Do you prioritize your sleep? Research shows you should. We now know that quality sleep is essential for brain health. In fact, studies show a link between poor quality sleep and greater cognitive impairment. Inadequate sleep is linked to harmful plaques and beta-amyloid proteins in the brain, both of which are markers for Alzheimer's disease. As much as 45% of Americans say poor sleep affects daily activities weekly.
1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep
What happens during sleep?
During sleep, your brain gets a power cleanse. Researchers found the space surrounding brain cells may actually increase during sleep, allowing the brain to flush out toxins (beta amyloid proteins) that build up during waking hours.
Things that interfere with sleep
It’s important to rule out any outside causes that could be interfering with your sleep cycle. Examples of these include:
Sleep apnea affects up to 60% of older adults.
Medical Illness or Condition
Normal physiological changes of the aging brain (As we age, we tend to wake earlier and may have trouble falling back to sleep.)
ABOVE: Leeza's Care Connection Program Director, Kena Dill, offers sleep tips for brain health.
If you have a hard time falling asleep, wake up often in the night, or feel exhausted and doze off in the daytime, these tips may help get your sleep cycle on track. Remember, it is not as much about the quantity as it is quality sleep.
STICK TO A SCHEDULE. Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends! Sleep is a systematic process that our bodies regulate automatically. Keeping a regular sleep-wake schedule helps you feel more refreshed and energized.
BE SMART ABOUT NAPPING. While napping is a good way to make up for lost sleep, napping can also make things worse. Touch much napping in the day can result in restless nights. Try to limit naps to 15 to 20 minutes in the early afternoon.
FIGHT AFTER-DINNER DROWSINESS. If you get sleepy way before your bedtime, do something mildly stimulating such as washing dishes, calling a friend, or getting clothes ready for the next day. If you give in to the drowsiness, you may wake up later in the night and have trouble getting back to sleep.
45% Americans say poor sleep affects daily activities weekly
HAVE A SLEEP HEALTHY DIET. Eating too close to bedtime can lead to heartburn and digestion issues. You also want to avoid caffeinated soda, tea, coffee, and chocolate after 3 pm, because caffeine can stay in your system for hours. Limit sugary foods and refined carbs. Eating lots of sugar and refined carbs such as white bread, white rice, and pasta during the day can trigger wakefulness at night and pull you out of the deep, restorative stages of sleep.
AVOID ALCOHOL AS A SLEEP REMEDY. While alcohol does promote drowsiness, it also disturbs the sleep cycle, causing you to wake up during sleep, and making it difficult to fall back asleep.
AVOID LONG TERM USE OF SLEEPING AIDS. Using sleep aids for more than two weeks at a time can be addictive and cause rebound insomnia—which means when you try to stop taking them, you have even more difficulty falling asleep.
KEEP A SLEEP DIARY. If you can't seem to figure out what could be triggering your nighttime wakefulness, try keeping a detailed diary that includes your daily schedule and what foods you have eaten. Be sure to take this diary and discuss with your doctor.
CONSIDER A SLEEP STUDY. If you have daytime sleepiness and you snore, you may have obstructive sleep apnea. The good news about sleep apnea? It's a treatable condition. Untreated sleep apnea has been linked to cognitive impairment.
Studies show inadequate sleep is linked to the build up of harmful plaques and beta-amyloid proteins in the brain - both of which are signature markers of Alzheimer's disease.
Create a Bedtime Ritual
Ever feel like you solve some of the world’s biggest problems as you’re trying to fall asleep only to forget by morning? If only you had written it down! So, do just that. Keep a notebook by your bed to write down all those things nagging at your brain so you can deal with them tomorrow and free up your mind for sleep.
You might also try turning to soothing activities like taking a warm bath, deep breathing, or reading before bed. Whatever relaxes you.
Create a Sleep Sanctuary
A peaceful bedtime routine sends a signal to your brain that it’s time to settle down and let go of the day’s stresses. Our environment can play a big part in our ability to easily wind down. Think of how you might feel entering a spa. Would you instantly feel more calm and peaceful? What sounds and scents do you notice? What colors do you see? Try these tips to create an oasis that you'll want to fall asleep in.
CREATE A COZY PLACE. Keep your room dark, cool, and quiet. Try black out curtains if needed. Use soft creamy tones and different textures to help create a serene space.
KEEP THE NOISE DOWN. If you need some kind of noise to fall asleep, try using a fan or a sound machine. If you use music, make sure it's calming and try to use the same music each time, so you brain will learn to associate that sound with sleep.
KEEP YOUR ROOM COOL. Most people sleep best in a slightly cool room (around 65°). Too hot or too cool can interfere with sleep.
MAKE SURE YOUR BED IS COMFORTABLE. Your bed covers should leave you enough room to stretch and turn comfortably. If you often wake up with a sore back or an aching neck, try different levels of mattress firmness, foam toppers and pillows.
USE YOUR BED FOR SLEEPING. Train your brain by associating the bedroom with just sleep. By not working, watching TV, or using your phone and tablets in bed, your brain will begin to associate the bedroom with sleep only.
USE SCENT. Try lavendar scented oil or pillow spray before. You can even add lavendar to tea - but make sure it doesn't have caffeine!
TRY A RELAXATION METHOD. Focus on your breathing using a method like the 4-7-8 technique shown below. Try a body scan by focusing your attention on different parts of your body, identify where you’re holding any stress or tension, then release it. There are even lots of guided meditation and bedtime story apps that could help! The trick is to find what works for you. But don't give up!