Sleep and the Brain

Although sleep may become more fragile in older people, the need for sleep does not decrease with age. (National Sleep Foundation, USA.)

According to Jim Home PhD, director of the sleep research laboratory at Loughborough University in England,the amount of sleep we require is what we need not to be sleepy in the daytime. (http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20000209/lack-of-sleep-takes-toll-on-brain-power)

There is no magic number. The optimum amount of sleep you need may be different for you than for someone else of the same age and gender. A 2005 study confirmed the fact that sleep needs vary across populations. (http://www.sleepfoundation.org/site/c.huIXKjM0IxF/b.2417325/k.3EAC/How_Much_Sleep_Do_We_Really_Need.htm, National Sleep Foundation, USA.)

It is a common misconception that sleep needs decline with age. In fact, research demonstrates that our sleep needs remain constant throughout adulthood. (http://www.sleepfoundation.org/site/c.huIXKjM0IxF/b.4821453/k.8E0E/Sleep_Topics/apps/nl/newsletter2.asp. National Sleep Foundation.)

SPECT Study: The brains of people who got less than six hours of sleep a night showed marked decreased perfusion. Inadequate sleep is associated with irritability, periods of spaciness, mood instability, decreased cognitive ability (e.g., temporal lobe problems). (Amen, Daniel G., MD. Change Your Brain Change Your Life. P. 208-209. NY:Times Books, 1998.)

Most newborns spend 50% of their sleeping time in D sleep (needed to consolidate new learning) and this is higher for premies. By age of 10 amount of time devoted to D sleep decreases to 25% and remains at that level well into old age. (Greenfield, Susan, con. Ed. Brain Power, Working out the Human Mind. Great Britain: Element books Limited, 1999, p. 101)

Stanford professor Dr. William C. Dement, a leading authority on sleep/sleep deprivation challenges his students to figure out the optimum amount their brains need. Guesstimate how much you need (e.g., 8 hours). Get 10 hours for a number of nights. You will reach a point where you feel wide awake and alert all day and wake up spontaneously every morning. That number of hours typically represents your brain’s needs. (http://www.sleepfoundation.org/site/apps/nlnet/content3.aspx?b=2427705&c=huI, Volume 7, Issue 3 of Sleepmatters. 2005.)

Late-to bed individuals are more likely to develop diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and sarcopenia (loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength as a result of aging) than early risers, even when they get the same amount of sleep. According to Nan Hee Kim, MD, PhD, of Korea University College of Medicine in Ansan, Korea, one of the study’s authors, regardless of lifestyle, people who stayed up late faced a higher risk of developing health problems those who were early risers. Male night owls were more likely have diabetes or sarcopenia than early risers. Female night owls tended to have more belly fat and an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, which raises the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. (http://www.endocrine.org/news-room/current-press-releases/night-owls-face-greater-risk-of-developing-diabetes-than-early-risers)

Sleep has been found to:

  • Promote memory consolidation
  • Help you learn faster
  • Makes you feel refreshed
  • Boosts immune health
  • Help maintain energy balance
  • Improve athletic performance by enhancing motor skills

(http://www.health.columbia.edu/docs/topics/general/sleep.html. Columbia University Health Services.)

You spend about one-third of your life sleeping. Far from being unproductive, this plays a direct role in how full, energetic and successful the other two-thirds of your life can be. (http://www.sleepfoundation.org/site/c.huIXKjM0IxF/b.2419159/k.A817/What_Happens_When_You_Sleep.htm. National Sleep Foundation, USA.)

The brain appears to need sleep more than the body. Studies: by 20 hours without sleep, your reaction time is similar to a person with a blood alcohol level of 0.08. After 24 hours without sleep, the brain’s ability to use glucose drops off dramatically. (Gorman, Christine. Why We Sleep. NY: Time Inc., Time. Vol 164, No 25, Dec 20, 2004, p. 46-59.)

The brain demands sleep – it is not a choice. Without sufficient sleep the brain may not complete housecleaning tasks effectively. This involves re-uptake of serotonin and norepinephrine (important for wakefulness, alertness, and good mood) as well as the processing of memory traces from the day. (Giuffre, Kenneth, MD, and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo. The Care and Feeding of Your Brain. NJ: The Career Press Inc, 1999, p. 101.)

