Lack of sleep
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A number of studies have linked poor sleep or lack of
sleep to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease; one reason for this
is because your brain’s waste removal system only operates during deep
By pumping cerebral spinal fluid through your brain’s
tissues, the glymphatic system flushes the waste from your brain back
into your body’s circulatory system, from where it can be eliminated
During sleep, the glymphatic system becomes 10 times more
active than during wakefulness. Simultaneously, your brain cells shrink
by about 60 percent, allowing for greater efficiency of waste removal
By Dr. Mercola
Sleep disturbances are endemic in the US,
where nearly 40 percent of adults report unintentionally falling asleep
during the day in the past month, and five percent report nodding off while
Forty-five percent of teens also don't get enough sleep on
school nights and 25 percent report falling asleep in class at least once a
Lack of sleep has
ramifications that go far beyond not feeling fully awake and refreshed
during the day. There's a price to pay in terms of health, both short- and
A number of studies have linked poor sleep or lack of sleep
to an increased risk of Alzheimer's for example, and one of the reasons for
this has to do with the fact that your brain's waste removal system only
operates during deep sleep.
Your Brain Needs Sleep for Waste Removal
There's no cure for Alzheimer's disease,
which makes prevention all the more important, and sleeping well appears to
be an important part of prevention. Studies2,3 published
in 2012 and 2013 revealed that your brain actually has a unique method of
removing toxic waste.
This waste-removal system has been dubbed the glymphatic
operates in a way that is similar to your body's lymphatic system, which is
responsible for eliminating cellular waste products.
However, the lymphatic system does not include your brain.
The reason for this is that your brain is a closed system, protected by the
blood-brain barrier, which controls what can go through and what cannot.
The glymphatic system gets into your brain by "piggybacking"
on the blood vessels in your brain. (The "g" in glymphatic is a nod to "glial
cells"—the brain cells that manage this system.)
By pumping cerebral spinal fluid through your brain's
tissues, the glymphatic system flushes the waste from your brain back into
your body's circulatory system. From there, the waste eventually reaches
your liver, where it's ultimately eliminated.
The clincher is that this system ramps up its activity during
sleep, thereby allowing your brain to clear out
toxins, including harmful proteins called amyloid-beta, the buildup of which
has been linked to Alzheimer's.
During sleep, the glymphatic system becomes 10 times more
active than during wakefulness. Simultaneously, your brain cells shrink by
about 60 percent, allowing for greater efficiency of waste removal.
During the day, the constant brain activity causes your brain
cells to swell in size until they take up just over 85 percent of your
brain's volume,9 thereby
disallowing effective waste removal during wakefulness.
More recently, researchers discovered10 that
the blood-brain barrier naturally tends to become more permeable with age,
allowing more toxins to enter.
In conjunction with reduced efficiency of the glymphatic
system, damage in both your brain and blood-brain barrier can start to
accumulate at an increased pace. This deterioration is thought to play a
significant role in the development of Alzheimer's.
Continue Reading down
Sleep Is Not a Luxury, It's an Essential for Good Health
As noted in a recent issue of Time
"Sleep, the experts are recognizing, is the only time the
brain has to catch its breath. If it doesn't, it may drown in its own
biological debris... [Sleep researcher Dr. Sigrid] Veasey is learning
that brain cells that don't get their needed break every night are like
overworked employees on consecutive double shifts–eventually, they
Working with mice, she found that neurons that fire
constantly to keep the brain alert spew out toxic free radicals as a
by-product of making energy. During sleep, they produce antioxidants
that mop up these potential poisons.
But even after short periods of sleep loss, 'the cells
are working hard but cannot make enough antioxidants, so they
progressively build up free radicals and some of the neurons die off...'
The consequences of deprived sleep, says Dr. Mary
Carskadon, professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown
University, are scary, really scary."
