January 10, 2024 • Brain health

Sleeping Man SmHave you ever considered why we spend a third of our life sleeping? The function of sleep is important for our bodies and brains, ranging from storing memories and learning that occurred from the day, removing toxins from our brain, and resetting our mood and emotional well-being to make us feel better. As we age, the way we sleep can change because our brains change.

Sleep has five different cycles that switch around throughout the night. These five cycles are divided into two main parts: rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM stages. During REM, we dream, and our bodies stay still but our eyes move rapidly, hence the name! This stage also helps us remember things through memory consolidation. Memory consolidation allows for better long-term remembering which is especially important to the aging brain. Memory consolidation can strengthen connections between brain cells in addition to also creating new connections. Keeping our brain sharp through these connections can actually decrease our risk for cognitive decline and dementia.

How well we sleep can also affect our mood. In fact, you can probably think about a few times where you missed out on sleep and woke up cranky or on the wrong side of the bed making it hard to think or make good decisions. Not sleeping enough regularly can cause serious health problems, such as problems with our memory, decision making, paying attention or even increase risk for depression and anxiety! This may be partly due to our brain not being able to get rid of waste which occurs during sleep. Even more, lack of sleep has been linked to increased risk of dementia especially for those who experience sleep apnea causing reduction of oxygen to the brain during sleep, causing brain cells to not make connections as sharply.

Because of the impact of sleep on physical and brain health, consider prioritizing sleep with good sleep hygiene such as:

  • Ensuring your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool.
  • Use your bed for sex and sleep only.
  • Utilize meditation or deep breathing to initiate restful sleep.
  • Refrain from using phones, television, or other electronics right before bed.
  • Maintain a consistent sleep schedule throughout the week.

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