Adequate sleep is critical to optimum brain function. To get a good night’s sleep naturally, avoid alcohol and marijuana, eliminate nicotine, and get stimulants out of your system well before bedtime (e.g., caffeine should not be consumed for six to eight hours before bedtime. (Amen, Daniel G., MD. Magnificent Mind at Any Age. NY: Harmony Books, 2008, p. 116-119)

Researchers at UCLA studied three connected brain regions in mice: the new brain (neocortex), the old brain (hippocampus), and the intermediate brain (entorhinal cortex or EC) that connects the new and the old brains, so called. They discovered that the activity of the entorhinal cortex (EC), a brain region known to be involved in learning, memory, and Alzheimer’s disease behaves as if it’s remembering something during sleep. The EC showed persistent activity even when the brain was under anesthesia. This means that the neocortex and the hippocampus “talk” to each other during sleep and anesthesia. According to researcher Mehta, the results are entirely novel, surprising, and important—since humans spend one-third of their lives sleeping and a lack of sleep results in adverse effects on health, including learning and memory problems. (http://www.kurzweilai.net/the-sleeping-brain-behaves-as-if-its-remembering-something?utm_source=KurzweilAI+Weekly+Newsletter&utm_campaign=add01afa26-UA-946742-1&utm_medium=email)

Do you suffer from sleep bulimia? Cognitive neuroscientist Robert Stickgold has equated sleep deficiency to an eating disorder. Sleep bulimics is a new term that describes a culture of individuals who purge on sleep during the weekdays and binge on the weekends; who try to compensate for sleep deprivation during the week by catching additional winks on the weekend. Not so fast. According to the National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research, sleep deprivation is one of society’s most detrimental epidemics. You can make up for acute sleep deprivation once in a while. Not so with chronic sleep deprivation, which can seriously affect your health. Sleep deprivation is expensive, too. In the US, sleep deprivation accounts for over 16 billion dollars in medical costs and over 50 billion dollars in lost productivity—annually. (http://www.insidershealth.com/article/sleep_bulimia_the_disorder_causing_our_vitamin_z_deficiency/5194)

Sleep patterns can impact cancer growth and development. Lack of adequate sleep can be problematic. The better you sleep, the stronger your immune system and the more balanced your body chemistry. With your hormone levels in balance, your ability to fight off developing cancer cells increases exponentially, especially in the case of breast and prostate cancer. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston found a correlation between melatonin and the risk of breast cancer. (Melatonin is a hormone produced by the body to promote continued sleep.) When levels of melatonin decrease, the body produces more estrogen, which is a known risk factor for breast cancer. Even moderate problems with sleep have been shown to raise the risk of prostate cancer twofold. Males with severe sleep problems are three times as likely to develop cancer as men who get adequate sleep each night. (Eric Cohen, MD. http://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/eric-cohen-breathe-well-sleep-well/dangerous-link-between-lack-of-sleep-cancer/?xid=y_sh)

Studies by Sara Thomée, doctoral student, and colleagues at the University of Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska Academy have shown links between frequent computer use without breaks and late at night and health problems.

  • Frequent computer use without breaks was found to increase the risk of stress, sleeping problems, and depressive symptoms in women
  • Males who use computers extensively without breaks were more likely to develop sleeping problems.

Regularly using a computer late at night was associated not only with sleep disorders but also with stress and depressive symptoms in both men and women. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-volpi-md-pc-facs/technology-depression_b_1723625.html  Accessed 7-16 )

Sara Thomée, doctoral student at the University of Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska Academy and colleagues conducted four studies to evaluate the effects of heavy computer and cell phone by young adults on sleep quality, stress levels, and general mental health. The studies found that young adults who make particularly heavy use of mobile phones and computers run a greater risk of sleep disturbances, stress, and symptoms of mental health. Heavy use of mobile phones was linked to an increase in sleeping problems in males and an increase in depressive symptoms in both males and females. (University of Gothenburg. "Intensive mobile phone use affects young people's sleep." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 June 2012.  Accessed 7-16 <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120611134233.htm>)

German scientists reported having demonstrated for the first time that your sleeping brain continues working on problems that may have baffled you during the day. An answer may come more easily after eight hours of rest. (Study Confirms Sleep Essential for Creativity. Health. CNN.com, 2004.)

