What Happens To Our Neurons When We Sleep?

Sleep is essential for the survival of our organism and for the functioning of our brain. So what happens to our neurons during sleep? Let’s find out!
What happens to our neurons when we sleep?

When we don’t sleep well, we often feel tired. Not getting enough sleep can have serious consequences for our health, both physically and mentally. Therefore, good sleep is fundamental, but also essential for any species with a nervous system. What happens to our neurons when we sleep? Find out in this article!

Science has shown time and again that sleep is a vital function. Prolonged lack of sleep can even be fatal. In addition, Nature Communications Sleep Journal has published an interesting study about what happens in our neurons when we sleep.

The research states that sleep increases the ability of chromosomes to reduce the genetic damage that occurs in neurons. In addition, it offers some possible explanations about the real goals of sleep, it:

  • facilitates the biosynthesis of macromolecules
  • helps save energy
  • contributes to the purification of metabolites
  • enables processes of neuronal plasticity
  • gives rise to the consolidation of long-term memories
A sleeping woman in bed

What happens to our neurons when we sleep?

According to the above-mentioned research, the damage that occurs to the DNA of the brain cells during the day has an optimal recovery time: during sleep. So when we sleep  there is a significant decrease in the amount of genetic damage in our neurons. This in turn reduces the chance of cell disruptions.

There is something important to keep in mind. Genetic damage that accumulates over long periods of time can lead to the development of neurodegenerative diseases and other neurological disorders. That is why it is very important to sleep well, as well as to get enough sleep.

Neuroimaging techniques have proven that, at the molecular level, the chromosomes in nerve cells have a greater ability to compress and decompress DNA in a state of rest than while awake, when they are in full activity.

This peculiar dynamics of the regeneration of genetic material has been observed especially in neurons. It depends on the time of day and, in particular, on the circadian rhythms. Other cell types belonging to other anatomical components do not appear to show appreciable differences in repair effectiveness.

From the above, we can conclude that sleep, as a physiological state that promotes the repair of cell damage, is more effective for the neurons than for other systems.

An image of neurons

The strategy of sleep

We could also say from an evolutionary perspective that humans need a strategy to keep their neurons healthy. That strategy, as you may have guessed, was sleep. This was the most optimal process because of its special properties and mechanisms.

On the other hand, the aforementioned research also showed that this damage repair mechanism can work in the opposite direction. In fact, the mere phenomenon of an accumulation of errors in the DNA sequencing response could promote the initiation of genetic repair mechanisms through sleep.

In addition to the brain’s own activity, some of the factors that can cause damage to the nucleotide chains that make up the DNA of neurons include the following:

  • oxidative stress
  • radiation
  • substance abuse

In addition, there is a clinical reality that severe sleep deprivation can lead to death. This has been known for centuries. This reality could be based on findings related to errors in gene repair due to lack of sleep.

The fact is that you need to respect your sleep cycle as much as possible to stay healthy. Remember: sleeping well is living well.

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