Common scale-invariant patterns of sleep–wake transitions across mammalian species
Journal Article

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Published: Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Citation: Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Volume 101, Number 50, Pages 17545–17548

Authors (1 total): P. C. Ivanov

Abstract: Although mammals of different species have different sleep patterns, brief sleep–wake transitions commonly are observed across species and appear to occur randomly throughout the sleeping period. The dynamical patterns and functions of these brief awakenings from sleep are not well understood, and they often are viewed as disruptions (random or pathologic) of the sleep process. In this article, we hypothesize that brief awakenings from sleep may reflect aspects of the endogenous sleep control mechanism and thus may exhibit certain robust dynamical patterns across species. We analyze sleep recordings from mice, rats, cats, and humans, and we compare the distributions of sleep and wake episode durations. For all four species, we find that durations of brief wake episodes during the sleep period exhibit a scale-free power-law behavior with an exponent α that remains the same for all species (α ≈ 2.2). In contrast, sleep episode durations for all four species follow exponential distributions with characteristic time scales, which change across species in relation to body mass and metabolic rate. Our findings suggest common dynamical features of brief awakenings and sleep durations across species and may provide insights into the dynamics of the neural circuits controlling sleep.