The architecture of sleep follows a pattern of alternating REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep throughout a typical night in a cycle that repeats itself about every 90 minutes. (Article. Sleep-Wake Cycle. National Sleep Foundation, USA.)

It’s a myth that you can cheat successfully on the amount of sleep you get. Without adequate sleep you accumulate a sleep debt that can be difficult to pay back, especially if it becomes too large. (Article. Myths and Facts About Sleep. National Sleep Foundation, USA.)

  • Alcohol Use - Alcohol use tends to be more prevalent among people who sleep poorly. Alcohol acts as a mild sedative and is commonly used as a sleep aid among people who have sleep problems such as insomnia. However, the sedative quality of alcohol is only temporary. As alcohol is processed by the body over a few hours it begins to stimulate the parts of the brain that cause arousal, in many cases causing awakenings and sleep problems later in the night. (http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/consequences/sleep-and-disease-risk)
  • Blood Pressure - Studies have found that a single night of inadequate sleep in people who have existing hypertension can cause elevated blood pressure throughout the following day. This effect may begin to explain the correlation between poor sleep and cardiovascular disease and stroke. (http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/consequences/sleep-and-disease-risk)
  • Brain - Sleep deprivation actually damages brain cells. (Carper, Jean. Your Miracle Brain. NY: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2000, p. 189-190.)

When you are sleep-deprived, the boundaries between sleep and wakefulness may often become blurred. Recently research has shown that state "dissociation" is more common that anyone previously suspected. State dissociation is defined as the presence of more than one vigilance state concurrently. Vigilance states include awake, rapid eye (REM) movement sleep, and non-REM sleep). Forgetfulness and daydreaming may be examples of this, but also more bizarre and even criminal behaviors could be, as well. And perhaps 20% of all vehicle accidents are related to fatigue. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17696715) (http://www.journalsleep.org/ViewAbstract.aspx?pid=27673) (http://web2.med.upenn.edu/uep/user_documents/VanDongen_etal_Sleep_26_2_2003.pdf)

  • Illness - Researchers have found that insufficient sleep may lead to type 2 diabetes by influencing the way the body processes glucose, the high-energy carbohydrate that cells use for fuel. (http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/consequences/sleep-and-disease-risk)

Research in animals suggests that those animals who obtain more deep sleep following experimental challenge by microbial infection have a better chance of survival.(http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/consequences/sleep-and-disease-risk)

  • Injuries - Drowsy driving is responsible for at least 100,000 automobile crashes, 71,000 injuries, and 1,550 fatalities—conservative estimates by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Excessive sleepiness also contributes to a greater than twofold higher risk of sustaining an occupational injury. (http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/important-sleep-habits)
  • Mood - A single sleepless night can cause people to be irritable and moody the following day. Therefore, it is conceivable that chronic insufficient sleep may lead to long-term mood disorders. (http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/consequences/sleep-and-disease-risk)

Studies: the emotional centers of the brain were over 60% more reactive under conditions of sleep deprivation than in subjects who had obtained a normal night of sleep. Clinical evidence has shown that some form of sleep disruption is present in almost all psychiatric disorders. (http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-10/cp-sca101707.php)

  • Obesity and Weight Gain - Sleep deprivation appears independently associated with weight gain, particularly in younger age groups. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16295214)

Sleep deprivation is associated with obesity in a large longitudinally monitored United States sample. (http://www.nature.com/oby/journal/v16/n3/full/oby2007118a.html)

Sleep deprivation seems to increase hunger. Studies at Columbia University: people who don’t get enough sleep tend to eat an extra 300 calories a day. And the favorite food was ice cream. Both men and women ate more protein-rich foods on short sleep, but only women ingested more fat. While men ate the same amount of fat no matter how much sleep they got, the women averaged 31 more grams of fat after sleeping for four hours. (http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/03/23/sleep.deprivation.health/index.html)

Sleep deprivation has been linked to health problems such as obesity and high blood pressure, negative mood and behavior, decreased productivity, and safety issues in the home, on the job, and on the road. (http://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-facts-information/myths-and-facts)

  • Stress - Sleep deprivation can cause an increase in cortisol, a stress hormone, excesses of which can cause memory impairment, high blood pressure, weakened immune system, and depression. (Greenwood-Robinson, Maggie, PhD. 20/20 Thinking. NY: Avery, Putnam Special Markets, 2003, p. 197-198.)

