Sleep can be challenging for many of us, but it is worth persevering to get it right, as it seems to play a key role in protecting our brains.
The basics here include good “sleep hygiene”, such as a cool, dark comfortable space and a regular bedtime. One key for me was discontinuing electronic devices for an hour or so before sleep, and allowing myself to wake up naturally without an alarm, if your work and lifestyle allow for that.
There is currently an explosion of great research going on related to sleep. I have gotten great value out of reading Dr. Matthew Walker’s book Why We Sleep? and continue to follow the work coming out of his lab in Berkeley.
You will also see him featured prominently as a guest in some of the podcast resources I will be posting shortly.
Sleeping better starts with understanding what we now know about sleep, covered in this good overview from NIH on sleep.
When it comes to “The Neuroprotective Aspects of Sleep” they are well described here, also by NIH, including the conclusion: “With the discovery of the relationship between sleep and the brain’s health; one can conclude that sleeping clears the build-up of toxic waste products.”
Deep Sleep, and the relatively newly discovered glymphatic system, may be particularly important to brain health, and especially to protecting against neuro-degeneration, as seen in this piece about Deep sleep and Tau protein build up, and this piece about how Sleep Deprivation May Cause Brain To Eat Itself!
Deep Sleep decreases dramatically with aging, in some cases to almost nothing for those in their 80s. Given its importance, many of us are working away at how to increase it.
I am one of those who gets a low amount of deep sleep, at least as reported via my Oura Ring.
I have made a concerted effort on my sleep hygiene, including an earlier bedtime, which can be important since Deep Sleep is much more prevalent early in the night. This has been coupled with herbs and increased overall daily exercise. I have seen some results, boosting my Deep sleep by 30% over my baseline in six of the last nine months. But this still feels insufficient, and I continue to experiment in search of more deep sleep.
This piece on How to Increase Deep Sleep by Alex Fergus offers a great overview of many of the things that individuals are trying in their quest for more Deep Sleep. Some of these certainly represent methods I plan to explore in the months ahead.
Disclaimer: I offer all of these suggestions not as a Doctor or Researcher, but as a Patient, and a “Citizen Scientist”. None of this should be taken as medical advice, and certainly you should consult your Doctor when it comes to making decisions about your health.