Your brain needs silence. Perhaps not all the time, but your brain cannot be healthy and productive without it. There are many benefits to ‘the sounds of silence’, such as triggering the development of new brain cells and enabling the brain to actually ‘think’ (as opposed to just carrying out its untold number of automatic processes).
Silence Triggers the Development of New Brain Cells
Studies show that silence helps trigger the development of new brain cells which develop into functioning neurons. The hippocampus, which is responsible for learning and for processing emotions and memory, shows newly developed cells after exposure to silence.
Silence Enables the Brain to Think
Some people believe that silence relaxes the brain too much, whereby it becomes unproductive. This is not entirely true. If you are in a totally silent environment the brain is still busy processing thoughts and busy sorting and evaluating information.
You would have experienced this, by silently pondering and reflecting on past events. When your brain is not distracted by noise, it can smoothly process information.
Noise Stresses the Brain and the Body
Noise can have a negative impact on the brain, resulting in the body releasing the stress hormone cortisol. Experts believe that the amygdala, which is situated within the brain’s temporal lobes, is constantly activated through the chronic production of the stress hormones. The amygdala is the part of the brain responsible for processing memories and emotions.
Therefore, an individual living in a noisy environment is more likely to release chronically high levels of cortisol. Even if the level of noise does not produce hearing damage, it may certainly be loud enough to cause ‘dis-stress’ on the body, both physically and mentally, as a result of this constantly-engaged brain activity.
? Silence Releases Stress from the Body
If noise is a problem, silence is a solution. Silence helps release stress from the body. The findings of a study which was published in the Heart journal showed that two minutes of silence provided more relaxation benefits than a person listening to two minutes of music.
Noise Harms Cognitive Functioning
Noise is also harmful to a person’s productivity and performance. It decreases motivation while increasing the tendency to make mistakes. Noise can have an adverse impact on the brain’s cognitive functioning and affects the brain’s ability to process memory, solve problems, and focus.
Noise Increases Risk of Illness
Experts have discovered a link between high levels of blood pressure and chronic exposure to noise from airports or highways. It has also been linked to higher rates of heart disease, tinnitus and sleep loss. These studies were performed in an effort to show how ‘noise pollution’ has a negative effect on health.
As we said earlier, noise leads your body to produce the hormone cortisol. This significantly strains your body’s entire system, resulting in elevated blood pressure levels and heart rate, while chronically constricting blood vessels. This is a precursor for developing heart disease.
It also can increase the risk of developing anxiety and depression and unwanted behaviors such as anger and aggression.
To better understand the impacts of noise on our heart health, a study showed that being exposed to persistent noise greater than 65 decibels, did indeed affect the cardiovascular system.
85 decibels is approximately the level of noise a blender makes.
How the Brain Reacts to Music
Numerous studies have been conducted to show how something invisible to see, such as noise, can create such a profound effect on a person’s physical wellbeing.
When noise is heard, its sound waves reach the ear as it vibrates through the cochlea. The cochlea converts these sound wave vibrations into electrical signals so that the brain can process them. Even when you are asleep your body reacts to these electrical signals in the brain, even in a deep sleep cycle.
Neurophysiologists say that the sound waves from noise are first activated in the amygdala. This is where numerous clusters of neurons activate to process memory and emotion.
As far as reacting to music, study participants were asked to listen to 6 different musical tracks. They found that the music manifested changes in each person’s blood pressure and carbon dioxide, and also in the brain circulation. For each sound track, there was a corresponding physiological change that occurred.
The most interesting finding was observed between the musical tracks. The blank pauses in between tracks suddenly became the object of their study. They found that the silence gave study participants a release from carefully paying attention to the music they were listening to and provided a deeper sense of relaxation.
What to Do to Turn Down The Noise
If you live where it’s noisy, you can improve your surroundings with several tweaks. For example, make your home more soundproof by filling any holes or gaps to the outside. You can also change your windows, and also hollow doors with solid ones, to help soundproof your home.
