We all know sleep is important. In fact, we feel its urgency. When we are tired and don’t sleep, exhaustion sets in and then comes a phase some people call being “past exhaustion,” wherein one has difficulty shutting down into sleep.
Foggy headedness, recall difficulty, muscle motor issues and pain creep in. Over time, poor sleep or insufficient sleep leads to a body that is unable to repair itself adequately and increases the risk for migraines, fibromyalgia, autoimmune issues, obesity and heart disease. But now, new research suggests even more reason why we must get our sleep.
Sleep is the time when the body repairs interior and cellular damage and replenishes the most necessary hormones while metabolizing the harmful stress hormones. Now we know, thanks to research led by Maiken Nedargarrd, M.D., and his group at University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), that during sleep hours, the brain is basically detoxing and protecting us from the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
By imaging lab animals’ brains with a new imaging technology known as two-photon microscopy, the URMC researchers discovered how the brain basically mops up waste products and removes them during sleep. This demonstrates how the brain actually functions differently at night and during the day.
The brain’s glymphatic system, says Nedergaard, is akin to a waste-draining system that works at a rate 10 times more active during sleep than waking hours. During sleep, this system cleanses and removes from the brain amyloid-beta waste proteins. The system works because during sleep, cerebrospinal fluid actually flows in the gaps between neurons, thereby allowing waste proteins to be flushed into the circulatory system and out of the body.
If left “un-detoxed,” these proteins become the plaques that contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Nedergaard states that sleep is vital for this “active clearance of the by-products of neural activity.” In other words, people with insomnia, sleep apnea and dream-disturbed sleep do not get as much of a brain detoxing effect as those who sleep soundly for the evening.
Insomnia happens for different reasons, from having a racing mind, to too much energy.
If you suffer insomnia, here are tips to help you get to sleep:
1. Do not consume caffeine after 4 p.m. (Maybe you can still have some up to about 6 p.m. if you really need it.)
2. Do not generally consume sugar or sports drinks after 4 p.m. (At 6 p.m. in a pinch.)
3. Do not exercise late at night, or your body will energize and may be difficult to shut off for sleep.
4. Drink plenty of water to clear toxins and waste products
5. Treat your bedroom as a sleep sanctuary — cozy blankets and a quiet, dark atmosphere.
6. Do not watch TV or read in bed or right before bedtime. These can pull you from sleep mode and cause your brain and thoughts to become overactive.
7. If you remember something to do, don’t fuss over it. Write it down and forget it until morning.
8. Try autohypnosis, progressive relaxation and/or mindful meditation to help relax and quiet the mind.
9. Try supplementation, like melatonin, to help your body relax into sleep.
Sleep Apnea Tips
Many also experience sleep apnea, which not only prevents deep, continuous sleep, but also obstructs or delays full breaths of air. This lack of oxygen intake affects the lungs, blood and brain. In fact, it affects every cell.
Ways to combat apnea:
1. Try different devices like mouth guards and chin straps, available in abundance online.
2. Get a sleep study performed on yourself while asleep to learn the seriousness of your apnea. Follow the recommended medical advice.
3. Try side-sleeping postures. These do not allow the throat to close or the tongue to drop back and block the airways.
4. Stop smoking.
5. Lose weight: Apnea is correlated with overweight and obesity.
6. Consume less salt and take a diuretic (water pill). According to a Brazilian research group working at the Hospital de Clinicas de Porto Alegre. Their study suggests that too much salt causes the body to retain fluid that interferes with breathing when you lie down.
Sleep is vital to health, well-being and the long-term wellness of your brain and mind. If you are a workaholic or an insomniac or if you suffer sleep apnea, it is essential that you find ways to alter your schedule, change your habits and do what you need to do in order to go to sleep roughly at the same time every evening and to sleep soundly and for at least seven hours. We now know that depriving yourself of sleep because of habit, work or laziness to make personal changes can lead to elevated risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. It can also increase your risk for a host of known health issues like obesity.