World Brain Day 2023: What Happens When We Sleep? Understanding The Importance Of Sleeping For Brain Health

Every year on 22 July there is a global health care celebration known as World Brain Day, often referred to as International Brain Day. The commemoration, which has continued for the past nine years, is an important occasion to spread awareness about all brain disorders.

The theme of World Brain Day is “Brain health and disability: leave no one behind.” This international movement seeks to bridge the information gap and raise public awareness of the loss of brain health.

In an exclusive conversation with Zee English, Dr Gurneet Singh Sahni, Senior Consultant – Neuro & Spine Surgery, Fortis Hospital shares the important connection between sleep and brain health.

cre trending stories

Dr. Gurmeet says, “A healthy work-life balance includes adequate time for sleep and recovery, which is a challenge these days. But, in the pursuit of performance and delivery, people ignore or underestimate the factor of sleep, which is very important for a healthy mind and body. So, on World Brain Day, let’s understand the importance of sleep and how it is important for our brain.”

sleep and brain health

There is a definite connection between well-being and quality sleep. Sleep is important for maintaining brain function. In neurological terms, proper sleep is essential for brain plasticity, which helps it absorb and adapt to new information and experiences.

What happens during sleep?

Sleep is a biological process in which the brain and body function in different ways. While sleeping, the brain consolidates memory, removes toxins from memory, and performs synaptic pruning.

Synaptic pruning is a unique process in which the brain strengthens meaningful neural connections and removes unnecessary neural connections. Memories, information, and fresh knowledge gathered during sleep are processed, consolidated, and stored in the brain.

Inadequate or insufficient sleep, memory consolidation is hindered, there is difficulty in concentrating and cognitive abilities are impaired.

Why do we need sleep?

During the day when one is sleeping the brain flushes out the accumulated toxins. The brain’s waste-clearing system, i.e., the glymphatic system, is at its peak during sleep to remove toxins, which is only possible with adequate rest.

Inadequate sleep may also increase the risk of neurodegenerative diseases. Therefore, sleep therapy is prescribed to patients who have Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other similar neurodegenerative diseases.

Synaptic pruning is performed only in the state of sleep and this process will ensure an optimal and efficient neural network, improve cognitive functioning and support healthy brain development.

stages of sleep

Sleep is also classified as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and non-REM sleep. REM sleep is the sleep that is experienced during the first 90 minutes after falling asleep. According to research, eyes make rapid sideways movements behind closed eyelids.

Brain activity is similar to that of the waking state, while breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure are similar to those recorded when the person is awake. Also, most dreams occur in this stage. On the other hand, in non-REM sleep, there is no rapid eye movement. Both types of sleep are necessary for memory consolidation. Plus, they repeat every 90 minutes.

Tips for better sleep and a healthier brain

‘How can I get better sleep’? One of the most frequently asked questions is about sleep. One should sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Avoid consumption of alcohol, caffeine and nicotine.

It is recommended to exercise regularly but not for too long a day. It is necessary to keep the sleeping area away from noise, bright light, TV, computer etc. Anyone experiencing a sleep disorder should be medically evaluated.

Sleep is a fundamental requirement for overall health and well-being. With healthy sleep habits and quality sleep, it is possible to optimize the full potential of the brain, one of the most powerful organs in the human body.