Sleep And Brain: Benefits Of Sleep For The Brain And Tips For Good Sleep
In this article, we’ll discuss the link between good sleep and brain health; specifically, the stages of sleep, its benefits for the brain, and tips for good night sleep.
Sleep And Brain
About 1/3rd of an average human life is spent sleeping. It is one of the basic needs of the body, like food, water, and oxygen. Sleep is often linked to the idea of letting the body rest and recover from a long day.
Bouncing back from a tiring day or a backache due to a good night’s sleep is not unheard of. But steady and uninterrupted sleep goes beyond giving physical relief to the body. It is also essential for the upkeep of the brain’s health. Forming memories, enabling concertation, and opening up new pathways are positive effects sleep has over the mind.
Stages Of Sleep
Sleeping for hours on end does not imply that the brain is resting and would be in only one state. It does slow down the working, but it goes through different stages while the rest of the body stays inactive. These stages are broadly classified in the two types of sleep- rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep.
1. Stage 1
The brain sends signals to the other parts of the body to switch from wakefulness to sleep. The heartbeat, breathing, and eye movements slow down, while the muscles relax, with the occasional twitches. This period of light sleep lasts for a short period. It’s the stage 1 of non-REM sleep, where the body ascends into a proper slumber state.
2. Stage 2
Heartbeats and breathing decline to a steady, slow rhythm, and the muscles relax completely. The brain grows less aware of the world around it, and there are almost no eye movements. Temperatures in different body parts drop, and brain activities become sluggish, though there might be brief electrical activity bursts. Stage 2 of non-REM sleep is repeated the most in sleep cycles.
3. Stage 3
A person would feel refreshed in the morning if they have gone through stage 3 of non-REM sleep, which is the last stage in its type. Deeper sleep is attained in this phase. Usually occurring in the first half of the night, the body reaches maximum relaxation. It would not be easy to wake up the individual from this stage of sleep.
4. Stage 4
This is when the eyes move rapidly in a side-to-side motion, while the eyelids are still closed. The brain waves would have a mixed frequency on the level similar to those formed when the individual is awake. The breathing rate escalates, and the heartbeat and blood pressure steadily increase, too.
Muscles, especially that of the limbs, enter a paralyzed state. Most of the dreaming occurs in stage 4 of REM sleep because the brain would now be active. This would enable the person to get a brain boost for functioning after they wake up.
After 90 to 110 minutes of falling asleep, stage 4 slows down. It eventually enters stage 1 again, and the whole cycle is continuously repeated until the body is woken up.
The stages of sleep show how the brain behaves when a person is getting some shut-eye time. It debunks the ideology that sleep steals precious hours only for the body to lay in a semi-unconscious state. People of all ages require sleep, but the pattern of sleep differs between each age group, and within that, it varies between different living standards too.
However, there are recommended hours of average sleep that need to be adhered to permanently. For babies and toddlers, it is between 16 to 18 hours a day. Children and young teens would need around 9.5 hours of sleep, while older teens and adults require 7 to 8 hours of sleep daily.
Benefits Of Sleep For The Brain
Now that the positive relationship between sleep and brain health has become evident, here are the aspects of mental well-being that are positively affected by a good night’s sleep.
During the day, the brain hardly gets time to process the new memories it forms. They are retained on a long-term basis only when the mind can perform memory consolidation.
Memory consolidation is how the brain packs up and stores the newly made memories, to make them stable. This repetition allows it to be ingrained within the existing knowledge networks of the brain.
Neurons present in the brain are responsible for decision making, processing information, and enabling concentration. During sleep, these cells can slow their working down and repair themselves before getting busy once again, the day after.
A lack of sleep would not allow the brain cells to function in unison. The capacity to focus reduces drastically, giving rise to brain fog. Sleep-deprived individuals generally cannot perform routine tasks efficiently.
People who get enough sleep daily are prone to be more creative. When the brain is going through consolidating memories during sleep, it is also establishing connections between new ideas and old ones. This sets the stage for a more precise track of thought.
For a boost in creativity, the REM stage of sleep should be achieved. In that stage, the brain is active enough to start thinking abstractly.
4. Other Related Functions
The brain controls a horde of bodily functions. One of them includes managing hormone production and circulation. For instance, it regulates the hormones called ghrelin and leptin that determine the appetite. The former makes the person feel hungry constantly, while the latter gives an idea of a full stomach.
Proper sleep would ensure that these hormones are not stimulated by other factors, such as stress or depression, saving the individual from fluctuating weight cycles.
Also Read: How Does Stress Affects Sleep?
Tips For Better Sleep
Losing sleep has become a common phenomenon among a large chunk of the population. A hectic work or study life, mental or physical health issues, and lifestyle choices could be the reason behind only a few hours of sleep. Following these tips might improve slumber:
- Creating a firm schedule which guarantees the recommended hours of sleep.
- Identifying the sleep patterns of the body.
- Limiting nap time to only 20 minutes.
- Avoiding caffeine products at least 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.
- Exercising for 20 to 30 minutes daily, but not precisely prior to sleeping.
- Restraining from food that would cause indigestion at least 3 hours before turning in for the night.
- Relaxing before bed, through a hot shower, a massage, reading, etc.
- Making the room sleep-friendly by switching off bright lights, adjusting the temperature for optimal comfort, and keeping devices away.
The positive effects on brain health weren’t noticed until observing what sleep deprivation does to the body. Humans lose control over their brain functionality even after a single day of losing sleep. In the long run, improper sleep could cause severe mental disorders.
If a person cannot fall asleep after the failure of all tricks and tips, there could be a threat of sleeping disorders. Consulting a doctor for this, and getting appropriate medication would ensure that the brain’s health is not threatened.
September 23, 2020 Sam Bell