Introduction to Consciousness and Rhythms

What you’ll learn to do: describe consciousness and biological rhythms

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Are you tired? Have you ever pulled an all-nighter? How did you feel the next day? Do you think your lack of sleep impacted your behavior? Chances are, you could answer that question with a resounding, “yes!”. Because psychologists are interested in mental processes and behavior, it’s essential┬áto study┬áconsciousness, or our awareness, as humans. States of consciousness vary over the course of the day and throughout our lives, and sleep plays a major role in alertness levels. Important factors in daily changes in consciousness are biological rhythms, and, more specifically, the circadian rhythms generated by the suprachiasmatic nucleus. Typically, our biological clocks are aligned with our external environment, and light tends to be an important cue in setting this clock. When people travel across multiple time zones or work rotating shifts, they can experience disruptions of their circadian cycles that can lead to insomnia, sleepiness, and decreased alertness. If people go extended periods of time without sleep, they will accrue a sleep debt and potentially experience a number of adverse psychological and physiological consequences.

Learning Objectives

  • Describe consciousness
  • Explain how circadian rhythms are involved in regulating the sleep-wake cycle, and how circadian cycles can be disrupted
  • Explain blindsight and what it reveals about consciousness
  • Explain disruptions in biological rhythms, including sleep debt