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A new study that shows that people in Finland are now sleeping one hour less on average than they did in the 1970s. Finnish researchers find this worrying. Professor of clinical neurophysiology at Kuopio University Esa Mervaala says the number of patients with sleep problems in Finland is growing exponentially.

“It’s connected to our contemporary hectic lives,” he tells the country’s largest circulation daily Helsingin Sanomat. “It disturbs our sleeping rhythms. This creates all kinds of symptoms and ailments during the day.”

In order to wake up refreshed, research has shown that 20 percent of our nightly sleep cycle should be periods of REM (rapid eye movement). REM deprivation causes mild psychological disturbances, such as anxiety, irritability, hallucinations, and difficulty concentrating.

New research shows that the brain actually clears itself out during these REM periods, as spinal cord fluid circulation improves and cleanses metabolites such as amyloids (the build-up of which is linked to Alzheimer’s disease) from the brain’s cell membrane.

“New imaging methods have proven that accumulation disappears after a good night’s sleep, when the brain is cleaned up and refreshed. We wake up ready to process new data. This is why sleep is so important,” Mervaala says.