• Home  / 
  • Lifestyle
  •  /  The Best Thing You Can Do For Your Brain and Body

The Best Thing You Can Do For Your Brain and Body

There’s an easy-to-use tool you can buy for less than ten dollars that can help boost your memory, improve your learning capacity, probably lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, help you build muscle, control your weight, improve your insulin sensitivity (lowering your risk of diabetes), shrink your risk of heart disease and improve your immune system function. The best thing about this tool is that to get its benefits you don’t have to move a muscle. As a matter of fact, it works better if you don’t move any of your muscles.

And all the benefits I just promised are backed by solid scientific research.

The name of this miraculous device?

A pillow.

Of course, the activity you do with a pillow is sleep — an activity most Americans persist in avoiding, at great cost to their health.

Research into the benefits of adequate sleep has revealed a mind-bending list of advantages. Experts believe the optimal amount of sleep for the average adult is about seven to eight hours a night. Nevertheless, most of us don’t get enough, and an estimated 20 percent of Americans get so little sleep their health is in serious danger.1 These aren’t people who miss getting a full night’s sleep every once in awhile. They’ve made it a long-term habit to never get enough sleep.

Unfortunately for the sleep deprived, the well-being of the entire human body, but particularly the brain, depends on getting enough sleep.

When Sleepiness Is an Alzheimer’s Warning

Research at Massachusetts General Hospital demonstrates that daytime sleepiness, resulting from a lack of nighttime shuteye, disrupts the coordinated activity of an important network of brain regions. This malfunction has been implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers found that daytime sleepiness is related to disruptions in what is called the default mode network (DMN), a group of brain regions that are particularly active when the brain is not engaged with the outside world. The scientists believe that the DMN is important for introspection and analysis of your own behavior.2

Studies have demonstrated that DMN disturbances are linked to the formation of the brain plaques that characterize Alzheimer’s. And research has shown that years before Alzheimer’s victims start to notice memory difficulties, brain plaques and sleep shortages have already begun the destructive progress that inexorably leads to dementia.

Even Your Fat Cells Need Sleep

Research into sleep is revealing other startling effects. Its benefits go beyond regeneration of your brain health. Sleep is also necessary for insuring the health of your fat cells. You may not like having body fat, but those unsightly deposits play an important role in your metabolism. Skimp on sleep, according to studies at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, and those cells start misbehaving in ways that lead to a greater risk of weight gain and diabetes.3

“We found that fat cells need sleep to function properly,” says researcher Matthew Brady. “Many people think of fat as a problem, but it serves a vital function. Body fat, also known as adipose tissue, stores and releases energy. In storage mode, fat cells remove fatty acids and lipids from the circulation where they can damage other tissues. When fat cells cannot respond effectively to insulin, these lipids leach out into the circulation, leading to serious complications.”

Brady and his fellow scientists found that four nights of too little sleep (sleeping only about four hours nightly) can reduce the insulin sensitivity of fat cells by 30 percent. That is comparable to the plunge in sensitivity that occurs when you go from being a normal weight and healthy person to being obese with diabetes.

These researchers warn that even if you think your brain can function on four hours of sleep a night, your fat cells may still experience serious difficulties.

“Some people claim they can tolerate the cognitive effects of routine sleep deprivation,” says researcher Eve Van Cauter who collaborated in the study. “In this small but thorough study, however, we found that seven out of seven subjects had a significant change in insulin sensitivity. They are not tolerating the metabolic consequences.”

Although our modern world of never-ending entertainment and social networks seems designed to murder sleep, your body was not designed to be healthy without the restorative activity that takes place when you put your head to the pillow and close your eyes.

  1. http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/toll-of-sleep-loss-in-america
  2. http://www.sfn.org/
  3. https://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1379773