What is your brain up to when you’re sleeping?

What is your brain up to when you’re sleeping?

Have you ever thought what your “grey-stuff” does when you’re in a deep slumber?

There’s a lot that goes on when we are asleep….and guess what? It’s really important for good health!

I’m really passionate about empowering you to achieve good health and sleep is the number 1 medicine I recommend. Above what you eat, how you manage your stress and how much you exercise, sleep is top dog.

Numerous functions of the brain are restored by, and depend upon, sleep. We have different stages of sleep – NREM (light and deep) and REM – and they all offer different brain benefits at different times of night.

Memory: sleep has proven itself time and again as a memory aid: both before learning, to prepare for making new memories and after learning, to cement those memories and prevent forgetting.

In my brain-injury rehabilitation clinic, I am always checking in on sleep with my clients, who often are challenged with short term memory. Good sleep patterns (including daytime naps in the recovery phase) are very important for brain recovery.

Creativity: at nighttime your sleeping brain creates a theatre, making connections between vast stores of information. This all happens during REM sleep in our dreaming state. These connections would never occur during wakefulness.

Cellular cleaning: while we are sleeping, metabolic debris is removed by the exceptional support team of our neurons – the glymphatic system. It is important to remove unwanted metabolic products from the areas surrounding hard working neurons, so the brain can work better the next day. This may even link with the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Amyloid protein is a poisonous element associated with AD and is usually cleared out at night. In mouse experiments depriving mice of NREM sleep, there is an immediate increase in amyloid deposits within the brain. Another way of saying this is “wakefulness is low-level brain damage, while sleep is neurological sanitation”.
Quote from Why we sleep by Matthew Walker (a fantastic read!).

Getting too little sleep across the adult lifespan will significantly raise your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. This has been reported in numerous epidemiological studies, and two anecdotal cases include Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Two heads of state who appeared proud and were certainly vocal about sleeping only 4-5 hours a night. They both went on to develop the ruthless disease.

So what can you do to help your brain while you’re sleeping?

  • Prioritise sleep! Aim for 7-8 hours per night
  • Develop an evening routine to wind down
  • Turn off screens 1-2 hours before bed
  • Keep your bedroom cool
  • Remove any blue-light emitting devices from your bedroom:
    • phone, alarm clock/radio, TV
Women’s brains just ain’t the same

Women’s brains just ain’t the same

Concussion in Females
Women show signs of concussion later and for longer than men (3 weeks to 6 months for women).
Women concuss at a higher rate than men, differently to men and they recover differently. Hormones and the musculoskeletal structure of women’s necks may explain the differences in outcomes to men.

What are signs of concussion (or mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI):

  • Dizziness and or vertigo
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Fuzzy or blurred vision
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sensitivity to noise or light
  • Irritability
  • Sleeping more or less than usual.

The Research:

  • Females sustain more concussions at a higher rate than their male counterparts
  • Report a higher number and more severe symptoms than males
  • Women have longer recovery periods than males.

A woman will know more men than women who have concussions and may judge her own recovery by the male experience.

And IF her recovery spans more than a few weeks….

  • Depression
  • Isolation
  • Self-doubt
  • Anxiety
  • can occur with significant impact on her day to day functioning, at home and at work.

One of the experts on the Pink Concussions research panel, Angela Colantonio, PhD, professor and director of the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute at the University of Toronto in Canada, conducted a study, published in the Journal of Women’s Health, to see if menstrual functioning, fertility, and pregnancies were affected after a woman receives a mTBI. She and her colleagues found that 68 percent of the 104 observed women experienced irregular menstrual cycles after their injury as well as lower mental health and function.

What are the main causes of concussion in women:

  1. Sports
  2. Motor vehicle accidents
  3. Military
  4. Domestic Violence
  5. Falls in the elderly

Stats on concussion in females

Female basketball: 1 out of 2 collisions results in concussion.
Female Soccer: 1 out of 2 headers results in concussion.
30% Concussions from something other than sports – eg gym class.

Remember HEAD BUMPS:

    • Headache
    • Eye trouble
    • Abnormal behaviour
    • Dizziness
    • Balance dysfunction
    • Unsteady on feet
    • Memory impaired
    • Poor concentration
    • Something’s not right.
  • Seek urgent medical assistance if any of the above occur.

For more information you may enjoy Love your Brain – a great online resource for individuals, family or friends following a brain injury.