Over at the Guardian is a small article on a woman who awoke from a coma, after 6 years:
A woman who fell into a coma after a heart attack more than six years ago awoke this week for three days and spoke with her family and a television station before slipping back into what her doctor calls a minimally conscious state.
"I'm fine,'' Christa Lilly told her mother on Sunday - her first words in eight months. She has awakened four other times for briefer periods since suffering a heart attack and stroke in November of 2000. ...After Lilly relapsed her mother and caregiver Minnie Smith said: "The good Lord let me know she's all right, he brings her back to visit every so often and I'm thankful for that."
Back in reality, what I want to know is did anyone question her about whether she had any experiences whilst in the coma? Was she completely unaware of the passage of time? Was it like a long dream? Or was it 6 years in a kind of stasis? Personally, I don't know whether to pity Ms. Lilly or envy her.
I've nearly finished Dennett's 'Darwin's Dangerous Idea' so I'll again, let him chip in:
We think that being up and about, having adventures and completing projects, seeing our friends and learning about the world, is the whole point of life, but Mother Nature doesn't see it that way at all. A life of sleep is as good a life as any other, and in many regards better - certainly cheaper - than most. ...Some human beings claim to love to sleep. "What do you plan to do this weekend?" "Sleep! Ahh, it will be wonderful!" Other human beings find this attitude well-nigh incomprehensible. Mother nature sees nothing strange about either attitude, under the right conditions. (p. 340)
That being said, being minimally conscious doesn't sound as interesting as being fully aware (angst or no angst). Finally, As for what sleep is actually good for, here is an extract from a recent article from Scientific American:
During sleep, instead of replaying a neuronal activity pattern of a learned behavior to the neocortex, the hippocampus responds to activity in the neocortex. Mehta and his colleagues surmise, "that [the] synchronous activation of [the] hippocampus by the [neo]cortex erases whatever you have learned recently from hippocampus." In other words, rather than memories being transferred to the neocortex during sleep, the authors speculate that memories are stored in both the neocortex and the hippocampus. Then, during sleep, the hippocampus, acting as a temporary storage system, is cleared for another day of learning, while the memories are retained in the neocortex, which provides permanent storage much like a computer hard disk.Go Top