Doctors are well aware of the restorative power of sleep, but research is uncovering more about the “how and why” behind this immeasurably important restoration. A study published in Science has found that during sleep the cleanup system in your brain goes into high gear, flushing out toxic waste products within cells that accumulate during the day. Turns out, this process helps protect you from Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists are calling this nightly self-cleaning action of the brain a compelling reason for the beneficial impact of sleep upon health. Included among the waste products the body eliminates is beta-amyloid protein, the substance that forms the plaque found in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients.
Author Maiken Nedergaard says brain cells reduce in size during sleep, a phenomenon that permits fluid to enter and flush out the brain. The research team also found the brain cleared out the detrimental amyloid protein twice as fast during sleep than during waking hours.
When you don’t get enough sleep, the brain can’t get rid of the toxins as well. This factor explains why sleep deprivation causes mental fog and crankiness along with a greater risk of migraines and seizures. Rats completely deprived of sleep die within weeks, a sobering fact that illustrates the value of getting an optimal amount of rest.
Another Study Suggests a Link Between Inadequate Sleep and Alzheimer’s
On the heels of this discovery, a study published in JAMA Neurology added more evidence to the link between poor sleep and Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health knew that patients with Alzheimer’s spend more time awake and suffer from more fragmented sleep than those without the illness. They also noted that earlier studies show impaired sleep is associated with cognitive decline in older adults. In light of these links, they set out to further explore the issue.
Scientists evaluated data from 70 participants with a mean age of 76, all of whom were free of dementia. The individuals were required to report on their sleep patterns, and their beta-amyloid deposition in the brain was measured using brain imaging. Those who experienced the shorter sleep duration had more beta-amyloid buildup in the brain; therefore, the authors concluded that poor sleep might promote the deposition of the substance.
9 Sleep Tips From a Natural Health Practitioner
It is clear that getting a good night’s sleep is very important for good health, but prescription sleep medications and over-the-counter sleep aids have troubling side effects. For advice on natural means of banishing insomnia, Live in the Now sought out Kathy Gruver, Ph.D., natural health author, speaker and practitioner. She provided the following tips:
- Make sure you do not have caffeine too late in the day. It is a stimulant and even people who have it regularly can start to have a sensitive reaction over time.
- Keeping your sleep cycle consistent is important. Don’t take long naps during the day or sleep in too late on the weekends, as these practices may throw off your cycle.
- Although the B vitamins are necessary for sleep, you don’t want to take them too late in the day because they can cause insomnia.
- Other great supplements for sleep include lavender, valerian root, hops, and chamomile. They can be taken in tinctures, teas or capsules. Lavender is a common aromatherapy botanical used to induce sleep and relaxation.
- You want to make sure your room is in an optimal state for sleep — dark, quiet and uncluttered. Don’t do anything in bed other than sleep and lovemaking. Watching TV, especially upsetting news or violent shows, can stimulate you and cause sleeplessness.
- If you’re having trouble sleeping in the middle of the night, you don’t have to lie there and torture yourself. If it’s been more than 20 minutes, get up and look for a distraction. Watch a calm TV show, read a book, play with your pet or stretch. Don’t do anything stimulating, or you may find yourself up all night.
- If you find that your sleep is caused by stressful repetitive thoughts, you can counter them with affirmations. Say, “I fall asleep quickly and easily, and I wake up feeling refreshed.” This not only programs the body but also cancels out those negative repetitive thoughts you’re having.
- Something else you can do is take a brain dump. If you wake up in the middle of the night with a list of things to do, write them down and plan to do them first thing in the morning. If you’re worried about something that you’re not sure you did, get up and check on it. Lying there and wondering about it is not the way to solve the problem. Make sure the stove is off, or see if you paid that bill. It’s okay to get up to check on things.
Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at http://www.alternativemedicinetruth.com. Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.