In my first post in this series, I outlined the first step in a natural brain care cleanse: Balance. That's where we assess the role sugar takes in our cognitive health. You can read that post here. In Part 2, Repair, I wrote about the importance of a healthy gut lining, read that post here.
As the third step we took a look at foods that Support us during a cleanse.
The fourth step in a cleanse to support healthy brain function is to Restore. Let's take a look at our sleep habits, and how they can affect cognition just as much as diet.
A study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Radboud University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, and Stanford University has found that deep sleep helps the brain cleanse itself of amyloid beta and tau, the sticky proteins associated with plaques and tangles, the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. Since amyloid beta has an affinity for the deep sleep centers of the brain, a lack of sleep can set off a very dangerous cycle of plaque buildup and disturbed sleep with an end result of alzheimer’s disease.
How much sleep is enough?
The quality of sleep may be more important than the length of time. Slow-wave sleep provides a deep, dreamless sleep that allows the sleeper to wake up feeling rested. Those who have disrupted sleep may wake up feeling unrested, even after a full eight hours of sleep and these people are at risk of developing mild cognitive impairment ten years earlier than deep sleepers.
Deep sleep allows neurons to rest while the brain cleans up the byproducts of all that thinking we do all day long.
Tending to our sleep habits can be one way of enhancing your brain cleanse. For those who are unable or unwilling to make dietary changes this itself can be a type of cleanse.
One way to enhance the quality of your sleep is to minimize your exposure to “blue” light an hour or two before bedtime. Blue light is the unnatural short-wave light emitted from devices, including cell phones, tablets, television, and even some reading and night lights. This light disrupts the body’s production of melatonin, the hormone essential for healthy sleep and maintenance of the circadian rhythms.
The key to starting your bed time ritual is to unplug an hour before bedtime. Reading a relaxing book can be a great substitute, but be careful with the light you use to illuminate the pages. Here are some tips to help minimize your exposure to blue-wavelength light:
Here are some helpful tips for enhance deep sleep:
- Mixed carotenoids strengthen the eye’s innate ability to block blue light. The eye’s special built-in blue-light shield is a thin layer of cells near the retina called the retinal pigment epithelium. This specialized layer protects the retina against macular degeneration and contains carotenoids from a healthy diet. Research shows that these carotenoids are capable of absorbing blue-wavelength light and boosting them in your diet can be a sensible way to protect your eyes and enhance this filter. Dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach and broccoli rabe boast abundant levels of these eye-protective carotenoids.
- Check out blue light filtering software and apps which automatically reduce blue light exposure during evening hours. Many smartphones and tablets include these blue-light filtering options in their setting. For example, you can schedule Apple’s "Night Shift” option so that in the evening a gentle red wavelength light replaces the bright, blue-wavelength light. I have recently installed Flux, a free software that adjusts light of your computer to reduce brightness in the evenings and I love it.
- Blue light filters for screens or eyewear may reduce exposure to blue light, although I have never tried them.
- Unplug an hour before bed. I said that already, but it bears repeating. I know that I need to hear it over and over!
A few more tips to improve the quality of your sleep include:
- Minimize alcohol and caffeine consumption. Hey, you’re doing a cleanse! So that one is a no-brainer anyway you look at it.
- Do not exercise in the evening. Gentle stretches and gentle yoga with deep breathing can, however, be helpful. Vigorous exercise wakes up the brain for hours, so make use of that benefit during the day.
Ready to get started with your own personal brain cleanse? Download Clear the Mental Clutter, a free guide to the first steps you can take to better brain health!
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