Stroke Symptoms - New research connects risk of strokes with amount of sleep. Researchers followed 5,666 individuals for up to three years. After adjusting for body-mass index or BMI, studies showed a strong association with daily sleep periods of less than six hours and a greater incidence of stroke symptoms for middle-age to older adults, even beyond other risk factors. Study participants were of normal weight and had not sleep apnea. Researchers hope that this information can provide a strong argument for increasing physician and public awareness of the impact of sleep as a risk factor for stroke symptoms. Now you're aware! If you are having difficulties with sleep, see your healthcare professional. Develop new behaviors to help reduce your risk of stroke symptoms. (http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-06/aaos-tro053112.php)

Thinking - A sleepy person's brain works harder and accomplishes less. Portions of the language center may actually shut down. The amount of sleep your brain requires is the amount it needs so you are not sleepy during the daytime. (http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20000209/lack-of-sleep-takes-toll-on-brain-power)

Sleep-deprived brains tend to turn themselves off. It's as if portions of the brain go off-line even though the person is still technically awake. (http://content.usatoday.com/communities/sciencefair/post/2011/04/sleep-deprived-brains-turn-themselves-off/1)

According to performance-therapist and medical researcher Robert Rudelic, humans are designed to spend a third of their lives sleeping—on a regular basis. Sleep deprivation can lead to a laundry list of short-term and long-term effects. In the short-term, the individual may experience irritability, quick temper, edginess, pessimism, negative attitude, lack of focus, poor eating choices, and a higher risk of getting sick or of getting into an accident. Long-term effects (over the course of a few months to a year or longer) may be as severe as type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, obesity, heart disease, depression, anxiety, stroke, gastrointestinal problems, and even premature death. (http://www.insidershealth.com/article/sleep_bulimia_the_disorder_causing_our_vitamin_z_deficiency/5194)

The brain paralyzes the body during dreaming so it cannot physically respond. Dreams seem unreal only when we awake and a different system of belief—and reality—take over. (Newberg, Andrew, MD and Mark Robert Waldman. Why We Believe What We Believe. P 36. NY: Free Press, 2006)

All colas contain caffeine (so should be avoided before sleep). Diet colas may be even more problematic for two reasons: Sugar, the carbohydrate that would help exert a sedating influence, is absent; the artificial sweeteners act as a direct stimulant to the brain. (Guiffre, Kenneth, MD, with Theresa Foy DiGeronimo. The Care and Feeding of Your Brain. NJ: Career Press, 1999, p. 114)

Eating some dry cereal or instant hot cereal made with boiling water (no milk) before bedtime can trigger serotonin, a sleep-inducing strategy. (Bricklin, Mark, et al. Positive Living and Health. PA: Rodale Press, 1990, p. 89-90.0

When people get less than eight hours of sleep, concentration is only 70% of what it is on days when they are well rested; likely caused by the depletion of norepinephrine, and serotonin. Chronic stress-like syndrome from sleep deprivation raises brain cortisol levels, which over time can cause cell death. (Giuffre, Kenneth, MD, with Theresa Foy DiGeronimo. The Care and Feeding of Your Brain. NJ: Career Press, 1999, p. 43.)

Researchers at UCLA have found that loss of sleep, even for a few hours during the night, can prompt a person’s immune system to turn against healthy tissue and organs. The study was based on measurements of levels of nuclear factor (NF)-KB, a transcription factor that serves a vital role in the body's inflammatory signaling. Experts recommend that adults get between seven and eight hours of sleep every night. (Loss Of Sleep, Even For A Single Night, Increases Inflammation In The Body. Science Daily, 2008.)

