Have you ever thought what your “grey-stuff” does when you’re in a deep slumber?
There’s a lot that goes on when we are asleep….and guess what? It’s really important for good health!
I’m really passionate about empowering you to achieve good health and sleep is the number 1 medicine I recommend. Above what you eat, how you manage your stress and how much you exercise, sleep is top dog.
Numerous functions of the brain are restored by, and depend upon, sleep. We have different stages of sleep – NREM (light and deep) and REM – and they all offer different brain benefits at different times of night.
Memory: sleep has proven itself time and again as a memory aid: both before learning, to prepare for making new memories and after learning, to cement those memories and prevent forgetting.
In my brain-injury rehabilitation clinic, I am always checking in on sleep with my clients, who often are challenged with short term memory. Good sleep patterns (including daytime naps in the recovery phase) are very important for brain recovery.
Creativity: at nighttime your sleeping brain creates a theatre, making connections between vast stores of information. This all happens during REM sleep in our dreaming state. These connections would never occur during wakefulness.
Cellular cleaning: while we are sleeping, metabolic debris is removed by the exceptional support team of our neurons – the glymphatic system. It is important to remove unwanted metabolic products from the areas surrounding hard working neurons, so the brain can work better the next day. This may even link with the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Amyloid protein is a poisonous element associated with AD and is usually cleared out at night. In mouse experiments depriving mice of NREM sleep, there is an immediate increase in amyloid deposits within the brain. Another way of saying this is “wakefulness is low-level brain damage, while sleep is neurological sanitation”.
Quote from Why we sleep by Matthew Walker (a fantastic read!).
Getting too little sleep across the adult lifespan will significantly raise your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. This has been reported in numerous epidemiological studies, and two anecdotal cases include Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Two heads of state who appeared proud and were certainly vocal about sleeping only 4-5 hours a night. They both went on to develop the ruthless disease.
So what can you do to help your brain while you’re sleeping?
- Prioritise sleep! Aim for 7-8 hours per night
- Develop an evening routine to wind down
- Turn off screens 1-2 hours before bed
- Keep your bedroom cool
- Remove any blue-light emitting devices from your bedroom:
- phone, alarm clock/radio, TV