Allow Yourself to Rest & Repair

woman sleeping well for brain healthGetting good quality sleep is necessary for health and well-being. If sleep issues arise, it is important to identify and address the cause or causes. During sleep, there is a complex pattern of changes that occur. The most restorative stage of sleep is called slow wave sleep and occurs during the Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep phase. Emerging research suggests that slow wave sleep may be the time when toxins and wastes, including Alzheimer’s proteins, are cleared from our brains, through a brain waste clearance system called the glymphatic system or neuro-lymphatic system.  

It’s not easy to find the motivation to adapt healthy lifestyle choices, which is why we connected with Dr. Danielle Goldfarb, a Neuropsychiatrist at Banner Sun Health Research Institute and asked her for some advice to overcome a few common objections.

I’ve always been a light sleeper...

“Some sleep changes are normal with aging including falling asleep and waking up earlier, waking up briefly during the night and being a lighter sleep more easily awoken by external factors such as loud noises. However, persistently waking up throughout the night should be evaluated for treatable causes. The first step in improving sleep disruption is to consider lifestyle and behavioral factors that can disrupt sleep. These can include use of caffeine, alcohol, or tobacco, eating dinner too late, excessive fluid intake, excessive daytime napping or exercise too close to bedtime. The next step in addressing chronic sleep disruption is to identify any possible medical conditions, movement disorders, medications, mood changes (depression, anxiety), urologic conditions, chronic pain or sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea.”

Adults don’t really need 8 hours of sleep.

“While it is a myth that older adults need less sleep, the amount of sleep needed for each person is unique to the individual and for adults can range from six to nine hours per night. What is crucial is to know your specific ideal sleep hours, which may be different from your partner or friends. Knowing how much you need to feel good, having a consistent daily schedule (including a fixed wake up time), supports good quality sleep."

I sleep less at night and take long naps during the day.

“All sleep is not created equal. Daytime napping beyond 30-45 total minutes per day can be detrimental to one’s overall health. Nighttime sleep provides the most important benefits to our health and well-being, aligning our circadian rhythms, which serves to keep our body functions on track. Meanwhile, long daytime naps decrease our body’s need to sleep at night; thereby directly contributing to lower quality sleep (less restorative) and possibly more frequent awakenings. Daytime napping often leads to a vicious cycle, whereby, the nighttime sleep becomes disrupted, and then the individual is tired the next day and will nap again. Over time, this can lead to a chronically problematic sleep-wake cycle, insomnia and low energy. If you have difficulty sleeping one night and are tired the next day, try to avoid excessive napping that day. Trust your body that when bedtime comes, the prior night’s sleep deprivation will lead to a more restorative sleep. This will then reset your body’s internal clock and get you back on track.” 

Are you curious to know more about how a good night’s sleep can benefit you? Check out these helpful articles from the National Institutes on Aging and Sleep Foundation.

Focusing on your sleep routine can lead to feeling more refreshed when you wake in the morning and have long-lasting energy throughout the day. It is important to keep in mind that our understanding of the relationship between sleep and Alzheimer’s Disease is still new and developing. Many individuals with sleep disruption will never develop Alzheimer’s disease.  

Browse all seven Building Blocks for Aging Well to help maintain your brain health and wellness.