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Chapter 2
REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE

Related Literature
Sleep is a fundamental part of life. It is not just a function of the body, it is an active process. Sleep is so vital to the body’s daily functioning that a prolonged loss of sleep impairs metabolism, immune function, temperature control and can ultimately lead to death (Rechtshaffen & Bergmann, 2002). As with other functions of the body, sleep cannot be localized to just one part of the brain. Its control mechanisms are entrenched at every level, starting with the cells. The same mechanisms that control autonomic functions, cognition, behavior, arousal and motor functions are all involved with the process of sleep. The 24-hour sleep/wake cycles, called circadian rhythms, developed as a response to the 24-hour astronomical cycle that all living things are exposed to (Pace-Schott & Hobson, 2002). The circadian system helpsthe body cycle through these phases. This system includes the retina, suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN), the retinohypothalamic tract and the pineal gland. The suprachiasmatic nuclei is located in the hypothalamus, above the optic chiasm. It acts as a sort of clock, receiving photic information from the retina (via the retinohypothalamic tract) and regulating the timing and length of sleep (Kotagal & Pianosi, 2006). This “master clock” is so vital to the sleep-wake cycle that if the SCNs in hamsters with normal circadian rhythms are transplanted into those with abnormal rhythms, normal periodicity will be restored (Pace-Schott & Hobson, 2002). Once the SCN has determined that the sleep cycle needs to begin, it signals the pineal gland to secrete melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone. Melatonin secretion is at its highest level when there is a lack of light. Studies have shown that melatonin secretion levels dramatically decrease when light is shined on the retina (Richardson, 2005). The SCN…...

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