Weekly Musing for October 23, 2017
We in America are among the most sleep deprived populations in the world. How does that affect our health, especially our brains? Read on!
Sleepless in America
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly a third of us are sleep-deprived. We get less than the recommended seven to nine hours, especially those of us working at night or more than forty hours a week. Nearly 41 million Americans are getting less than six hours of sleep nightly, and that's a problem. Sleeplessness is linked to obesity, high blood pressure, depression, memory loss and a weakened immune system.
More recent research has enlightened us on the need for sleep. Dr. Daniel S. Reich at the NIH utilized a method of injecting dye into the dura of the brain. It had always been a mystery, the brain's ability to cleanse itself much as the rest of the body does with the lymph system. It wasn't thought that the lymph system extended into the brain, so how did it work?
The lymph system does, in fact, work in the brain as well. The lymph vessels showed up in his sophisticated dye studies, illuminating a very old riddle.
As we sleep, the brain washes itself. It uses the lymphatic and "glymphatic" systems to do this important work. It is further thought that those plaques and toxic proteins in our brains that contribute to dementia are removed and cleansed during sleep.
One of the most prevalent factors to sleep difficulties is the constant viewing of tv and use of cell phones and social media. Our brains are awakened and stimulated by both the light and content. Make it a practice to turn off all devices an hour before bed, and keep the bedroom dark and cool.
It is suggested from recent research with mice that sleeping on one's side is the most efficient posture to encourage the lymphatic system's work. We would suggest you make sure you have enough pillows under your head to align the neck and spine, avoiding a crunched shoulder or sense of neck "cricking." Also, a pillow between the knees is most helpful.
Warm herbal teas, meditation or prayer, breathing deeply and in a relaxed fashion, all contribute to happy sleep hours. Setting aside time to plan the next day and put away concerns before bed is a great idea.
With time and consistency, sleep can improve and your brain will thank you.
Have a wonderful week!
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