SLEEP FOR BET­TER BRAIN HEALTH

Sleep is es­sen­tial for sev­eral rea­sons & we can­not sur­vive with­out it.

Great Health Guide - - CONTENTS - Dr Jenny Brockis

Sleep. It’s such a para­dox. For the sleep­less, the de­sire for a full night’s un­en­cum­bered sleep can be as elu­sive as the world’s largest Queen Alexan­dra’s bird­wing but­ter­fly, from Pa­pua New Guinea, which has a wing­span of 30cm. For those with too much on their minds and an end­less to-do list, sleep is seen as a nui­sance, some­thing tak­ing up men­tal band­width, time that could be di­verted to the more use­ful ac­com­plish­ment of com­plet­ing that big as­sign­ment or pro­ject. The truth is we all need sleep for bet­ter brain health, whether a gi­raffe re­ly­ing on 2 hours of gi­raffe naps, a cat sleep­ing for 15 hours or a hu­man, evolved to func­tion at our best on 7-9 hours good qual­ity, un­in­ter­rupted sleep. Sleep is our un­spo­ken power, restor­ing en­ergy, cog­ni­tive prow­ess and emo­tional sta­bil­ity. With­out sleep there would be no dreams, no re­mem­ber­ing or for­get­ting, no fresh­en­ing up with a deep clean to get rid of all that amy­loid build up and other un­wanted meta­bolic waste. Dur­ing sleep we go through a num­ber of sleep cy­cles each last­ing about 90 min­utes, start­ing with light sleep, then deep sleep fol­lowed by REM be­fore light­en­ing up again. Deep sleep is restora­tive and REM is im­por­tant for con­sol­i­dat­ing longterm mem­o­ries. That’s why frag­mented sleep feels less re­fresh­ing than a short un­in­ter­rupted sleep. The ad­vent of tech­nol­ogy, Net­flix and chang­ing work habits has led to

Up to one third of the pop­u­la­tion is sleep de­prived & we’re pay­ing a mas­sive & cog­ni­tive cost.

vol­un­tary sleep re­stric­tion or bed­time pro­cras­ti­na­tion – we go to bed late and get up early, chas­ing time. Shift work, flexi-time and time poverty com­pound the prob­lem. It’s es­ti­mated that up to one third of the pop­u­la­tion is sleep de­prived and we’re pay­ing a mas­sive cog­ni­tive cost.

With over 100 recog­nised sleep dis­or­ders to choose from, it’s a mar­vel any of us sleep well. Typ­i­cally sleep prob­lems fall into three cat­e­gories:

• an in­abil­ity to fall asleep

• dif­fi­culty main­tain­ing sleep

• wak­ing too early, this some­times is a warn­ing sign of too much worry or de­pres­sion.

There’s noth­ing more frus­trat­ing than fall­ing ex­hausted into bed and your brain then de­cid­ing it is party time, de­ter­mined to keep you awake think­ing. Which hints at the clue as to why this hap­pens. Our brain, just like our young chil­dren needs to pre­pare it­self for sleep and our mod­ern way of liv­ing, can get in the way.

Work­ing too hard and fo­cus­ing for too long leaves us men­tally and phys­i­cally ex­hausted. We’re not de­signed to op­er­ate this way. Far bet­ter to in­still two or three brain breaks of 10-15 min­utes into our day where we un­cou­ple from that heavy lift­ing think­ing of fo­cus, de­ci­sion mak­ing and prob­lem solv­ing to al­low the mind a quick dip down the near­est rab­bit hole for a lit­tle mind wan­der, to en­joy un­fo­cused or re­flec­tive thought. How­ever, this is not the time for up­dat­ing your so­cial me­dia!

Tech­nol­ogy ex­cites the brain, in­creas­ing the rate of neu­ronal fir­ing even with a yel­low rather than blue back­light. Switch­ing off from all tech­nol­ogy at least 40 min­utes be­fore bed and keep­ing the bed­room for sleep and sex only, helps calm the mind to pre­pare for sleep.

In­creas­ing day­time phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity, reg­u­lar aer­o­bic ex­er­cise and re­lax­ation tech­niques in­clud­ing breath­ing ex­er­cises, lis­ten­ing to mu­sic and med­i­ta­tion have

all been shown to en­hance sleep and pro­vide bet­ter brain health.

Avoid the sleep poi­sons of al­co­hol, caf­feine and smok­ing. Two glasses of wine in the even­ing is enough to halve the amount of time spent in REM sleep re­quired for con­sol­i­dat­ing mem­ory. Caf­feine com­petes with a nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring com­pound called adeno­sine pro­duced in in­creas­ing amounts across the day that pre­pares us for sleep by slow­ing down the rate of neu­ronal fir­ing. With a half-life of 6 hours, that late cup of af­ter­noon cof­fee is enough to in­ter­fere with nor­mal sleep pat­terns un­less you are one of the for­tu­nate few who can metabolise caf­feine at a faster rate.

Naps dis­parag­ingly pre­vi­ously called nanna naps have been re­branded as Power Naps. The 15-20-minute snooze has been re­vealed as the best way for every­one young and old to re­vive an over­tired brain, boost­ing creativ­ity, at­ten­tion and alert­ness for sev­eral hours. Best of all you don’t even need to fall fully asleep, rest­ing with your eyes closed works just as well. But do time your nap be­fore 3 pm, to avoid dis­turb­ing your noc­tur­nal slum­ber.

Poor sleep pat­terns can quickly be­come en­trenched. So, if you’re not sleep­ing like a baby and day­time fa­tigue is get­ting you down, it’s time to chat to your med­i­cal prac­ti­tioner. Many types of sleep prob­lems can read­ily be re­solved by adopt­ing good sleep hy­giene habits and im­ple­ment­ing some life­style mod­i­fi­ca­tions and your brain will thank you for that. So, sleep for bet­ter brain health is vi­tal.

Dr Jenny Brockis is a Med­i­cal Prac­ti­tioner and spe­cialises in the science of high per­for­mance think­ing. Jenny’s ap­proach to over­com­ing life’s chal­lenges is based on prac­ti­cal neu­ro­science which en­ables peo­ple to un­der­stand their thoughts and ac­tions lead­ing to ef­fec­tive be­havioural change. Jenny is the au­thor of ‘Fu­ture Brain - the 12 Keys to Cre­ate Your High-Per­for­mance Brain’ and may be con­tacted via her web­site.

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