by Michael Cohen, Director
Center for Brain Training
You’re probably aware that a good night’s sleep makes you feel better, but did you know that poor sleep can make your brain and body age faster?
There’s an important link between sleep and health. In short: subpar sleep is a primary factor in premature aging.
What are the benefits of a good night’s sleep? (7-8 hours for most people
- Cell and tissue repair: A lot of work goes on inside your brain and body while you sleep, to ensure they function optimally. Your brain and body need high quality, restorative sleep to repair themselves effectively.
- Cognitive benefits: Good quality sleep enhances cognitive function and results in better concentration, decision-making, and memory retention.
- Enhances immunity: Sleep fortifies our immune response, priming our bodies to maximize their ability to combat illness.
- Boosts energy: Restorative sleep rejuvenates our energy levels, ensuring we’re ready to tackle the day.
The downsides of poor sleep
Sleep deficiencies have been linked to anxiety, ADHD, depression, high blood pressure, strokes, diabetes, and heart conditions.
Poor sleep also contributes to:
- Cognitive decline: Chronic poor sleep over time can initially cause decreased attention, slowed information processing, and reduced emotional stability. Longer-term risks include memory lapses, cognitive decline, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
- Compromised immunity: The immune system’s efficacy diminishes with inadequate sleep. This not only makes us more susceptible to illness but also prolongs recovery periods.
- Skin aging: Our skin’s vitality relies on proteins like collagen and elastin. Poor sleep can weaken these proteins, leading to premature wrinkles and skin sagging.
The role of medications in sleep problems
A significant culprit of disturbed sleep is reliance on medications, both those for sleep and for other mental health conditions, according to Matthew Walker, PhD. (Dr. Walker is professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley and author of Why We Sleep.) He notes that certain medications can interfere with quality restorative sleep, not allowing for natural sleep, potentially damaging health and increasing the risk of life-threatening disease. (Learn more about Dr. Walker’s take on good sleep in this article on Healthrising.org.)
With lifestyle shifts and techniques like neurofeedback training, one can potentially reduce or even eliminate the use of certain problematic medications, resulting in better quality sleep, a better functioning brain, and a healthier body.
Sleep-boosting lifestyle practices that can make a difference
Changing a few of your behaviors can make a big difference. Here are some of the most effective ones:
- Consistent bedtime: Commit to a fixed bedtime and wake-up time (even on weekends). This consistency helps in regulating your body’s internal clock.
- Relaxation routine: Establish a calming pre-sleep routine at least an hour before bedtime, like reading in low light or listening to serene music.
- Minimize screen time: Limit exposure to screens two hours before bedtime. Their blue light mimics daylight, fooling our internal clocks into thinking it’s daytime. If screens are unavoidable, consider blue/green light blocking glasses (not just blue blockers).
- Limit wireless and Bluetooth exposure: Diminish exposure to WiFi, mobile devices, and Bluetooth by turning off modems/routers, your phone (airplane mode is OK) and Bluetooth at night and staying at least six feet away from devices that are turned on. Even better: remove any devices you’re charging overnight to another room.
- Mind your caffeine and alcohol intake. Ideally, caffeine should be avoided eight hours before sleep, and alcohol three hours prior. (Avoiding both is even better).
- Time your eating: Consume carbohydrates earlier in the day and opt for fats/proteins later in the day. Also, refrain from eating two (or more) hours before bedtime.
As you can see, there’s more to getting a good night’s sleep than lying in bed, and more benefits to getting good sleep than you might have imagined. It’s one of the best ways there are to help you stay young and feel young for years to come.
P.S. – If you’ve done “everything” and still need help in improving your sleep, contact the Center for Brain Training. We specialize in helping people deal with long-term chronic sleep problems without medication. Contact us at Info@CenterForBrain.com.
Michael Cohen, QEEG-D, is Director of the Center for Brain Training in Jupiter, Florida and author of Neurofeedback 101: Rewiring the Brain for ADHD, Anxiety, Depression and Beyond (without medication) (Amazon books).