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Why sleep is so important and what it does to the brain

The annual event, World Day of Sleep, will be held on Friday, marking the end of the week of sleep awareness, and hopes to highlight the importance of sleep for your health.

The day was created by sleep medicine professionals and researchers who wanted to create an event around the "importance of healthy sleep," according to the event's website.

Activities and events are planned around the world, as every year on the Friday preceding the vernal equinox, marking the first day of spring. But at the heart of World Sleep Day is the importance of sleep for the body and, just as important, for the brain.

sleep day brain health A man sleeps in a capsule in a hotel for short stays, designed by the Swedish furniture manufacturer Ikea, July 13, 2011. While we sleep, our brain performs a number of necessary functions, including the following: elimination of new information. Jeff Pachoud / AFP / Getty Images

It's easy to forget how important sleep is to the brain and the body. Not getting a good night's sleep can leave you feeling drowsy, but you may not realize why you feel like it, or what your brain misses by spending those extra hours turning a blind eye.

While a person is sleeping, three essential processes are developing in the brain and are necessary for it to function in the best of shape and stay healthy, said Michael Merzenich, Professor, Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Posit Science . Newsweek.

"The first thing that happens is that the brain is basically in a period of rejuvenation, just like the body. You may think that it restores its resources and, of course, the body also contributes to it, "said Merzenich.

"The second thing to do, is to eliminate waste," he added. This usually occurs during fast eye-movement sleep, a dreamed segment of the night. According to the Cleveland Clinic, paradoxical sleep usually occurs about 90 minutes after the onset of sleep.

"Many unimportant things happened in a day, the brain deems them unimportant and they essentially increase the noise in the brain. And the brain has a really wonderful strategy for reducing that noise, "said Merzenich.

In addition to brightening the brain in order to calm the excessive background noise and rejuvenate, the brain strives to identify and deal with important events that have occurred or have been learned throughout the life of the brain. day. This happens during the deep sleep stage of the sleep cycle, said Merzenich.

An important aspect to take into account, he continued, is that a good sleep does not only depend on the length of your sleep.

"You have to sleep well enough in time, but it's also a quality of sleep, you have to go through that sleep cycle where the brain essentially accomplishes those essential things," he said.

Going without these key cycles and important features of sleep can lead to more than a day of yawning. A night here or there without sufficient sleep will not cause significant damage, but when this happens repeatedly, the brain is awash with the background noise mentioned by Merzenich.

"This equates to an acceleration of the aging process of the brain. So it's a very destructive thing to be put in place continuously. You do not want to add to the sound of your brain, "said Merzenich. Fortunately, sleep acts as an anti-noise element that can help things calm down so that the brain can function at its maximum.

Those who sleep constantly – either waking frequently for no apparent reason, or having the impression of never having recourse to different types of sleep – should consider going to a sleep clinic or consulting a doctor.

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