20|12|09 The Science of Relaxation | Lectures by neuroscientist Martin Dresler and psychiatrist Anne Speckens
The Science of Relaxation | Lectures by neuroscientist Martin Dresler and psychiatrist Anne Speckens | Wednesday 9 December 2020 | 20.00 – 21.15 hrs | Online at Radboud Reflects | Radboud Reflects and Donders Institute
Aankondiging - Haast, haast, haast. We hollen onszelf steeds weer voorbij en we moeten steeds weer omgaan met onrust en verandering. Hoe maken we ons de rust eigen in een gehaaste samenleving? Kan mindfulness daarbij helpen? En wat vertellen de cognitieve en neurologische processen die plaatsvinden tijdens onze slaap ons over het belang van rust? Kom luisteren naar neurowetenschapper Martin Dresler en psychiater Anne Speckens en denk mee over de het nut en waarde van rust. Zie de volledige aankondigingstekst onderin.
Announcement - Hurry, hurry, hurry. We keep running ourselves ragged and constantly have to deal with restlessness and change. How can we stay relaxed in a hurried society? Can mindfulness help us? And what can we learn from the cognitive and neurological processes, that take place during our sleep, about the importance of rest? Learn from neuroscientist Martin Dresler and psychiatrist Anne Speckens about the use and value of relaxation. See the full announcement below.
Verslag/review: The Science of Relaxation
On 9 December, two experts gave a lecture on “The Science of Relaxation”: Anne Speckens, a psychiatrist known of her research on mindfulness and mental processes playing a role in the development of depression and anxiety, and Martin Dresler, a neuroscientist known for his work on cognitive processes occurring during sleep and their role in different cognitive functions. During the livestream, they discussed the different aspects of our relation to sleep and relaxation.
The topic of the event, organized by Radboud Reflects and Donders Institute of Radboud University, could not be more relevant these days. When the world is struggling with the results of a global pandemic affecting our everyday lives, it is no surprise that the value of efficient relaxation radically increases. Modernity brought dramatic changes to our habits and lifestyles, that is no question; and these changes are exaggerated by the results of new kinds of regulations determining our everyday activities. From shopping or working, through travelling, to leisure in general, we are in a constant rush due to the cravings we face while trying to live a fulfilling life. On top of this, everything is changing in an ever-accelerating manner, whereas people have less and less time for relaxation.
Sleep – what is it good for?
In the first part of the lecture, Martin Dresler presented parts of his research on sleep. He introduced the strangeness of the controversiality of sleep as an activity practiced virtually by every animal. Looking at it from an evolutionary perspective, considering sleep as something beneficial seems rather paradoxical, as during sleep there is a higher risk of being attacked by a predator, without being able to flee or of self-defense. However, besides our general experience, research showed that sleep has quite a few biological functions that are crucial for our cognitive capacities to work properly. These functions include clearing the brain of its waste products produced during waking-time, regulating energy metabolism or hormonal balance of the brain, developing the immunological memory of our body, or regulating memory consolidation and emotions. Furthermore, dreaming, by simulating threatening situations, can contribute to the development of various coping mechanisms, that can be beneficial not just in a biological manner, but also from a social or psychological perspective too.
Taking all these functions into consideration, Dresler moved on to present the scientific methods for measuring sleep. He emphasized the importance of the quality of our sleeping habits by pointing out that the development of several health impairments, such as Alzheimer’s disease, are related to sleeping disorders. Following this thought, the question arises naturally: how could we improve the quality of our sleep? Dresler discussed different methods that are aimed at the improvement of the different biological functions of sleeping. It was shown that beneficial outcomes could be achieved through the enhancement of sleep; however, there could also be unforeseen risks. Therefore, he ended up on a somewhat ethically charged thought: considering the unpredictability of the risks of trying to optimize sleeping, should we do it?
Mindfulness – a life practice or a practice of life
For the second lecture of the evening, Anna Speckens took the floor to guide us through the vast field of mindfulness research. Having its origins in the Eastern traditional philosophies like Buddhism, the ever-growing interest in Western cultures surrounding the practitioners and scientists engaging in mindfulness is a rather peculiar phenomenon. There is no surprise for this expanding interest, as in Western societies with the fixation on constant economic growth and expansion, complemented with the pressure to be successful and achieve as much as it is possible. People usually are not able to have enough time to process all the information and experiences they are bombarded with. The increased pressure present in our everyday life is one of the main causes of the increasing occurrences of mental disorders as anxiety, depression, stress, distress, or burnout.
Speckens continued with presenting what they are doing to fight the negative effects of our lifestyles, by providing mindfulness training for people that are feeling the urge for change in their life. They teach various techniques, including meditation, to show people how they can be able to learn recognizing their unconscious emotional reactions and behavioral patterns, and by training to build an acceptance without judgement towards these. This is what they call disengagement; by achieving such a state the opportunity to objectively examine the once unconscious patterns, the opportunity arises to intentionally change them. If being successful in practicing and learning mindfulness, the results are better self-care by recognizing the true needs one might have, or by being able to accept unpleasant experiences. Another beneficial result can be a more open-minded attitude towards oneself and others, therefore gaining the ability to be more present in the building of meaningful human relationships.
Mindfulness and sleep – how are they related?
