The Neuroscience of Sleep

Why do we sleep and why is it such an important part of our life? Every evening, our body goes into the state of reduced consciousness for a few hours and restores the resources and the energy spent the day before. While it has been established that the need for sleep is largely dictated by the brain, the roles of different stages of sleep remain largely unknown. We will take a deep dive into how different brain regions regulate our sleep, and how the coordinated effort of body systems produces different sleep patterns throughout life. We will also discuss the impact of sleep physiology on our daily function.

A $50 discount will be applied automatically for adults 55+.

This course is available at the following time(s) and location(s):

Campus Session(s) Instructor(s) Cost Seats available  
Online - Anastasiia Stepanchuk $170.00 1 Register

Schedule clarification: This is a four-week online course. It runs from Monday, November 8 to Friday, December 3. Each week, all week, you can study that week’s material, post and respond to discussion board topics, and engage in course activities. You will participate in Zoom Meetings sessions each Friday from 10:30 a.m.–12 p.m. Pacific Time.

Learning objectives

By the end of the course, you should be able to do the following:

  • Describe different neurotransmitter systems that regulate sleep and wakefulness
  • Relate the activity of different brain regions to different states of consciousness
  • Examine the impact of different lifestyles on sleep patterns

Learning methods

Your online learning will include the following methods:

  • Reading academic and non-academic articles
  • Participation in written discussions with other students
  • Participation in discussion in videoconference seminars

For Liberal Arts for 55+ Certificate students: you will write a reflective essay.


Week 1: Neuroanatomy and neurochemistry of sleep

Sleep as a state is a result of an orchestrated effort of many brain regions and networks. The chemical signals sent from one region to another regulate which parts of the nervous system become more or less activated during sleep.

Week 2: Regulation of sleep and arousal: sleep stages

Apart from the general state of reduced consciousness, sleep can be broken down into four stages that alternate throughout the night. The switch between different stages of sleep is regulated by the brain networks explored in the previous week.

Week 3: Circadian rhythms: how sleep structures life

The way the body physiology adapts to light and dark cycles is governed by the circadian rhythms. Apart from inducing sleep and wakefulness, circadian rhythms influence other body functions, such as body temperature, hormone release and hunger.

Week 4: Sleep need and impairment/advances in sleep research

Most people underestimate the impact of insufficient sleep on their daily life and general health. Recent advances in sleep science have improved our understanding of the role of sleep and how a lack of sleep impacts body physiology and society in general.

Books, materials and resources

You will access course resources using SFU’s online course management system, Canvas.

Technical requirements

This course is delivered using SFU's online learning system, Canvas. You can check if your browser is compatible with Canvas here.  

To get the most out of this online course, you should be comfortable doing the following:

  • Using everyday software such as browsers, email and social media
  • Navigating a website by clicking on links and finding pages in a menu
  • Downloading and opening PDF documents
  • Posting, replying and uploading images to a discussion board
  • Participating in videoconferencing sessions

You will be participating in videoconferencing using Zoom Meetings. For this, your computer needs to have a camera, microphone and speakers or headphones. Your computer software should be up to date with the latest available operating system and browser versions.

Accessing your course

  • A few days before the course starts, we will email you more information about the course and how you'll access it. You will also receive an email inviting you to access the Canvas learning platform (click on the link in the invitation to join the course). Once you’ve accessed Canvas, you can begin exploring the platform on your own. The full course will be accessible on its start date.
  • We’ll also host a virtual drop-in time on Zoom Meetings a few days before the course starts. This will give you a chance to check that you can access Zoom Meetings, and that your computer’s camera and microphone and speakers are working properly.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

Look at other courses in