Why the brain needs sleep
Kristen Willeumier, PhD
Scientific Advisory Board, Black Brain Health LLC
Insufficient sleep is a public health issue, with an estimated 50-70 million adults in the US having a sleep related disorder.1 According to the CDC’s Vital Health Survey studying the behaviors of 76,669 adults, nearly 30% report sleeping less than 6 hours per day.2 We often think that our brain should function more efficiently with age, but a study performed in 903 cognitively healthy adults as part of a longitudinal aging study found that sleep problems impact executive function, which may impair our ability to make proper decisions, maintain focus and attention, and to stay organized.3 Insufficient sleep not only impacts the operational capacity of our brain but also increases the risk for other health problems including obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Our sleep needs change when we age. If our goal is optimizing brain health, getting adequate sleep is critical as it plays an essential role in clearing the accumulation of neurotoxic waste as well as beta amyloid plaques and tau tangles, the biological markers associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD).4 This clearance system has been discovered to be inefficient during the daytime; therefore, getting a restful sleep can be considered a lifestyle factor that may help to prevent AD.5 In support of this, recent research published in the journal Neurology reports that poor sleep has been associated with increased buildup of the amyloid proteins in the cerebral spinal fluid of cognitively healthy adults at risk for AD.6 Given that the accumulation of the plaques present in Alzheimer’s disease may begin to manifest in the brain 20 years prior to the onset of symptoms,7 the lifestyle habits that we embrace today can significantly reduce our risk of mild cognitive impairment as we age.
According to the National Institutes of Health, adults require a minimum of 7-8 hours of continuous sleep to maintain mental alertness and to feel well rested.8 When we sleep several important processes occur in the brain including (i) the consolidation of memories from short term storage into long-term storage9 (ii) the clearance of toxic debris from the brain10 (iii) and emotional processing.11 Unfortunately, as people age, sleep often becomes interrupted or altered for a variety of reasons including prostate issues, untreated sleep apnea, pain, psychiatric issues, fluctuations in hormone levels, and side effects of medications, presenting challenges to either initiating sleep or staying asleep. Sleep deprivation can impair activity of the brains protein clearance system leading to accelerated brain aging and increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, therefore, addressing any issues related to sleep is a powerful way to support your brain health.
Tips for getting a restful sleep:
1. Prepare for bed 90 minutes prior to sleep. This means turning off the television, refrain from computer use (as computer screens emit blue light, which stimulates the brain), and dim the lights to support the brain producing melatonin, the hormone which initiates sleep and sets the sleep-wake cycle.
2. Try to refrain from eating 3 hours before you go to bed, so you have time to fully digest your meal prior to sleep. This will help to prevent GERD, or acid reflux, which is commonly associated with sleep issues.
3. Refrain from consuming alcohol before bed as it will lead to a poor quality of sleep. It prevents the body from going into the deeper sleep cycles.
4. Establish a consistent sleep cycle by going to bed at the same time each night and waking up the same time each day.
An additional step you can take to support brain health is by including My Brain Health CoachesTM, Advanced Brain Nutrition as part of your daily regimen. My Brain Health CoachesTM is a new dietary supplement designed to promote healthy brain function and balanced mood when combined with a proper diet and lifestyle. The My Brain Health Coaches formula is comprised of six thoroughly researched ingredients designed to nourish the brain including Longvida® optimized curcumin, fisetin, green tea, vitamin D and the omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, combined together in one convenient soft gel capsule. For more information on diet and lifestyle recommendations to support brain health, I invite you to visit mybrainhealthcoaches.com.