Sleep is a cherished time of the day. You come home from a hectic day. You take a long warm shower. And then you suit up and head straight for the bed. You lie down and feel your muscles relaxing, one by one. Now your brain will shut down. You’ll be out for the next 8 hours. Or will you?
What happens when we sleep?
The function of sleep is to rest your brain and your body. But during that period, your brain is far from being inactive. In fact, your brain has a lot of functions to perform while you rest. But the only difference between wakefulness and sleep is that the brain is less sensitive to external stimuli during sleep.
The brain has 4 important functions during sleep:
Thought and other processes in the brain take place through chemical reactions. Electric signals are sent to and fro between nerve junctions. These signals cause chemical reactions which in turn produce some waste products. The accumulation of these waste products can lead to severely impaired brain function. So every time we sleep, the brain clears up these waste products.
This phenomenon is also responsible for the lack of focus, cognitive function and logical thinking you experience when you haven’t slept enough.
It has been found that wounds heal faster during sleep. And actually, the bulk of all healing processes occurs during sleep. Now it must come as now surprise that all patients admitted in hospitals spend most of their time sleeping. Sleep helps drugs and other treatments to work effectively. So in a way, sleep is the second best medicine – after laughter
3. Brain growth and development
Babies are cute. But they’re more bearable when the asleep. You might have noticed that most babies spend a huge chunk of their day sleeping. This helps their brain grow and develop. And this rule applies to adults as well. In fact, as we grow up, the brain needs more and more sleep for further development.
4. Memory organization
When we’re awake, the brain is bombarded with inputs from all directions. Even when you are focused on a single task, your senses involuntarily pick up data from your external environment. Now all this data piles up throughout the day and has to be sorted into the useful stuff and the rest. The brain does this during sleep. It sorts through all the information and shifts the useful stuff to the long term memory. The rest is discarded or kept temporarily in short-term memory.
Sleep is the best scientist
James Watson (discovered structure of the DNA)
August Kekule ( discovered the structure of Benzene)
Rene Descartes ( laid down the framework for scientific method)…
The list goes on and on. All of these people have come up with their best work while they were asleep. This happens because, during wakefulness, the mind is distracted by a lot of things. Even if you focus all your attention on a single task, a small part of your brain is still engaged in processing the environment around you. When you sleep, that part of the brain becomes available for use. And hence when you sleep, you have your complete brainpower at your disposal.
This is why the above-mentioned people found solutions to their problems in their sleep. So if you take away anything from this section, let it be this – sleep is the best answer to all problems. ( Well not always but it certainly helps.)
Sleep is essential for keeping one’s sanity. It is the key to a healthy body as well as a sound mind. And if all the stories are to be believed, sleep is also the answer to many problems. Now all this talk about sleep has made me drowsy. So I’d better take a nap before I start typing gibberish.
See you tomorrow. Until then, keep mindfeeding 😉
This post is a part of the Learn Psychology series. If you haven’t read the previous post, click on: Learn Psychology: What is Psychology?
If you want to read all of the posts in the series, just click on: Learn Psychology
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