If internal noise in your home is higher than you’d like it to be, perhaps turn off any devices when you’re not actively paying attention to it, such as the TV and music players.
Sleep Cleans The Brain
Have you ever wondered why you need to sleep (and not just because you know you have to in order to survive), but really ever wondered the real ‘why’? If asked why we do, most of us wouldn’t be able to give the correct answer, in regards to the importance of sleep and how it impacts brain health.
Your Brain Cleans Itself While You Sleep
During sleep, your brain cleans out all the toxins that have accumulated while you’re awake. The cellular structure of the brain changes during sleep. One study published showed that the brain cells shrink during sleep, creating gaps between the tissues, allowing the neurological waste to be passed out and flushed away.
This waste removal system of the brain is what experts refer to as the glymphatic system. This glymphatic system has been found to be ten times more active when a person is sleeping. The brain flushes the waste through its cerebrospinal fluid. The same fluid is responsible for bringing in nutrients to the brain.
Getting Enough Sleep Lowers Your Risk of Alzheimer’s
This cleaning process does more than get rid of toxins. Another important reason to get plenty of sleep is to enable the brain to flush out beta-amyloid proteins. If your brain is healthy these proteins are flushed out easily, however, if it isn’t healthy, these beta-amyloids can accumulate as sticky plaque and cause problems. The plaque has been found in larger amounts in patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
If you don’t get enough sleep, your brain cannot do its cleaning process which can result in the accumulation of neurotoxins such as beta-amyloid proteins.
More Beta-Amyloid Problems
Another study was aimed at determining how sleep can help prevent the onset of memory impairment. One of the findings suggested that the beta-amyloids played a role in preventing a person from getting enough sleep. This in turn triggered the onset of chronic sleep deprivation.
Neuroscientist Matthew Walker, one of the experts involved in the study, found that having an increase of beta amyloids in the brain led to the increased likelihood of not being able to achieve deep sleep. It also impacted on memory.
Unfortunately, the less sleep you get, the less capable your brain is in cleaning out the beta-amyloids, and the vicious cycle begins where your brain health can begin to deteriorate.
Bedtime Habits that Harm Your Brain
Neuroscience experts suggest that people pay better attention to their sleep hygiene. Factors such as diet and exercise are certainly important for enabling the body to get enough sleep. However, there are other, more specific, bad habits that can hinder quality sleep.
For example, sleeping with a smartphone close to your head adversely affects certain patterns of the brain. Smartphones emit signals that have the capability of adversely restructuring brain cells and preventing the process of cleaning out neurotoxins.
The electrical radiation that is emitted from smartphones and other mobile devices is picked up by the brain. Although scientists are still trying to determine just how much damage wi-fi gadgets are causing to the brain, it’s safe to say that removing them from close proximity is a good habit to get into. In doing so, you are giving your brain the chance to clean itself, and also getting quality sleep that is essential to physical health too.
Sleep, Even If You Don’t Feel Sleepy
Quite often you’ll hear people say how they don’t need a lot of sleep, yet they are still capable of doing what is required of them. Unfortunately, even if a person does not feel sleepy, they need to go to sleep! The brain needs at least 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night for it to be able to get rid of the neurotoxins.
Plus, whether a person believes it or not, a well-rested brain is far more capable of performing optimally than one that is sleep deprived.
If getting enough sleep at night is a challenge for you, take the time for a 20-minute nap during the day. Taking a nap is like recharging your smartphone battery. It boosts your brain’s memory and learning capacity. For people who are able to nap for an hour or even 1.5 hours, they are able to help their brain build new connections, which translates to improved creativity.
Although many people would like to believe that the brain has unlimited powers, research suggests otherwise. Experts have found that the brain has limitations. For example, it cannot perform its daily tasks while doing its housekeeping. It either needs to work or clean. Therefore, if you want to keep a healthy, clean brain, let it do its job when it needs to and go and get some sleep!