Which is the best gift you have got in your life from your friends, parents, loved ones?. Well the list may never end. All the gifts may be very costly, precious, unaffordable and best memories too. You are very lucky to have such closed ones beside you.

If you haven’t received any gift from anyone yet, don’t get upset. Because you have already born with a priceless gift from Nature i.e. SLEEP. Yes, I’m right. The best gift we all have received from Nature is sleep.

You may get shocked by listening to my exaggerated praise on sleep. But trust me, in the next 10 minutes I will tell you all the secrets of sleep that are worth knowing, that can change your ill sleeping habits and make you more productive from the next day. Come join me!!.

1)Why do we sleep?

    Do you ever get the weird idea of being awake for 24 hours without getting enough sleep and completing all your binge series and other stuff?. Even sometimes felt like sleeping is just a waste of time? Let me be awake, do your work and grow more than your friends sounds adventurous, right?. But having tried this idea for a day, I had been hit hard by the sleep for the next 2 days, completely inactive, that was my learning from my weird idea. Taking a break from everything at constant intervals makes you more efficient in upcoming tasks. Being awake for more than 16 hours is tiresome for your brain, the poor guy who always suffers from your weird ideas. So, your brain needs a long break to reset all modes of your body, get prepared for the next day. Deprivation of sleep causes impairment in your abilities to concentrate, To think out of box, memory consolidation and cognitive functions. A leading major mental health problems in this growing world. So everytime you think of rushing in your academics or in life, firstly get enough sleep and then think of competing.

2) How much do we need to sleep?

Either sleeping all the day or awake all night both are injurious to health. Everything has a limit. So as per National Sleep Foundation recommends different hours of sleep based on your age, as below:

0-12 months.       13 -17 hours

1-2 years.             11-14 hours

3-5 years.             10-13 hours

6-13 years.           9-11 hours

14-17 years.         8-10 hours

18- 25 years.        7-9 hours

26-64  years.        7-9  hours

≥ 65 years.           7-8 hours

You can choose the hours of sleep based on your age. Some reports show only 60% adults sleep for 7-9 hours, the rest are at risk of mental illness. Short hours of sound sleep is far better than long hours of uncomfortable, disturbed sleep. But short hours should not be below the lower limit of your minimum hour needed as per your category. So quality matters too.

3)Physiology of sleep.!

We have heard we go through a series of stages of sleep, though sleep is sleep right? But there is a lot going inside your head.

We go through phases of sleep mainly Non-REM sleep and REM sleep (rapid eye movement) .

Non REM sleep(slow wave sleep) is subdivided into four stages

Stage 1 – The brain activity is associated with both alpha and theta waves, the early portion produces alpha waves and as it continues there is an increase in theta activity. It resembles someone who is very relaxed, yet awake, relatively easy to wake someone .

Stage 2 –  Theta waves still dominate and interrupted by high frequency waves called sleep spindles and high amplitude pattern of activity as K complexes. In this stage the body goes into a deep relaxation .

Stage 3 and stage 4 – Often characterized by low frequency, high amplitude delta waves , it is difficult to awaken someone from this stage .

REM sleep – marked by rapid eye movement, period of dreaming. Voluntary muscles are paralyzed during this stage. Also referred to as paradoxical sleep because of high brain activity; still it is difficult to awaken the individual. In males, penile erection occurs in this stage. This is used in diagnosing impotence, in which erection does not occur. This phase lasts about 10 to 15 minutes.

4) How does it work?

We have heard from people, saying “Hey it’s too dark here to read I feel sleepy”, is it a rational statement?. Yeah, it is. Small group of cells in the hypothalamus above optic chiasm called Suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN –  your own personal clock) receives input from the retina telling whether it’s day or night. If it is night the SCN will shut down so that you can sleep and if it is day it remains active.‌ Why do people become irritable and shout when you switch on the lights amidst their deep quiet sleep? because the light can alter the circadian rhythm called phase shift of circadian rhythm .

5) Memory.

You need to remember what you learnt, whom you were with and associated emotions right, obviously everyone needs to.

So how is the brain a recorder and replayer of everything?. REM sleep which follows slow wave sleep that occurs more at the beginning of sleep, in this, REM sleep is important for emotional memories involving love , fear or any other. This is why you can remember what you are afraid of or whom you loved or love deeply. The neurons in the hippocampus are involved in replaying the experiences that helps in consolidating memory. This is similar as you remember your first date, your emotions and conversations so much in detail, all just because when you sleep it replays in your brain making it stronger.

