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Chemical Theories of Sleep

Even modern physiological chemistry has tried its hand in the interpretation of such a purely psychological mechanism as sleep. It supposes that poisons are elaborated during the day, as the result of muscular and nerve activity, that these poisons are narcotic (sleep producing) in action and when they reach a certain amount, drowsiness, and then sleep, results. These poisons have a direct action upon the central nervous system, particularly the brain. In sleep, the poisons are no longer formed because in this condition there is a minimum of nerve and muscle activity. These toxic substances are eliminated during the night and when elimination is nearly complete, awakening results. This cycle of self-poisoning of the nervous system is repeated day after day. It is really a kind of auto-intoxication. A modification of this theory states that sleep is pro duced by a lack of oxygen in the brain. An excess of carbonic gas is, therefore, formed and the somnolent effect of this gas is a fact well attested by experience, such as occurs in improperly ventilated and crowded rooms.

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