New Research Reveals “Sweet Sleep Spot”

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

August 20, 2014

  • The nighttime thief that’s stealing your memories
  • Stop mental decline before it starts
  • Protect your precious memories with deep, restorative sleep

Far too many people have trouble sleeping. Maybe you’re one of them.

I always hate to hear this. And it’s not just because a lack of sleep can leave you feeling groggy and slow. It can also affect your memory, age your brain, and make you fatter, depressed and fatigued.

Most patients are pretty surprised when I tell them this. They’re more inclined to pass off the occasional memory slip as a normal part of aging. That’s not necessarily the case, but I understand why they would jump to that conclusion.

You see, today we’re learning that the less sleep we get as we grow older, the faster our brains age. This opens the doors to failing memory, dementia and even Alzheimer’s disease.

This is a tremendous discovery. That’s because there’s no way to actually cure dementia or Alzheimer’s once they’ve set in. But there are plenty of things you can do to get a good night’s sleep – and potentially avoid mental decline in the first place!

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Let’s take a look at how a short night’s sleep changes your brain structure… and exactly what you can do about it.

The health of my patients doesn’t just depend on my training as a medical doctor. It also hinges on my ability to take the timeliest medical studies available and apply them in a meaningful way.

That’s why all of the latest research on sleep patterns and brain function has grabbed my attention. If we can halt physiological changes in the brain before they rob your memories and alter your personality… well, I think we should do it, don’t you?

Here’s what the latest research shows when it comes to the aging brain:

  • The less sleep older people get, the more chances they have of developing age-related brain atrophy and cognitive decline. A lack of sleep causes faster ventricle enlargement in the brain. The faster the enlargement, the greater your chances of developing Alzheimer’s.
  • People who sleep poorly are more likely to develop beta amyloid deposits. These deposits, or plaques, are believed to be the #1 culprit in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • When older adults don’t get enough deep sleep, they tend to lose short-term memories. You see, during deep sleep, memories get transported from short-term memory (the hippocampus) to long-term memory (the prefrontal cortex). But in older adults who don’t sleep well, not all of the memories get moved. Instead, some of them get stuck in the hippocampus, where they end up being overwritten by new memories.
  • During sleep, the brain flips on a “drainage” system that opens up between the cells of your brain. This allows cerebrospinal fluid to rush between brain cells and pick up toxic waste products, like amyloid plaques and debris from a day of oxidative stress. Without adequate sleep, this process can’t be completed, and waste continues to accumulate.
  • Sleeping less than six hours a night can result in higher levels of three inflammatory markers: Fibrinogen, IL-6 and C-reactive protein. Each of these compounds has been implicated in the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

With all of this in mind, one of the best things you can do to protect your memory and brainpower is to make sure you get a full night’s sleep, each and every night.

However, if you have problems getting your Z’s in, I heartily recommend against taking sedatives.

Sure, they help you fall asleep. But whether you take the occasional Advil PM or a pharmaceutical sedative, these drugs can spell trouble. They can leave you feeling groggy and confused. What’s really frightening is they can lead to dependency. And, if you try to stop them, you could end up with withdrawal symptoms and rebound insomnia.

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That’s why I recommend natural sleep aids that can help you get to sleep faster, and sleep longer.

Sleep longer – and more deeply – with valerian and hops. Valerian is a well-researched sleep herb that works just as well as a prescription sleeping aid, but does it naturally. When you combine valerian (500 mg.) with hops (120 mg.), it can improve both your quality of sleep and the amount of time you spend in deep sleep.

Reset your natural sleep cycle. If you have trouble getting to sleep at night or waking up on time, try supplementing with 3 to 4 mg. of melatonin about an hour before bedtime. This nutrient can do wonders when it comes to re-setting your natural circadian rhythm.

Is your racing mind keeping you from sleep? Try L-theanine. It promotes calmness by increasing alpha activity in the brain. This results in “relaxed alertness.” And, when your mind is calm, you can get to sleep a lot faster. Take 200 mg. shortly before bedtime.

It also helps if you get yourself into a regular evening routine.

Get high-energy projects out of the way early in the evening. Don’t drink or eat anything after 7:30 p.m. (This will help prevent middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom.) Shut down the TV and electronic devices at the same time each night, and reserve at least an hour to wind down before trying to get to sleep.

These are some pretty simple tips. And putting them into action will go a long way toward restoring your natural sleep patterns and protecting your precious memories.

References:
Lo JC, et al. “Sleep Duration and Age-Related Changes in Brain Structure and Cognitive Performance.” Sleep. 2014;37(7):1171-1178.

Spira AP, et al. “Self-reported Sleep and β-Amyloid Deposition in Community-Dwelling Older Adults.” JAMA Neurol. 2013 Dec;70(12):1537-43.

“Poor sleep in old age prevents the brain from storing memories.” UC Berkeley News Center. Jan. 28, 2013.

NIH/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. “Brain may flush out toxins during sleep; Sleep clears brain of molecules associated with neurodegeneration: Study.” ScienceDaily. Oct 2013.

Morris A, et al. “Abstract 17806: Sleep Quality and Duration are Associated with Higher Levels of Inflammatory Biomarkers: the META-Health Study.” Circulation 122: A17806.

Cojocaru IM, et al. “Study of interleukin-6 production in Alzheimer’s disease.” Rom J Intern Med. 2011;49(1):55-8.

Davalos D, et al. “Fibrinogen as a key regulator of inflammation in disease.” Semin Immunopathol. 2012 Jan;34(1):43-62.

Mancinella A, et al. “Is there a relationship between high C-reactive protein (CRP) levels and dementia?” Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2009;49 Suppl 1:185-94.

Koetter U. et al, “A randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled, prospective clinical study to demonstrate clinical efficacy of a fixed valerian hops extract combination (Ze 91019) in patients suffering from non-organic sleep disorder,” Phytother Res. Sep 2007;21(9):847-51.

Zhdanova IV, et al, “Sleep-inducing effects of low doses of melatonin ingested in the evening,” Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics. 1995;57: 552-558.

Nobre AC, et al, “L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state,” Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2008;17(Suppl 1):167-8

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