Thursday January 24, 2019

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

Protein Identified Enables New Drugs to Increase ‘Good Cholesterol’ Levels

Importantly, ORP2 could also be targeted to fight cancer. 

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ORP2 could offer a new strategic line of research and possibly succeed where the use of statins in this area hasn't, Yang noted.

Researchers have identified a protein, known as ORP2, responsible for transporting cholesterol inside cells that opens the way for new drugs to increase the body’s ‘good cholesterol’ levels.

ORP2 can increase the amount of cholesterol in cells, a process called cholesterol efflux. We think this pathway will be very important for the development of a drug to increase this good cholesterol, said Rob Yang, Professor from the University of New South Wales in Australia.

Until now, drugs including statins have targeted bad cholesterol (LDL) by inhibiting its synthesis in the liver in an effort to mitigate the risk of heart disease and stroke.

However, while statins are effective at lowering LDL levels, they do little to increase the levels of good cholesterol (HDL) and there is no other drug in use that can significantly boost the human body’s HDL levels.

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Researchers have identified a protein, known as ORP2, responsible for transporting cholesterol inside cells that opens the way for new drugs to increase the body’s ‘good cholesterol’ levels. . VOA

Up to 90 per cent of a cell’s cholesterol is found at the cell’s plasma membrane, said the study published in the journal Molecular Cell.

“Knowing the molecules that deliver cholesterol to the plasma membrane itself is a huge step forward. The transport of cholesterol to the plasma membrane is the key to the generation of HDL.

If such a drug could be developed, it would not replace statins, but would be used complementarily, with one drug used to reduce the bad cholesterol and the other to increase levels of the good, Yang suggested.

Also Read: Number of Students Opting for Science or Tech Are On Rise in India

Importantly, ORP2 could also be targeted to fight cancer.

Cancer, U.S.

Importantly, ORP2 could also be targeted to fight cancer.

The rampant and uncontrolled growth of cells that characterises cancer could be stopped in its tracks by reducing the amount of cholesterol produced.

ORP2 could offer a new strategic line of research and possibly succeed where the use of statins in this area hasn’t, Yang noted. (IANS)