• The Importance of Sleep

    by Dr. Susan Sklar
    on Aug 7th, 2017

Hi. I’m Dr. Susan Sklar and I want to give you the thought of the week. We’ve been delving deeply into the issue of cognitive decline. It certainly is one of the big issues on people’s minds. We know that one in three seniors will end up with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia and we have a program at the Sklar Center that helps with prevention and stabilization of people who have cognitive decline or mild Alzheimer’s. The issue I want to talk to you about today has to do with sleep. I know people are heavily focused on productivity. There’s a lot of pressure at work to get things done. People have family responsibilities, grandchildren, parents, etc to care for. If there’s one area that people tend to short themselves on in their self care, it frequently is sleep.

This is something I really want you to reconsider. There are some areas that are clearly related to lack of sleep–health problems such as diabetes, weight, and cognition. If you short yourself on sleep, you affect how your blood sugar is utilized and you put yourself at increased risk of diabetes, which I think the general public knows will shorten your life and shorten it in a very cruel way. As far as weight goes, we know there are a tremendous number of problems that come from excess weight, particularly excess body fat and cognition is one of them. Body fat’s been associated with increased risk of cognitive problems, increased risk of cancer, particularly breast cancer in women, so maintenance of a healthy weight is very important and getting adequate sleep is a very important contributor.

Then on the issue of cognition– during the night when you’re in deep sleep, a number of things happen. One of the things that happens is you release human growth hormone, which is not a growth hormone. It’s really a healing hormone. It helps with repairing the many destructive things that happen during the day to your body, the wear and tear, the damage of everyday life. This repair occurs when you’re in deep sleep. The other thing that happens when you’re in deep sleep is activation of something called the glymphatic system. It sounds like lymphatic, but its glymphatic. It is a fluid circulation system in your brain that becomes activated when you’re asleep. What happens is that your brain, believe it or not, shrinks down during the night when you’re in deep sleep allowing this fluid to circulate.

This fluid is like the garbage pickup—like the city garbage trucks that empty the big garbage containers and take it away so the city streets remain nice and clean. Well, the glymphatic system does the same thing in your brain. It picks up the garbage that’s accumulated during the day and takes it away, so that your brain can function better. This is essential to preventing cognitive decline along with the other medical issues that I discussed.

Don’t short yourself on sleep. You need to have good sleep hygiene. It’s obvious things, I know you know them, turning off your electronics an hour before you’re going to go to sleep, dimming the lights, having a bedtime routine, having a set bedtime, and allowing yourself seven to eight hours of sleep.

I know you can do it. You know it’s important. Next week, look for our video log about diet and cognition.

Author Dr. Susan Sklar

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Sklar Center for Restorative Medicine
5000 East Spring Street
Long Beach, CA 90815