Prioritizing Sleep

Prioritizing Sleep

When it comes to understanding the importance of sleep, we’re only scratching the surface. But given the recent science on this subject, it’s become quite clear that sleep is simply essential for optimal brain health. From flushing out metabolic waste to preserving memory and improving our emotional regulation, getting better sleep may be the quickest way to make major strides in your cognitive function and your ability to make better decisions. In Brain Wash, we outlined key strategies to help make restorative brain-healthy sleep part of your daily routine. In addition to those fundamental steps, here are three more ways to optimize for great sleep:

Make sleep a priority. This may seem basic, but as a nation, we’ve largely relegated sleep to a second-class activity—something we do only if everything else is taken care of. But recent research on sleep shows us that this plan is incredibly counterproductive. Our decisions after a good night’s sleep are much better than after sleep deprivation. We’re less likely to overeat and snap at others, and we’re more likely to remember important facts and generally function at a higher level, not to mention all the long-term benefits to our health that seem to come from getting adequate sleep. With all this said, we must carefully weigh any perceived benefit of a few extra hours awake with the real consequences of missed sleep. Once we value our slumber for all its known benefits, we can start giving it the credit it deserves. Make your bedtime a bit more concrete, and your brain will thank you later.

Make some physical changes. Sometimes, despite putting ourselves in the best mental space possible for sleep, we find our attempts at slumber ruined by the quality of our sleep environment. Our brains are incredibly sensitive to light at night, and blue light especially. With this in mind, making the bedroom as dark as possible should be your objective. Consider investing in blackout curtains if streetlights penetrate your sleep sanctuary. Unplug any LEDs or other bright lights. If loud sounds at night are an issue for you, consider investing in a white noise machine.

Take a hot shower or a bath. As the body cycles through its circadian rhythm, temperatures rise during the day and fall at night. One way to get your body into the right state for sleep is to help cool it off before bed. A hot shower will feel great, and afterward, your body will cool off. Ideally, try to shower or take a bath around 90 minutes before bed, as this will give your body sufficient time to cool off afterward, getting your system ready for a great night’s sleep!

And if you want to learn more about the science of sleep, browse our focus page on the subject!

Dr. Perlmutter is one of the leading lights in medicine today, illuminating the path for solving chronic illness

Mark Hyman, MD