Speckens presented results of research analyzing the connection between practicing mindfulness and the quality of sleep. In general, it can be said that those practicing mindfulness have better sleep, this can mainly be explained by the overall improvement mindfulness has on symptoms like anxiety and depression. She closed her thoughts by quoting the “four noble truths”, also found in Buddhist teachings, underlying mindfulness training. The main message was to accept suffering as part of life, originating from craving; and by learning to free oneself from craving, we can achieve a life where thinking, acting and meditating lead to a complete liberation from suffering.
In the last section, the two lecturers answered some questions from the online audience, presented by Cees Leijenhorst, the host of the event. Most questions considered techniques for sleep enhancement, the role of mindfulness in achieving a fulfilling life, or the undervaluation of sleep in our society. With their preparedness and expertise, the audience were presented by a livid, more personal discussion of the individual aspect of the relationship between sleep and mindfulness.
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Nederlands volgt Engels
Hurry, hurry, hurry. We keep running ourselves ragged and constantly have to deal with restlessness and change. How can we stay relaxed in a hurried society? Can mindfulness help us? And what can we learn from the cognitive and neurological processes, that take place during our sleep, about the importance of rest? Learn from neuroscientist Martin Dresler and psychiatrist Anne Speckens about the use and value of relaxation.
The economic and technological progress of our society has not resulted in having more time for relaxation. On the contrary, our focus on economic growth and the way we use technology has only resulted in busier lives. Relaxation is something we need to take care for ourselves. How do you do this? A session of mindfulness in between can relax you, but will that be enough?
Psychiatrist Anne Speckens explains how relaxation affects our mental well-being. Practicing mindfulness has proven clinical effects, but looking critically at the way we organize our lives, is just as important. Is mindfulness a tool that can help us?
Sleep is our most important moment of daily rest. At the same time, it is still a great mystery. What happens when we sleep? Neuroscientist Martin Dresler explains what scientists know about the biological and neurological processes that take place during our sleep. Understanding sleep provides us with knowledge about the importance of rest. Could this knowledge underline the importance of slowing down our lives?
After their lectures, Anne Speckens and Martin Dresler will participate in a conversation, led by philosopher Cees Leijenhorst.
This program is in English.
About the speakers
Martin Dresler is a neuroscientist and principle investigator at the Donders Institute of Radboud University. In his research on sleep, he makes use of his background in biopsychology, philosophy and mathematics. He researches the cognitive processes that occur during sleep and the use of sleep for our memory and cognitive functioning.
Anne Speckens is director of the Radboudumc Center for Mindfulness and professor of Psychiatry, with a focus on mood and anxiety disorders. She is involved in scientific research on the effectiveness of mindfulness.
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This is a program of Radboud Reflects and the Donders Institute.
Haast, haast, haast. We hollen onszelf steeds weer voorbij en we moeten steeds weer omgaan met onrust en verandering. Hoe maken we ons de rust eigen in een gehaaste samenleving? Kan mindfulness daarbij helpen? En wat vertellen de cognitieve en neurologische processen die plaatsvinden tijdens onze slaap ons over het belang van rust? Luister naar neurowetenschapper Martin Dresler en psychiater Anne Speckens en denk mee over het nut en de waarde van rust.
Economische en technologische vooruitgang heeft er in onze samenleving niet toe geleid dat we meer tijd overhouden voor ontspanning. In tegendeel: onze focus op economische groei en de manier waarop we gebruik maken van techniek, heeft alleen maar geleid tot drukkere levens. Rust is iets waarvoor we zelf moeten zorgdragen. Hoe doe je dat? Een sessie mindfulness tussendoor brengt je even tot rust. Maar is rust afdwingen op die manier toereikend genoeg?
Psychiater Anne Speckens vertelt hoe rust van invloed is op ons mentale welzijn. Het beoefenen van mindfulness heeft bewezen klinische effecten, maar kritisch kijken naar de manier waarop we ons leven inrichten is minstens zo belangrijk. Is mindfulness een goed hulpmiddel om ons op weg te helpen?
Slaap is het belangrijkste rustmoment van onze dag. Tegelijkertijd is het nog steeds een groot mysterie. Want wat gebeurt er als wij slapen? Neurowetenschapper Martin Dresler vertelt wat bekend is over de biologische en neurologische processen die plaatsvinden tijdens onze slaap. Inzicht in slaap geeft ons kennis over het belang van rust. Kan dat het belang van het onthaasten van onze levens verder kracht bij zetten?
Na hun lezingen gaan Anne Speckens en Martin Dresler in gesprek met filosoof Cees Leijenhorst.
De voertaal is Engels.
Over de sprekers
Martin Dresler is neurowetenschapper en hoofdonderzoeker bij het Donders Institute van de Radboud Universiteit. In zijn onderzoek naar slaap maakt hij gebruik van zijn achtergrond in zowel biopsychologie, filosofie als wiskunde. Hij onderzoekt de cognitieve processen die optreden tijdens het slapen en het nut van slaap voor ons geheugen en ons cognitieve functioneren.
Anne Speckens is directeur van het Radboudumc Centrum voor Mindfulness en hoogleraar psychiatrie, met een focus op stemmings- en angststoornissen. Ze is betrokken bij wetenschappelijk onderzoek naar de effectiviteit van mindfulness.