Sleep Problems Have a Major Effect on Your Brain Health
Can’t Sleep? Or you can get to sleep, but then you wake up during the night? Do your sleep issues cause you to be more tired during the day? You’re not alone.
Sleep is incredibly important. The old adage, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” is not just an overused saying: Insufficient sleep can wreak havoc on your health — including your brain health. One long-term sleep study found that people who sleep less than six hours a night have a decline in brain function that equals aging four to seven years.
Quality sleep, in adequate quantity, is as essential to your health as food and water. Sleep affects almost every part of your body, from your brain, heart, and lungs to your metabolism, immune function, disease resistance, and your mood.
And even if you’re practicing healthy eating and exercise habits, a lack of quality sleep will derail you and increase your risk of developing chronic disease. So, what can you do to improve sleep? First, it’s important to know what may be causing your sleep problems.
One reason people can have trouble sleeping is lifestyle choices. But medical conditions can also contribute to sleep problems. People who are suffering from depression, PTSD, or a traumatic brain injury can often have sleep issues as a result of their disorder. And tailored TMS using MeRT can help not just with the disorder but also help improve the duration and quality of sleep.*
*Results vary from person to person and are not guaranteed.
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*Results vary from person to person and are not guaranteed.
MeRT Treatment Helps Improve Sleep Quality and Duration
At BrainStim Centers, we treat a variety of conditions affecting the brain, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, autism, and more. We also help people optimize their brain performance.
Often, we use MeRT (Magnetic e-Resonance Therapy) to treat these conditions. This gentle, drug-free, non-invasive treatment optimizes brain function. Using precise diagnostic testing, we can identify patterns that may indicate differences from normal brain function. We then tailor treatment to address those areas and improve brainwave connectivity and function.
This treatment can produce many benefits, and one of the first that patients often notice is improved sleep quality and duration.* Not only is sleep a major benefit of MeRT, but it’s also vitally important for brain healing.
Sleep Stages and the Brain
While it’s important to focus on getting enough sleep (number of hours), that’s only part of the picture. It’s also vital to get quality sleep, so the body can restore and generate itself. If your sleep cycle is continuously interrupted, you won’t wake up refreshed — no matter how many hours of sleep you’re getting.
Over the course of the night, your sleep is made up of several rounds of the sleep cycle, composed of five stages. Different physiological changes occur during each cycle. REM (Rapid Eye Movement) is the dreaming state of sleep and only occurs once during each cycle. While sleep cycles are not all the same length, they typically last about 90 minutes each.
Stages of the Sleep Cycle
Stage 1: This is the light sleep state when you first begin to fall asleep but are still aware of things around you. Brain activity begins to slow at this time.
Stage 2: You are fully asleep, your heart rate slows down, body temperature decreases, and brainwaves continue to slow.
Stage 3: Brain waves slow down, and delta waves begin to appear. Muscles relax, and breathing slows even more.
Stage 4: This deep sleep stage is most important for healing and restoration. Tissue repair occurs during this stage. And human growth hormone — responsible for cell growth, reproduction, and regeneration — is released.
Stage 5: REM sleep, or the dreaming stage. The eyes move rapidly behind the lids, and breathing is shallow and rapid. This stage stimulates the sections of the brain needed for memory and learning.
During the earlier part of the night, you spend less time in REM sleep and more time in the deep sleep stage. Closer to morning, the opposite occurs: the deep sleep stage is shortened, and the dreaming stage is longer.
Any interruption or disturbance of sleep throughout the night can cause a lack of time spent in the various sleep stages, including the deep sleep stage — which is crucial to health.
The National Institutes of Health put it this way: “Without sleep, you can’t form or maintain the pathways in your brain that let you learn and create new memories, and it’s harder to concentrate and respond quickly.
“Sleep is important to a number of brain functions, including how nerve cells (neurons) communicate with each other. In fact, your brain and body stay remarkably active while you sleep. Recent findings suggest that sleep plays a housekeeping role that removes toxins in your brain that build up while you are awake.”
If you’re experiencing difficulties either getting to sleep or staying asleep, it’s vital to discover why and then get it corrected.
Sleep Disorders and Brain Disorders
Our patients come to see us in order to help them heal from brain disorders. Most also have sleep problems, and MeRT can help. However, it can go both ways: Health conditions can cause sleep disorders, and sleep disorders can cause some serious health conditions.
That’s why it’s important to make lifestyle choices (eating habits, behaviors) that can improve your sleep. But that’s easier said than done. Once the brain establishes a behavioral pattern, neurotransmitters will fire specifically to continue that behavior pattern.
MeRT helps to change these neuronal patterns and strengthen pathways so that the brain can heal. However, you also need to know how to keep your brain healthy by establishing new habits and behaviors.
Ways to Improve Your Sleep
Sometimes even the smallest behavioral changes can make a big difference when it comes to improving sleep. Here are a few things you can do:
- Melatonin (also called the sleep hormone) is a vital part of the body’s sleep-wake cycle and helps to orient your circadian rhythm. To increase your melatonin production, expose yourself to direct sunlight for at least 20 minutes in the morning. And reduce your blue light exposure by unplugging from your devices one to two hours before bed.
- Try not to eat a heavy meal close to bedtime. And eat your last meal three hours before going to bed. Eating prompts the release of the hormone insulin, which helps your body use the food for energy. This process can signal wakefulness in the brain and interfere with your ability to fall asleep.
- Don’t exercise too late in the day, as this can raise your levels of the stress hormone cortisol, making it hard to sleep.
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. This can help regulate your circadian rhythm.
- Eat a cleaner diet and improve your gut health, as the gut microbiome (also called the “second brain”) has a direct effect on how the brain and body function.
- Have your hormones, vitamin levels, and toxin levels checked by a professional. You may discover an underlying cause for your sleep problems that, when corrected, can lead to far better sleep.
- If you can’t seem to turn off your mind when going to sleep, try writing down your thoughts to get them out of your head. You can also try one of the many calming apps now available. Or read something light and enjoyable — but don’t scroll through social media or the news sites!
- Avoid excessive alcohol use. Alcohol can interfere with your sleep cycles and prevent you from getting quality sleep.
- Turn down the thermostat. Studies have shown that people sleep better and don’t wake up as much throughout the night when the room is cool.
- Make your bedroom as dark as possible through the use of blackout curtains and a sleep mask.
- Try incorporating relaxation techniques such as prayer or meditation into your bedtime routine.
- MeRT treatment has also been shown to improve sleep, as well as help treat a wide variety of conditions.
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Questions? Talk to our New Patient Coordinator
If you’re experiencing sleep issues caused by a brain disorder, we are here for you. We want to help, and it costs nothing to call us and talk about what is happening. MeRT may just be the treatment you need to help you live the best possible life.
During your call, the New Patient Coordinator will listen to you and answer your questions. She will also explain our process and protocols, as well as costs, possible insurance benefits, and any other details you want to know.
There are no obligations, and she will take all the time you need in order to determine whether you should take the next steps.