Why Your Dreams Are the Key to True Vitality

Sleep is essential for our overall well-being. Neurobiologist Pilar Durán Hernández reveals how sleep impacts our physical and mental health, from fighting chronic disease to boosting cognitive function.

Why Your Dreams Are the Key to True Vitality
Embrace the power of a good night's sleep for a healthier, happier you.

Sleep is an index of functional integrity and although it is an essential part of life, we do not take care of it; It is necessary to consider that, if it is fine, I will also be fine, says Pilar Durán Hernández, neurobiologist at the Faculty of Sciences (FC) of the UNAM.

Quality is one of the pillars of health, along with a balanced diet and regular physical activity. People who sleep uninterrupted have lower rates of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and other chronic diseases. “It is about the sleep-health binomial and what happens to sleep affects our body,” she emphasizes.

According to the World Health Organization, 40 percent of the global population, on average, sleeps poorly and suffers from some type of disorder such as apneas, restless legs syndrome or sleepwalking; However, less than 20 percent of those who suffer from them are diagnosed and treated correctly.

The university researcher specifies in this regard that the medical help they require must be provided by multidisciplinary groups made up of psychologists, psychiatrists, neurologists, among others, who contribute to improving the quality of life of patients who suffer from pathologies in the matter.

On the occasion of World Sleep Day, which is commemorated on March 15, the specialist points out that this stage of the sleep-wake cycle presents a decrease in awareness with the external environment, a phase of functional integrity, but also a moment of our mental state in which we have too much subcortical activity. “It seems that our cerebral cortex is calm; However, it has a strong dynamism.”

This period of rest plays a fundamental role in good health and well-being throughout life. In addition to being a great pleasure, doing it between seven and eight hours a day, depending on age requirements, has positive effects on our body: during this physiological process the brain remains active and hormonal, metabolic, thermal, cerebral and physical changes are generated. biochemicals, in addition to biological functions that prolong existence.

Pilar Durán points out that newborns – even in the womb, in the last third of gestation – do so for practically 50 percent of the time, and half of that period represents restorative sleep (deep sleep), which helps to mature your nervous system. We perform the other 50 percent in so-called REM sleep or daydreams, involved in the connectivity of neural circuits.

As human beings mature, this need decreases. For example, adolescents require between seven and nine hours, “they must also have the peak of a nap, due to the hormonal changes they experience at that stage of life and the need to replenish proteins and other metabolites.”

In adulthood, it is reduced, but it must be effective, “we dream much less, but our restorative sleep, the deepest phase, has to be effective to synthesize everything that we lost during the previous wakefulness and allow us to regulate what is coming.” the next day”.

Meanwhile, older people register in the ontogeny of sleep a fragmentation of temporal distribution, but not homeostatic, that is, they sleep between five and seven hours in a fragmented manner: some hours during the day, others in the afternoon, and a more during the night. If we count them, they actually covered their needs, although not in a continuous manner.

Nowadays, due to the accelerated pace of life, especially in big cities, we sleep less, and it prevents us from having a restful rest. It is evident in students since, for example, traveling four hours a day on public transportation takes away quality time, life, and rest.

Sleep disorders are characterized by an unsatisfactory quality of sleep, persisting for a considerable period of time, affecting health by decreasing the immune system, as well as cognitive processes such as attention, learning, and memory. However, they are preventable.

Meanwhile, disorders are those that upset us due to external issues such as sleepwalking, sleep apnea, somniloquy or talking while we sleep. “They normally occur in infants and disappear as the nervous system matures, although we could experience an event in adulthood or old age, but they will not put our quality of life or health at risk.”

On the other hand, it states that the loss of sleep due to the use of devices damages our health and also the circadian sleep-wake cycle — sleeping at night and being awake during the day — but if this is altered, the intake of foods and, with it, the presence of metabolic syndrome, which in the future could cause the development of diseases, such as type 2 diabetes.

By remaining exposed for prolonged periods, the secretion of melatonin (hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle) decreases and the levels of cortisol (stress hormone) increase, which is why we wake up tired and even normalize this behavior, which It is not right.


For a restful sleep it is necessary for our bedroom to have a completely dark, quiet, and cool environment; Set sleep and wake-up times at the same time every day, including weekends, holidays, and vacations.

For infants, it is suggested that three hours before going to bed they turn off television, computers, tablets and mobile phones; perform some physical relaxation activity; bathe with water at medium temperature, drink a small glass of warm milk, which contains tryptophan (amino acid), a precursor of serotonin and melatonin.

Adults should do the same half an hour before, they can also read a book, listen to relaxing music and have a light dinner, avoid consuming central nervous system stimulants such as caffeine, wine or alkaloids, and also not smoke. To date, no medication has been found to control sleep; it is a physiological function.