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

Why Running Can Keep You Up at Night

You've probably heard people say that they enjoy running since it lets them switch off. Maybe you are feeling that way. Okay advantageous Recent research in rats suggests that there may very well be a scientific basis for this, as brain activity decreases once you're performing an easy, repetitive motion. What's more, while running can tire your body, such exercise can actually reduce your brain's need for sleep.

Waking and sleeping usually are not mutually exclusive, an identical states. Sometimes you’ll be able to be. Deeper sleep Or more wide awake than others, and the range between the 2 Can fade. Your normal behavior, comparable to your ability to react quickly to unexpected events, is impaired once you stay awake past your bedtime. We don't know exactly why however it could possibly be those parts of your brain. go to sleep Even if you find yourself technically awake. But with the appropriate motivation, we are able to force ourselves to stay up and even temporarily restore our performance.

How long we’d like to sleep or stay up depends to some extent. On our genesbut The evidence suggests They are also influenced by what we do once we are awake. Surprisingly, we still don't know what it’s about being awake that prompts our bodies to sleep, but scientists often cite it. “Process S”. Like an hourglass, the degrees of process S indicate how long we have now been awake or asleep and the way likely we’re to go to sleep or awake at any given moment.

Recent evidence suggests. This sleep doesn’t originate entirely within the brain, but somewhat in local networks of neurons which can be used more when awake. My colleagues and I wondered if certain parts of the brain which can be chargeable for certain behaviors have a greater impact on our ability to stay up than others.

All night with the rats

To test this theory, we used a known phenomenon in rats. A spontaneous run on a wheel, sometimes covering several kilometers every night. When mice run like this, they spend lots. Stay awake longer, as if their need for sleep is slowly accumulating, or if something is overwhelming it. To make clear this mysterious process, we investigated what happens within the brains of freely running mice.

In our study, we recorded the electrical activity of individual nerve cells in each mouse's neocortex – the outer layer of the brain – as they walked on a wheel. Normally, when a mouse (or human) is awake and energetic, neurons fire at high rates. This is since the brain has to observe the environment, coordinate movements and make quick decisions. This constant brain activity requires a number of energy. Estimated 20% of all energy utilized by the body.

Not now, we're sleeping.
Renee Schweitzke/Flickr, CC BY

Surprisingly, we found that when the mice ran at high speeds, a few of their neurons stopped firing altogether. And overall brain activity within the motor and sensory areas of the neocortex decreased by not less than 30 percent on average. Paradoxically, this means that, overall, energetic physical behavior and intense movement don’t necessarily require a more energetic brain.

We also found that when animals engaged in many various behaviors, their neurons fired in alternative ways, from slow to fast discharges. But through the monotonous act of running, nerve spikes became rather more constant. This suggests that running is associated not only with less activity overall, but in addition with the emergence of a more stable, equable mind-set.

Our next query was whether this is able to make a difference in overall brain activity during longer periods of wakefulness. Previous studies suggested that the longer you stay up, the more excited your brain becomes (the more likely your neurons are to fireplace). We found that neurons in our mice generated more spikes on average before sleep in comparison with the period after waking a couple of hours earlier. But if the mice spent a number of time running, this increase in speed didn’t occur. This suggests that if neurons usually are not used, they don’t turn out to be more excitable.

A moving mind-set

Based on these observations, we concluded that if a rat's day is dominated by tasks that require repetitive or rhythmic movements (comparable to running), then its brain is fundamentally different from normal. It shall be different. This state also can allow the brain to rest without entering deep sleep and provides among the same advantages. Recent evidence Constantly suggests. that short periods of exercise could also be helpful for cognitive function. The only way to sleep.

Other examples from nature support this concept. For example, Birds sleep very little. When they’re flying non-stop. Many days or migrations. There is even some evidence for an analogous effect in humans, comparable to the link between meditation and a Reducing the need for sleep. We don't know of course why this happens, however it could also be that meditation is related to a mind-set where time effectively slows down. And the identical might be said for rats on wheels.

There are still many unanswered questions on why we’d like sleep and the way it affects our brains. But what’s becoming increasingly clear is that we cannot understand the mysteries of sleep without understanding what happens once we are awake.