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The Restoration Theory of Sleep and Why We Need It

The Restoration Theory of Sleep and Why We Need It

On some nights, getting enough high-quality sleep can feel more like a distant dream than an actual possibility. Maybe you keep looking at the clock, just watching the minutes pass by without feeling tired.

Then, there are also the nights when we get to sleep on time, but still, for some reason, we wake up not feeling our best. In both cases, understanding the importance of restorative sleep is immensely helpful.

However, while the restoration theory of sleep is one of the most evidence-based hypotheses, there are a few other sleep theories that we should mention.

What Are the Four Theories of Sleep?

The restoration theory was first created by Oswald when he discovered certain patterns in sleep studies relating to animals. Although we will be covering the restoration theory of sleep for the bulk of this article, it is worth mentioning that there are four major theories in the world of sleep medicine.

These four theories include: 

  • The inactivity theory (also sometimes called the adaptive theory or the evolutionary theory)
  • The brain plasticity theory
  • The energy conservation theory
  • The restorative sleep theory

What Is the Restoration Theory of Sleep?

The restoration theory of sleep (also sometimes referred to as the “repair and restoration theory of sleep”) seeks to explain exactly how rest is so crucial. It is no secret that we wake up from a sound night’s sleep feeling rejuvenated,  but the reasons as to why this is are less clear.

Unlike some other theories, this one posits that the function of sleep is to give us a time where we can recharge. The brain performs this restoration process in several significant ways.  

It is theorized that sleep allows for both our minds and our bodies to renew. This allows the entire being to come back to a healthy state of equilibrium after being exerted over the course of the day.

If you are curious about how restorative sleep helps your mind and body, keep on reading.

What Happens To Brain Toxins While We Sleep?

According to the restoration theory of sleep, time spent resting is actually anything but time wasted or time spent idle. On the contrary, there is constant brain activity going on, and it is always working to help us, even in our sleep.

While we rest, toxins and waste products are flushed out from the brain. While we are awake, there is simply too much going on for our brains to process. As such, there is not enough time or energy to remove waste from the brain. 

Our brains can finally recharge when we are asleep. Since our body temperature lowers and we burn fewer calories, there is extra energy to fuel the cleansing process. It is possible that, by getting enough shut-eye and allowing this sleep function to occur when we are younger, we can help our brains stay healthy for years to come.

What Happens During REM Sleep?

Before we can determine what processes restorative sleep helps with, we need to establish the difference between REM and non-REM sleep (or NREM sleep). REM stands for “rapid eye movement,” and it is not hard to see how it got this name.

During this stage of deep sleep, our eyes dart back and forth without sending any visual information to the brain. REM sleep is also when we do the vast majority of our dreaming. Our brains are more active during REM sleep than during non-REM sleep. As a result of this, this is the stage when our brains benefit the most from getting sleep. REM sleep includes protein synthesis and repair, a primary function of sleep.

A particularly interesting process that is said to occur during REM sleep is that the brain goes through and sorts memories from the day. This period of rest allows your mind the chance to categorize these thoughts and potentially store them for later.

The brain determines what memories are significant, and those are transferred to long-term memory. Meanwhile, the thoughts considered less important or noteworthy can remain in short-term memory, where they will eventually be forgotten.

What Happens During REM Sleep?

Clearly, REM sleep has a whole host of benefits when it comes to restoring our mind and mental capacity so we can feel focused the next day. Note that we are not in the REM stage the entire time we are asleep.

Typically, sleep is categorized into REM and non-REM. Non-REM happens before REM, and we generally cycle throughout these two multiple times over the course of our natural sleep patterns.

As we have established, the brain is particularly active during REM sleep, leading to this being a more restorative time for your mind. That being said, the non-REM stage provides crucial benefits as well.

Instead of benefiting your mind, non-REM sleep is the time when your body really gets in on the restoration action. Non-REM includes slow-wave sleep (SWS). An EEG of SWS will show a high-voltage, slow-wave frequency.

When we are asleep, our production of growth hormone increases notably. At the same time, necessary proteins are also produced by the brain, giving us the energy we will need to successfully take on the following day. This is proved even further when you consider that a particularly stressful day (in terms of either mental or physical activity) will likely lead to an increase in tiredness. 

Whether you feel more tired prior to going to sleep, sleep for a longer time, or a combination of the two, the reason for this is quite clear. Over the previous day, necessary proteins were called on faster than usual. 

Now, your brain and body recognize that a period of replenishment is necessary. This will lead you to have feelings of sleep deprivation and need more rest.

Why Is Restorative Sleep So Important?

At this point, we have established that different stages of sleep have the ability to positively impact certain aspects of your being. While we may have scratched the surface as to why restorative sleep is a necessity for your body and mind to function at their best, it is time to go into a bit more depth as to why this is.

How Can Restorative Sleep Help Your Mind?

