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Here’s something I saw recently that may or may not apply to you.
“Dear Mind, please stop thinking so much at night. I need to sleep.”
Can you relate to that? I hope not. Especially if you’ve been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment.
Because of all of the possible problems that can contribute to cognitive loss, lack of sleep is one of the biggest, and yet it’s one that often goes unaddressed. And that’s what I want to talk about today.
Hi, I’m Tony Dearing, of GoCogno.com, the website for people with mild cognitive impairment.
So here we are, in the midst of this unprecedented global health crisis, and we’re feeling worried and restless and it can keep us awake at night.
Which is the last thing we need.
That’s true for everyone, but it is most true for people who are concerned about their cognition.
For people with MCI, there is so much advice out there about what you can do to defend your cognition. Exercise. Diet. Stress reduction. You’ve heard it all.
But what about sleep? How much attention are you paying to the quality of your sleep, and the impact that may have on your memory?
I never fully appreciated the association between poor sleep and cognitive impairment until somebody showed me the results of one study that drives that point home like nothing else I’ve ever seen.
In a study published in 2017, researchers at the New York University School of Medicine looked at the medical history of some 2,500 people between the ages of 55 to 90.
- For people with sleep breathing problems, the average age of developing MCI was 77.
- For those who didn’t have sleep issues, they typically didn’t develop MCI until the age of 90.
That’s a 13-year difference. That is stunning.
The misperception is that we don’t need as much sleep as we get older, or that it’s normal for older adults to not sleep well, and neither of those things are true.
Our understanding of that is actually very new, based on some pretty recent studies. But here are at least three things you really need to understand about sleep and cognition.
You have heard about the amyloid plaques that are so strongly associated with Alzheimer’s. Well, deep sleep is the only time when your brain doesn’t generate these plaques.
And what’s more, during deep sleep, your brain cleanses itself with cerebral fluid, which helps wash those plaques away.
And one more thing. Deep sleep is when your brain encodes memories. So if you’re not sleeping well, you’re not storing memories.
So your brain needs that sleep. And if the stress of these current times and what we’re going through is making it harder for you to sleep, there are answers for that.
For some people, the problem might be a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, and that’s something that needs to be addressed medically.
But outside of that, some of the more common reasons for lack of sleep include:
- Medicines, herbs, supplements or recreational drugs
- Lack of physical activity
- Pain caused by arthritis or other health problems
- Caffeine, nicotine or other stimulants
These are really difficult times we are living through right now, but when you lay awake all night, tossing and turning, then there’s no escape at all. I just want you to sleep well and get some rest.
That what you want, too. To help you with that, I’ve created this three-page guide to getting a better night’s sleep. It’s free when you sign up for my weekly brain health email, which also is free. There’s a link below.
I hope you find this helpful, and I hope you get some shut-eye. And since I began this video with a quote, I’d like to end it with this one.
“The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep.” — E. Joseph Cossman
I’ll see you next week. Until then, as always, be kind to your mind.