Acute or chronic sleep deprivations impairs mental abilities and can lead to high blood sugar levels due to insulin resistance, a precursor of type 2 diabetes, as well as elevated brain cortisol levels--both associated with memory loss. This can repair itself if you spend approximately 12 hours in bed to make up for the sleep deficit. (Small, Gary, M.D. The Memory Bible. NY Health)

  • Some food items eaten before bedtime may be sleep “stealers” for some individuals, this according to Russell Rosenberg, PhD and CEO of the National Sleep Foundation. For example, a bacon cheeseburger may be one of the worst possible choices. The high fat content stimulates the production of stomach acid, which can trigger heartburn. Wine, or alcohol of any type metabolizes quickly in the body, increases snoring, and decreases amount and quality of sleep. For most people, drinking java too close to bedtime can interfere with sleep because a caffeine is a stimulant to the central nervous system.
  • Avoid chocolate just before bedtime. It contains caffeine and theobromine (stimulants that can increase heart rate and sleeplessness. And you may want to ditch Red Bull. According to Keri Gans, a registered dietician in New York City and author of The Small Change Diet, an eight-ounce Red Bull energy drink contains about 80 milligrams of caffeine, while a Five-Hour Energy drink packs 200 milligrams of caffeine into just two ounces (the equivalent of drinking 16 ounces of regular coffee). In fact, you may want to avoid sodas altogether. Mountain Dew MDX along with jolt Cola and Vault contain 71 milligrams of caffeine per 12-ounce serving (the upper limit of what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows). In addition, typical soda drinks often contain citrus as well as sodium benzoate and other chemicals that can promote acid reflux, often a recipe for interfering with sleep.
  • Indian curry and other heavy spices may keep you awake at night. In a study conducted in Australia, young men who poured Tabasco sauce and mustard on their dinner had more trouble falling asleep and experienced less deep sleep than men who ate blander dinners. Spices can also cause heartburn so avoid them in late-day meals. Blander definitely appears to be better in the hours before you intend to fall asleep. Relegate heavy spices to earlier in the day. Avoid combining spicy and high-fat foods in a late-day meal, too. Together, they can give you twice the potential for sleep-wrecking.
  • Chicken or any type of protein may be counterproductive to sleep if consumed at night. According to Russell Rosenberg, PhD and CEO of the National Sleep Foundation, digestion is supposed to slow by about 50% while you’re sleeping. If you eat a lot of protein, you digest the food even more slowly. Instead of focusing on sleeping, your body is focusing on digesting. If you insist on eating a high protein dinner at night, then include complex carbohydrates in your meal to try to moderate the impact of protein on keeping your brain alert. Better yet, eat the protein earlier in the day and try a few complex carbohydrates at dinner, like jasmine rice or quinoa. (Source)

According to Russell Rosenberg, PhD and CEO of the National Sleep Foundation, some small studies suggest that some food items eaten before bedtime may be “sleep promoters” for some individuals.

  • Cherries, for example, are one of the few foods that naturally contain melatonin. So eating a few cherries or sipping a little bit of tart cherry juice before retiring may be helpful in promoting sleep. Jasmine rice ranks high on the glycemic index, meaning the body digests it slowly, releasing glucose gradually into the bloodstream. A 2007 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that eating jasmine rice (high on the Glycemic Index scale) four hours before bedtime cut the amount of time it took to fall asleep by half compared with eating a high-glycemic-index meal at the same time interval.
  • Generally complex carbohydrates such as quinoa, barley, wheat, and buckwheat, promote sleep? And speaking of carbs, bananas are also carbs. They also contain magnesium, a natural muscle relaxant, as well as potassium. That makes bananas a win-win because humans needs potassium for cardiovascular health and cognitive brain functioning. You might try a sweet potato snack, too. Sweet potatoes are a sleeper’s dream. They provide sleep-promoting complex carbohydrates plus potassium, a muscle-relaxant potassium. Lima beans and papaya also contain potassium. And then there’s turkey, which contains tryptophan, a chemical that can make you doze off after Thanksgiving dinner. According to Russell Rosenberg, PhD and CEO of the National Sleep Foundation, if you’re a die-hard insomniac, you’d have to eat a lot of turkey to have a major effect, but if you need a little shove in the right direction, it just might help.
  • L-theanine, an amino acid that is contained naturally in green tea, not only helps maintain a calm alertness during the day but also appears to promotes a deeper sleep at night. The down side is that green tea doesn't contain a high enough concentration of L-theanine to provide these effects. Suntheanine, which is pure L-theanine, and delta-E (available from IMPaXworld.com) may be better choices. And then there is melatonin, a hormone that controls sleep. No surprise, it can help to induce sleep. Interestingly enough, studies have shown that lower doses of melatonin are more effective than higher doses. Some recommend taking 0.3 to 0.5 milligrams three-to four hours before going to bed. (Source)
  • Some people hold that valerian tea along with motherwort, chamomile, and catnip brews, none of which contain caffeine, will help make you drowsy. According to Timothy Roehrs, PhD, a senior scientist with Henry Ford Sleep Disorder and Research Center in Detroit, it may be less any property of the actual tea and more the power of a relaxing ritual as you get ready for bed. And speaking of tea, aromatherapy works for some people, lavender for example. Studies have shown that lavender is a cheap, nontoxic sleep aid. Find a spray with real lavender essence or oil and spritz it on your pillow before bedtime or try a lavender-filled pillow. (Source)

