Who said that your night’s sleep is solely about resting your body after a long tiresome day? Sure, the most obvious and immediate advantage of sound sleep is a refreshed body and mind. But, apart from this, modern researches have linked sleep with a number of physical, mental and physiological health rewards. From better mood, improved relationships, enhanced libido to clear skin and faster weight loss, the benefits of sleep are numerous, and it won’t be a hyperbole if we address sleep as nature’s boon to mankind.
Our brains are especially active during our sleep. Our sleep occurs in different stages in the form of a cycle, and a lot of functions go on in the brain during this time. The brain is mainly active during the deep sleep and the REM phases where the majority of processes linked with long-term memory, dreaming etc. take place.
Wish to demystify some interesting things your brain does while you doze? Here, we have tried to explore a few.
- Natural Detoxification
Did you know that a sound sleep of 6-7 hours is all you need to detox your senses and keep degenerative disorders at bay! Not only this, but quality sleep can also significantly lower your chances of encountering dementia, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease later in your life.
Our brain is shielded against shock and injuries by a fluid called the cerebrospinal fluid or CSF. During the deep stages of sleep, it has been found on an EEG that the brain produces slow waves. It is during this time when the CSF pulsates rhythmically, thus flushing out the toxins responsible for memory degeneration. This is one of the reasons why uninterrupted sleep is important. As you age, this pulsing action of CSF is reduced due to a number of factors, thus leading to memory loss.
In this modern era, we are continuously exposed to blue light which is emitted from our mobile phones and laptops. The blue light tricks our body to stay alert and awake. This disrupts the natural circadian rhythm, thereby disturbing the sleep pattern and quality. This can also be detrimental to the natural purging process of your brain.
So, keeping your long-term well-being in consideration, try avoiding gadget use during bedtime so that you can reap the benefits of your daily detox session to the fullest.
- Creating and strengthening memories
We all have been guilty of disregarding our sleep schedules at some point in our lives- maybe for a test, meeting or presentation. But do you know that studies have proved that staying awake all night for a test or meeting would do more harm than good and you may not remember anything clearly from what you crammed at night!
Compromising a night or two of sleep may not affect you adversely in the long run, but continually doing so can lead to forgetfulness and poor memory.
Also, information which is learnt just before bed is easier to remember as well as recall. It is because our brains perform intensive rewiring at night. This is essential for learning and remembering, which is why toddlers and children require more sleep than adults. The rewiring process in the brain also helps the brain to retain useful things and letting go of the non-important ones.
So, since you know that you need an armour in the form of quality sleep in your arsenal for cracking any important exam or performing enthusiastically at a presentation or meeting, make sure to make your sleep a crucial priority.
- Boosts creativity
Suffering from writer’s block or experiencing a dearth of ideas for your project or startup? Maybe, you need to switch off your lights and brace yourself for a quick vacation to dreamland.
It may sound naive, but dreams can act as sources of inspiration as said by the author Stephen King in his book ‘Writing: A Memoir of Craft.’ Every big enterprise begins with an idea, and it is only during deep sleep that our brains connect unrelated ideas and processes it into a useful plan. This is known as ‘pattern recognition’ and can help you go about a problem in a more creative and discreet way.
Sleep also regulates your mood and a good night’s sleep gives you clarity of thought which helps in creative and coherent thinking.
A lot of parents today go on enrolling their kids for a number of creative activities after school. These extra-curricular activities are obviously imperative for the all-round development of the child. But, you must also make sure that your child’s sleep schedule is not snubbed in the process.
- Makes you better at physical activities
Apart from nutritious food and clean water, quality sleep and adequate exercise are the pillars of good health. If you are a heavy sleeper or feel lazy even after a long duration of sleep, try including moderate physical activity in your routine. Exercise can reduce the hours you require for sleep while significantly improving sleep quality.
The reverse of this is also true, i.e. a good night’s sleep is one of the ingredients in making you a good sportsman, swift swimmer or an excellent dancer. During short wave REM sleep, our brain converts short-term information into long-term memories. This is essential for learning to perform physical tasks such as dancing, swimming, playing etc.
Now, that you know that you need to replay your practice session in your mind as well, don’t compromise your sleep for your morning practice sessions. If you have to wake up in the morning, try retiring to bed an hour before than your usual sleep time at night.
- Paralyses your muscles
Wouldn’t it be scary as well as life-threatening if you acted out of your vivid dreams! Fret not, as our brains do the utmost to keep us safe.
During REM sleep, the brain sends signals to the muscles responsible for movement and temporarily turns them off.
Note- Those who wake up in the middle of REM sleep often experience ‘sleep paralysis’ where they find it difficult to move, breathe or speak. Sleep paralysis can also occur due to worm infestation, anxiety or lack of sleep. It is always advised to visit a health professional in such cases who can identify and treat the cause efficiently.
- Secretes growth hormone
Wish to multiply your efforts at the gym? Why not consider spending a few extra minutes in bed! During deep sleep, the brain secretes human growth hormone, which is responsible for building muscles as well as restoration and repair. More than half of the Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is secreted during the deep stages of sleep.
Optimum levels of HGH improve your metabolism, cognitive function and reduces risk of hypertension and diabetes. Apart from these, HGH is also responsible for the growth of your hair and nails and can delay the adverse effects of ageing.
HGH is also one of the factors responsible for growth and increase in bone mass in children. Hence, children in their growing age should get at least 7-8 hours of sound sleep in order to maintain significant levels of the growth hormone.
- Mood regulation
Is it difficult for you to cope up with emotional challenges in your life? Though this can be due to a number of reasons, not getting enough sleep can be one of the factors why you often find yourselves stuck in emotional turmoil.
A recent study has shown that mood disorders can be a side-effect of sleep deprivation. A region of the brain known as the amygdale, which is responsible for emotional regulation is affected during continual sleep deprivation, leading to mood swings.
So, the next time, before you cry your lungs out when you are sad or engage in a hefty shopping spree to lighten up your mood, consider keeping all the tensions aside and treating yourself with a full night of quality sleep.
- Helps you build habits
Wish to cultivate good habits like exercising and eating healthy this year? In this case, go to bed and let your brain do the rest of the toil for you.
Every time you perform an action, it gets wired in your brain. A large part of this processing occurs in your subconscious mind, which is the most active during your sleep.
In today’s fast-paced era, we often don’t pay heed to our sleep schedules and completely ignore our sleep quality. Also, due to the fierce competition, we face today, losing precious hours of sleep for work or study is glorified.
This distortion in sleep patterns and quality has thus taken a toll on the health of this generation. From early onset diabetes to hypertension, premature ageing to mood swings and depression, our generation is suffering from as well as subjected to a number of health risks.
One needs to understand that sleep is not just about passive repose, but it is also the time when the cells of the body recharge and rejuvenate & the toxins are cleared up. You must know that your night’s sleep not only relaxes your tired mind and body but is also necessary for the optimum functioning of your nervous system and brain.