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Providers Weigh In: A Sharp Mind Starts with a Good Night’s Sleep

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Dr. Neil Pliskin

Neil Pliskin, PhD
Director of Neuropsychology at UI Health

A good night’s rest is known to play a vital role in maintaining physical health by improving immunity to health issues like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, inflammation, and hypertension. What you might not know is the importance of sleep on cognitive health.

Research in the recent few years has shed light on sleep’s effects on the brain. “While the understanding of how memories are formed and retained is still growing, studies have shown that sleep is crucial in consolidating information into memory stores,” says Dr. Neil Pliskin, director of neuropsychology at UI Health. “Sleep also helps by washing away toxic proteins that can damage nerve cells over time.”

The brain’s waste-removal system helps get rid of beta-amyloid, a toxic protein thought to be responsible for Alzheimer's disease. Sleep leads to reduction in the levels of beta-amyloid in the brain. Lack of sleep is linked to cognitive decline, memory loss and conditions like the Alzheimer’s disease. Put another way, studies have shown that deep sleep helps to re-energize the body's cells, which helps support and maintain healthy memory.

“These findings emphasize the need for older adults to get a minimum of 7 hours of good night sleep for overall health,” Dr. Pliskin says. “Unfortunately, sleep patterns change with age. Almost half the people over age 60 report not being able to sleep deeply or waking up several times during the night.”

The following tips can help you get a good night’s sleep:

  • Try establishing a consistent sleep schedule. This can help set your body’s internal clock and optimize your sleep quality
  • Avoid napping, if possible. If not, limit your naps to 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Cut down on caffeine after lunch. Limit or avoid alcohol consumption.
  • Maintain a dark, quiet, and cool bedroom.
  • Avoid bright screens within 2 hours of your bedtime.
  • Try relaxation techniques to calm your mind.

Sleep disturbances can be treated in older adults. To learn about sleep evaluation and treatments, visit our Sleep Science Center.