Giulia Enders explains that hardly anyone seems to care about the gut. People are figuring out tricks to make ourselves healthier, but nobody looks up the organ that’s in charge of it all. Actually, science disliked the gut for a long time. The gut is so complex. There’s about 40 times the surface area of our skin, and there are so many immune cells there. We have 100 trillion bacteria doing all sorts of things, and then there’s about 20 different hormones. The nervous system of our gut is so complex that when we cut out a piece, it’s independent enough that when we poke it, it mumbles.How does it work? Why does it have to look so weird for that sometimes? We don’t only have the outer sphincter, we also have an inner sphincter muscle. We can control the outer sphincter. The inner one, we really don’t have control over. When there are leftovers from digestion, they are being delivered to the inner one first. This inner one will open in a reflex and let through a little bit for testing. There are sensory cells that will analyze what has been delivered: Is it gaseous or is it solid? Then they send this information up to our brain, and this is the moment when our brain knows when we need to go to the bathroom. It will mediate with our surroundings, and it will Since our outer sphincter and the brain is connected with nervous cells, they coordinate, cooperate, and they put it back. For other times, when you’re at home with nothing better to do, we are free to go. She also talks about how humans are one of the very few animals that do this in such an advanced and clean way. Looking closely at one the weirdest things, like the rumbling noises that are made. These are not always made because we’re hungry. It is because our small intestine is taking time in between digestions to clean up, resulting in the gut being very clean and nearly odorless. It creates a strong muscular wave that moves everything forward that’s been leftover after digestion. This can sometimes create a sound, but doesn’t always. The weird, crooked shape of our stomach is not completely random. It makes us able to put pressure on our belly without vomiting, like when we’re laughing and doing sports, because the pressure will go up and not so much sideways. This also creates an air bubble that can sometimes, when it gets too big, create discomfort or sensations of pain.Enders goes on to say that the gut also has to do with thoughts of suicide. We tend to think our brain makes commands and sends them down to the other organs, and they all have to do what they’re told. However, 10 percent of the nerves that connect brain and gut, deliver information from the brain to the gut. In stressful situations, when there are transmitters from the brain that are being sensed by our gut, the gut will try to lower all the work, and not be working and taking away blood and energy to save energy for problem-solving. This can go as far as nervous vomiting or nervous diarrhea to get rid of food that it doesn’t want to digest at the time. 90 percent of the nervous fibers that connect gut and brain deliver information from our gut to our brain. Our brain is very isolated. It needs information to know how the whole body is doing. The gut is actually possibly the most important helper for the brain because it’s our largest sensory organ, collecting information not only on the quality of our nutrients, but also on how are our immune cells doing. It can send this information up to the brain. It makes sense that people who have conditions like irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease have a higher risk of having anxiety or depression, possibly leading to suicide.Just knowing this can help you. For example, when you wake up too early, or earlier than usual. Just stop and think. What did you eat yesterday? Did you stress yourself out too much? Did you eat too late? Then you can fix it by avoiding certain foods, relaxing, or whatever you need to do.The research we have today is correcting the definition cleanliness. So it states that when you have too little microbes in your environment because you clean all the time, that’s not really a good thing, because people get more allergies or autoimmune diseases. Real cleanliness is not killing off all of the bacteria right away. 95 percent of all bacteria on this planet actually don’t harm us. Many actually help us. You can’t avoid the bad all the time. It’s not possible; there’s always going to be something bad around. But you can have enough good bacteria, and then some bad. Our immune system needs the bad, so it knows what it’s looking out for. Knowing that this is about fostering the good just as much as trying to shelter yourself from the bad makes you more aware of what you need to change and what you should be doing.The brain benefits of deep sleep and how to get more of itAs a sleep scientist, Dan Gartenberg has been on this topic for 10 years. While the lightbulb and technology have brought about a world of 24-hour work and productivity, it has come at the cost of our naturally occurring circadian rhythm and our body’s need for sleep. The circadian rhythm dictates our energy level throughout the day, and only recently they’ve been conducting a global experiment on this rhythm, which is putting our sleep health and ultimately our life quality in jeopardy. Because of this, we aren’t getting the sleep we need. In fact, the average American sleeps a whole hour less than they did in the 1940s.Some people brag oh the fact that they only got so few hours of sleep and they’re running perfectly fine. This all adds up to a real health crisis. Most people that poor sleep is linked to diseases like Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes. What most people don’t know about is sleep’s impact on your mental states? Poor sleep makes us make risky, rash decisions and is a drain on our capacity for empathy. When sleep deprivation makes us more sensitive to our own pain, it’s not so surprising that we have a hard time relating to others and just generally being a good and healthy person when we’re sleep-deprived.Scientists like Dan are starting to understand how not only the quantity but also the quality of sleep impacts our health and well-being. Dan’s research focuses on what many scientists believe is the most regenerative stage of sleep: deep sleep. We now know that generally speaking, there are three stages of sleep: light sleep, rapid eye movement or REM and deep sleep. We measure these stages by connecting electrodes to the scalp, chin and chest. In light sleep and REM, our brain waves are very similar to our brain waves in waking life. However, our brain in deep sleep has these long-burst brain waves that are very different from our waking life brain waves. These long-burst brain waves are called delta waves. When we don’t get the deep sleep we need, it inhibits our ability to learn and for our cells and bodies to recover. Deep sleep is how we convert all those interactions that we make during the day into our long-term memory and personalities. As we get older, we’re more likely to lose these regenerative delta waves. So in a way, deep sleep and delta waves are actually a marker for biological youth.So naturally, we all want to get more deep sleep for ourselves and try almost every device and hack out there. Dr. Dmitry Gerashchenko from Harvard Medical School has found that if you could play certain sounds at the right time in people’s sleep, you could actually make sleep deeper and more efficient. This lab showed that you actually could improve next-day memory performance with this sound. Dmitry and Dan teamed up, and we began working on a way to build this technology. With our research lab collaborators at Penn State, we designed experiments in order to validate our system. And we’ve since received grant funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Health to develop this deep-sleep stimulating technology. Here’s how it works. People came into the lab and we hooked them up to a number of devices. When they detected that people were in deep sleep, they played the deep-sleep stimulating sounds that were shown to make them have deeper sleep. So that sound is actually at the same burst frequency as your brain waves when your brain is in deep sleep. That sound pattern actually primes your mind to have more of these regenerative delta waves. When we asked participants the next day about the sounds, they were completely unaware that we played the sounds, yet their brains responded with more of these delta waves.They also learned that they could accurately track sleep without hooking people up to electrodes and make people sleep deeper. Our sleep isn’t as regenerative as it could be right now, but maybe one day soon, we could wear a small device like a ring or watch and get more out of our sleep.