Poor Sleep Impacts Your Entire Body, From Mental Health to Testicle Size!!
Bedtime is perhaps my most favorite time of day; or at least it feels like it when the time comes! During my mid-twenties I struggled with poor sleep, which quickly impacted my day-to-day performance and eventually hit my mental health. Fast forward a decade and I now sleep like a baby, and I couldn’t feel healthier! A good night’s sleep is not a luxury, it’s a priority- one we should strive for and embrace every single night. The benefits of good sleep are profound- studies have shown that a lack of sleep impairs IQ, increases risk for dementia, heart attacks and certain cancers, and also negatively impacts the immune system. One study even showed that young men who got 5 hours or less of sleep per night had significantly smaller testicles than men who sleep 7 or more; indeed, poor sleep negatively disrupts the sex hormones of both men and women. Yet, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has found that a third of Americans regularly suffer with poor sleep.
Get Around 8 Hours of Sleep Each Night
Each of us have our own unique sleeping needs, but most people require around 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. The key word here is uninterrupted. Continuous, uninterrupted sleep allows your brain to cycle through all four phases of sleep several times per night, which is essential for maintaining a healthy brain and happy mind. The sleep cycle begins with phase 1 of non-REM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep, which is as a very light nap, followed by phases 2 and 3, which are each deeper than the last. Finally, after around 90 minutes of traveling through phases 1-3, and now in a more deep state of sleep, your brain enters the fourth and final phase, which we call REM sleep. It’s during this REM sleep that you dream. Dreaming plays a very crucial role in learning and memory function, since this is when your brain processes and consolidates information and experiences from the day. In fact, this phase is believed to be so critical for a healthy mind, that psychologists and therapists now offer eye-movement-desensitization-reprocessing therapy for people experiencing PTSD. This therapy, shortened to EMDR, re-creates rapid eye movement and encourages the patient to re-process any traumatic event, often with improved outcomes.
Poor Sleep May Increase Risk of Alzheimer’s
Not only does poor sleep affect your day-to-day activities, scientific studies have shown that just one night of sleep deprivation significantly increases the amount of tau and amyloid proteins in the brain, which are the two proteins involved in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Ways to Improve Sleep and Reduce Risk of Alzheimer’s
While you sleep, the brain works to clear itself of these potentially-toxic proteins. It’s important to note however that sleep deprivation is defined differently from person to person, depending on your own personal needs. If you get just 5 hours per night, but wake up feeling rested and ready to go, you probably don’t require the full 7-9 hours for your body to clear your brain of toxic proteins. But if you wake up feeling tired and groggy, you probably need some extra hours of better quality sleep. Talk to your healthcare provider on ways of improving your sleep quality. If possible, avoid anticholinergics such as Benadryl, as these may increase your risk of Alzheimer’s. If unsure, ask your healthcare provider to help you select sleeping aids and antihistamines that are not anticholinergics. Alternatives do exist! You may also want to use natural remedies like melatonin. A good place to start with melatonin is to take 3mg around 30 minutes before bedtime. This can be increased to 6mg or 9mg if needed, but always check with your healthcare provider first. You may also wish to try a little scented lavender in your room or other calming essential oils for relaxation at night.
Sophrosyne Brain by Jonescientific is a brain health formula designed for memory and cognition, that also contains ingredients shown to help promote good sleep by increasing the levels of acetycholine in the brain, which is a neurotransmitter involved in transitioning the brain between phases of sleep. Finally, if possible you should try to sleep on your side or in the prone position (face down), because sleeping in the supine position (face up) has been associated with a higher risk of Alzheimer’s. This is likely due to the head’s position and its affects on the glymphatic system- which is the brain’s waste clearance pathway that works to remove those unwanted tau and amyloid proteins. You should also talk to your health care provider if you suffer with sleep apnea, and consider wearing ear plugs if your sleeping partner keeps you awake. Develop a sleeping routine- set a time for bed, and stick to it! Keep lighting to a minimum as sleep approaches, brush your teeth, wash your face, take a warm shower, or read before lights out each night. This will help you develop a habit that lets your brain know that sleep is coming.