Since you have been reading my previous posts, I know that you have begun an exercise routine, and your meals now consist of lots of fresh fruits and veggies, and perhaps you are wanting to feel the pressure of your growing brain pushing against the constraints of your skull.
But your first reward is actually a nap, or a good nights sleep, or at least learning how important sleep is to your brain, and therefore your recovery.
The third pillar of brain fitness is good sleep, and I do not think that there is a one size fits all formula for sleep.
I know that as I get older, I do not sleep as long as I did as a kid, and I marvel at my two kids who can sleep at day, but not all night.
My fourteen year old can easliy carve out 12-14 hours of dedicated sleep time...daily.
But here is another tidbit from Evans and Burghardt, fromt their excellent brainfitness book, Brainfit for Life,
"Science has started to recognize the profound impact that
sleep has on our health. This recognition has taken place in
just the past 10 to 15 years."
The part of that comment that is striking for me is that research on the issue of sleep and its impact on health is so recent.
Did you know that sleep and what Evans and Burghardt call sub-optimal sleep has an impact on weight and metabolism?
Remember, you do burn calories during sleep.
How about sleep and hormonal balance?
Did you know that sleep loss can increase the risk for diabetes?
Sleep and imune function?
So what is the connection between sleep, sub-optimal sleep and brain plasticity?
According to Evans and Burghardt,
"We briefly bring up plasticity here because
sleep deprivation decreases the brain’s ability to strengthen
connections between brain cells. This in turn results in reduced learning".
So can I sleep for cognitive performance? Yes, you can, and sleep is actually very important in memory formation.
One of the things that the brain does during sleep is release melatonin, which the researchers are saying is a key piece of memory formulalation or consolidation, but that release only happens during one cycle of the sleep process, so you need to make sure you give your body time for all the cycles of sleep to happen.
Your brain consolidates memories every time you sleep, so sleep hygiene is just as important to the health of your brain (and its growth) as physical exercise and nutrition.
Key concepts about sleep, again from Evans and Burghardt,
- Sleep is a very productive part of your life, it is not time
- Everyone’s sleep needs are unique.
- Losing a little sleep each night has very sneaky
- unwanted effects on your health.
- SOS causes you to respond in appropriately to stressful
and emotional events.
- SOS can have dramatic effects on your body and your
- SOS hinders your ability to learn and remember. Sleeping in on the weekend can’t make up for chronicsleep loss."
So go take a nap.