The Importance of Sleep: Part One
by Natalie Diaz
Dr. Natalie Diaz is a movement disorders specialist. In this PNI Minute, she reviews the importance of sleep in a two part series.
Today I want to talk about sleep and how important sleep is for proper brain function, to reduce aging, and also for optimal health and wellness. Research has taught us that sleep is actually a process where the brain and the body are quite active. During sleep, the brain filters through information that you learn during the day and it stores it in long term memory, a process that we call consolidation.
Dreams may be where we resolve emotionally charged memories, and there is also a fair bit of housekeeping that’s going on. The brain is pruning the connections between cells, what we call synapses, that may not be needed anymore. It is also trying to remove unwanted toxic proteins like the ones that build up in the brain if you have Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
Now, I always discuss with my patients five tips to help them sleep better, something that we call sleep hygiene.
- Be consistent. Try to go to bed and wake up every day around the same time. Ready your room so that your brain knows that it’s time for sleep.
- Make it dark and make it quiet. Some research shows that lowering the temperature of the room can actually help you sleep better.
- Try to avoid caffeine and alcohol in the hours before you go to sleep, and too much fluid intake, that’ll get you up in the middle of the night.
- Put away all stimulating electrical devices, including phones, computers, and the TV. These devices can really disrupt sleep. Sometimes doing some relaxing exercises, meditation, light stretching, reading, and listening to music can prepare your brain for knowing that it is time to sleep. You may also want to try taking a warm shower or bath.
- Lastly, if you can’t sleep, don’t just lay there and suffer. Get up and spend 15-20 minutes doing some relaxing things, such as, listening to music, deep breathing or meditation, reading, and then try again and do that as long as it takes to tire your brain out. Eventually it’ll conform and start sleeping.
Good sleep actually helps us age slower and keeps us healthy throughout the year.
Watch Part One of The Importance of Sleep
Watch Part Two of The Importance of Sleep as Dr. Natalie Diaz continues to discuss sleep disorders and diseases.
About the Author
Natalie Diaz, MD, is a board-certified neurologist with fellowship training in movement disorders. Her clinical practice focuses on the evaluation and management of patients with Parkinson’s disease, atypical Parkinsonism disorders, Huntington’s disease and other choreiform disorders, dystonia, and ataxia.
Last updated: July 9th, 2020