Sleeping but awake; Awake but asleep

"I didn't sleep at all," he would say.
"But you did sleep. You were snoring!"

This is a dialogue I've had many times with a boyfriend or a friend sharing the same room or sitting beside me on the plane/bus. The person would insist that he/she didn't sleep a wink despite having been breathing heavily or snoring like a person would while sleeping. Only when I read the article The Case of the Sleeping Slayer in the September 2012 issue of Scientific American did I find the reason for such a disconnect: it is possible for the portion of the brain where the perception of alertness is formulated to remain active while other parts of the brain are at rest. This means people can be partially awake while behaviorally asleep.

I believe people can be mentally asleep even though they are physically awake, sitting at their desks. Now I know it can happen the other way round too!


David said...


You are spot on! I have looked awake and yet been sleeping. Most often a movement will jolt me awake and I realize that I did indeed sleep.

Micro-sleep is a similar phenomena.

One can actually fall into sleeping for just a few seconds and then just awaken.

Then again I have some days where it feels like the brain never awakened.