A good night’s sleep has a hard time getting the respect it deserves in our 24/7 world. But lack of quality sleep can make anyone’s health and memory take a nose dive.
“Nearly every disease killing us in later life has a causal link to lack of sleep,” says Matthew Walker, professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California – Berkeley. In a review of sleep and aging, Walker and colleagues found that older people suffer cognitively from a lack of deep sleep, but that even starting in your 30s it’s possible to shift to more fitful slumbers, which is harmful to body and brain health.
Another cause of poor sleep is sleep apnea, a disorder that affects an estimated 30 percent of adults and is characterized by the upper airways closing off during sleep, causing a brief interruption of breathing and, often, loud snoring. New research shows that if it’s left untreated for just a few days, it can cause a rise in stress hormones and blood pressure as well as blood sugar and fat levels. Sleep apnea also triples your risk of dementia and depression, so it’s critical to get it diagnosed—either at a sleep lab or at home—and treated.
Just think: If you start to sleep better, not only will you wake up refreshed and energized every day, but you will also be preventing brain fog and memory loss and likely helping keep serious illness at bay. (You may also be helping your bed partner—if you have one—get better sleep!)
Sleep issues are the “last but not least” risk factor in the Amen Clinics’ comprehensive new BRIGHT MINDS Program, which identifies and treats the 11 risk factors that can steal your memory and your mind. Studies have shown that tackling all of them is the best way to preserve your memory while improving your overall health.
The words “BRIGHT MINDS” sum up all 11 of the risk factors and also happen to be an easy way to remember them:
B – Blood Flow
R – Retirement/Aging
I – Inflammation
G – Genetics
H – Head Trauma
T – Toxins
M – Mental Health
I – Immunity/Infection Issues
N – Neurohormone Deficiencies
D – Diabesity
S – Sleep Issues
Check in with your healthcare provider if you snore. You may need to be assessed for sleep apnea—and begin using a CPAP mask if you have it.
If you have insomnia, there are also dozens of things you can do to get the requisite seven to eight hours of quality sleep every night:
- Avoid sleep robbers, which include caffeine (stop coffee/tea after 2 PM), alcohol, pets on your bed, going to bed angry
- Make sure your bedroom is conducive to sleep: It should be cool, dark and quiet, and if it isn’t, makes changes (turn the temp down, use black-out shades, an eye mask and/or ear plugs)
- Power off your gadgets an hour before bed so they don’t wake you; also consider putting blue light blockers on them
- Set a regular bedtime and wake-up schedule and stick with it
- Try hypnosis, meditation or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) if you have chronic insomnia
- Take a good multivitamin/mineral, vitamin D, magnesium and an omega-3 EPA/DHA supplement daily
- Consider supplements: melatonin, magnesium, GABA, 5-HTP (if you’re a worrier)
- Add melatonin-rich foods to your diet: tart cherry juice concentrate, sour cherries, walnuts, ginger root, asparagus, tomatoes
- Eat more healthy carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes, quinoa and bananas, which can increase tryptophan, boosting serotonin and, in turn improving sleep
- Avoid eating grapefruit at night; it’s acidity may cause heartburn
In the video below, Dr. Daniel Amen discusses sleep and the role it plays in rescuing your memory today!
To find dozens of additional tips on improving your sleep and consequently your memory, and to learn about all of the other BRIGHT MINDS risk factors and treatments, get Dr. Amen’s new book, Memory Rescue, which is available HERE.