Who sleeps too much. Who sleeps too little. Those who feel tired even after a long night of sleep and those who after a few hours find themselves in bed with wide eyes. Those who have a half-day break and – with tired eyes – wish to leave the office as soon as possible because their eyelids drop, those who are more reactive in the morning and those who, on the contrary, are slower to fuel and get active almost at dusk … The relationship that each of us has with sleep and with the concept of rest is absolutely unique and personal.
This does not mean that there are no “rules of good conduct”. Because however subjective it may be, sleep is a precious and fundamental good for everyone’s well-being. None excluded. And sleep disturbances can create problems for anyone. But why is it so important? What happens when we sleep?
WHY THE REST IS SO IMPORTANT
When our body is in the sleep phase, its biochemical structure changes, and a series of vital functions are activated which are fundamental for maintaining mental and physical well-being. In this, our brain plays a fundamental role which, despite the sensation of loss of consciousness that we associate with sleep, remains in reality partially alert. To simplify, we say that, as if not having to pay attention to everything around us, to the reactions that we should put in place, to the responses that we should give to the environment, our brain could, in the quiet of the night, concentrate on all those small and large actions that require calm, patience and silence.
Wanting to summarize in two macro-areas, sleep allows our body to perform mainly 2 actions:
- THE ELIMINATION OF TOXINS
During sleep, metabolic activity slows down and the lymphatic system (a sort of lymphatic system that acts in synergy with glial cells, closely linked to the functioning of neurons in the nervous system) is activated to drain and expel the toxic proteins produced by the brain in the waking phase. These wastes are drained through the intercellular spaces that increase during sleep precisely to allow drainage1. They will then be sent to the liver which will dispose of them2.
- CELLULAR AND TISSUE REGENERATION
With slowed metabolic activities and brain activity freed from waking tasks, the cellular activity also focuses more on itself and its own regeneration and repair. This happens, for example, to the muscles which, while we sleep, relax and regenerate by repairing the micro-injuries that the day’s activities have entailed; or even to the skin: during the day, in fact, our body releases proteins and enzymes to it in less quantity than at night, because during the waking phase they serve other purposes. While we rest, however, metabolic activities are reduced and there is greater availability of these elements to be dedicated to epidermal cell renewal.
Furthermore, a recent study conducted by Michele Bellesi, Giulio Tononi and Chiara Cirelli, University of Wisconsin, published in The Journal of Neuroscience3, shows that, during sleep, the production of cells that form myelin increases, a sort of sheath. the protective insulator that provides the correct transmission of nerve impulses: this would explain why restful sleep and the right amount of rest is provided by more lucid, reactive, and during the day and how, instead, the sleep behaviors carried out put us in difficulty.
Not only. Sleep is used to reorganize and consolidate memory. In fact, the brain takes advantage of the night “break” to rework what happened during the day. By monitoring brain activity during sleep, in fact, it has been discovered that the type of waves produced by the brain and the brain areas that are activated are the same as when we remember past events that have happened to us. In addition, by reworking what happened and memorizing it, the brain learns.
In short, even if we experience a situation of non-consciousness during sleep, the same cannot be said of the brain.
But if all this happens while we rest, what if we don’t get enough sleep?
EFFECTS OF THE LACK OF REST ON THE BODY
We have seen what happens to our bodies when we are “busy” sleeping. But if we don’t sleep the effects are not limited to the fact that all this does not happen. In fact, the implications, consequences, and effects of sleep disturbances on our daily lives can be very serious.
Just think of what happens to us, in the small, when we go through a period in which we are forced to give up a few hours of sleep: we feel more fatigued, physical effort weighs more on us, we have difficulty concentrating, we are more irascible … and the thought flies to the much desired moment when we will finally go to sleep! If the situation becomes repeated and, worse, chronic, the effects of bad rest can condition our social life with episodes of memory loss, headache, stress, mood swings, anxiety, the attention of attention, alertness, and, in the most extreme cases, even hallucinations and psychoses. It is not for nothing that sleep deprivation is one of the tortures used to induce prisoners to reveal their secrets. When we don’t sleep we are more fragile, less reactive, less lucid, and in a certain sense more defenseless.
SLEEP AND REST
It happens that even after a night of sleep we wake up with the feeling of still being very tired. This happens when, even if we have slept, we have not, in fact, rested. Stress, tensions, the improper things that hinder sleep cycles can be some of the causes. But before we understand how to avoid this unpleasant sensation, let’s briefly see how sleep works.