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Getting enough rest and sleep is more important than you may realize. Not only can poor sleep habits impact your energy levels, but it may be affecting you much deeper. There is evidence that the biological rhythm of rest and activity exists in almost every cell of the body, including your brain cells. Making sleep a priority is vital for your overall wellness, and it is linked to improving your brain health.
Understanding Sleep Rhythms
The human brain is a complex organ that interacts with every cell in the body. One of the basic functions of the brain is regulating sleep and activity. The brain is designed to facilitate 24-hour biological rest and activity levels, which are called circadian rhythms. Almost every cell in the body is affected by circadian rhythm – sleep is necessary at a cellular and molecular level for optimum health.
The brain regulates sleep, but when sleep is not allowed, it can affect the brain function. There is evidence that interrupting the natural circadian rhythms can increase risk of brain diseases, including dementia, Parkinson’s disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s. According to The American Brain Foundation, there are signs that sleep can impact the brain and increase the risk for many neurological diseases.
Sleep: Quality and Quantity
Many people focus on the number of hours of sleep they get each night, but quantity is not the only aspect of maintaining healthy sleep rhythms. It is generally agreed that most individuals function best and are healthiest when they receive 7-8 hours a sleep per night, but it needs to be quality or “deep” sleep. Unfortunately, there are many factors that can affect the quality of sleep, which include:
- Aging – deep sleep decreases with age
- Light and dark exposure – not getting enough light exposure can impact your sleep quality
- Alcohol and other drugs can diminish sleep quality
- Disruptions to sleep
- Sleep disorders like sleep apnea
Ideally, those that receive at least seven hours of quality sleep can improve their health and brain function. Creating a pattern of good sleep habits that establish a healthy circadian rhythm can decrease daily fatigue and improve cognitive function. More importantly, it can have a long-term impact on your brain health. You may be able to reduce your risk for degenerative brain disease and many other health complications.
Creating Good Sleep Habits
To get the most from your brain when you are awake, you need to give it the rest it needs. Good sleep habits follow the natural cycle of light and dark – you should be up when its light and sleeping when its dark for the best sleep pattern. Melatonin is created in the body with exposure to light, which helps you go to sleep at night. As you get older, your body may produce less melatonin, which can impact sleep. Some people may benefit by taking low doses of melatonin if they have trouble sleeping – always ask your doctor before beginning a new supplement for sleep.
Neurological Care for Sleep Disorders
Sleep and brain health are intricately linked. If you are suffering from a sleep disorder that is impacting your quantity and quality of sleep, it can result in higher risk for stroke, dementia and other brain disease. At Foothills Neurology, we have neurological specialists that offer treatment for sleep disorders, as well as brain health disorders that are linked to poor sleep quality, including dementia and stroke. To schedule a consultation, contact our main office in Phoenix, AZ to book your appointment.