The Sweet Sleep – Anastheasia

Surgery I had a couple of days ago required general anaesthesia. It was the third time I had required surgery in six months to repair a fistula. (I have previously posted about how I have avoided surgery through exercise and stretching, but sometimes a slice of the knife wins … c’est la vie …)

Each time the anaesthetist spoke to me about the procedure he used the term “putting to sleep”. But it isn’t like going to sleep, and it isn’t like waking up. It’s better. It’s like time travel, and/or like transporting through space. And for some reason it’s not alarming, it’s fine, even pleasant. One moment someone is telling me that I’ll feel a rush to the head, and the same moment my eyes open and i’m in a different room, with different people, and at a different time. Note that I wrote “at the same moment”. And that’s the interesting thing. When you go to sleep naturally it’s a gradual thing, and when you wake up naturally you become aware of your surroundings over time … Even if you wake suddenly you are aware of time passing. When the anastheatic wears off it’s not sudden or slow or instantaneous … It is the same moment that the anaesthetic was administered.

I can see why Michael Jackson might have liked using propofol – it’s an hypnotic drug used in general anaesthesia. The benzodiazepines he used with it are muscle relaxants. I wonder if he became addicted to the sweet sleep, that rush as the anaesthetic is administered and the not unpleasant sensation of alertness at what you register as being the exact same moment despite time having passed.

The aim of anaesthesia is to induce various states of hypnosis, amnesia, analgesia, relaxation of skeletal muscles, and loss of control of reflexes of the autonomic nervous system.

I take a great many drugs to manage pain and spasm, and some of these drugs are very valuable on the black market because of “chill out” properties. I seem to be immune to these effects, because, as my family will testify, I’m not chilled out. Also, I don’t experience any pleasant sensations other than the relief of pain.

But general anaesthesia is quite nice. (I understand that for up to 0.2% anaesthesia is not “quite nice” and is not completely effective, some poor buggers even remaining conscious in their paralysed bodies, unable to tell anyone they can feel the pain of the knife – unimaginable terror)

I had always thought, like many others I have spoken to, that anastheasia produces a pattern of deep sleep, the delta waves.

I did a little research and found that scientists don’t write of anaesthesia as sleep, most refer to it as being in a coma.

Even up to a few years ago scientists used to associate unconsciousness with being under anastheasia because of the shared delta wave readings.  Many scientists are now reluctant to use the word unconscious because that would imply an understanding of consciousness which they don’t have. Just like scientists no longer believe they can map the mind … That’s still in the philosopher’s realm.

The most recent research indicates that the drug concoction used in anastheasia stops areas of the brain from “talking” to each other. The significance of this is the potential insight to damage to areas of the brain whether through physical trauma, medical condones or ageing.

My interest lies in the fact that the brain and spinal cord are the central nervous system, and an understanding of the central nervous system has implications for understanding and treating spinal cord injuries … Blatant self interest, but at least it’s a healthy interest, not one based on the pleasure of a sweet sleep.

Sweet sleep - Anasthesia

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