Sleep, Longevity and Brain Health: Those 40 Winks Are More Important Than You Think

Sleep is vital for health, including mental health. In the below presentation, Jeff explains a recently discovered function of sleep that may change the way we previously thought of it.

Jeff Iliff - TEDx - One more reason to get a good night’s sleep

Sleep Cleans Out Your Brain
As described in the above video, sleeping cleans your brain[1]Sleep Facilitates Clearance of Metabolites from the Brain: Glymphatic Function in Aging and Neurodegenerative Diseases!

Your brain is the only organ that does not have lymphatic glands, which remove waste products such as pollutants, free radicals or foreign bacteria. Science has instead found that cerebral spinal fluid enters the brain when you sleep, collecting the by-products before draining out and down the spine to join the rest in being excreted.

This is one of the most important reasons why we absolutely need sleep. It helps us to detox our brains.

Sleep deprivation is linked to a build-up of neurotoxins which results in neurodegeneration, as is commonly observed in neurodegenerative disorders.

5 More Reasons Sleep Is Fabulous For Your Brain
Aside from acting like the brain’s personal nightshift janitor, sleep yields many other fantastic benefits that can boost brain power and more!
1) Sleep Aids Cognition, Learning & Memory
Sleep boosts cognitive function, as well as our ability to retain knowledge and recall memories. It literally ‘clears your mind!’

The effects of the cognitive-boosting functions of sleep have been well-documented[2]Sleep and cognition. The data shows that sleep aids in boosting our memory recall as well as integrating the knowledge we learnt throughout the day.

There are many mechanisms by which sleep acts to do this.

The body releases many antioxidant substances at night, such as melatonin. It also removes the impurities, preventing toxicity and free radical activity. The body also spends less energy on maintaining all it’s cognitive waking functions and thus can spend that energy on consolidating neurons and their growth.

All of these factors and possibly more that have yet to be disocvered are involved in enhancing cognition, learning and brain power.

2) Increases Longevity
It is starting to come to the attention of the scientific community that sleep may be one of the biggest factors that controls how long we live. Given that it is estimated that we spend over 30% of our lives sleeping, this makes sense!

In sleep disorders, it has been noted that a certain protein, Sirtuin 1, (associated with neuronal longevity) was depleted. This is related to the neurodegeneration often linked with sleep disorders, preventing neurons from living very long.

In further animal studies, it was shown that melatonin protected Sirtuin 1[3]Melatonin preserves longevity protein (sirtuin 1) expression in the hippocampus of total sleep‐deprived rats and prevented the neurons from dying off in the Hippocampus as a result of sleep deprivation.

Melatonin is the neurotransmitter we use when we sleep, but it also acts as a master antioxidant and anti-inflammatory in the brain and gut.

3) Reduces Neuroinflammation
As mentioned, melatonin acts as a master antioxidant, having a potent effect on our immune system. It also reduces inflammation in the brain.

Furthermore, the brain removes all its waste products when one goes to sleep. If these were left in the brain as in the case of sleep deprivation, we would experience much higher levels of neuroinflammation.

Neuroinflammation in the brain convsersely keeps one awake and makes it harder to fall asleep!

4) Protects Against Neurodegeneration
There are many ways in which sleep protects against neurodegeneration.

Reducing inflammation, removing impurities, promoting the growth of new neurons and improving our immune function are just a few.

It is also true of the reverse – sleep disorders or disturbances are now agreed to be a part of neurodegenerative disorders too[4]Sleep in Neurodegenerative Diseases.

There are many few studies which prove that those who manage to sleep properly with neurodegenerative diseases experience a slower rate of cognitive dysfunction.

5) Improves Neurogenesis & Neuroplasticity
Studies on the way sleep aids in knowledge retention as well as mood and memory have uncovered that sleep enhances neurogenesis and neuroplasticity[5]The Role of Sleep in Cognition and Emotion.

So not only does sleep help us to considate the new information and neuronal changes we made during the day, but it increases the growth and adaptability of the neurons too!

Conversely, sleep deprivation has been shown to suppress both of these in the Hippocampus[6]Sleep Restriction Suppresses Neurogenesis Induced by Hippocampus-Dependent Learning.

How To Optimize The Quality Of Your Sleep
If your sleep cycle is out of balance, it can be difficult to correct and may take anywhere between 3 and 7 days. Sometimes when one sleeps, one does not get deep enough sleep which detracts from some of the benefits sleep yields.

For these reasons, we have set out a few tips to help improve the quality and quantity of your sleep.

1) Supplements That Boost Sleep
The below three supplements are all-natural and will help you to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm.

Ecklonia Cava is a species of brown algae, which happens to be an exceedingly rich source of antioxidant nutrients. Research shows that Ecklonia Cava Extract begins to correct the circadium rhythm and improve sleep.

Vitamin D3 has been clinically proven to help people with sleeping disorders and is quickly being considered as the number one nutritional deficit on a global scale.

This powerful Vitamin is required for our immune system, to reduce inflammation, to maintain optimal bone health and to ensure optimal brain, heart and lung function. If you have a respiratory problem or allergies, this can also aid you to breathe better and reduce the effects of allergy.

Melatonin is another great supplement to get, but one usually requires a prescription for it. Consult your health practitioner for more details.

2) Drinking Herbal Teas
Herbal teas are fantastic ways to help keep us calm, reduce inflammation and even help us to feel drowsy.

Green Tea has a rich antioxidant content and has been scientifically shown to lower blood pressure, improve quality of sleep and helps to lower risks associated with neurodegenerative diseases.

Chamomile Flowers soothe the nerves, relax the gut, and aid many in feeling drowsy before going to sleep.

3) Frequent Exercise
Both sleep and exercise influence one another, as sleep is required for integrating physical movements and exercise is known to promote a deeper quality of sleep[7]Sleep and exercise: A reciprocal issue?.

As an added bonus, exercise will improve your mood, mental alertness and brain smarts!

However, less frequent, more intensive exercises when one is not used to so much exertion can do the opposite and keep you awake.

It’s important to do moderate exercise as frequently as possible to reap the sleep-boosting benefits of exercise.

4) Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness Meditation is one of the most useful techniques for encouraging deeper sleep.

It can help you to still your mind while simultaneously preventing you from feeling anxious – two big factors that keep many people awake at night!

If you’re new to this concept, you ought to really give it a try. Here are some great resources to get you started.

Enhance your focus, reduce stress, and get a grip on how you perceive the world through learning how to meditate!

For more information on mindfulness meditation and where to begin, here are some great books for beginners.

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