Ask a dozen sleep experts what the “right” amount of sleep is, and you’ll probably get a dozen different answers.
But when it comes to one of the most critical shuteye functions of all… brain health… we may finally have a solid answer.
Because when it comes to keeping your mind sharp, preventing dementia, and enhancing mental health, new research has revealed some answers.
The new study attempts to put the “how much” question to bed for good. It pinpoints just how much sleep the human brain needs for peak function, especially as we grow older.
Researchers are confident they’ve finally spotted what’s known as the “Goldilocks Zone,” or the amount of shuteye that’s not too little and not too much. It’s just right.
And I have some tricks that can help you hit this target tonight and every night if you, like me, aren’t always the best sleeper.
How to get the EXACT right level of sleep
OK, let me cut to the chase here and give you the number. It’s SEVEN.
If you’re getting seven hours a night, you’re smack in the middle of the Goldilocks Zone, getting just what your brain needs for rest and rejuvenation. If you’re getting much less than that, you’re missing the target and facing risks.
But here’s the thing…
If you’re getting much MORE than that, you’re also out of the zone. Because it’s entirely possible to snooze too much. (Sometimes, I wish I knew what “too much sleep” felt like!)
In fact, both too much and too little led to problems with:
- overall cognitive performance
- processing speed
- visual attention
- problem-solving skills
The study even zeroed in on some of the likely reasons for it. And if they sound familiar, it’s because I’ve shared them with you before right here in Healthier Talk.
First, there’s detoxification.
Your brain uses sleep to sweep out damaged cells and proteins. When it doesn’t get enough time to do that… especially in certain phases of sleep… it can’t finish the job, so the toxins build up.
And second, poor sleep patterns – especially short cycles of “deep” sleep – are linked to excess amyloid-beta, the damaging protein that’s closely linked to dementia.
How to get the right level of sleep
OK, let’s face it. It’s one thing to KNOW how much sleep you need. It’s quite another to get it.
If you’re sleeping too little because you’re going to bed late and waking up early – on purpose – then, of course, it’s time for a change of habit. But that’s not the case for millions of Americans.
Many people can’t sleep even if they try. Or, in some cases, they knock out for nine or ten hours and don’t know why.
First, talk to your doctor about your medications. Prescription drugs are a top cause of shuteye problems, including insomnia AND too much sleep.
Second, make sure you have good evening habits that aren’t unintentionally undermining your sleep. Evening alcohol and caffeine… too much TV… and late-night use of devices with LED screens, such as your cellphone or tablet… can all interfere with sleep.
And third, if you can’t get enough sleep despite trying, don’t turn to sleep drugs. They can have unwanted side effects like sending your fall risk soaring. And they don’t typically lead to much more quality sleep.
You may simply be low in the “sleep hormone” or melatonin. Levels often drop as we age.
Supplements are inexpensive and easy to find. I like the spray and dissolving forms since they bypass digestion and get to work quicker.
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