According to performance-therapist and medical researcher Robert Rudelic, humans are designed to spend a third of their lives sleeping—on a regular basis. Sleep deprivation can lead to a laundry list of short-term and long-term effects. In the short-term, the individual may experience irritability, quick temper, edginess, pessimism, negative attitude, lack of focus, poor eating choices, and a higher risk of getting sick or of getting into an accident. Long-term effects (over the course of a few months to a year or longer) may be as severe as type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, obesity, heart disease, depression, anxiety, stroke, gastrointestinal problems, and even premature death. (Source)

There is a clear biochemical link between the function of immune system cells and deep sleep. (Ornstein, Robert, PhD, and David Sobel, MD. Healthy Pleasures. NY: Addison-Wesley, 1989, p. 120-122.)

Refer to the Immune System for additional information

Trouble sleeping is often a symptom of another disease or condition, such as depression, chronic pain, medications, or stress, which might explain why it’s so common. Most often, insomnia stems from a combination of factors, including medical and psychological issues, scheduling issues, relationships conflicts, and behavioral factors (poor bedtime routines, physical hyperactivity, watching TV right before bed, etc.). [http://www.everydayhealth.com/news/solutions-when-you-cant-sleep/?xid=y_sh]

You can retrain yourself and develop good sleep habits. Lack of restful sleep can result in lower quality of life in older adults, memory problems, and depression, to name just a few. (O’Brien, Mary, MD. Successful Aging. CA: Biomed General. 2007, p. 56.)

Considering the many potential adverse health effects of insufficient sleep, it is not surprising that poor sleep is associated with lower life expectancy. Data from three large cross-sectional epidemiological studies reveal that sleeping five hours or less per night increased mortality risk from all causes by roughly 15 percent. (Source)

The production of melatonin can be thrown off during winter months when amount of daylight decreases, especially in northern regions. This can trigger a form of depression known as SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder. Along with other typical symptoms of depression, people with SAD tend to eat and sleep more. Exposure to “full-spectrum lighting” has been used successfully to treat this type of depression. (Giuffre, Kenneth, MD., with Teresa Foy DiGeronimo. The Care and Feeding of Your Brain. NJ: Career Press, 1999, p. 100, 175.)

Studies at UCLA have challenged theories of brain communication during sleep (e.g., the hippocampus talks to the neocortex). Studies showed there are three players: the neocortex, the hippocampus, and the entorhinal cortex or EC (which connects the neocortex and the hippocampus). And the neocortex is driving the entorhinal cortex, which in turn behaves as if it is remembering something, which then drives the hippocampus. According to Mehta, “This suggests that whatever is happening during sleep is not happening the way we thought it was. There are more players involved so the dialogue is far more complex, and the direction of the communication is the opposite of what was thought.” This process may occur during sleep as a way to unclutter memories and delete information that was processed during the day but is irrelevant, which results in important memories becoming more salient and readily accessible. Notably, Alzheimer’s disease starts in the entorhinal cortex and those individuals tend to have impaired sleep in addition to memory challenges. (Source)

Refer to Memory and the Brain for additional information.

Sara Thomée, doctoral student, and colleagues conducted four studies to evaluate the effects of heavy computer and cell phone by young adults on sleep quality, stress levels, and general mental health. The studies found that young adults who make particularly heavy use of mobile phones and computers run a greater risk of sleep disturbances, stress, and symptoms of mental health. Heavy use of mobile phones was linked to an increase in sleeping problems in males and an increase in depressive symptoms in both males and females. (http://gupea.ub.gu.se/handle/2077/28245  University of Gothenburg. "Intensive mobile phone use affects young people's sleep." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 June 2012. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120611134233.htm. Accessed 7-16)

Studies by Sara Thomée, doctoral student, and colleagues at the University of Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska Academy have shown links between frequent computer use without breaks and late at night and health problems.

