Does the Brain Rest?

Does the brain rest? Often, there are those who advise us to “turn it off”, to reduce their activity. However, we must understand that even in a state of calm as when we practice meditation or even when we rest at night, this sensational organ never stops working. Although that yes, its electrical waves and the way in which it exerts its neuronal connections usually vary.

Every living organism is in continuous operation. Each cell carries out constant metabolic changes and therefore, the term “rest” is clearly unfeasible in any organ that, obviously, is attached to life. If the activity of a cell stops, it dies. Now, even knowing this, we wonder if our brain is given at some time, a break.

The question obeys different motivations. One of them is because we often think that we have absolute control over this body. As an entity where our reasoning, desires, projects and decisions are articulated, we come to believe that we have some control over it, when in reality it is not so.

When we sleep, he does not sleep, in fact, he is incredibly active. Even more, as striking as it may seem to us, in those times when we experience greater stress and anxiety, he shows greater disconnection because he can not be aware of so many stimuli. Hence, we have memory failures, hence we experience continual misunderstandings. It is a perfect machine that deserves to be known in depth …

“If our brain were simple enough for us to understand, we would not be smart enough to understand it.”

-David Eagleman-

Does the brain rest at some point?

The brain has a vital function, as do all the living cells, tissues, organs and systems of our body. However, in addition to the simple tasks related to metabolism, protein production, oxygen consumption and other essential tasks for life, the brain has other objectives.

It is who harbors those centers of power where articulate cognition, consciousness and all unconscious processes over which we have no control. The brain is constantly busy, both in the waking and sleep phases. Even being in the REM phase, his electrical activity is very intense, reminding us therefore, that he never rests.

The dark energy of the brain and the unconscious activity

Neurologists such as Dr. Marcus E. Raichie of the University of Washington in St. Louis, Missouri, called those processes and decisions that we often carry out without being fully aware of them, “dark energy.” An example: we are napping and suddenly, a fly rests on our nose.

Suddenly, and in less than a second, we are able to slap the insect away. Not only have we needed to think about it; the answer is automatic. Also, the famous David Eagleman explains in his book Incognito, that to know if the brain rests, we must understand a simple aspect. If he did, we would cease to be all we are. Moreover, we are forced to assume that there is, in effect, a dark side to this body, a veiled dimension of which we have no control whatsoever.

As Sigmund Freud said, the brain and the human mind are largely governed by unconscious tasks and acts; those over which we have no control.

The brain in the sleep phase and the compartmentalization of the synapses

We already know that the brain at night does not sleep. It does not matter that we are mired in the depths of that oneiric universe: he remains incredibly active. However, and here comes an interesting nuance, works differently and “allows” some cells to rest. Giulio Tononi, an expert in the study of consciousness and sleep disorders at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, made an interesting study to show something very interesting.

To say that the brain rests at night is a “half-hearted” error. It does not do it, it presents a very intense electrical activity, however, it sends orders for a series of cells and brain regions to do so. That is, the brain allows small brain areas to “rest”.

It is what is known as “sharing”. In this work we are told that certain synapses that are not useful during the night are turned off. In this way, the next day they are reactivated in a more intense and healthy way.

Also, this sharing allows activating those other areas that will facilitate the integration of information. The same that will make up, for example, part of our long-term memory.

The brain does not rest, but you can help it work better

In addition to the classic question of whether the brain rests, it is also common for us to be curious about whether there is any way to make it more efficient. In this way, something that we must have clear is that hyperstimulation is one of its worst enemies. Undergoing stressful situations, constant worries or always being on the screens of our electronic devices is a serious impact on brain health.

Therefore, the ideal is to promote activities that add to it in states of harmony. There are processes that balance their functions, which stimulate them in a positive way and enhance their functions. They are the following:

  • The meditation.
  • Walk.
  • Daydreaming.
  • A 20-minute nap.
  • Carry out pleasant activities: reading, drawing, walking in nature, having interesting conversations…

To conclude, let us remember once again that the brain never rests. However that he does not do it does not mean that we should not do it either. Follow the same routines, take care of our emotions and take care of our sleep hygiene is key to their well-being (and ours).