Are You Getting Enough Sleep? Experts Say It's Essential If You Want To Prevent Neurological Conditions
Sleep is a pivotal factor to our overall health, impacting everything from mood, to digestion, to energy levels. And according to new research presented at the the American Neurological Association's (ANA) 148th annual meeting, it could also be crucial for preventing cognitive and neurological conditions like Alzheimer's.
Studying the connection between sleep, brain waste, and neurological diseases
According to existing research on sleep, we know that the glymphatic system is a system in the body that helps "flush" waste from the brain when we sleep. At the ANA annual meeting, researcher and neuroscience expert Maiken Nedergaard, MD, DMSc, presented her recent analysis on glymphatic system research as it relates to disease.
The glymphatic system works by bringing cerebrospinal fluid to the brain while we sleep, which removes protein waste products like tau proteins and amyloid beta—which are well known risk factors for Alzheimer's and dementia.
And for starters, Nedergaard notes, there appears to be a bidirectional relationship between sleep and the glymphatic system, and neurological conditions. Namely, she writes, cardiovascular, neurological, and several inflammatory diseases have all been shown to worsen glymphatic function—as does chronic stress and aging in general.
Further, this toll on the glymphatic system predisposes individuals to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.
But on the flipside, Nedergaard explains, better sleep could mean an improved glymphatic system. "Common approaches that are known to reduce stress and improve sleep and life quality all act by improving glymphatic flow and restoring brain homeostasis," she adds.
How to get more (and more quality) sleep
According to Nedergaard, “Sleep is serious business, likely as important as exercising and avoiding smoking and excess weight gain. It’s important to develop good sleep habits because poor sleep accelerates neurological diseases and neurological diseases worsen sleep quality.”
To that end, one of the best things you can do for your overall sleep hygiene is to maintain a consistent sleep/wake schedule—that is, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
Research also shows that exercising regularly is a good way to prime the body and brain for deep sleep. In one analysis of existing exercise and sleep studies1, researchers write, "Exercise promoted increased sleep efficiency and duration regardless of the mode and intensity of activity" in middle-aged and elderly adults.
And of course, to make sure you're getting the most out of deep sleep, you might want to consider trying a quality sleep supplement with ingredients that are research-backed to help people fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, such as magnesium and PharmaGABA®. (Here are our favorites to help you choose!)
The more we learn about sleep, the more it's abundantly clear that it's essential for—what sure seems like—every aspect of our wellbeing. Brain health and preventing neurological conditions are certainly no exception, making this research one more good reason to clock enough nightly zzz's.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.