Tuesday March 20, 2018

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


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

Mindfulness meditation may lower major depression risk

The researchers recruited adult patients aged 18 and above with sub-threshold depression from public primary care clinics and randomly assigned them to a BAM intervention group

A new study suggests meditation can reduce stress and anxiety. VOA
  • Mindfulness meditation may reduce depression risk
  • It can also help in curing the depression
  • Mediation has several other benefits as well

Mindfulness meditation training may improve depression symptoms and reduce the incidence of major depression, a new study suggests.

Patients with clinically significant symptoms of depression who do not meet the criteria for major depressive disorder or dysthymic disorder are considered to have sub-threshold depression.

Practice of yoga is believed to heighten the spirit and the body.
Mindfulness meditation can reduce the risk of depression. Wikimedia Commons

According to the researchers from The Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care in Hong Kong, sub-threshold depression can cause functional impairment and considerable economic costs, and it is a strong risk factor for developing major depressive disorder.

The study, published in the journal Annals of Family Medicine, undertook a randomised controlled trial to assess the efficacy of group-based behavioural activation with mindfulness (BAM) for treating sub-threshold depression.

Also Read: Online intervention helps teenage moms deal with depression

The researchers recruited adult patients aged 18 and above with sub-threshold depression from public primary care clinics and randomly assigned them to a BAM intervention group or a usual care group.

They randomly allocated 115 patients to the BAM intervention and 116 patients to usual care. The BAM group was provided with eight two-hour weekly BAM sessions by trained allied health care workers. Patients in the usual care group received usual medical care with no additional psychological interventions.

The primary outcome was depressive symptoms measured by the Beck Depression Inventory-II at 12 months. Secondary outcomes included incidence of major depressive disorder at 12 months. We assessed quality of life, activity and circumstances change, functional impairment, and anxiety at baseline, end of the intervention, 5 months, and 12 months, the researchers said.

Practice of yoga is believed to heighten the spirit and the body.
The group which meditated had lesser risk of depression. Wikimedia Commons

At 12 months, compared with usual care peers, BAM patients had a slightly more favourable change in levels of depressive symptoms on the Beck Depression Inventory-II. The incidence of major depressive disorder was lower with BAM, whereas groups did not differ significantly on other secondary outcomes at 12 months.

The researchers, including Samuel Y. S. Wong, suggested that BAM group appears to be efficacious for decreasing depressive symptoms and reducing the incidence of major depression among patients with sub-threshold depression in primary care. IANS