Omega-3 and Vitamin D May Control Brain Serotonin, Research
Speaking of brain health, recent research12,13 suggests
that animal-based omega-3 and vitamin
improve cognitive function and behavior associated with certain psychiatric
conditions—including ADHD, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia—by regulating
your brain's serotonin levels. As reported by ProHealth:14
"Many clinical disorders, such as autism spectrum
disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar
disorder, schizophrenia, and depression share as a unifying attribute
low brain serotonin.
'In this paper, we explain how serotonin is a critical
modulator of executive function, impulse control, sensory gating, and
pro-social behavior,' says Dr. Patrick. 'We link serotonin production
and function to vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, suggesting one way
these important micronutrients help the brain function and affect the
way we behave...'
Their paper illuminates the mechanistic links that
explain why low vitamin D... and marine omega-3 deficiencies interact
with genetic pathways, such as the serotonin pathway, that are important
for brain development, social cognition, and decision-making, and how
these gene-micronutrient interactions may influence neuropsychiatric
The omega-3 fatty acid EPA reduces inflammatory signaling
molecules in your brain that inhibit serotonin release from presynaptic
neurons, thereby boosting your serotonin levels. DHA also has a beneficial
influence on serotonin receptors, by increasing their access to serotonin.
According to the researchers, optimizing your vitamin D along
with the animal-based omega-3 fats EPA and DHA can help optimize your brain
serotonin concentrations and function, and may help prevent and/or
ameliorate psychiatric symptoms without adverse side effects. Serotonin is
also an immediate precursor to melatonin,
which has many important health benefits, including a reduced cancer risk.
Are You Getting Enough Sleep?
The latest sleep
guidelines, based on 300 studies looking at the
health effects of sleep, confirm that most adults need right around eight
hours of sleep for optimal health. Forty percent of American adults get only
six hours of sleep or less however, and 58 percent of teens—who need
anywhere from eight to 10 hours—average only seven hours or less. This kind
of sleep debt is a recipe for health problems down the road, and an
increased risk of dementia is just one potential side effect.
Individual sleep requirements can vary, of course, based on
age, life circumstances, and health status. So how can you be sure you're
getting the right amount for you? The following seven signs indicate you
need to address your sleep schedule because you're not getting enough sleep:15
Chronic insomnia is associated with a greater
risk for depression and anxiety,16 and
even one night of insufficient sleep can have a dramatic impact
on your mood. According to Lauren Hale,17 editor-in-chief
of the journal Sleep
Health:"If you're sleep deprived, you're more vulnerable to
crankiness, irritability, and challenges coping with stress."
Your work/study performance and productivity is
Basic cognitive functions such as logic
reasoning, focus, and even word retrieval can suffer when you're
tired. According to Harvard Medical School,18 insomnia
costs the American economy more than $63 billion each year in
lost productivity. Sleep
has also been shown to boost creative functioning and
promote problem solving, both of which are valuable attributes
in just about any profession.
You're gaining weight and/or developing other
signs of insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes
lack of sleep can have a significant bearing on metabolic
disorders such as weight gain, insulin resistance, anddiabetes.
Sleep exerts a marked modulatory effect on glucose metabolism,
and lack of sleep will increase your risk of insulin resistance
and type 2 diabetes. Shift-work, for example, has been shown to
rapidly shift healthy people into a pre-diabetic state.21 Lack
of sleep also decreases levels of the fat regulating hormone
leptin while increasing the hunger hormone ghrelin. The
resulting increase in hunger and appetite can easily lead to
overeating and weight gain.22,23
Signs of sleep deprivation are showing on your
You can usually tell when someone hasn't slept
well by how they look. A recent Swedish study24 looked
at facial cues showing sleep deprivation, finding that people
readily identified hanging eyelids, red swollen eyes, dark
under-eye circles, pale skin, more wrinkles, and more droopy
corners of the mouth as tell-tale signs of a poor night's sleep.
