not sleeping) and come about refreshed with that strange taste of freshness in my mouth. Also, there have been cases when people were not able to sleep but needed prolonged periods of physical inactivity. So, while this childish suggestion may be complete non-sense, it might also have a grain of truth to it…
How can this be tested? Or how can we reach a state when we won’t lose consciousness? So if evolution came to the conclusion that the only way to keep us still is to knock us out (as our minds are/were not sophisticated enough to keep us occupied and still), then it is going to be a hell of a task unlearning this “feature”. Moreover, the mind also undergoes certain processes – so the more interesting question becomes whether the mind can be consciously manipulated to undergo those changes or whether it is possible to attempt to retain consciousness during this time period. So then my foremost questions become:
1. What chemical processes take place when a person is asleep? What chemical processes take place when the person just sits still? Can some of these processes be induced consciously?
2. Using fMRI, for instance, what happens when the person is asleep? Is it possible to reproduce such patterns through conscious guidance of thoughts?