In everyday life, our brains have to deal with a lot of activities; in thoughts and in response to other stimuli. The brain, therefore, requires sufficient amount of energy for sustenance. The longer we remain awake, the more energy our brains drain. On the other hand, as the brain functions and draws energy from neurons, it creates and accumulate something that may be considered neurological discards that cause impediment to the neuron stream. Frequently found in this type of waste are remanence of tau protein and traces of amyloid beta. However, when the brain is rested during sleep, there is a process to remove these excesses properly; but this requires a quality sleep that is appropriate to the person’s age.
Problems with Restless Sleep
For a person who has problem sleeping – for example, taking a long time to fall asleep, suffering from insomnia, or lacking quality sleep (e.g., snoring, sleep apnea, teeth grinding, tossing and turning, sleep-talking, or keeping irregular sleep schedule) – the body will create more of the neurological discards and, as they cannot be effectively removed, accumulate them in the brain. This situation will lead to a deterioration of the brain or Alzheimer’s disease.
Some Alzheimer’s patients have erratic sleep schedules. They fall asleep during the day but stay awake at night. They also have irregular eating habits, and their weights fluctuate. All this is because the excess tau protein interferes with parts of the brain that control the sleep cycle and other hormonal production organs throughout the body – causing improper, inadequate or too much sleep. It leads to the brain’s deterioration which, in addition, adversely impacts the body’s other systems as well.
Good Sleep Means Good Brain Functions
Quality sleep helps the brain remove the excessive tau protein and amyloid beta, to maintain a proper balance for the brain and the body. This consists of:
- Appropriate 7 – 9 hours sleep for adults.
- Regular sleep cycle according the local time.
- Falling asleep easily, and sleeping continuously throughout without getting up to use the bathroom more than once each night.
- Quality sleep means:
- The brain is completely rested in shallow as well as deep sleeps, and while dreaming.
- Proper and uninterrupted breathing during sleep.
- No snoring, no teeth grinding.
- Muscles are relaxed during sleep.
- No sleep-talking.
- Sleep calmly without twitching, shuddering, or jolting up screaming.
So, sleep is a vital factor in sustaining the brain’s function. It is important to find a proper time when the body is ready to fall asleep, and adjust the sleep quality appropriately to the brain’s as well as the body’s needs according to the age group. This will allow the brain to rest, recuperate, and rejuvenate for its long-term health.
Source: Dr. Niratchada Sap-Anan,
Neurologist specializing in sleep disorders and epilepsy, Neuroscience Center, Bangkok International Hospital