As we mentioned previously, the ability to transfer certain memories into long-term memory while keeping others in short-term memory is a crucial functionality. Without it, your ability to recall long-ago memories would fade.

The fact that your brain can accurately predict what memories should be life-long is astonishing. While there are sure to be a few seemingly inconsequential memories that have inexplicably stuck with you since childhood, for the most part, the accuracy of memory consolidation is incredibly impressive.

Other than categorizing your memories from the previous day, this restorative function offers many other benefits to your mind as well. For instance, the elimination of waste toxins from the brain is profoundly critical.

While your mind is busy flushing out the build-up of unnecessary toxins in the Central Nervous System, it is also producing new chemicals that will aid our brain function the following day. 

How Can Restorative Sleep Help Your Body?

There is no doubt that a tremendous purpose of sleep is to help improve cognitive function. Yet, the many ways that it helps to repair your body can often go underappreciated. In fact, the role of sleep is two-fold in that it improves both your mind and body as a whole. 

The body benefits substantially through a restful night’s sleep because cellular division is increased during this time. Again, we also create more proteins to help fuel us as the next day progresses. 

What’s the Difference Between Restorative and Non-Restorative Rest?

In all likelihood, you are already quite familiar with determining the difference between a restorative or a non-restorative night’s sleep. Until now, you just might not have had the right language for it.

Much of the time, you only have to look at how you feel both physically and mentally over the course of the day. If you get the recommended hours of sleep, but you still wake up feeling groggy and unfocused, you probably did not get enough restorative sleep the previous night.

Even if you feel decently rested right after waking up, if you find yourself losing steam shortly after lunchtime or fairly early on in the day, that is another sign. Feeling tired at night or near bedtime is perfectly normal and expected, but getting sleepy for no reason during the day is not.

On the other hand, you are likely to notice the positive effects of restorative sleep quite easily. You will rise with a feeling of wakefulness. In this case, you will feel ready to take on the day and will have a flow of energy as it progresses. Focusing will feel relatively easy for you, as your brain is properly equipped with the chemicals and neurons it needs to concentrate. 

That being said, we can all use a bit of natural help to pay attention and get the most out of our day. For those occasions, the FocusPatch provides a steady stream of essential oils specifically formulated to enhance your attention.

What Factors Can Lead To a Lack of Sleep?

If you are someone who regularly has some difficulty falling or staying asleep, you might be wondering just why that is. The truth is that there are a wide variety of reasons that you could have trouble sleeping.

Just a few of these possible explanations include:

  • Stress in your everyday life
  • Caffeine in your system
  • Alcohol in your system
  • Sleep disorders
  • Other medical conditions
  • Anxiety

How Can You Get More Restorative Sleep?

Now that we know the nearly countless benefits of getting restorative sleep, it is time for us to switch gears a bit. For the remainder of this article, we are going to delve deeper into how you can make sure that you are getting all the high-quality rest your body needs to thrive.

Look Into Natural Sleep Aids

We have already gone over just how helpful a natural attention and focus aid can be, but the same goes for the actual process of getting to sleep. Like how essential oils are often utilized to help us focus, different blends can also be employed to make us calm and ready to rest. 

The SleepyPatch is a sticker that goes directly onto your shirt before bed. There, it can release a flow of calming essential oils that you can breathe throughout the night. Not only does this patch help you fall asleep, but it is also incredibly effective at keeping you asleep.

Being woken up during the REM stage of sleep can lead to disorientation, grogginess, and many other unpleasant symptoms. By knowing your body and setting yourself up for sleep success, you can decrease this possibility substantially.

Reach a State of Zen, and Help Others Do the Same

You know how we just mentioned the importance of knowing your body? Well, that principle very much extends into this suggestion. Consider what makes you feel the calmest and what helps you slow your mind down.

Be sure to shut off any and all screens at least half an hour before bed. Otherwise, the light that they give off can mess with the natural circadian rhythms that are specifically in place to help you fall asleep.

Perhaps you enjoy some light yoga, meditation, or listening to calming sounds such as white noise. Once you have determined what gets you nice and calm, getting to sleep will become easier. That being said, this can become a bit more complicated when it comes to helping your loved ones do the same.

Children often seem to be boundlessly energetic. While that energy is impressive and enviable on certain occasions, that is certainly not the case when bedtime comes along. In these cases, you may have to employ a few different strategies to help calm a child down. Just like with adults, remember that not every suggestion will work for every child.

Restorative Sleep for a More Wakeful You

Getting restorative sleep can be the difference between an excellent day that whizzes by and a lackluster day that seems to drag on endlessly. By understanding the restoration theory of sleep, we can all improve our habits and get the sleep we need.

 

Sources:

Why Do We Sleep, Anyway? | Harvard.edu

Not All Sleep Is Restorative — What To Know About Improving Your Rest | Healthline

Sleep Basics: REM & NREM, Sleep Stages, Good Sleep Habits & More | Cleveland Clinic.