The larks they are a kind of birds that move perfectly in broad daylight, when the sun is at its zenith. They search for food in the most unexpected places to feed their young and their flight is frantic and tireless from dawn to dusk. The Owls, instead, they are beings who dwell in the darkness, his eyes are much bigger and emit an unmistakable sound on country nights. Night SentinelsThey function perfectly in the dark, when most of their bird sisters rest.
We human beings We also follow different intervals of activity and rest. From a very young age we can already experience greater ease to concentrate at night than in the morning, or vice versa. Our sleep schedules, therefore, vary greatly, both in the number of hours and the times at which we go to sleep or get up. Doctors always recommend sleeping between seven and eight hoursAlthough there are some who, with six, or even five, it is enough for them, while others if they do not sleep nine or ten feel beaten all day. In more serious cases, insomnia can become chronic. Be that as it may, sleep is that strip of daily rest (on average, we spend a third of our lives asleep) that ends up being one of the biggest indicators of health, which we can often overlook or downplay. But at the moment of truth, having a good relationship with Morpheus is essential to lead a healthy life.
Cortisol, "the stress hormone", is released between 8 and 11 in the morning and begins to decrease until it reaches its minimum around 8 or 9 at night
There are several factors for which we end up developing a more or less fixed sleep routine. The most basic are age or genetics, as well as external factors; without going any further, the fact of living in a society in which there are more and more shift jobs, or the same stress that this may cause the individual. One of these external factors that we have all noticed most globally has undoubtedly been the quarantine caused by the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The fact of living confined at home has caused that most people have altered their activity and rest cycles, as well as the tendency to fall asleep very late.
"There are two dream chronotypes," he explains. Javier Puertas, doctor and vice president of the Spanish Sleep Society (SES), to El Confidencial. "One is the one of the people who go to bed early and wake up earlyThose who, if you ask them when it would be good to take an exam, would answer that at eight in the morning. To these the lark or morning chronotype is applied. On the contrary, those who usually go to bed after two in the morning and get up late are considered to be an extreme evening chronotype, or owl. ”
Homeostatic and circadian factors
On what does it depend that we acquire one or the other conduct? "The two big factors that regulate sleep are homoesthatics and circadians," says Puertas. "The first has to do with increased feeling of drowsiness as we spend more time awake, Hence, at the end of the day, and if we do not nap, we experience a natural torpor. Homeostasis is related to clusters of neurotransmitter substances such as adenosine, the effect of which can be blocked by others such as caffeine. "
There have been no quarantines like this. We have never been isolated and at the same time so connected to each other by technology
And the circadian factor? “It is the one that causes that, although we have slept a lot on a Saturday night and wake up refreshed and clear, we feel sleepy in the middle of the day. This is because the body releases serotonin at noon, whether we have eaten or not. If you have eaten food, drowsiness can be made more intense due to the absorption of substances such as some amino acids or fats. The other moment when our body releases and blocks hormones to provoke torpor is at nine at night. When we start to distort this clock, going to bed too late or not doing much physical activity, it starts to lag. ”
Another key hormone that influences sleep sensation is cortisol. Known as "the stress hormone", it is released between 8 and 11 in the morning and begins to decrease until it reaches its minimum around 8 or 9 at night. That is why "if we get up late we are already sending signals to our internal clock that do not correspond to its schedule", which produces its distortion. If we also do not move much throughout the day, the effect of this hormone is diluted, which will end up causing its effect to expand over time, causing the sensation of sleep is delayed or not so intense towards the end of the day. Hence in exceptional situations such as confinement We acquire the owl chronotype more easily and insomnia among the growing population. Of course, in this quarantine period the stimuli that our brain receives from abroad also influence, especially from stressful news that, together with the absence of social contact, cause some difficulty to disconnect at the end of the day, making it more difficult for our body and mind are predisposed to rest.
A quarantine of insomniacs
"We have no precedent in our past generations of quarantine like this," says the expert. "Never in history have we been confined and simultaneously connected to each other by technology." One of the examples that Puertas sets to appreciate this exceptional situation is that, in other times like the plague in Europe, individuals tended to get together to disconnect from the harsh reality posed by the disease. Without going any further, we can see it in the ca Deccameron ’in Bocaccio where the stories that are narrated are made to entertain. On the other hand, in this pandemic, the information about the virus presented to us by television or social networks never ceases, further aggravating the feeling of stress or drama that characterizes these historical periods. And with it, putting more obstacles to the arrival of Morpheus at the end of the day.
Imagine that the waking period is like a mechanism by which the flow of a river reaches a dam
Hence the importance of adapting to a routine so as not to see our ability to rest diminished. "Studies have been carried out on confinements in enclosed monasteries and submarines forto ratify the importance of keeping tasks in the strictest way possible in order to maintain physical and mental health in those kinds of situations, ”says Puertas. But beyond the routine or striving to maintain a series of activities that are practiced regularly throughout the day, in this quarantine many have warned a permanent feeling of drowsiness for most of the day. Basically, many people have felt that they were never asleep or awake enough.
Puertas has a very good example to explain this phenomenon. “Imagine that the waking period is like a mechanism by which the flow of a river reaches a dam. As the day passes, the flow in this dam increases, until it reaches a pressure point sufficient to open and release a large amount of water. So if there is a significant water leak at a certain point of the day, at the end of the day the amount released will be very small, "he explains. This would happen if we opted for a nap after lunch or in the afternoon. furtherBeing confined, our physical activity is nil, therefore we cannot contrast this rest with a release of serotonin that is appropriate, preventing us from falling asleep easily at night. "If we've been lazing around or doing some passive activity with little stimulation, as well as nodding when we are bored, the dam is leaking, so when going to sleep the water pressure in the dam is very low and sleep is very shallow, ”says Puertas.
Another of the peculiarities of the dream world that we have developed throughout this quarantine has been the frequency of nightmares or dreams that, without being too negatively charged, produce a feeling of strangeness like never before, judging by the bizarre images that appear. This is obviously due to the emotional pressure we have felt when facing a situation as exceptional as a medieval quarantine in the 21st century, with a new and unknown background disease and the fear of infecting ourselves or infecting people around us. This dream trend has become widespread throughout the world and has become visible with the creation of websites and blogs that collect descriptions of these strange dreams, such as the page 'I Dream of Covid' that we already talked about on one occasion. Be that as it may, we must persevere in maintaining a stable and regular sleep routine, since it is very important for our mental and physical health, as well as for responding to the great personal and collective challenges that this historical situation poses for us.