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Boris Sidis, Ph.D., M.D.

Boston: R. Badger, 1914




        MONOTONY and limitation of voluntary movements work in one direction葉hey tend to raise the thresholds of psycho-motor reactions, they cooperate in the induction of sleep. These conditions are usually brought about naturally in the course of the daily or nightly life activity of the individual organism, or the conditions may be produced artificially. In both cases the result is the same葉he organism falls asleep. In the life of higher animals the two cases may often combine. When the individual has fagged out his life interests in his active relations with his surroundings, when the stimuli have become monotonous to him, and his activity with its correlative motor consciousness has become limited and lowered, he makes artificial arrangements for the intensification of the conditions of monotony and limitation of voluntary activity. He seeks for a dark nook, closes his eyes to exclude as much as possible all extraneous disturbing stimulations and tries to lie down quietly and comfortably, restricts his voluntary movements, breaks his connection with the external world, and goes to sleep. The organism falls into sleep, when the thresholds rise, wakes and rises when the thresholds fall.1

      Looked at from a physiological standpoint and expressed in terms of energy, of the "cell energy," sleep may be regarded as the onset of fatigue, as the onset of exhaustion of the levels of dynamic energy in response to external stimuli. Each particular stimulus has its maximum amount of energy which can be drawn upon, under ordinary conditions of daily life. As the special stimulus approaches its limit, it works under greater and greater difficulties, draws less and less energy, and finally ceases to awaken any response,葉he threshold is raised to its maximum and the organism, as far as that special stimulus is concerned, is no longer awake,葉he organism is asleep.

      In the course of its daily activity the same takes place in regard to most of the objects, to most or to all of the stimuli that constitute the external world of the organism. The stimuli of the external world have drawn all that was permitted to them on their bank accounts, so to say, and the account for the time being is closed. Nothing more is permitted to go out. No stimulus of ordinary life is permitted to draw over and above a certain amount. There must always be ready capital for unusual situations, for emergencies. When the stimuli have drawn their due, and the organism is left with its reserve energy, liberation of energy with its accompanying waking states ceases. The organism is no longer awake to the stimuli and is asleep.

      As in the waking states the katabolic processes predominate, so in sleep the reserve processes, the anabolic, take the upper hand. The organism begins to recuperate its losses and fills up the accounts drawn upon by the stimuli of the external environment, when in active relation with them. With the increase of the income of energy the raised thresholds begin to fall until a point is reached when the stimuli once more overstep the lowered thresholds and once more gain access to the stores of life-energy,葉he organism awakes and enters into active relations with the environment.

      Regarded then from various standpoints, sleep is a rise of moments thresholds under conditions of monotony and limitation of voluntary movements. In this respect sleep strongly contrasts with hypnosis. In hypnosis the individual is especially accessible to any kind of suggestions coming from the external world, the psychomotor reactions are greatly lightened and are released by the suggestions or external stimuli with great facility, far greater than in the waking state. This great facility is often expressed by the statement that in hypnosis the inhibitions are removed.

      What specially characterizes hypnosis is the fact of fall of thresholds, present in individuals, with a predisposition to states of dissociation; in sleep on the contrary we have found from our study, the general characteristic is the rise of psychomotor thresholds.

      In passing from the waking state into the subwaking hypnoidal state the individual may either pass into hypnosis with its dissociated states and lowered psychomotor thresholds, or may go into sleep with raised psychomotor thresholds. The process of redistribution o f thresholds in the hypnoidal states brings about a fall of thresholds, due to predisposition to and further cultivation of dissociations, the result is hypnosis; when the redistribution in the twilight states brings about a rise of thresholds, the result is sleep.

      The sleep states of higher animals are developed out of undifferentiated, intermediary, subwaking, hypnoidal-like states found in the resting states of the lower representatives of animal life. The hypnoidal state is the primitive rest state out of which sleep arises. Briefly put, the hypnoidal state is the germ of sleep.



1. By threshold is meant the just perceptible stimulus requisite to set a system into activity.


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