If you want a healthy brain, sleep is simply non-negotiable. Adequate sleep stabilizes your mood, controls your weight, and helps build life-long resilience. Sleep serves at least three crucial functions for brain health.
1. Cleanse the Brain. During deep sleep, our brains wash out the waste products that build up during the day, much like a cleaning crew empties the trash from a busy office building at night. Keeping the “trash” from accumulating may help prevent the cognitive decline that so often occurs with age.
2. Reduce Stress & Improve Memory. Sound sleep is important for reducing stress and improving memory. Important experiences from the day are converted into long-term memory at night. That way, lessons learned from the prior day’s experience can help us respond to similar situations in the future. Sleep helps us to build “been there, done that” knowledge.
3. Boost Health and Creativity. Sleep-time is dream time. Dreams are still a mystery but they appear to be critical to emotional health, mental clarity and creative problem-solving. Dreams also offer us a time to work through and resolve tensions and stressors we encounter during the day, leaving us refreshed and energized the following morning.
Become a Better Sleeper
While sleep is a biological need, sleeping well is a learned habit. Tips for sleeping well:
- Align yourself with the light/dark cycle of each day. Try to get bright light exposure every morning, either from the sun or a bright light device. You also need to reduce the amount of light to which your are exposed in the evening. Try to limit lighting in the last 1-2 hours before sleep to little more than candle light levels. Turn off your electronic devices. Allow your body’s natural wake/sleep rhythm to take hold by engaging in slower and quieter activities as evening turns to night.
- Use natural supplements, if needed, to help reconnect your body to the natural wake/sleep cycles with which you were born. For example, melatonin, tryptophan and 5-HTP are natural substances that circulate in the brain and regulate sleep. Herbs such as passionflower or Valerian root are often helpful, too.
- Try the Sleeping House Meditation: