Wouldn’t it be great to just change one habit or take one supplement or pill that would prevent memory loss in the future? Unfortunately there is no quick fix to protect our brains, but each small change you make will improve your chances of keeping your brain healthy.
The best way to prevent dementia is also the best way to prevent cancer, heart attacks and almost all illnesses. It’s all about lifestyle choices which include:
· How well we sleep
· What we eat (or sometimes even more important what we shouldn’t eat)
· How much we exercise
· How stressed we are
Change is never easy, but every small step you take can make you feel better both physically and mentally. That will make it easier to take the next step for better health. Today I will be focusing on the importance of sleep and what you can do to get a better night’s sleep.
My adorable new grand-puppy!
The Importance of Sleep
When a client comes to me with numerous health complaints that include poor sleep, we will always try to deal with the sleep issue first. Many times, once a client has improved sleep, that alone may reduce most of the other health complaints.
We spend a third of our lives sleeping! There must be a good reason for this and there is. It is at night, when we sleep, that our body jumps into action to heal itself. If we don’t sleep well, we don’t allow our immune system to do its job.
I like to explain it to my clients that our brain takes out the menu for the night and sees what it must work on to help the rest of the body. For example after doing body work on a client to release some tight muscles, the brain’s menu for the night will include to relax those muscles that were worked on. Therefore it is super important that you sleep well after any body work session so you can continue to heal.
I always recommend to my clients to get a minimum of 7 ½ - 8 hours of sleep a night, but a minimum of 7 hours seems to be the important number. Recent research shows that under 6 hours increases the risk of dementia.
“higher dementia risk associated with a sleep duration of six hours or less at age 50 and 60, compared with a normal (7 h) sleep duration”
Can’t Sleep? Get Checked Almost all of us have experienced at one time those seemingly endless nights of tossing and turning and just not being able to fall asleep. Whether this is the result of something we ate or drank, too many thoughts on our mind or anticipation of an event, a restful night's sleep is just not attainable.
If you find you are not sleeping well every night or may be sleeping but find you are tired during the day, check with your doctor and get tested for Sleep Apnea. Sleep Apnea is a condition where you stop breathing while you sleep. This condition is easy to test for and treat. However, if left untreated it can be very dangerous and can even cause minor strokes which can lead to dementia.
Am I scaring you? Good! One of the first clients I worked with who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s type of dementia, had minor strokes because of his sleep apnea. I remember thinking – this is so sad – his dementia could have been prevented! The test is a simple take home device and well worth checking, especially if you snore.
If you were tested and your sleep issues are not due to sleep apnea or another sleep disorder, here are some tips you can try to sleep better.
Set your alarm but turn that clock around so you won't know what time it is when you wake at night. Many clients who note what time they wake up each night, begin to follow a pattern of waking at the same time(s) every night. By knowing at what time they awake, people seem to program themselves to wake up at those same times every night. Once they stop noting the times that they awake, the wake-up pattern changes and in time ceases.
Keep Yourself in the Dark
Our bodies developed thousands of years before Edison invented the incandescent light bulb and we are designed to sleep when it is dark and be awake during daylight hours. When there is an absence of light, the hormone melatonin is secreted which makes us sleepy.
Even a faint light from the adjacent room, a computer screen or a digital clock (another good reason to turn it around) can affect our sleep. Turn off all light sources, close blinds or drapes to block out streetlights and/or sleep with an eye mask. Research shows that sleeping in darkness may also reduce chances of getting cancer since melatonin impedes the growth of cancer cells and strengthens the immune system.
Put the Phone (and Computer) Away
I know – it’s hard to not look at our phone before going to sleep – but I know personally that my sleep is much better when I put my phone away and turn off my computer at least half an hour before going to sleep. Checking our messages or reading posts and articles may be affecting our sleep by overstimulating our brain. The blue light may suppress the production of Melatonin that we need to fall asleep. Read 3 Reasons Why Looking at It Before Bed Is a Bad Habit
Also make sure you turn off your volume and message notices on your phone and don’t keep it close to you when you go to sleep. I also find that if I forget to turn off the blue tooth on my phone it affects my sleep.
If you find you can’t sleep because your brain is constantly thinking, you might want to try a sleep meditation. Normally in a meditation practice we don’t fall asleep, but there are specific meditations for helping you go into a deep sleep. I have used several on the insight timer app – but please make sure you use it with your phone closed so the light won’t affect your sleep and the phone is not close to you. If you have never tried to meditate or find it difficult. you can get some tips here.
Reflexology for Sleep
How can I not mention reflexology as one of the best ways to try to improve sleep. Better sleep is often a side effect of a reflexology session! Many people feel more relaxed after a reflexology and often hormones may rebalance, including melatonin.
If you are having chronic sleep issues, reflexology may help. There are reflexologists all over the world. Look up the Reflexology Association in your country or state.
Cats most probably purr to heal themselves. Research shows that the frequency of a cat's purr heals. I believe this same natural healing frequency also helps us sleep better (from personal experience!) So go pet a cat and let them purr you to sleep.
Getting a good night's sleep not only decreases your chance of getting dementia in the future, but it can also keep you healthy physically and mentally. Lack of sleep affects our ability to focus and work, it affects our mood and it compromises our immune system. If you are not able to sleep well, don't put off getting help! --- Oran Aviv has been a reflexologist for 25 years and is also a Certified Validation teacher. She combines both the principles of hand reflexology and Validation to teach ©Hands-on Dementia to caregivers and senior facility staff around the world.
You can follow Oran on:
Facebook: Reflexology – Oran Aviv and see notifications of her future blogs
Youtube – Oran Aviv Reflex and More and learn how you can use hand reflexology for self care
Oran is also the author of Hands-on Dementia for Caregivers, a Step by Step Guide to Learn 3 Reflex Points to Help your Loved One and Yourself
To learn more: Hands-on Dementia eBook for caregivers