Why Poor Sleep Worsens Your Memory

When I was an anesthesiology trainee, I worked 24-hour shifts with no sleep every other night. The schedule was insane. By the end of an overnight shift,  doctors look like little zombies with stethoscopes. Poor sleep negatively affects the body and actually worsens our memory and learning.

The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Your Body

When you’re not getting enough sleep, a lot of things can badly wrong, including:]

  • Increased stress
  • Impaired reaction time
  • Behavior similar to being drunk
  • Increased risk of accidents
  • Errors in judgment
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Overeating and weight gain
  • Mood changes
  • Greater risk of diabetes
  • Greater risk of heart disease
  • Decreased immune system function

Deep Healing Sleep

During the deepest stage of sleep, your body rests and repairs itself and heals. Your brain waves, heart rate, and respiratory rate become slow. Healing is a very tranquil state.
Next, your brain moves into an active stage called REM.

Rapid Eye Movement (REM)

REM sleep is a stage of vivid dreaming. Interestingly, the eyes move rapidly back and forth during this stage. The brain is very active during REM sleep and this is the stage when memories are formed. This is also when the brain removes toxins and prepares your brain new learnings.

Light Disrupts Sleep

Your body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm) determines the timing of your wakefulness and sleepiness. Exposure to light has the greatest influence on your circadian rhythm. In the morning, blue light from the sun triggers alertness. When the sun goes down, the brain produces a hormone, melatonin, which promotes sleep. Unfortunately, many people are exposed to blue light in the evening that’s being emitted from laptops, cell phones, iPads, and TVs. Blue light blocks the brain’s ability to produce melatonin. As a result, your sleep is compromised.

Make Your Brain Smarter

We’re human and we love using electronics, but they don’t love us so they don’t belong in the bed. Instead, we should give ourselves a break from devices at least a couple of hours before going to sleep. Aim to go to bed by 10 pm and sleep in a nice dark room to promote sleep. You’ll likely be smarter and more focused the next day.

Nourish Your Brain with Healing Foods

If you haven’t started already, eat more plants. Antioxidant-rich plant-based foods, such as leafy greens, berries, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds promote optimal brain function.

One of my clients adopted a plant-based lifestyle and stopped watching television in the bedroom. She noticed a significant improvement in her mental clarity. Her brain fog lifted, and she became more focused and capable of retaining information. Her boss noticed her sharper memory and how well she began running meetings and performing at work.

I know, you’re super busy and it’s tempting to cut corners on sleep, but it’s not worth the risk. To perform at your best and protect your brain functions, get a good night’s sleep. A good restful and restorative sleep will let you perform at your very best.

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Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website.
How Sleep Affects Memory and Learning. Sleep.org website.
By |2019-07-27T01:32:46-05:00July 29th, 2019|Recommendations & Thoughts|0 Comments

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About the Author:

Dr. Carla Hightower, MD, MBA is a certified integrative health coach, speaker, and corporate wellness consultant. She helps busy people develop healthier lifestyle habits and use plant-based nutrition so they can heal themselves. She provides educational information through her health coaching services and an online course on diabetes. In addition she is an engaging speaker on the subject of plant-based food and healthy lifestyle habits that improve health, energy and productivity. In her prior career she practiced anesthesiology for 21 years. In the midst of that career she overcame personal health challenges by adopting a plant-based lifestyle. Also, she observed that most of her patients were suffering from preventable complications of chronic lifestyle diseases. From those experiences she is motivated to teach people how to take full control of their health through better eating and lifestyle habits.

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