Did you know that lack of sleep has been linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease - and a greater risk of getting into motor vehicle accidents?
Health experts recommend that adults sleep seven to nine hours per night. However, it is estimated that up to 30% of Americans don’t get enough sleep.
And when it comes to brain health, all the scientific evidence indicates that a good night's sleep is necessary for strengthening brain connective tissue, processing memories more efficiently and preventing brain tissue loss.
According to a University of Colorado Boulder study conducted on children, sleep is very critical for brain maturation - helping to strengthen the connective tissue between the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
Further, a study conducted at the University of Tubingen in Germany tested the ability of children between the ages of eight and 11 as well as young adults to remember. They were first shown a series of actions and then allowed to sleep for either a full night or kept awake for an entire day.
The group that slept was much better at remembering the actions than those who stayed awake. Not only that, but children were significantly better at remembering than young adults.
Clearly, whatever we learn during the day is stored more efficiently as long-term memory when we sleep than when we stay awake.
Finally, research from Uppsala University in Sweden indicates that sleep deprivation can cause brain tissue loss. In this study, a group of 15 healthy young men were sleep-deprived for one full night and then allowed to sleep for eight hours on a different night.
Sleep loss was seen to raise blood levels of two molecules typically found in the brain in high levels during brain damage, indicating that sleep deprivation induces brain tissue loss.
Sleep is clearly very important for physical health and especially for brain health. Not only that, getting seven to nine hours of high-quality sleep every night strengthens brain connections, especially in children, turns what we learn during the day more efficiently into long-term memories and overall, helps us maintain a healthy brain.