You're exhibiting poor judgment and/or lack of
As noted in the featured article:25
"Accurately reading social situations and making
good decisions both heavily depend on the brain's capacity to
process emotions. But when people are sleep deprived, the region
of the brain involved with emotional processing, the prefrontal
cortex, 'basically goes to sleep...'
And there's evidence being sleepy makes people
sneaky, too: Sleep-deprived employees are more likely to cut
corners and take credit for others work, according to
research... Why? 'Presumably,' writes Jex and Britt, not getting
enough Zzs results in a reduced amount of self-control."
Your libido is "missing in action"
Intimacy usually falls by the wayside when you're
exhausted. One recent study26,27 found
that each extra hour of sleep a woman got corresponded to a 14
percent increase in the likelihood of sexual activity the
following day. Those who slept more on average also reported
greater vaginal lubrication during sex, compared to those who
averaged less sleep.
You're drowsy during the day, and/or
involuntarily fall asleep
Daytime sleepiness is a clear sign that you
didn't get enough sleep the night before. So, if you're
constantly yawning, and/or guzzle coffee to keep yourself going,
you need to head to bed earlier.
Tips for Better Sleep
Small adjustments to your daily routine
and sleeping area can go a long way toward ensuring you uninterrupted,
restful sleep—and thereby better health. To get you started, check out the
suggestions listed in the table below. For even more helpful guidance on how
to improve your sleep, please review my "33
Secrets to a Good Night's Sleep." If you're even
slightly sleep deprived, I encourage you to implement some of these tips
tonight, as high-quality sleep is one of the most important factors in your
health and quality of life.
Optimize your light exposure
Your pineal gland produces melatonin roughly in
approximation to the contrast of bright sun exposure in the day
and complete darkness at night. If you're in darkness all day
long, your body can't appreciate the difference and will not
optimize melatonin production.Sleep
researcher Dan Pardi recommends
getting at least 30 to 60 minutes of outdoor light exposure
during the daytime in order to "anchor" your master clock
rhythm, in the morning if possible. More sunlight exposure is
required as you age.
Once the sun sets, avoid light as much as possible to assist
your body in secreting melatonin, which helps you feel sleepy.
It can be helpful to sleep in complete darkness, or as close to
it as possible. If you need a bit of light to navigate down the
hall in the wee hours of the night, install a low-wattage
yellow, orange, or red light bulb. Light
in these bandwidths does not shut down melatonin production in
the way that white and blue light does. Salt lamps are lovely
for this purpose. You can also download a free application
called F.lux that automatically dims your computer device
Address mental states that prevent peaceful
A sleep disturbance is always caused by
something, be it physical, emotional, or both. Anxiety and anger
are two mental states that are incompatible with sleep. Feeling
overwhelmed with responsibilities is another common sleep
To identify the cause of your wakefulness, analyze the thoughts
that circle in your mind during the time you lie awake, and look
for themes. Many who have learned theEmotional
Freedom Techniques (EFT)
find it is incredibly useful in helping them to sleep. One
strategy is to compile a list of your current concerns, and then
"tap" on each issue. To learn how to tap, please refer to our
free EFT guide.
Keep the temperature in your bedroom below 70
Many people keep their homes too warm
(particularly their bedrooms). Studies show that the optimal room
temperature for sleep is
between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
Take a hot bath 90 to 120 minutes before bedtime
This raises your core body temperature, and when
you get out of the bath it abruptly drops, signaling your body
that you're ready for sleep.
Avoid watching TV or using electronics in the
evening, at least an hour or so before going to bed
Electronic devices emit blue light,
which tricks your brain into thinking it's still daytime.
Normally, your brain starts secreting melatonin between 9 pm and
10 pm, and these devices may stifle that process.
Be mindful of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in
EMFs can disrupt your pineal gland and its
melatonin production, and may have other detrimental biological
effects. A gauss meter is required if you want to measure EMF
various areas of your home. Ideally, you should turn off any
wireless router while you are sleeping—after all, you don't need
the Internet when you sleep.
