Sleep and the Brain

Sleep and the BrainSleep and the brain are interwoven and sleep is vital to a healthy brain. People spend about 36% of their lives asleep.  If you live to 90 years old that is 32 years of sleep.  But why do we need sleep and what does it do for us.  Research is finally catching up to the common sense need for sleep.  At the Harmonized Brain Centers sleep is one of our top ten ways to improve brain health and function.  Restoration of the brain and brain function are the two key functions that occur during sleep.  Research has proved that with a lack of sleep poor memory occurs, there is an increase in impulsiveness, poor judgement occurs and it has also been linked to many mental health diseases like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and others.

Jeff Iliff and his team have done some fascinating research on what happens in the brain when we sleep.  They found that the brain cleanses itself when we sleep by allowing the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) to flow though the brain when we sleep.  This is important because this is how our brain cleanses itself of all its waste products during the night by allowing the waste products to be absorbed into the blood vessels in the brain.  This is the only body organ that cleanses itself in this fashion as all our other vital organs use our Lymphatic System to cleanse our organs.  This Clean your brainprocess only occurs when we sleep.  Just imagine if you never cleaned your kitchen at home for a month;  You never washed a dish, took out the trash, cleaned the sink, or swept the floor.  Needless to say it would be a disgusting mess and not too many people would want to live in and or around such a kitchen.  Our brains are no different.  Proper sleep allows our brains to cleanse themselves of waste byproducts and restore it to normal function.

So our advice at the Harmonized Brain Center is to get a good 8 hrs of sleep a night.

For more information on this subject of sleep, check out the TED talk by Jeff Iliff – One more Reason to get a Good Nights Sleep


Establish a good Sleep Pattern

Limit or avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine and alcohol too close to bedtime. For some this might be around noon time but others can be a little later.  Also alcohol is known to speed sleep on the onset but it disrupts the proper sleep cycle as the body begins to metabolize the alcohol causing the body to arousal.

Exercise can help promote good sleep.  Vigorous exercise in the morning or late afternoon is good to do but a more relaxing type of exercise like Yoga, stretching or meditation is best later in the evening letting your body get ready for proper sleep.

Food can disrupt your sleep pattern especially if you eat a heavy meal late at night.  Studies have shown eating around five or six is the best so your body has time to digest the food before you try to sleep.

Adequate exposure to natural light allows your body to adjust to a natural sleep cycle. This is particularly important for older people who may not venture outside as frequently as children and adults. Light exposure helps maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.

Establish a regular cycle to sleep.  Try to avoid stressful conversations, movies or activities right before you sleep.  Do not dwell on the days activities right before you go to bed.

Associate your bed with Sleep.  Try not to watch TV, read or listen to the radio to go to sleep.  Condition your sleep cycle to maintain a good sleep pattern.