As a former physician, I left the clinical arena over 2 decades diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I started doing research on brain issues when my husband developed cognitive decline and was eventually diagnosed with vascular Alzheimer’s dementia 15 years ago.
The issue of cognitive decline and dementia was new to me as I was never exposed to it academically or clinically as an anesthesiologist; admittedly, that was almost 40 years ago. As I started my research, I rapidly learned that cognitive decline could be part of multiple sclerosis! My interest immediately intensified in learning about brain matters.
When I read Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s recent book Keep Sharp, which is all about optimizing brain health, this statement really resonated with me. We are not doomed to be forgetful, and cognitive decline is not inevitable, and the brain is malleable and changeable and can improve throughout our lives.
One way to do this is to get good sleep. Why? During sleep, your body clears waste proteins from your brain. Among these are beta-amyloid, a plaque associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Doctors link a buildup to a higher risk of cognitive impairment.
Upon learning the significance, I became aware and proactive in making sure I was getting a good night’s sleep. I considered myself a good sleeper until I started tracking my sleep about a year ago with wearable technology, and I became aware that my sleep habits needed improvement.
Now I make it a point to decrease the use of electronic devices approximately 3 hours before bedtime. The blue light from computers and smartphones blocks the release of melatonin and delays the onset of sleep. I established a cutoff time for stimulating activities and started winding down about 3 hours before going to bed.
An article in Frontiers in Psychology in 2019 suggests that in addition to quieting your mind, deep breathing can calm your autonomic nervous system and alter brain waves in ways that boost sleep. Now I routinely do deep-breathing exercises and mindful meditation at bedtime to promote a good night’s sleep. This practice has been beneficial for me, as has having a dark room with an ambient temperature of 60 to 68 degrees.
When I incorporate my daily exercises early in the day or at least 6 hours before going to sleep, I get a better and deeper quality of sleep. I have not had the use of medication to promote sleep, such as sedative hypnotics, which can be helpful on a short-term basis only, but melatonin is reported to be like a vitamin and can be used to promote sleep.
What are you GRATEFUL for? A 2019 study in Behavioral Sleep Medicine indicates that people who have higher levels of gratitude have better sleep quality and higher day time energy, most likely due to less level of depression.
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