Thursday January 18, 2018

Sleep benefits: People who love sleeping have another reason to doze off!

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New Delhi: Sleep is said to take one-third of our life. And there must be a good reason why nature makes us sleep for this long. A large number of studies all over the world has shown the beneficial effects of good sleep.

Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, results in impairment of judgement, depression, heart problems, obesity and a drastic reduction in the general well-being of an individual. In an extreme case, sleep deprivation has also resulted in death through heart failure. In fact, the first sign of sickness is fretful sleep.

How lack of sleep produces ill health has remained a mystery. Now, slowly, scientific investigations are solving this puzzle.

One of the accepted theories so far has been that sleep helps in both consolidation and removal of memories. We perceive the world during the day through our senses and it results in memory formation both shallow and deep. Sleep, it seems, helps in consolidating and removing some of these memories uncluttering the brain.

Another recent, but fascinating, theory (backed with experiments) has shown that sleep helps in flushing out toxic protein waste and biological debris from the brain, formed during waking hours. It seems that during sleep the relaxation of the brain helps in opening up the channels through which the debris flows into the blood streams and is removed from it.

Studies have also shown that sleep helps flush out harmful protein plaque (beta amyloid) which is responsible for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Thus good sleep is extremely essential for a healthy brain and body.

The build-up of toxins in the brain due to inadequate sleep also affects the body. Though there is very little understanding of how this happens, a probable cause is the passage of this information by the vagus nerve to different parts of the body.

Scientific investigations have also shown that information of any slight change in the brain chemistry is transmitted to various organs by the vagus nerve, which plays an important part in keeping the brain and body in unison.

As the brain starts getting affected by the debris build-up, the message via the vagus nerve to various organs might be to slow them down, resulting in their lethargic action.

Just like deep sleep, meditation also enables dissolution of memories. In fact, deep sleep and meditation have similar characteristics and it is quite possible that during meditation the flushing of toxins from the brain may also take place.

A possible mechanism could be that since meditation results in the relaxation of the brain, it may help in opening up the channels for flushing off the chemical debris.

Memory is formed both by producing new neural pathways and certain chemical changes in the brain. Memory removal, therefore, is affected by changes in both these mechanisms.

In deep meditation (where the focus is on a single thought for a long time, also called Sanyam) new neural pathways are formed and the old ones get dissolved. This dissolution may have a chemical signature thereby producing toxic debris which needs to be flushed out.

How can we induce good sleep? Generally, when the body is healthy and the person follows a good exercise regime, then this helps to produce deep sleep. Production of deep sleep can also be helped by meditation. Studies world over have shown that long-term practice of meditation helps in toning both the mind and body.

A good meditation practice to follow for quickly falling asleep is to close the eyes and focus attention on the center of the forehead. This can be done just before going to sleep and also when one wakes up at night and has difficulty in falling asleep again. (Anil K Rajvanshi, IANS)

Next Story

How sexual violence in neighbourhood affects your health

Researchers conducted interviews with nearly 350 adults in nine neighbourhoods in a major American city with high rates of poverty, unemployment and crime

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Sexual violence in neighborhood can affect the mental health of women. Pexels
Sexual violence in neighborhood can affect the mental health of women. Pexels
  • Sexual violence in the neighbourhood can harm your health.
  • Neighbourhood plays a vital role in human behaviour.
  • Men can be more aware of what makes women feel insecure.

A study finds sexual violence in the neighbourhood can harm the physical and mental health of women. Neighbourhoods play a key role in the behaviour and development of people, previous studies show and some conditions — such as crime, segregation, poverty and disorder — can have harmful effects on health.

Researchers conducted interviews with nearly 350 adults in nine neighbourhoods in a major American city with high rates of poverty, unemployment and crime.

“Feeling unsafe, especially in and around your home, can erode physical and mental health,” said Dana M. Prince, co-author of the study and assistant professor at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University.

Researchers say men can be more aware of what makes women feel insecure. Pexels
Researchers say men can be more aware of what makes women feel insecure. Pexels

According to the researchers, feelings about the frequency of rape or other forms of sexual assault in a neighbourhood are significantly tied to women’s perceptions of its safety.

“Our results could mean men are less aware of sexual violence, or perhaps they do not feel comfortable reporting that it makes them feel less safe — perhaps both — while women tend to be socialised early on to be aware of the possibility of sexual attack,” Prince added.

Participants were asked how often particular crimes occurred in their neighbourhood in the past six months.

“Our results indicate that men can become more aware of how women feel about what contributes to and threaten their safety,” the researcher said.

The study was published in the Journal of Community Psychology. (IANS)