  • Frequent computer use without breaks was found to increase the risk of stress, sleeping problems, and depressive symptoms in women
  • Males who use computers extensively without breaks were more likely to develop sleeping problems.

Regularly using a computer late at night was associated not only with sleep disorders but also with stress and depressive symptoms in both men and women (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-volpi-md-pc-facs/technology-depression_b_1723625.html. Accessed 7-16).

Are you getting enough sleep? Really? According to rat studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison, tired neurons appear to zone out at random. Tired neurons may be responsible for the attention lapses, poor judgment, mistake-proneness, and irritability that people experience when they haven’t had enough sleep, yet don’t feel particularly sleepy. Sleep deprivation produces a brain-wide state of instability and may also trigger local instability in the cortex, possibly by depleting levels of brain chemical messengers. Tired neurons might switch off as part of an energy-saving or restorative process for overloaded neuronal connections. (Source 1) (Source 2)

While we sleep the mind continues to work (e.g., processing information, storing memories, and solving problems). The subconscious is free to take an unorthodox approach. (Fontana, David, PhD. Teach Yourself to Dream. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books, 1997, p. 60-64.)

Sleep is essential for muscle repair, strengthening memory, regulating hormones that are responsible for growth and appetite, and much more. Not getting enough of it can be detrimental to anyone, regardless of age. Sleep is a time the body uses to restore itself and gain energy, so it’s important to practice healthy sleeping habits. But the price you pay for lack of sleep can get as steeper as you age, with problems running the gamut from memory problems and obesity to cardiovascular diseases and cancer. (Aneesa Das, MD. http://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/health-answers/price-we-pay-for-lack-sleep-gets-steeper-we-age/?xid=y_sh)

Study at the University of California San Diego: volunteers who entered rapid eye movement (REM) states during sleep improved their creative problem solving ability by almost 40% (as compared with quiet rest and non-REM sleep. The passage of time is enough for the brain to find solutions for creative problems that the person has already been working on. Lead researcher Professor Sara Mednick said: "For new problems, only REM sleep enhances creativity." Apparently REM sleep allows the brain to form new nerve connections without the interference of other thought pathways that occur when the brain is awake or in non-dream-state sleep. (Article.)

Lying on the side is the most common sleep position for animals in the wild. New studies from Stony Brook University has found that a side-sleeping position seems to improve waste clearance from the brain. Using dynamic contrast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) researchers observed the glymphatic pathway of rodents under anesthesia in three different positions: on their sides (lateral position), backs (supine position), and bellies (prone position). The rodents who were in the lateral position cleared amyloid beta about 25 percent better than when in the prone or supine position. (Some say lying on the left side is a preferred option. (https://www.yahoo.com/health/the-best-sleep-position-for-your-brain-126105337202.html?soc_src=unv-sh&soc_trk=fb)

According to Dr. Mathias Basner, assistant professor of sleep and chronobiology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, work is the number one sleep killer. Nighttime television and long commute times also contribute to lack of adequate sleep. Generally, most adults need about seven to nine hours of nightly sleep for best health, productivity, and daytime alertness, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. But the study authors cited data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that thirty percent of employed American adults typically sleep six hours or less in a twenty-four-hour period. (http://www.everydayhealth.com/news/work-steals-valuable-sleep-time/?xid=y_sh)

Watching scenes of violence or novelty (e.g., sitcom) can increase brain arousal and interfere with sleep. Sleeping with the TV on (e.g., a light that makes noise) interferes with natural melatonin production and can result in more waking during lighter stages of sleep. (Giuffre, Kenneth, MD., with Teresa Foy DiGeronimo. The Care and Feeding of Your Brain. NJ:Career Press, 1999, p. 122.)

According to Dr. Mathias Basner, assistant professor of sleep and chronobiology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, work is the number one sleep killer. Long commute times and nighttime TV also contribute. Adults need about seven to nine hours of nightly sleep for best health, productivity and daytime alertness, says the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. But the study authors cited data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that 30 percent of employed American adults typically sleep six hours or less in a 24-hour period. (http://www.everydayhealth.com/news/work-steals-valuable-sleep-time/?xid=y_sh)

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