Sleep is as important in our lives as fueling and hydration. As we sleep (rest our bodies) our brain remains active. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1/3 of Americans do not get enough sleep each night. I wonder if that statistic has increased with all the trials and tribulations going on in our world now? This is based on less than 7 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. 40% of Americans report they fall asleep or dose off during the work day at least once a month and 70 million Americans have chronic sleep problems.
SO HOW MUCH SLEEP IS RECOMMENDED FOR ALL AGES?
Sleep needs vary from person to person and change as we age. Here is a guide:
Newborn infants: 0 to 2 months- 12 to 18 hours (includes naps)
Infants: 4 to 12 months- 12 to 16 hours (includes naps)
Toddlers: 1 to 2 years-11 to 14 hours (includes naps)
Preschoolers: 3 to 5- 10 to 13 hours (includes naps)
School-age children: 6 to 12 years- 9 to 12 hours
Teens: 13 to 18 - 8 to 10 hours
Adults: 18 and older- 7 to 9 hours
Sleep stores memories and processes your thoughts from the day. So, if you do not get adequate sleep you may suffer from difficulty focusing and thinking clearly. You lose the ability to make sound decisions because you cannot correctly assess a situation. Your judgement may be impaired. When chronically tired, fatigued or exhausted, you will not perform well in any setting. Neurons in your brain do not fire well, muscles are fatigued and your body organs are not synchronized. This can add up to injury or illness.
REASONS FOR INSUFFICIENT SLEEP:
-Too much noise or light.
-Try to sleep outside your natural circadian clock (shift work change, new baby, nap to make up time lost)-
Poor sleep habits- watching late night TV, screen time, drinking caffeine to late, alcohol at night, have no schedule for sleep.
-Sleep disorder- sleep apnea, insomnia etc.-Need to consult a doctor.
-Medical condition that causes frequent awakening- heart, lung or kidney disease or chronic pain.
SLEEP DEFICIENCY AND DISEASE RISK:
When you experience ongoing sleep deprivation, you may develop a condition called sleep deficiency. At this point, you cannot make up for the lost hours of sleep. Sleep deficiency places you at higher risk for obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression and may cause early death.
1.Set a sleep schedule and stick to it. Try to go to bed at night and awaken in the morning around the same times, even on weekends. This helps to regulate the body’s sleep cycles and circadian rhythms.
2.Try to exercise at some point in the day but avoid vigorous activity (running, fast walking, high-intensity interval training) one hour before bedtime. Regular exercise of adequate intensity can promote muscle relaxation and deeper sleep later on.
3.Try to avoid large meals, heavy snacking, or alcohol 2-3 hours before bed.
4.If you are sensitive to caffeine, try to avoid drinking caffeinated beverages 4-6 hours before bedtime.
5.Stop using electronic devices an hour before bed, especially those emitting blue light such as smartphones, tablets, and televisions.
6.Schedule before-bed activities to signal that you are winding down, such as changing into pajamas and brushing teeth.
7.Create a quiet, dark, relaxing environment in your bedroom. Dim the lights and turn off your cell phone’s sound and vibration modes if possible.
8.Ensure a comfortable temperature, as feeling too hot or cold can disrupt sleep.
9.Create calming bedtime rituals such as practicing deep breathing exercises, doing light yoga stretches, or listening to soothing relaxing music. Many meditation podcasts, apps, and YouTube videos offer these tools for free.
10.If you awaken and can’t return to sleep, don’t stay in bed. Get up and do quiet relaxing activities, such as reading, until you feel tired enough to fall back asleep.
There are certain foods that can improve the health of your brain and can reduce the risk of developing neurological problems later in life. Of all the organs, the brain takes the most energy. Let us put the right food with certain nutrients and vitamins to build the powerful brain!
First the key nutrients and vitamins:
B vitamins- folic acid and B12 are important in making brain chemicals and help break down food for energy,
vit E- </strong>protects cells from being destroyed by natural processes in the body.
Omega-3 fatty acids- create the structure of cells and help the nervous system. Very important for children’s developing brains.
Antioxidants- protects the brain from damage- (in fruits and vege)
Choline- essential nutrient you get from food. Protects your nerves and helps create brain chemicals. Not enough choline in your diet can cause memory problems.
The best diet to follow to keep your brain sharp in cognitive function, memory and alertness is the Mediterranean Diet. Here is a link.
TO IMPROVE BRAIN HEALTH, INCORPORATE THESE FOODS:
-Blueberries-contain a compound-Anthocyanin (flavonoid) PODCAST 5- Knowing is now doing- Eating better- that is anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant- reduce brain aging and neurodegenerative diseases.
Eggs- rich in B vitamins- slows cognitive decline and choline – helps with mood and memory.
Fatty fish- trout, salmon, sardines- high in omega-3 fatty acids- helps in production of brain and nerve cells.
Fruit- oranges, bell peppers, guava, kiwi, tomatoes, strawberries high in Vit C- prevents brain from damage and supports overall health. A study found Vit C potentially prevents Alzheimer’s.
Leafy greens- broccoli, spinach, kale- vit K, lutein, folate and beta carotene.
Vit k helps improve memory. Sharper memory and slower mental decline.
Nuts- healthy fats, antioxidants, vit E- linked to improved cognition.
Pumpkin seeds- zinc, magnesium, copper, iron – great for nerve signals to prevent brain fog.
Turmeric-dark yellow spice found in curry powder. Strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory substance. Passes blood- brain barrier. Helps improve memory, lessen depression and help grow brain cells.
Whole grains- whole wheat breads, pastas, barley, brown rice, oatmeal and bulgur wheat contain vit E-preserves brain function and prevents neurodegeneration. (Fabulous Fiber Podcast)