Most of us accept that good quality and enough sleep is essential to human survival and is vital to our mental and physical health. Sleep has a profound impact on our neurological performance and is essentially food for the brain. Given its importance, forward-thinking businesses should make sleep a top management priority, according to neuroscientist, business psychologist and change specialist Dr Lynda Shaw.
Sleep is a complex process but simply put sleep-promoting cells within the hypothalamus and the brain stem produces a chemical called GABA which reduces senses of arousal in the brain stem and hypothalamus, sending us signals which make us feel tired. This is reinforced by increased production of the sleep hormone melatonin sent by the pineal gland.
Once asleep and as other parts of our bodies are resting, our brain spends time processing emotions, memories and replenishing our minds for the next day. The majority of this occurs during REM sleep, a phase that takes up about 20% of adult sleep. The cerebral cortex starts to process short and long-term memories with help from the thalamus which relays information from the senses such as images, sounds and other sensations. The amygdala, a part of the brain responsible for processing emotions, also increases in activity. The brain stem also plays a vital neurological role sending signals to our muscles so that they relax which is essential for body posture, energy renewal and limb movements.
It is also believed that during sleep the glymphatic system is opened and cerebral spinal fluid flushes out the day’s accumulation of toxins. In fact, deep sleep is a time for recovery and repair, supporting the immune system and growth hormones.
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