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Lifestyle 2 - Cherish sleep

Words Cherish Sleep - Cartoon character in bed asleepYour brain needs restful sleep to run smoothly, and sleep can even boost our powers of recall. Sleep is like an elixir for your brain. This is because a sound slumber allows your brain to process all the information it has sucked up during the day.

Our brain doesn’t rest while we sleep. Instead, memories are sorted and baked solid into brain circuits.

Sleep seems to protect new memories from disruption by interfering with experiences that happen while we go about our lives. As we sleep our brain builds and prioritises memories . We seem to put a sticky note – “keep these ones!” – on our most important memories, which our brain reads while we sleep.

Sleep imprints your memories like a pattern etched in wet concrete, making them harder to rub out. In one study in Germany, scientists asked people to remember picture cards. Half then took a nap. The two groups then had these memories disrupted by being asked to remember a different set of cards. Those who had taken a nap held onto the first set of memories far better.

Although much research has been done on sleep, for scientists it remains one of the great mysteries. What they do know is that you need sleep to remember and our brain thrives on its time off. If that wasn’t enough, growing evidence suggests that a lack of sleep increases the risk of a variety of health problems, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and heart attacks, stroke, depression, high blood pressure, obesity, and infections.

So if we feel groggy and absentminded due to lack of sleep, this could be a helpful warning signs that our brains are not getting enough quality slumber time to sort things out. So the advice for brain health and sleep is straightforward. Try to prepare yourself for bed by unwinding mentally first, and avoid using or looking at computer screens or mobile phone screens, as the subtle blue light seems to poke the brain into life rather than calm it. And eat light meals early in the evening, rather than feasting late into the night, and try to lay off coffee, tea or other caffeinated drinks.

Not sleeping or sleeping fitfully?

Feeling sleep deprived? People with MS often experience trouble sleeping and several things can stop you from falling or staying asleep. If your sleep is being disturbed by spasticity, periodic limb movements or because you have to make frequent trips to the bathroom then speak to your health professional about treatments to manage these symptoms. Depression and some medications can also interfere with sleep, so chat to your doctor about these also.

Inactivity and stress are also pretty big culprits in the sleep stakes. There is no denying that fatigue, pain and mobility can make it challenging to choose exercise over inactivity, but research shows that if you exercise for 150 minutes per week you will not only see a significant improvement in the quality of your sleep but will also feel more alert during the day.

So get working with your team to devise an enjoyable exercise programme that works to your strengths. Read more about the brain health boosting benefits of exercise in Activity 1 – Get Physical.

Stress can also make it difficult to fall asleep and to stay asleep.

When our body is in balance, cortisol (a hormone involved in positive and negative stress) is secreted into our blood in a predictable 24-hour rhythm. Our natural body clock sees a peak in cortisol in the early morning that helps us to get out of bed. Cortisol levels decline slowly over the course of the day reaching a maximum low around bed time, rising again in the early night time hours, slowly preparing for the morning to ensure that we have lots of energy to face the day.

That kind of positive stress keeps us going. But chronic stress can interfere with the production of cortisol, so that we might make too much at night. This can stop us from sleeping and then we have little in the morning when we need that spur to get out of bed.

If you find that as soon as you hit the pillow your brain wants to rehash the day or make plans for tomorrow or worse still wants to worry, then consider a routine that includes breathing exercises or meditation. Consider keeping a diary for your thoughts and allocate a specific time each day to get your thoughts out of your head and onto paper. Keeping a to do list might also help.

Visit Attitude 1 – Manage Stress – to learn more about managing stress.

Here’s a recap on how you can cherish sleep

• Go to bed and get up at the same time each day

• Get physically active

• Manage stress

• Allow some downtime before you go to bed

• Make your bedroom a technology free zone today. No phone, laptop, or TV

• Avoid caffine or alcohol close to bedtime

• Eat lightly in the evening

• Manage any conditions or medications that impact on sleep quality – get medical advice

Back to Attitude

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Hello Brain For more info on brain health visit Hello Brain


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