What do we know about sleep and brain health?
Sleep remains one of the most important but least understood aspects of our overall wellbeing. Science has recently started to uncover why we sleep, what good it serves, and why we suffer such devastating health consequences when we don’t get enough.
Why Do We Sleep?
Russell Foster is a circadian neuroscientist and he explores this question below.
Foster studies the sleep cycles of the brain. And he asks: What do we know about sleep? Not a lot, it turns out, for something we do with one-third of our lives.
In this talk, Foster shares three popular theories about why we sleep, busts some myths about how much sleep we need at different ages – and hints at some bold new uses of sleep as a predictor of mental health.
We do know this about sleep and our wellbeing?
Sleep has a critical role in promoting health. Research over the past decade has documented that sleep disturbance has a powerful influence on the risk of infectious disease, the occurrence and progression of several major medical illnesses including cardiovascular disease and cancer, and the incidence of depression.
Increasingly, the field has focused on identifying the biological mechanisms underlying these effects.
So, let’s have a look at 5 brain health effects associated to sleep
- Sleep helps consolidate memory – One of the central functions of sleep is that it helps consolidate long-term memory—it seems to do this, not only through strengthening certain neural connections, but also through pruning back unwanted ones.
- Toxins, including those associated with Alzheimer’s disease, are cleared during sleep – The space between brain cells expands significantly during sleep, which facilitates the clearing of the “gunk” through cerebrospinal fluid.
- Creativity requires sleep – divergent thinking—thinking outside the box, in new and imaginative ways—seems to be the first thing that goes when one is sleep-deprived, whereas convergent thinking—being able to figure out the correct answer, as on standardized tests—stays intact.
- Sleep loss and depression are directly related – Studies have found that people who sleep less than six hours per night or more than eight hours per night are more likely to be depressed than people in the middle.
- Children, sleep and brain health – Sleep deprivation in children has lots of short-term ramifications, and over the long term, it may even affect brain development. Just 18 more minutes per night was linked to better grades in math and English in primary school kids.
HOW CAN WE SUPPORT YOU?
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