Sleep continues to wind its way into “three-legged” stool arguments when pondering the foundations of true health. Researchers are finding that diet, exercise, and sleep are all keys to lowering the risk of developing cognitive decline later in life.
Wise food choices and lots of exercise are a good base, along with learning new material and keeping socially connected—but another key element of brain health is good sleep.
We may take sleep for granted, but research suggests this is not a passive process, a board-certified neurologist who practices at Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation in San Francisco. There is a growing consensus that sleep is linked to learning, memory, nerve cell remodeling and repair. Evidence also suggests lack of sleep can contribute to mood and immune disorders, as well as to a decline in overall health.
According to Madison, some studies suggest that factual memories are consolidated in slow and REM sleep, based on changes at the molecular and cellular level within our brains as nerve extensions are branched, modified and reinforced. “These delicate processes can be disturbed by chemical changes in the body related to stress, pain, hormones, medications and aging, to name a few,” she writes. With aging, there is evidence that many people develop sleep disorders and experience sleep fragmentation, with slow wave and REM sleep broken up by shallower cycles.
Source: Dr. Catherine A. Madison in www.sfgate.com
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