I want to know what tell us the most popular theories of consciousness about its continuity over periods of uncounsciousness.

Identity through time is controversial, but assuming that you are the same "person" with the same consciousness one moment to the next, are you the same after sleep?

With "you" I am not referring some kind of afiliation based on similarity, like considering a clone as being "you", but the continuity of your subjective point of view.

Since the continuity of consciousness is broken at sleep, could be considered the consciousness in the morning the same, or a new one?

Do you "die" in some form every night, ceasing your subjective point of view, like in the teleport paradox, where the original person is destroyed and is replaced by a copy? Will the same consciousness continue?

With our current knowledge about consciousness and the brain, can we try to answer this?

(I know that the brain is active during sleep, and you have sensations at dreaming, but in some stages the activity doesn't create any feeling, and at times all the activity stops for a while, so the continuity of experience is broken. Do we have any base to say that is always the same conscousness despite the gaps?).

  • On what basis do you think there is any continuity of consciousness? In any particular moment, all you experience is... that moment. Isolated from all others. If you remember other moments, your memory is still only a piece of the current moment. The memory could be false as easily as it could be true, and you wouldn't feel any difference between the two cases in regard to continuity.
    – causative
    Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 4:17
  • If you haven't read it, I recommend checking up on The Ship of Theseus. It plays a very important role in questions like these.
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 5:25
  • 1
    Consciousness is not interrupted during sleep, it's just that you have no memory of it. But if I shake your body, make noise, or splash you with a bucket of water, you will wake up, evidence that you are still conscious of your surroundings and can react to the environment. It makes about as much sense to say that you were not conscious during, say, the 23rd of April 2018 at noon, because you can't remember what you had for lunch this day (unless something very memorable happened to you on that day, then please pick another day at random between your birth and now).
    – armand
    Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 7:06
  • For general overviews of this sort please consult online encyclopedias, e.g. SEP, Psychological-Continuity Views. Questions on this site are expected to be more focused.
    – Conifold
    Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 11:16

2 Answers 2


This is actually an explained-to-some-degree question in the realm of neuroscience, but philosophical arguments around it will never cease to exist unless we find a way to transcend the explanatory gap.

The concept of consciousness is closely tied to these processes:

  1. To what degree you collect information or data from your surroundings and your introspection (perception)
  2. To what degree are you cognizant that you are processing information (awareness/attention)
  3. To what degree are you aware of the distinction between you and your surroundings (self)
  4. To what degree you hold data and information of your past (memory)

Collectively, these three processes form what is commonly called consciousness. As you can see clearly, when you tweak each these processes the output of this system (which can be denoted as consciousness) changes.

When you decrease your awareness of your "self", the distinction between you and your surroundings, you become less conscious. This is what happens mostly when you are knocked unconscious. An extreme example can be the state of coma.

When you take stimulants and your attention or awareness increases, in which case you also have more sensory input from your sensory organs, you can say that you are more conscious.

Your memory loss of your subjective past can also make you lose consciousness as your brain has less data to evaluate the inputs it currently receives, as brain interprets new inputs based on its subjective past.

I said it is explained to some degree in neuroscience based on the fact that you can measure each of these parameters through electroencephalography, functional magnetic resonance imaging, near infrared spectroscopy and so on. Each of these states correlate with different data (do a research on brain waves if you do not know about them already). If we stick with these definitions I mentioned earlier, your consciousness constantly changes, even from second to second.

You are in fact dead at some certain stages of sleep, exactly, as the brain waves that correlate with conscious or aware experiences tend to be at minimum levels during sleep.

[I think after this point you can expand your question into "qualia" which refers to each of our own subjective experiences, a concept that is commonly mistaken for consciousness (it is clear from your question that you are actually aware of the distinction, I leave this as a note in case you might be interested.)]


We just discussed this in Does personal identity/"the self" persist through periods of unconsciousness, such as dreamless sleep?

Any answer will depend on how you understand 'self'. And reasonable evidenced-based definitions generally have to say 'It's a matter of degree'.

Patterns can exist that are substrate-independent, and given nearly every cell is replaced, you are more a pattern than a lump of meat, especially considering dynamic processes are required for life, who's interruption would kill you - more patterns.

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