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Sleep and Brain Health

Updated: Apr 11



From time to time, it's useful to give extra focus to certain health topics, and with March being Brain Awareness Week, the choice to talk about brain health for this month's Siha presentation and workshop was a 'no-brainer'😉


To begin, the first part of the presentation aims to highlight the many benefits our brains can get from quality sleep. But how to improve sleep quality? This question is the topic of the second part in which we learn how to do a calmness-inducing therapeutic exercise, that is designed for enhancing sleep quality —and, consequently, improving brain health.


How to Approach Brain Health?

In history, the way scientists approach brain health has constantly evolved, with each day bringing us closer to a deeper understanding. One pivotal influence on the Western perspective of brain health was the concept of Cartesian dualism, developed by philosopher Descartes in the 16th century. Descartes argued that the mind and body are separate entities, a notion that significantly influenced research and healthcare practices for centuries, often leading to a situation in which some only study the brain, others only the body. However, today, a more holistic perspective prevails, recognizing the body and brain as integral parts of a unified system. Many healthcare practitioners now emphasize how physical health impacts all aspects of brain health and vice versa, shaping overall wellness and wellbeing.

 

The Basic Levels of Brain Health

Considering the broad meaning of brain health, let’s rather look at the needs and functions of our brain’s and how sleep quality interconnects with everything, from basic level to higher functions such as mental resiliency, memory function and creativity.

 

Fundamental Brain Health 

Without going into many details, at its most fundamental level, to function effectively, the brain requires energy, nutrients, and an optimal environment to thrive. Our responsibility is to provide the brain with these, and ideally, making it easy for the brain to function well. Imagine our brains as gardens and each of is a gardener. To make your garden thrive you need to nurture a healthy lifestyle — which includes prioritizing good sleep habits. Lots of research has been conducted that tells us what benefits sleep can provide, starting from basics such as facilitating brain's energy storing processes. Sleep is also the only time when the brain can eliminate unnecessary neural connections and fine-tune synaptic connections. Furthermore, sleep facilitates removing metabolic waste. Conversely, lack of sleep, or poor-quality sleep disrupts these processes. Immediate consequences may include reduced focus and mental clarity, while long-term processes lead to an increased risk of developing dementia-related conditions.


Body-Brain Functionality Health 

The next area of interest relates to basic body-brain functionality. This involves the organizational activities in which the brain interconnects with the heart-lung function, hormonal system, digestion, immune system, cleansing processes, and the also the motoric system which is responsible for maintaining posture and facilitating movement. Once again, our role is to be a skillful gardener, facilitating the brain's work so that it can function optimally. In this, we need to learn how to optimize our lifestyle habits — including steps that promote sleep quality. Based on detailed studies and research, lack of sleep or poor-quality sleep poses challenges to all above-mentioned functions. For instance, lack of sleep challenges the heart-function and can increase the risk of a heart attack by 69%. But when the heart is under stress, so is the brain. Without exemptions, any stressors that affect organ systems and functions will elevate levels of unnecessary neurological stress that impact the brain. In other words, if lack of sleep reduces organ health, this creates stress in the brain as well. When this happens, the brain has less capacity for creative thinking and other essential cognitive functions.


Conclusion

Looking at above, it is not surprising that studies show a strong connection between sleep quality and all aspects of brain, from the molecular to cognitive functions. Ideally, when the physical side is healthy, we can focus on developing the higher functions, learning, creativity, and social well-being, including mental and emotional health.


Therefore, there are enough reasons to motivate us to learn how to optimize our sleep quality.

 

To move on, given my expertise in the field of improving sleep quality, we will now do a movement exercise designed to evoke and promote calmness within the nervous system.

 

To follow the lesson, please use this link to YouTube.

 

Thanks for reading!

Oliver

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