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Jacqueline Seymour, Health Coach

Jacqueline Seymour

Health Coach

Reviewed By

 Dr. Frank Lipman sits on a chair, cross-legged, arm resting on the back of the chair, lightly touching his other hand that is resting on his thigh. He is wearing blue denim, a blue dress shirt and a navy textured blazer and black glasses. He is smiling, showing his front teeth looking off to the side.

Dr. Frank Lipman

Chief Medical Officer at THE WELL

Updated: 03/06/2024

Let’s delve into a topic that holds paramount importance in our lives—sleep. Beyond its role in rejuvenating the body and promoting overall well-being, sleep plays a crucial role in safeguarding our brains. Let’s explore the fascinating ways in which sleep protects the brain and ensures its optimal function.

Sleep Cleans Your Brain

Think of your brain like a busy city, where neurons are the residents and synapses are the communication pathways. Throughout the day, these neurons exchange signals, creating connections that store our memories and experiences. However, this activity produces waste, including harmful proteins that can impact our thinking if not cleared.

While we sleep, our brain’s clean-up crew, the glymphatic system, is called into action. This system flushes out waste products. Cerebrospinal fluid, a key player in this process, flows more efficiently during sleep, helping to remove harmful substances from your brain.

Sleep and Memory and Learning

Have you ever felt that a good night’s sleep enhances your ability to learn and remember information? There’s science behind that subjective experience. Sleep is a critical player in memory consolidation, the process by which short-term memories are transformed into long-term ones. During different stages of sleep, particularly the deep, slow-wave sleep and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the brain orchestrates the replay of daily experiences and consolidates learning.

Research suggests that sleep enhances the integration of new information into existing knowledge networks, allowing you a more comprehensive understanding of the material. 

Sleep and Emotional Regulation

A well-rested brain is better at handling emotions. Sleep is crucial for emotional control, affecting how we perceive, understand, and react to emotions. When we don’t get enough sleep, the part of the brain responsible for processing emotions, called the amygdala, becomes overly active, causing stronger emotional responses.

On the flip side, getting sufficient sleep strengthens connections between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex, which is like the brain’s control center. This connection helps regulate emotional reactions, make good decisions, and stay resilient in the face of life’s challenges. In simple terms, sleep boosts emotional intelligence, making it easier for us to handle the ups and downs of daily life with calmness and composure.

Beyond making us feel refreshed, sleep acts as a guardian, constantly protecting our thinking, memory, and emotions. So, when you’re tempted to cut back on sleep for work or fun, remember you’re not just giving your body a break when you get enough sleep — you’re also giving your brain the care it requires to take good care of how you function in the world!

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