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
Reverse Puberty…..easing the transition

Reverse Puberty…..easing the transition

Have you come across the term Peri-Menopause?

It’s the time when a woman is transitioning from regular menstrual cycles to the menopause. It can be associated with a rollercoaster of body, mind and mood changes which is why it has been called Reverse Puberty (credit Dr Carrie Jones of the DUTCH test). The peri-menopause can occur during two to twelve years before menopause, and can start as early as 35 years. Cycles may still be regular but symptoms may start including hot flushes, heavy periods and insomnia. This can be due to hormone changes including making more oestrogen than ever before and also a lot less progesterone. In menopause (which starts the year after cycles completely stop), there is low oestrogen in the body.

So what are some of the changes of perimenopause?

  • new onset heavy and/or longer flow
  • shorter menstrual cycles
  • new sore, swollen or lumpy breasts
  • new mid-sleep waking
  • increased menstrual cramps
  • onset of night sweats, in particular premenstrually
  • new or markedly increased migraine headaches
  • weight gain without changes in exercise or eating

Having three or more of the above symptoms means a woman is likely in perimenopause, despite regular cycles.

So how can you ease your way through peri-menopause?
As with the approach to health with root cause medicine, by supporting our bodies with what they need and removing that which they don’t need, we can make the transition easier than it may otherwise be. I believe that as women are supported with fertility and pre-conception care, support through the time of peri-menopause is very worthwhile and can have a big impact on a woman’s life as well as those around her!

The main strategies are to support progesterone, metabolise oestrogen and reduce inflammation. So to start with rest and self-care is a high priority. Do you have a mindfulness practice you enjoy? Reduce alcohol as this impairs the healthy metabolism of oestrogen and lowers an already low level of progesterone (which has a calming action on the brain). Maintaining healthy gut bacteria is important as they escort oestrogen safely out of your body. There are some supplements shown to have benefit in peri-menopause which could be considered on an individualised basis.