Friday June 22, 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)

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Bacteria in The Gut May Lead to Anxiety, Depression

The researchers are now working to identify specific populations of bacteria involved in these processes and the molecules that the bacteria produce

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Bacteria in The Gut May Lead to Anxiety, Depression
Bacteria in The Gut May Lead to Anxiety, Depression. Pixabay

Gut bacteria plays a key role in infusing negative feelings in the brains of obese people, causing depression and anxiety, researchers say.

The findings showed that mice on a high-fat diet showed significantly more signs of anxiety, depression and obsessive behaviour than animals on standard diets.

In mice with high-fat diets, two areas of the brain, the hypothalamus, which helps to control whole body metabolism, and the nucleus accumbens, important in mood and behaviour, becomes insulin resistant.

“Your diet isn’t always necessarily just making your blood sugar higher or lower; it’s also changing a lot of signals coming from gut microbes and these signals make it all the way to the brain,” said C. Ronald Kahn, from the Joslin Diabetes Centre in the US.

“But all of these behaviours are reversed or improved when antibiotics that will change the gut microbiome were given with the high fat diet,” Kahn added.

Gut Bacteria.
Gut Bacteria. Pixabay

In the study, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, the team identified the effect of the microbiome by transferring gut bacteria from experimental mice to germ-free mice which did not have any bacteria of their own.

The animals which received bacteria from mice on a high-fat diet began to show increased levels of activity associated with anxiety and obsessive behaviour.

However, those who got microbes from mice on a high-fat diet plus antibiotics did not, even though they did not receive the antibiotics themselves.

Also Read: Depression, Anxiety May Lead to Teeth Loss

The researchers are now working to identify specific populations of bacteria involved in these processes and the molecules that the bacteria produce.

“If we could modify those bacteria, either by putting in more beneficial bacteria or reducing the number of harmful bacteria, that might be a way to see improved behaviour,” Kahn noted. (IANS)