According to an article published on February 16, 2010 in Biological Psychiatry, chronic insomnia may lead to a loss in brain volume. The study compared the white and gray matter volumes of 24 older, chronic insomnia patients to 13 normal sleepers. Insomniacs had smaller volumes of gray matter in three brain areas — and the more serious the insomnia, the greater the loss of volume regardless of how long they had suffered from the disorder.
However, the article goes on to say “researchers are not yet able to pin down whether sleeplessness precedes gray matter loss or the other way around.” Clearly, more research needs to be done on the subject. Until more information is known, we need to do all we can to increase the amount of sleep we get—starting tonight!
Dr. Winningham says there are 12 things you can try to get more sleep which may improve your overall brain health. They include:
1. Keep regular hours.
2. Exercise everyday but not in the evening. Walking everyday has been associated with better sleep in older adults suffering from memory problems (study done by McCurry et al., 2005)
3. Don't drink alcohol after dinner; it will impair the quality of sleep.
4. Avoid nicotine and caffeine, which are both stimulants.
5. Don't nap during the day or do so consistently.
6. Unwind in the evening.
7. Don't go to bed starved or stuffed.
8. Don't associate the bedroom with wakefulness. Don't eat, drink, and watch television in bed. If you can't go to sleep then get up and do something else besides worrying about not going to sleep.
9. Don't ruminate in bed. If you have thoughts that you would like to remember, jot them down and stop thinking about them.
10. Control light at night and in the morning.
11. Get exposed to more light during the day (some studies have even used light boxes to help older adults sleep better)
12. Make sure sleep apnea is treated
For more information on Brain Health visit this website on a regular basis. You’ll find recipes, brain training classes, healthy brain tips and brain exercises which all work together to help you have a healthier brain and a better quality of life! Call Mary Reitan, Community Outreach Director for more information at 503.502.4509.