"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Why our brains need sleep, and what happens if we don't get enough of it.

Many of us have experienced the results of sleep deprivation: feeling drained and groggy, or having trouble concentrating. Sleep is more necessary to our brain than you may realize.

Although it might appear to be you're “switching off” once you sleep, the brain is much from inactive. What we all know from studying patterns of electrical brain activity is that your brain cycles through two major kinds of patterns once you sleep: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and slow-wave sleep. .

Slow-wave sleep, which is more frequent firstly of the night, is characterised by slow rhythms of electrical activity in large numbers of brain cells (occurring one to 4 times per second). As the night progresses, we’ve got increasingly REM sleep. We often have vivid dreams during REM sleep, and our brain shows similar activity once we are awake.

What does our brain do once we sleep?

Sleep does many alternative things. One of them is to assist us remember experiences in the course of the day. REM sleep is considered Important for emotional memories (eg, fear memories) or Procedural memory (like how you can ride a motorcycle). On the opposite hand, slow wave sleep is assumed to reflect so-called storage “Declarative” memories It is a conscious record of your experiences and what you understand (for instance, what you ate for breakfast).

We also know that there are experiences. “Replayed” in the brain during sleep – Memories of those experiences are like parts of a movie that may be replayed and replayed. Replay takes place within the neurons of the hippocampus – An important area of ​​the brain for memory – and has been best studied in rats learning to navigate a maze. After navigation practice, when the rat is resting, its brain replays the route through the maze. Replays help. Strengthening connections between brain cellsand is subsequently considered necessary for consolidating memories.

When we're sleeping, our brain works cleanly, retaining only what it needs.
From Sashank/Insplash

But is it necessary so that you can remember what you had for breakfast? Probably not – that's why the brain must be selective about what it remembers. Sleep allows the brain to sort through memories, forgetting things in order that it remembers what is very important. One solution to do that is to “cut” or “reduce” unwanted connections within the brain.

An necessary theory of sleep function—”The synaptic homeostasis hypothesis“-suggests that in sleep there’s a wide selection of Weakening of connections (called “synapses”) throughout the brain.

This is assumed to counteract the general strengthening of connections that happens during learning while we’re awake. By cutting off redundant connections, sleep effectively “wipes the slate clean” so we will learn again the following day. Interfering with this scaling down process In some cases, it may result in more intense (and maybe unpleasant) memories.

The importance of sleep in keeping our brains functioning optimally can be reflected in our changing sleep patterns as we age. Babies and children sleep a lot more than adults.Perhaps because their developing brains are learning a lot, and experiencing latest situations.

in later life, Sleep becomes less and more fragmented.. This may reflect either a reduced need for sleep (as we’re learning less) or a deterioration within the sleep process as we age.

Sleep can also be needed to do among the brain's “housework.” A recent study in mice found Sleep cleanses the brain of toxins. which accumulate during waking hours, a few of which have been linked to neurodegenerative diseases. During sleep, the spaces between brain cells widen, allowing toxic proteins to be flushed out. It's possible that by removing these toxins from the brain, sleep can prevent neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.

What happens if we’ve got a nasty night's sleep?

Adequate sleep is crucial to focus and learn during our waking hours. When we’re sleep deprived, we cannot give attention to large amounts of knowledge or Keep our focus for the long run. our The response time is slow. We are also less prone to be creative or Discover the hidden rules When trying to unravel an issue.

When you don't get enough sleep, your brain can force itself to shut down for a number of seconds once you get up. During this “Micro sleep“You can pass out for a number of seconds without knowing it. Drowsiness while driving is a significant reason for motorized vehicle accidents. Sleep deprivation affects the brain. As alcohol. Lack of sleep may result in fatal accidents within the workplace – a significant problem amongst shift staff.

The useful effects of sleep on attention and concentration are especially necessary for youngsters, who are sometimes hyperactive and disruptive in school after they don't get enough sleep. One study suggests that it is feasible to get only one hour less sleep per night over several nights. Adversely affects the child's behavior in class..

What are the long run effects?

The long-term effects of sleep deprivation are harder to check in humans for ethical reasons, but chronic sleep disturbances in brain disorders corresponding to Mental illness, Autism And Alzheimer's. We don't know if sleep disturbances are a cause or a symptom of those disorders.

Overall, the evidence suggests that having healthy sleep patterns is essential to having a healthy and well-functioning brain.