As many as 16 million UK adults* are suffering from sleepless nights and a third (31%) say they have insomnia. Two thirds (67%) of UK adults suffer from disrupted sleep and nearly a quarter (23%) manage no more than five hours a night..
We all know what it feels like to have a bad night sleep, groggy, irritable, struggling to focus. But what if we told you that your sleep quality not only affects you in the moment but can also have significant effects on your long-term brain health.
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Sleep is precious for the body, not just for physical repair, but also for consolidation of learning and memory. As you sleep your brain is hard at work processing memories of the day. We now know that chronic interrupted or insufficient sleep can directly affect long term memory.
Memories take time to develop, they build associations and links with each other as we consolidate and rehearse them. Without sufficient sleep, the brain never gets a chance to build strong memory foundations, so future memories find it harder to take root. This effect compounded over years can reduce cognitive reserve and ultimately increase the chance of having a memory so poor, it affects your ability to carry out daily tasks.
Healthy adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best. Getting the right amount of sleep boosts your immune system, lowers your blood pressure, and helps you stay at a healthy weight, all things that are not only important to your physical health, but your cognitive health as well.
Lack of sleep is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular diseases and dementia. Cognitively healthy adults whose sleep quality declined in middle age are more likely in late life to accumulate Alzheimer’s disease-related proteins in the brain than those whose sleep quality improved or did not change.
Sleep apnea is particularly harmful to your brain’s health and may be the reason for interrupted sleep. Talk with your Doctor if you or a family member suspects you have sleep apnea.
12 Tips to get a better night's sleep
Stick to a sleep schedule.
Pay attention to what you eat and drink. Don't go to bed hungry or stuffed.
Avoid liquids just before bed.
Create a restful environment. Create a room that's ideal for sleeping.
Limit daytime naps. up to 30 minutes and avoid doing so late in the day.
Include physical activity in your daily routine.
Manage worries. Try to resolve your worries or concerns before bedtime.
Increase bright light exposure during the day.
Reduce screen time in the evening.
Avoid caffeine within 6 hours of bedtime.
Take a relaxing bath or shower.
* ONS mid-2016 population estimates. There are 51,767,543 UK adults aged 18 and above in the UK.
** Cao, J., Herman, A. B., West, G. B., Poe, G., & Savage, V. M. (2019). Unraveling why we sleep: Quantitative analysis reveals abrupt transition from neural reorganization to repair in early development. bioRxiv, 827212.