A few days ago, I posted a picture from Week 2 of our Brain Health Workshop which was all about SLEEP! Based on the comments I received, it seems like many of us really need to learn new ways to sleep BETTER. Yes, sleep BETTER! Turns out, it’s not about sleeping LONGER but sleeping BETTER!
According to our keynote speaker, Kristin Daley (Ph.D. and Diplomate in Behavioral Sleep Medicine), we cannot control our sleep, although, over time, we have developed a belief system that we can. We can, however, control our sleep hygiene to help us reach that deep REM (rapid eye movement) sleep stage. Sleep hygiene means optimizing your pre-bed routine and environment with actions such as sleeping in total darkness, cool temperatures (65 -67 degrees), no screens 1-2 hours prior to sleep, and spending the right amount of time in bed.
So, what does sleep do? Sleep is a biologically busy state that is vital to our health, our survival, and optimal functioning. To support learning and memory, the cerebrospinal fluid floods the brain during deep sleep and cleans out the cobwebs caused by the buildup of amyloid proteins. Specifically, it allows our brain to work well when we wake up to help regulate emotions, attention, and concentration. Sleep is a critical component of overall health as well and most definitely important for our brain’s health.
The big question: How much sleep is needed to be sure to get into that deep REM sleep? 7, 8 or 9 hours? The answer: It could depend on your personal metabolic rate. Wow, what an ‘a-ha moment’ for me! Potentially, could my 6.5 hours of sleep each night actually be the right amount for me?
We learned that sleep duration in mammals generally depends on the size of the animal. Elephants require only 3 hours of sleep while rats, dogs, and cats can spend up to 18 hours in sleep. The NIH states that this is likely due to differences in metabolism. Smaller animals have a higher metabolic rate and higher body and brain temperatures compared to larger animals.
Practicing good sleep hygiene is the only way we can control and impact our sleep. Listen here to Kristin Daley’s podcast with The Ivey’s Jen Olin and you’ll learn tips for successful sleep.
Neuroscientist and award-winning author of the book and movie, Still Alice, Dr. Lisa Genova says in her latest book, Remember: The Science of Memory and Art of Forgetting, "A growing body of evidence suggests that sleep is critical for reducing your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Most neuroscientists believe that Alzheimer’s is caused by an accumulation of amyloid plaques. Normally, amyloid is cleared away and metabolized by glial cells, the janitors of your brain …deep sleep is like a power cleanse for your brain.”