The Birth of the Mammalian Sleep

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Mammals evolved from small-sized reptiles that developed endothermic metabolism. This allowed filling the nocturnal niche. They traded-off visual acuity for sensitivity but became defenseless against the dangerous daylight. To avoid such danger, they rested with closed eyes in lightproof burrows during light-time. This was the birth of the mammalian sleep, the main finding of this report. Improved audition and olfaction counterweighed the visual impairments and facilitated the cortical development. This process is called “The Nocturnal Evolutionary Bottleneck”. Pre-mammals were nocturnal until the Cretacic-Paleogene extinction of dinosaurs. Some early mammals returned to diurnal activity, and this allowed the high variability in sleeping patterns observed today. The traits of Waking Idleness are almost identical to those of behavioral sleep, including homeostatic regulation. This is another important finding of this report. In summary, behavioral sleep seems to be an upgrade of Waking Idleness Indeed, the trait that never fails to show is quiescence. We conclude that the main function of sleep consists in guaranteeing it during a part of the daily cycle.




Rial, R. V., Canellas, F., Akaârir, M., Rubiño, J. A., Barceló, P., Martín, A., … Nicolau, M. C. (2022, May 1). The Birth of the Mammalian Sleep. Biology. MDPI.

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