We propose a biased diffusion model of accumulated subthreshold voltage fluctuations in wake-promoting neurons to account for stochasticity in sleep dynamics and to explain the occurrence of brief arousals during sleep. Utilizing this model, we derive four neurophysiological parameters related to neuronal noise level, excitability threshold, deep-sleep threshold, and sleep inertia. We provide the first analytic expressions for these parameters, and we show that there is good agreement between empirical findings from sleep recordings and our model simulation results. Our work suggests that these four parameters can be of clinical importance because we find them to be significantly altered in elderly subjects and in children with autism.
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