Develop a relaxing pre-sleep routine
Going to bed and getting up at the same time each
day helps keep your sleep on track, but having a consistent
pre-sleep routine or "sleep ritual" is also important. For
instance, if you read before heading to bed, your body knows
that reading at night signals it's time for sleep. Sleep
specialist Stephanie Silberman, PhD suggests listening to
calming music, stretching, or doing relaxation exercises.29 Mindfulness
therapies have also been found helpful for insomnia.30
caffeine, and other drugs, including
Two of the biggest sleep saboteurs are caffeine
and alcohol, both of which also increase anxiety. Caffeine's
effects can last four to seven hours. Tea and chocolate also
contain caffeine. Alcohol can help you fall asleep faster, but
it makes sleep more fragmented and less restorative. Nicotine in
all its forms (cigarettes, e-cigs, chewing tobacco, pipe
tobacco, and smoking cessation patches) is also a stimulant, so
lighting up too close to bedtime can worsen insomnia. Many other
drugs can also interfere with sleep.
Use a fitness tracker to help you get to bed on
time, and track which activities boost or hinder deep sleep
To optimize sleep you need to make sure you're
going to bed early enough. If you have to get up at 6:30am,
you're just not going to get enough sleep if you go to bed after
midnight. Many fitness
now track both daytime body movement and sleep, allowing you to
get a better picture of how much sleep you're actually getting.
Newer fitness trackers like Jawbone's UP3, which should be
released later this year, can even tell you which activities led
to your best sleep and what factors resulted in poor sleep.
What Are GMOs?
From April 19th through April 25th we launch
GMO Awareness Week. We set aside an entire week dedicated to providing you
with information on GMOs and labeling initiatives.
GMOs are a product of genetic engineering, meaning their genetic makeup has
been altered to induce a variety of “unique” traits to crops, such as making
them drought-resistant or giving them “more nutrients.” GMO proponents claim
that genetic engineering is “safe and beneficial,” and that it advances the
agricultural industry. They also say that GMOs help ensure the global food
supply and sustainability. But is there any truth to these claims? I believe
not. For years, I've stated the belief that GMOs pose one of the greatest
threats to life on the planet. Genetic engineering is NOT the safe and
beneficial technology that it is touted to be.
Help Support GMO Labeling
The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA)—Monsanto’s
Evil Twin—is pulling out all the stops to keep you in the dark about what’s
in your food. For nearly two decades, Monsanto and corporate agribusiness
have exercised near-dictatorial control over American agriculture. For
example, Monsanto has made many claims that glyphosate in Roundup is
harmless to animals and humans. However, recently the World Health
Organization (WHO) had their research team test glyphosate and have labeled
it a probable carcinogen.
Public opinion around the biotech industry's contamination of
our food supply and destruction of our environment has reached the tipping
point. We're fighting back. That's why I was the first to push for GMO
labeling. I donated a significant sum to the first ballot initiative in
California in 2012, which inspired others to donate to the campaign as well.
We technically "lost the vote, but we are winning the war, as these labeling
initiatives have raised a considerable amount of public awareness.
The insanity has gone far enough, which is why I encourage
you to boycott every single product owned by members of the GMA, including
natural and organic brands. More than 80 percent of our support comes from
individual consumers like you, who understand that real change comes from
Thankfully, we have organizations like the Organic Consumers
Association (OCA) to fight back against these junk food manufacturers,
pesticide producers, and corporate giants.
Internet Resources Where You Can Learn More
Together, Let's Help OCA Get The Funding They Deserve
Let’s Help OCA get the funding it
deserves. I have found very few organizations who are as effective and
efficient as OCA. It’s a public interest organization dedicated to promoting
health justice and sustainability. A central focus of the OCA is building a
healthy, equitable, and sustainable system of food production and
consumption. That's why I'm proud to announce I will be matching donations
up to $250,000 this week.
Please make a donation to help OCA fight for GMO labeling.