Whether it’s a detox, going vegan or simply intermittent fasting, most people you talk to are slowly altering their lifestyles as they become more conscious of their personal wellbeing. With a wealth of information at our fingertips, we’ve collectively begun to transition our thinking from ‘cure’ to ‘prevention’. But, what if the missing piece to our overall wellness wasn’t found in dietary changes or exercise regimes, but something as simple as getting better quality sleep?
With today being World Sleep Day (15 March 2019), the importance of powering down, and allowing our bodies the adequate time to recharge, has never been more prevalent. There’s reason for the saying ‘Make sure you get a good night’s sleep’ as taking the proper time to rest plays an often unrecognised, but pivotal role in the healing and repair of your body. In fact, if you’re not getting suitable shut-eye time you could be putting yourself at risk of heart disease, obesity, poor immune health, depression, dementia and more.
According to Clinical Neuropsychologist Professor Sharon Naismith from the University of Sydney’s, Brain and Mind Centre and Charles Perkins Centre, sleep just may be the ‘new frontier in dementia prevention’.
Dementia begins to form up to 20 years before symptoms become noticeable, making it extremely hard to predict and a strong cause for early prevention. By challenging what we already think we know about the disease, Professor Naismith is leading a world-first project that shifts the focus from known risk factors for brain impairment – depression and inactivity – to an entirely new discovery channel: sleep disruption.
“Typically, by the time someone seeks assessment for memory concerns, the abnormal dementia proteins have been accumulating in their brain for decades. Unfortunately, at this time, we have often missed the critical window for early intervention,” she explains.
With a team of innovative researchers, Professor Naismith will test world-first technologies to understand how sleep may contribute to the build of dementia proteins and brain degeneration, as well as conducting a suite of clinical trials of both drug and non-drug interventions to determine the optimal treatments for sleep disturbance in ageing and dementia.
So, now we now know that adequate sleep is imperative for a healthy brain and body, what can we all do to ensure we’re getting uninterrupted sleep and focusing on our future health?
Some important and easy things to implement into your night time routine can be: less blue light and screen time – that means putting down your phones at least an hour before bed, reduced alcohol intake as this disrupts sleep patterns, regular exercise but not right before bed, and ensuring you create a restful environment where you put away your worries and feel relaxed.