We open the year with some interesting research concerning sleep, which topic we’re going to address again during this month.
The importance of quality and quantity of sleep is familiar to all of us, thanks to experience and common sense. Although each individual is different, the characteristics of a good night of sleep generally are:
* a duration of about 8 hours
* a quiet environment, with absent or very low light, without disturbing noises
* a pleasant awakening, possibly gradually thanks to daylight.
The mechanisms underlying sleep are not yet fully known. It is still unclear why some people live well with a limited number of hours of sleep.
Moreover, it is not yet ascertained the reason, or rather the reasons that prompted Mother Nature to provide the living beings of this often pleasant task. Pleasant and necessary.
According to some American researchers, sleep could have the task of brainwash. Let’s explain better: a little as defragmenting and cleaning the hard drive, during sleep our brain cells reduced in size, while the space between them increases; this would allow the cerebrospinal fluid to invade the space and clean up the brain from all the potentially neurotoxic material accumulated during the day. The fact that sleeping is indeed restorative for the brain could be a consequence of this mechanism, if not the desired effect. This research could help us find a cure for diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, in which it has been observed quite a high number of potentially harmful substances in the brain.
Like most animals, humans are active during daylight hours: this might suggest that we sleep to recover energies and to attract less predators when our senses are less effective. Some might argue that, precisely for this reason, we should stay awake and alert much more than during the day. For those who “believe” in evolution, the answer would be right in its mechanisms: it is most beneficial to find a shelter and be silent, rather than wandering in the environment, make noise and be unaware prey of animals with a view more acute than ours.
Other animals are nocturnal or crepuscular. Their senses are therefore suitable (or adapted, in the course of evolution) to little or no availability of sunlight. Many are nocturnal predators and use their sight and other senses less developed than their diurnal prey.
A world on the move 24 hours a day, where hawks and owls share the same hunts path but without competition, actors on the same stage but in different acts.
With the number “24” we say goodbye until next week, when we talk about our biological clock.