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Zyban (Buspar)

Other names: Wellbutrin, Bupropion
It is an extraordinary fact that something that occupies up to a third of our lives is still a mystery. Of course, we all know that sleep gives us rest: without it we feel tired and irritable and don’t function as well as we’d like. Since 1952, sleep research laboratories attached to universities have been studying sleep patterns, with the help of human guinea-pigs. They have made numerous investigations not just into how we sleep but why, and no one has yet come up with a complete answer.
If you are beset by insomnia, you might wonder what use such investigations are. Whatever sleep is for, you know you need it and feel rotten without it. But the results of many of these investigations can offer some reassurance to the non-sleeper. They have, for instance, blown away the myth that everyone needs eight hours a night. Some of them suggest that most of us could get by on less sleep than we have without coming to harm. And some have come up with ideas for improving sleep.
During sleep all kinds of chemical and hormonal changes go on in our bodies; many of them are to do with bodily repair and restitution, and it has been thought that sleep was essential for these to occur. But at Loughborough University Dr Jim Home, Director of the Sleep Research Laboratory, has come to a different conclusion. In his recent book Why We Sleep (Oxford University Press, 1988) he suggests that for most bodily repair processes sleep is not essential; they can take place just as well during periods of ‘relaxed wakefulness’. Sleep, says Dr Home, is needed mainly to rest the brain; this takes place during periods of very deep sleep, which he calls ‘Core Sleep’, occupying only part of our total night’s sleep.
In sleep the brain goes through four main stages, each characterized by different types of brainwave — the electrical impulses emitted by the brain. In sleep laboratories these are measured by EEGs (electro-encephalograms), which are carried out by fixing electrodes to the sleeper’s scalp with easily-removable glue. From these electrodes, amplified signals are recorded on paper by mechanical inkpens, or on magnetic tape, showing the activity of the cerebral cortex — the outer part of the brain. In the waking state our brains normally emit fast beta waves, which have a frequency of around 15 cycles per second. During the night, we go through several cycles of different brainwaves, each cycle lasting around 90 minutes.

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