Different neurotransmitter signals in the brain influences sleeping

A feature prepared by our reporter after a conversation with a city-based dietition

Sleeping or taking a nap is a favourite activity of many people. Sleep is a condition of the body and mind that typically recurs for several hours every night, in which the nervous system is relatively inactive, the eyes closed, the postural muscles relaxed, and consciousness practically suspended. It is a naturally recurring state of mind and body, characterized by altered consciousness, relatively inhibited sensory activity, reduced muscle activity and inhibition of nearly all voluntary muscles during rapid eye movement sleep, and reduced interactions with surroundings.
Sleep is influenced by different neurotransmitter signals in the brain, foods and medicines that change the balance of these signals affect whether we feel alert or drowsy and how well we sleep. Caffeinated drinks such as coffee, and drugs such as diet pills and decongestants stimulate some parts of the brain and can cause insomnia, or an inability to sleep.
Even though the activity of sleeping sounds pretty simple, it has a huge role to play in our body.
Nerve-signalling chemicals called neurotransmitters control whether we are asleep or awake by acting on different groups of nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain. Neurons in the brainstem, which connects the brain with the spinal cord, produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine that keep some parts of the brain active while we are awake. Other neurons at the base of the brain begin signalling when we fall asleep.
Neurons in the brainstem, which connects the brain with the spinal cord, produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine that keep some parts of the brain active while we are awake.
These neurons appear to "switch off" the signals that keep us awake. Research also suggests that a chemical called adenosine builds up in our blood while we are awake and causes drowsiness. This chemical gradually breaks down while we sleep.
representative image
Image: representative image
Along with affecting other parts of the body, sleep influences our digestive system to a huge extent. In conversation with Fit Northeast, a Guwahati-based dietitian, Ruby Acharjee said how sleep influences the digestive system.
Mrs Acharjee said that it is always good to maintain a gap of a minimum of two hours from having dinner to going to the bed. This helps in the basic process of digestion. Then when one goes to the bed, it is suggested to elevate your head while sleeping on your left side.
Studies show that this position helps ease heartburn as the lower oesophagal sphincter (LES) " the muscle ring/flap valve that controls the stomach's intake of food from the oesophagus " is kept above the level of gastric acid. It was highlighted that the more we sleep, the stomach gets better time digesting the food. Then energy is produced from the digested food, which goes to the various body parts through blood, giving us energy. Hence, the better the sleep, the better is the digestion.



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