The Most Important 7 Hours of the Day

MR-Blog-Sleep Issues-800x400

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 learn more about Amen Clinics Memory Program based on Dr. Amen’s BRIGHT MINDS approach, check it out HERE.


  1. I enjoy my book Change your brain change your life I have and all the updates I get from Dr. Amen . I also receive Harvard Health special reports and they mention similar teachings like Dr Amen like music therapy deep breathing . But I like his spect scans the most. In an upcoming issue of Mind Mood and Memory this issue will give advice on latest dangers of alcohol use. I sent them a copy of your specs and asked how can they support allowing any alcohol use . So I wish I can send you somehow a copy of that monthly health issue I get. They need to say no alcohol use is safe for me to be happy. If you create any more music for relaxation please let me know. Thank you for helping me through the years you all are the best.

    Comment by daniel kalista — December 6, 2017 @ 6:49 AM

  2. The middle of the night is when I can think better because my husband is always asking me things and I have to explain everything. I resorted to making lists at 2:00 a.m. Then I am up explaining them

    Comment by anita wentz — December 6, 2017 @ 6:51 AM

  3. I wake up at about 4AM every morning with Cortisol raging through my body. Heart pounds, feet and ankles swell, sometimes I perspire. I stay in bed till about 5:30 then I give up and go out for a run.
    I’ve read “The Cortisol Connection” and a few of Sapolski’s books about this condition of anxiety. But they don’t talk about waking up every morning with an adrenalin alarm clock.
    I’m 66 and still work. Being able to sleep 7-hrs would be a real treat. This started about 2-yrs ago after a long stretch of intense stress and overwhelming workload. Toward the end of this period, I felt something break over about a 2-week period (in my head) and was no longer able to turn off the anxiety at will. It just takes over. Meditation is good first aid.
    I’d appreciate even some comments from others that we’re not alone (if that’s the case).

    Comment by Stewart C. Cluck, Architect — December 6, 2017 @ 8:29 AM

  4. So glad you are writing about SDB – tho many are more accurately referring to it as “breathing disordered sleep”. In addition to snoring, grinding and open-mouthed breathing (day or night) are robbing us of enough oxygen. You have a huge following – please add this info! (And hello to Dr Johnston!)

    Comment by Peggy Hinkle — December 6, 2017 @ 8:37 AM

  5. Have you read “Stop the Thyroid Madness”? They address this a bit in the book. Highly recommend.

    Comment by Rae — December 6, 2017 @ 9:51 AM

  6. I know I snore because I sometimes wake myself up when it’s especially loud. I’m a Limbic ADD, with a few of the Worry ADD in the mix. Seeing your explanation on YouTube inspired me to seek help for the issues I have, so my sleep is better.

    I survived to closely-spaced episodes of hypothermia during the summer of 1980. Each of them damaged my internal thermostat. Together they created one that needs warmth to sleep, naturally given the circumstances at the time. I will definitely remove one of my blankets to cool things down a bit, but cannot sleep at all if I feel even a little bit chilly as I fall asleep.

    Your advice is wonderful and I can’t wait to try Tana’s Lamb Stew & Salmon Curry Chowder. I’ve been looking for recipes that incorporate lots of healthy produce and meat that mother can chew (new dentures make this difficult if the meat is tough or the veggies aren’t cooked through), that I will also enjoy eating. Thank you for everything you do daily to help people with brain issues to set them as straight as possible.

    Comment by Petra Katrine Taylor — December 6, 2017 @ 10:16 AM

  7. You mentioned taking 5 HTP. I take Sam E and wonder if it is advisable to take both of them since they both deal with mood elevation.

    Comment by M. S. F. — December 6, 2017 @ 2:25 PM

  8. I have chronic insomnia……..absolutely nothing has worked…meditation, music, relaxation therapy, white noise, no electronics, no caffeine, no heavy snack prior to bed…perhaps some cheese, or a handful of almonds 2 hours before bed, go to the bed at the very same time every single night, the room is cool, the bed is comfortable, no pets in the room….you name it, I have tried it. Melatonin, and Gaba……..yes………it does nothing for me. Perhaps there are some people who have such chronic insomnia that there is nothing that will help it except good old fashioned drugs. I don’t know if my insomnia is a result of years and years of shift work…..but when I retired, the sleep problems continued. I have been treating my insomnia as if it were a health problem which needs daily medication. No number of soothing baths, or aromatherapy or any other kind of therapy has helped. I have spent money on naturopaths, and their “drops”….scoured through the natural food store for anything that will help me sleep. What helps me sleep is prescription for medication from the doctor. And no, I am not depressed, do not have anxiety, sleep apnea, or any other health issues. So tired of trying to fix this myself I am now happily addicted to sleeping medication so that I can sleep during the night and function during the day.

    Comment by jake hoff — December 6, 2017 @ 4:32 PM

  9. I have tired everything for sleep also.. If I asked my Dr. for sleeping pills she would she would consider me pill seeking or say I’m depressed.. This is a problem with my local Dr. Office but what they don’t take into account is no everyone is pill seeking. I have had insomnia my entire life. Any suggestions?

    Comment by Emily — December 6, 2017 @ 7:12 PM

  10. The problem with telling a doctor you have insomnia is that “depression” is always the “go to diagnosis”. My doctor also prescribed anti depressants during the last 10 of my working years, and I took them only because I was desperate to sleep, and there was nothing else to do. Doctors do not want to recognize that insomnia is a real problem for many people and the issue is that there is no relief from over the counter medications, or the “natural” medications. How many people do you have resorted to take a gravol every night, or benadryl, or who have resorted to alcohol to relax themselves prior to bedtime. I do not know how to go to a doctor and address the fact that one is not depressed, and one has chronic insomnia. The issue also is that the doctor is the “gateway” to a person getting the proper medication for their condition. Where I live there is a shortage of doctors, so you keep the doctor that you have, even if the doctor is not so great. At least you will get the medication you need if you have an infection, or a chronic condition like hypothyroidism, high blood pressure etc. But you may never be treated for chronic insomnia, because many doctors refuse to believe that this is an actual problem. I have talked to many people who do everything right, and who cannot get to sleep, stay asleep, have fractured sleep, or wake up so early and not able to get back to sleep. All I can say is try to convince your doctor you are not depressed….however this chronic lack of sleep can be very depressing. I know that I dread it when I have to get the prescription refilled, and if my family doctor is not available, or if there is a resident covering for her, or if there is another doctor in the practice filling in for her, I may or may not get that prescription refilled. Once a doctor gave me 10 pills of my medication, of which I take 4 each night..which gave me 2 nights of sleeping. I was virtually in tears about this, as I need this medication, as much as a person with high blood pressure needs their medication. It is an awful conundrum.

    Comment by jake hoff — December 9, 2017 @ 6:10 AM

  11. Hi, I’m 22 and I’m 23 weeks pregnant and I also have a 2 yr. I want to improve my mental health and I know sleeping enough and having a great routine could definitely help. I was wondering how any of the suggested tips would change given my situation?

    Comment by Sabina — May 6, 2022 @ 8:19 PM

  12. superb advice!

    Comment by Doug Morris — October 14, 2023 @ 2:06 PM

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

Contact Us