sleep

Here’s something easy I bet you won’t do.

Not that I’m being negative, but invariably when we hear something’s easy, despite wanting something easy, we dismiss it as being too easy and then we don’t do it.

Seriously how often have you said, “I wish there was an easy way to lose weight, find a lover, or have a fat bank account. ”

Well, this post isn’t about any of those things, but I know how you can dramatically, Yep, I said it dramatically improve your health and brain by doing one simple thing.

One simple thing.

It’s so simple you’ll likely want to hit delete as soon as you read it. But I challenge you… Read on

GET MORE SLEEP

Margaret Thatcher had a different take, “Sleep is for sissies.” she liked to say.

I was smug about being bullet proof on 5.5 hours of sleep saying, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

Okay, Margaret was epic she only needed 4……apparently.

maggie-sleeping

I admit I have maligned and dissed sleep for decades, but since working with patients recovering from devastating brain injuries and learning more about the brain’s self-healing, I am changing my soap box rant.

I’m the new self-proclaimed spokesperson for SLEEP Here’s why:

We intuitively know the purpose of sleep is restoration. You simply feel better, look better and function better in coordination, memory and decision-making, but groundbreaking research shows us why.

When you’re awake your brain can only rid itself of a limited amount of toxins, but during sleep your brain shrinks by 60% allowing the brain’s waste removal system, called the glymphatic system, to do some power cleaning, moving toxins out of your brain to your liver for further detoxification. In fact, toxins clear at a rate that’s two-fold faster during sleep. Diseases like Alzheimers, Parkinsons and most other neurodegenerative diseases are associated with the accumulation of cellular waste products.

I suspect researchers will soon identify the toxic chemical changes our negative thoughts produce. They’ve already discovered that our brains release identical cascades of stress hormones whether we experience a threat that is real or imagined. That means you experience the same fight or flight response whether you’re fleeing from a rabid dog or worrying about your delinquent mortgage.

The expression, “Sleep on it.” shows our internal wisdom knowing a little brain cleaning is useful in decision making.

Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, the lead researcher from the University of Rochester Medical Center who discovered this glymphatic system, simplifies the concept by explaining the brain can only do so much in it’s awake state: “You can think of it like having a house party. You can either entertain the guests or clean up the house, but you can’t really do both at the same time.”

If that isn’t enough to have you hitting the mattress sooner, how about sleep’s effect on memory consolidation?

When I think of memory, I always ask, would you buy a computer with the least amount of memory and the slowest processing?

Insufficient or fragmented sleep can interfere with your ability to form both concrete memories (facts and figures) and emotional memories.

If avoiding brain pollution and poor memory don’t convince you how about vanity?

Sleep is paramount for metabolic health and insufficient sleep can lead to weight gain. A lack of sleep elevates cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and that may lead to belly fat and insulin insensitivity increasing your risk of diabetes and heart disease.

We want an easy solution, yet when given a simple solution such as sleep more, drink more water, or breathe more deeply

We resist.

I tell my patients sleep is like hitting the “SAVE” on the computer. You wouldn’t risk working on the computer for hours without hitting save to protect your work, likewise sleep is the restore button for your brain.

Sleep is a key factor in allowing the body to do what it does best.

Heal. Find homeostasis. Balance.

Unlike a computer that needs a Geek Squad or a genius to fix it, our bodies are designed to heal themselves…. if only we let them.

As I work with people recovering from brain injuries I see how much energy it takes to focus, create new memory strategies, communicate and solve problems. We don’t realize the enormous expenditure of energy it takes to run our bodies. In fact most of our caloric consumption goes to running our bodies basic functions not the added gym workouts.

I frequently say, you don’t have to have a brain injury to damage your brain, we do it all the time with the thoughts we think and the behaviors we choose. But we have a choice. We can treat our brains kindly.

Our culture has lost touch with the sweet essence of sleep and placed a higher value on productivity and how much we can accomplish in our 24 hour day.

But what if we gave sleep back its rightful crown, honoring it and making time for it as a welcomed guest?

Would we see our relationships, decisions creativity and overall happiness improve?

I’m willing to bet on it.

Why don’t you sleep on it and let me know.

Sleep is life’s nurse, sent from heaven to create us anew day by day.” Charles Reade, English novelist in the 1800’s

Make Believe~Make Belief Affirmation:  I take care of my  brain and well being by giving it adequate sleep.

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