Interesting Discoveries About the Brain (8)

Sleep and the Brain

When you are alert, your brain generates Beta Waves.  When you are awake and relaxed, these change to Alpha Waves. As you sleep, your brainwaves slow and deepen, becoming Theta and Delta Waves.  Someone in a Delta Wave sleep is extremely difficult to wake up – this is what all of us call, a deep sleep.

Three to five times during the night REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep happens, this is the dreaming stage of your sleep.  These REM stages can last between five and thirty minutes and make up about 25% of a night’s sleep. When you are not dreaming you are in Non Rapid Eye Movement sleep – or NREM.

We need both types of sleep.  Sleep is vital for the well-being of our brains as well as our bodies.

  • Growth hormone in children is secreted during sleep.
  • Chemicals we need for our immune system are also secreted during sleep.
  • Sleep gives the body a chance to repair muscles and other tissues, replace aging or dead cells, etc. (“Beauty Sleep?”)
  • Sleep gives the brain a chance to organize and archive memories. Dreams are thought by some to be part of this process.
  • Rats who normally live for 2-3 years, survive only 5 weeks when deprived of REM sleep.
  • Rats deprived of all sleep last only about 3 weeks.
  • We all know we do badly without sleep – some experts believe that this is because sleep gives neurons a chance to shut down and repair themselves. Sleep also may give the brain a chance to exercise important neuronal connections that might otherwise deteriorate from lack of activity.

John Medina – a developmental molecular biologist says though there are many mysteries about the brain, there also are some ‘brain rules’ he believes we should follow.  These are well established scientific facts about our brains and the things that help it to function. One of these Brain Rules is the importance of sleep.  This is what John Medina says about sleep in his book (and on his web-site) Brain Rules: (1)

Rule #7: Sleep well, think well.
– When we’re asleep, the brain is not resting at all. It is almost unbelievably active! It’s possible that the reason we need to sleep is so that we can learn.
– Sleep must be important because we spend 1/3 of our lives doing it! Loss of sleep hurts attention, executive function, working memory, mood, quantitative skills, logical reasoning, and even motor dexterity.
– We still don’t know how much we need! It changes with age, gender, pregnancy, puberty, and so much more.
– Napping is normal. Ever feel tired in the afternoon? That’s because your brain really wants to take a nap. There’s a battle raging in your head between two armies. Each army is made of legions of brain cells and biochemicals –- one desperately trying to keep you awake, the other desperately trying to force you to sleep. Around 3 p.m., 12 hours after the midpoint of your sleep, all your brain wants to do is nap.
– Taking a nap might make you more productive. In one study, a 26-minute nap improved NASA pilots’ performance by 34 percent.
– Don’t schedule important meetings at 3 p.m. It just doesn’t make sense.
So, there is no doubt how important sleep is to healthy brain (and mind) functioning.
Here is an interview with John Medina that you might find interesting –


Egyptian alabaster statuette of Alexander the ...

Perseverance requires us to change our way of looking at failure.  It requires that we adopt a scientific attitude and consider lack of success nothing more than confirmation that we need to look elsewhere and change tack – not that we should give up.

Alexander the Great inherited the throne of Macedonia when he was twenty.  By the time he died, at the age of thirty-two, he had conquered much of what was then considered the civilsed world.

Alexander is considered to be one of the greatest military strategists of all time. He destroyed the Persian empire and travelled with his men as far as modern Pakistan.  If there was one factor that contributed to Alexander’s success – even more than 13 foot lances or the army his father bequeathed him – it was, most definitely, perseverance.

Elephants, sheer rocky hide-outs, massive armies, determined opposition – Alexander faced it all – and more – throughout his campaigns. It took him nearly eight months to conquer the city of Tyre (in modern day Lebanon) – but he succeeded in spite of ingenious and determined opposition from the Tyrians.

Undeterred by failure he kept on going until he achieved his goal – whatever it might be. And while it might be better not to adopt Alexander’s attitude to world domination, we could, nevertheless, learn a lot from his application and his absolute and unwavering perseverance.

I think and think for months and years.  Ninety-nine times, the conclusion is false.  The hundreth time I am right.  – Albert Einstein

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