Sleep has many benefits including the formation of memories, improving the immune system, maintaining normal blood pressure, and healthy weight. Sleep also protects from heart disease and cancer. New research has shown that the lack of sleep not only impairs memory but also may lead to dementia and emotional instability.
Sleep to Remember
The formation of memories involves multiple areas in the brain. Initially, memories pass through a region in the brain called the hippocampus. This is a temporary stop just like a short-term parking. In addition, this area of the brain has a limited storage capacity. Information then needs to be moved and archived into a long-term parking area of the brain call the cortex. This process takes place during sleep. If we sleep less than six hours a night, there is the risk of disrupting this transfer of information and losing short term memories. The memories I am referring to are not only memories for words, places, and names, but also for motor skills such as athletic skills, creative thinking, and problem problem-solving abilities ., (Matthew walker ,Why We Sleep). Another important process takes place during sleep. The brain drainage system is 20 times more powerful during sleep. Thus, inadequate sleep from any cause such as obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia or just in adequate sleep hygiene and poor sleep habits all lead to a decrease in the hours of effective sleep and prevents the draining of the toxins from the brain, thereby increasing the risk for dementia.
Sleep to Forget
Sleep also help us to forget, which ironically, is a very important function and as important as remembering. Sleep also helps eliminate unwanted, irrelevant memories, including painful traumatic memories. Patients with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) lose the soothing effects of sleep after a trauma. Often, they are reliving their terrifying event every night in their dreams.
The bottom line is sleep is better than any drug, hormone, or cream. Sleep works to aid in keeping us young, protects us from cancer and heart disease, improves our memory and rids us of unwanted emotions. The best thing is that sleep is free!
Tips to Improve Sleep
Sleeping 7-8 hours at night, keeping consistent bed time, avoiding bright lights (any electronic device) before bed time, avoiding alcohol in the evening, keeping the bedroom cool and dark, and removing TV from bedroom are all proven, effective ways to improve sleep.
For more information, visit our Thomas Health Sleep Center at thomashealth.org/sleep