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What happens in the brain while we sleep?

What happens in the brain while we sleep?

Human beings spend an average of 8 hours a day sleeping, which is equivalent to a third of the day. This means that we spend around 26 years of our lives sleeping. Why do we dedicate so much time in our lives to sleep? Are we wasting time? Of course not!

Sleep plays a fundamental role in several functionsas:

The restoration of energy resources and repair of cellular tissue, metabolic regulation, elimination of free radicals and abnormal proteins from the brain (such as the precursor protein of Alzheimer’s disease), adaptive immune functions, mood regulation and memory storage.

Another phenomenon that occurs while we sleep is the act of dreaming. While dreams and their function continue to be explored, some theories offer interesting perspectives: For example, recent work by Scarpelli and collaborators (2019)[1] postulates that Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep plays a crucial role in processing significant emotional experiences of daily life, contributing significantly to the consolidation of emotional memory.

While we sleep we store the memories we acquire during the day: the new information learned is reactivated in our brain, redistributed and integrated with previously stored information, favoring its long-term storage. From neuroscience, it is proposed that dream content, that is, dreams, are the product of memory processing that occurs while we sleep. At the same time, it is postulated that these dreams we experience are related to the reprocessing of emotions, and all of this can impact our mood the next day.

It is because of that, One of the studies we carry out is Dream Incubation, where we seek to “incubate” (or induce) dreams with positive emotions through recorded instructions, just when the person is about to fall asleep. Throughout the night we collect reports of what the person dreams, and the emotional tone of the dreams that occurred that night.

On the other hand, it is also interesting to understand these emotions that are generated during the night of incubation, in relation to those we experience during the day, or when reading a book or watching a movie.

How can we improve the quality of our sleep?

There are some simple actions that we can take such as limit naps to 30 minutes (between 1 and 3 p.m.) since it has been proven that these naps generate cognitive benefits without harming nighttime sleep.

Some recommendations linked to healthy habits are: doing physical exercise during the day, particularly aerobic exercise which is related to increasing slow wave, that is, deep sleep, avoiding caffeinated drinks and stimulant foods around bedtime. go to bed, keep the same bedtime and wake-up time, even on weekends. In turn, avoiding alcohol is important because, although it may seem to improve sleep initially, it is related to more awakenings during the night, increasing daytime fatigue.

Regarding the conditions of the room, eliminating light and noise from the environment where you are going to sleep, either by using eye masks and earplugs if necessary, and taking care of the temperature of the place, it is recommended Make sure it is warm because if the room is too hot or too cold there is more sleep latency, that is, it takes longer to fall asleep.

Finally, it is important to avoid using screens just before going to sleep or using blue light filters, since blue light stimulates our nervous system, making it difficult to fall asleep and not ruminate on problems in bed. It is always advisable to take some time before going to sleep to disconnect from the problems of the day.

[1] https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/psychology/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00459/full

Candela León is a graduate, CONICET doctoral fellow, Sleep and Memory Laboratory (ITBA).

Agustina Lo Celso is a doctor, doctoral thesis, Sleep and Memory Laboratory (ITBA).

Source: Ambito

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