Go to sleep

Your brain will not. While you are sleeping, your brain is cleaning, refueling and repairing itself. People sleep about a third of their lifetime, so when you reach the age of 75 you have slept 25 years. It sounds absurd, but at least you will not beat Sleeping Beauty’s record of 100 years of sleep.

Recently, before I went to bed, I listened to a podcast by Joe Rogan. He interviewed neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker. The podcast gave me a lot of “wow” moments, and ironically I couldn’t fall asleep after that because my mind was full of interesting information about sleep.

Most of us probably know that sleeping is important and a lot of research shows that we need at least 7-9 hours each night to be able to function at our best. At this point you might feel a little guilty inside, since there is large amount of people that don’t sleep enough. Ask people around you how much they sleep per night, and you will be surprised. I find that hard to understand, are there really people that DON’T enjoy sleeping?

But, what does your brain actually do during your sleep?

For your brain, sleeping means time for maintenance and rest. While you are awake, you are collecting all kinds of waste products that are stored in the liquid between and around your brain. When you fall asleep and all your senses shut down, the brain finally has time to clean itself without interruptions. Research shows that this cleaning activity even prevents Alzheimer’s disease by removing amyloid proteins which are the cause of this disease.  Your brain is also organizing all the new information that you have been learning and experiencing with your senses during the day. During your sleep you are not learning anything new, but it is important to have the rest and time for your brain to put everything in order without distractions.

About 80% of your sleep is the time for non-REM-sleep (REM = rapid eye movement phase is the time when you dream), and this is the time when your brain activity clearly slows down. If these important hours without pressure and full working mode in your brain will not happen or the deep sleep time remains short, you are more vulnerable to get hypertension and the health in your veins starts to suffer.  Deep sleeps most important tasks are actually to lower the blood pressure in your brain and all over your body. Therefore a lack of sleep will speed up the possibility to suffer symptoms like high blood pressure which is the biggest risk factoring developing a cerebrovascular disorder. The circle closes when it comes to lack of sleep because when you are tired, regulation of appetite doesn’t work how it should and you crave more fat and carbohydrates which causes you to become overweight. That in turn is not good for your blood pressure.

I bet we all have experienced that we were studying hard, trying to learn something new and put a lot of effort into remembering all that new information. You read about some subject or try to learn new skills, you repeat and repeat but at the same time you feel like nothing stays in your head. Finally you give up and go to sleep. But then on the next morning you surprise yourself by remembering the nightly studies. Here you experienced first hand the importance of sleep for memorizing things. The importance of sleep after studying and learning new things is huge, because without a good, long period of sleep there is no learning progress.

I highly recommend you to listen to the whole podcast about sleep. It won’t put you to sleep but will keep you hooked with good jokes and casual approach to the topic at the same time it’s sharing interesting information and studies. There you can learn huge amount of different information beyond what was discussed here, for example how sleep affects exercising. Listen to the whole podcast from YouTube: Joe Rogan Experience #1109 – Matthew Walker.

From my personal experience I can say that sleepless nights affect my everyday life a lot. Waking up is hard, sometimes even impossible despite the ever louder sirens of my alarm, so there is a high chance of oversleeping. At work my brain feels like they its stuck and not functioning at its fullest, which also makes me forget things. I also noticed that when I am tired, I could eat all the time, especially greasy foods with lots of salt and cheese, which is not healthy at all to overeat on. I love to sleep and all the chances I get, I use. One of the best feelings I know, is when you wake up, take a look on the clock and realize there are still hours to sleep. And when you wake up in a good mood, with the feeling that your body and mind is well rested, you are ready for the new adventures for the day. My advice to you all, go to sleep!

Selina Niemi

Sources:

https://www.aivoliitto.fi/aivoterveys/uni/uni-on-aivojen-aikaa

https://www.tiede.fi/artikkeli/jutut/artikkelit/oppia_uni_kaikki

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