While slow wave sleep is thought to reflect declarative memories, such as  what you had for your breakfast ?. Well is it really a matter of concern to you, the breakfast. Probably not, so your brain is quite intelligent, what it does is it is selective of what it remembers. While you sleep your brain forgets certain things and remembers what’s important. You may ask how can it just forget, the way is pruning away unwanted connections in the brain. So if you don’t remember something,  please don’t blame your brain it’s completely  physiological . And also out of curiosity ever questioned how can a brain make so many new synaptic connections every time you learn a new thing how about it’s capacity doesn’t it get filled up? By pruning away excess connections. It cleans the slate so that you can learn new things next day.

So if you need to be active and concentrated during waking hours, just go and get enough sleep. If you are sleep deprived you can’t be creative, can’t find hidden solutions. And this is just if you are deprived for a night. Chronic sleep deprivation have been linked to brain disorders like Schizophrenia, autism and Alzheimer’s , though scientists are still not completely aware whether sleep deprivation is  cause or symptoms of these, it’s still a mystery, interested people over there can try to solve .

6) Dreams.

You remember or not you dream everyday and if you do remember your dreams those are often linked with intense emotional stuff. Ever fascinated how dreams appear?. Most of us know dreams happen during REM sleep. Well what actually creates dream, I am so excited to know and share about our strange, emotional and vivid dreams .

During REM sleep breathing rate, blood pressure and heart rate matches those of awake and the oxygen used is more than in awake but the muscles are frozen, otherwise you would have acted per your dreams (violently). A dream is a succession of images, ideas, emotions and sensations that occur involuntarily in the mind.

When do they occur?. Mainly occur in the typical two hours of rapid eye movement sleep (theta activity), at times also in other stages. How many dreams can a person have?. The average person has 3 to 5 per night, some may have upto 7. So how are emotions linked to our dreams even though we are not awake,  it is because of light of emotions mediated by limbic, paralimbic areas, amygdala that remains active during REM sleep

During day, episodic memories are stored in the hippocampus (acquisition of memory) that learns quickly but has weak memory traces. During sleep consolidation of memory occurs, memories from the hippocampus  are  transferred  to the Cerebral cortex and get integrated into pre existing networks for processing, cognition and knowledge and long term storage. As new memories are integrated, existing memory circuits get activated. This is possibly the reason for the strange things that we see in our dreams, the brain recombines and mixes different characters and circumstances from different events resulting in an entirely different unique persons and circumstances  that are unrealistic in life. This replay occurs fast in the hippocampus during night particularly in REM sleep and dreaming. So dreams are a consequence of cortico-hippocampal activation that occurs during sleep.

Can the brain create unique people that the brain has never seen before in dreams?. Actually it’s an impossible question to answer precisely .According to a theory the brain cannot invent new people out of nowhere. Instead it shows the people we have seen while awake or combines a mix of previously seen physical features to create a new one. So our brain tends to dream of persons whom we see , whom we spend our time with while we are awake.

A form of dreaming where one becomes aware that he / she is dreaming is Lucid dreaming .Preliminary results suggest that prefrontal and parietal regions are involved during lucid dreaming. So as we are conscious we can dream as per our will

7) Advantages.

  • Sleep improves, cognitive functions, concentration, performance, problem solving skills.

  • Poor sleep is associated with depression,  cardiovascular risks

  • Sleep improves Immunity, decreases Inflammation.

  • Sleep improves memory

  • Better you sleep, better the mood will be.

8) DO’S & DONT’S

  1. keep a habit of consuming light meals atleast 2 hours before to bed.

2. Don’t have caffeine near your bed time or after dinner as it keeps you awake and alters the sleep rhythm.

3. As tobacco is a stimulant, No Smoking before bedtime .

4. Taking naps for long time may alter your sleep timings at night, so go for short and sweet naps.

5. The recommended sleeping direction by Vastu Shastra is head pointed towards EAST is best, South is okay, NORTH is worst. As per researches say North pole has more magnetic attraction to your Iron in blood which causes more pressure on brain during sleep, in some chronic cases leads to blood-brain related disorders. So next time check the direction in which you sleep.

5. Don’t consume alcohol before your bed time as it keeps you awake after a few hours of sleep.

6. The blue light given off by your internet is dangerous,  concerning one is, relationship between smartphone use and sterility in men, also reduced sperm quality,  so keep your cell phones a few feet’s away while sleeping.

7. The large pulses of growth hormone(GH) are released before midnight so really important for the development and growth of children and also for us, the adults helpful in maintaining the already existing body mass and growth of every cell in our body. So sleep before midnight and GROW MORE.

May be not everyone are aware sleep as a gift since it is solely natural and common to all creatures, but for sure you are now, So ACCEPT your gift and Don’t be upset from now. We have compiled the information from different sources in order to convey the importance of sleep where you spend most of your time. Hope you enjoyed it and learnt something new. We will comeback with new topic of interest, until then SLEEP WELL, STAY HEALTHY.

Signing off, BEING MEDICO


Doctor | Website | + posts

Passionate doctor and writer.

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