“Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
The purpose of sleep
1. During sleep, we recover our neurotransmitters, which are instrumental for our peak function during awake hours.
2. We also secrete growth hormone, which helps us to regrow tissues, regenerate our muscles, and control our blood sugar.
3. Our mind dreams, allowing us to resolve conflicts and create solutions to our life’s problems.
4. Our brain energy switches from the thinking process over to waste removal and cleanup. The newly discovered “glymphatic” system turns on while we sleep (and probably while we meditate), dumping the waste products of cell metabolism into the blood stream. This complex network of microscopic tubes requires so much energy to do its job that it cannot function while we are engaged in thought. But, if you don’t sleep, it doesn’t engage, and junk builds up in your brain! This is why you feel so sluggish and foggy when you don’t sleep. And we are starting to think that conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease may be at least partly explained by failure of this drainage mechanism, or maybe a chronic lack of sleep!
Poor sleep is common
- Patients with stroke and traumatic brain injury often develop sleep apnea, which prevents good oxygen delivery to the brain.
- Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease frequently develop sundowning behavior, which causes agitation and insomnia in the evening.
- Even normal people often experience insomnia or the effects of anxiety that keep them from resting their minds.
- Patients who are in the building mode may overdo it on stimulants, preventing adequate rest at night.
- High functioning professionals, executives, and creative types often demand so much of themselves that they don’t get enough sleep.
Good sleep improves brain function
- Symptoms from stroke and traumatic brain injury often improve when sleep apnea is treated.
- Treatment of memory loss with medications can reduce agitation and improve sleep quality in patients with dementia.
- Normally functioning brains still require adequate sleep in order to maintain normal health and a healthy weight.
- Brain builders do better to get their stimulants earlier in the day, in order to avoid interrupting nighttime rest and recharging.
- Brain augmentation requires the nighttime jolt of growth hormone to recharge and support new connections between neurons.
Common causes of poor sleep
3. Sleep apnea.
6. Traumatic Brain Injury.
7. Parkinson’s Disease.
8. Restless Legs Syndrome.
9. Alzheimer’s Disease.
10. Other forms of dementia.
Effects of sleep deprivation
1. Mood changes (depression, anxiety) and swings.
2. Social problems, interpersonal relationship stress.
3. Work problems, including lack of productivity and errors on the job.
4. Weight gain.
7. Memory loss.
8. Endocrine (hormonal) problems.
9. Loss of creativity.
11. Falling asleep during dangerous activities, such as driving.
Medications that improve sleep
5. Xyrem (for Narcolepsy).
Supplements that improve sleep
2. SAMe (S-Adenosylmethionine)
3. 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan)
Other strategies to help sleep
1. Use the bed for sleeping. Do computer work, homework, and important reading at a table or other chair.
2. Develop a routine or ritual. Get ready for bed at the same time every night. Wash you face, brush you teeth, and prepare for the night the same way every day.
3. Keep a pen and paper next to your bed and write down any anxieties that are keeping you awake. Then allow your mind to forget them for the time being.
4. Avoid blue lights prior to going to bed. TV, computers, and digital readers stimulate your waking centers. Filter glasses can be purchased to give a red hue, which induces sleep.
5. Download a “cerebral entrainment” application to your smart phone. Example: Sleep Machine.
6. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine in the evening. They can stimulate you and keep you awake.
7. Treat sleep apnea with weight loss, CPAP or surgery, whichever is appropriate for you.
8. Correct any deficiencies in iron or vitamin D.
9. Reduce doses of brain stimulants, or take them earlier in the day.
10. Exercise earlier in the day, avoid workouts in the evening.