Chronic Insomnia Triples Your Risk of Death

If you have followed my work, then you likely know that I recommend three simple strategies to achieve optimal brain health.

  1. Develop brain envy (you have to really care about it)
  2. Engage in regular brain-healthy habits
  3. Avoid anything that hurts your brain

But did you know that one of the fastest ways to hurt your brain is to get less than seven or eight hours of sleep at night?

That’s right! In fact, chronic insomnia triples your risk of death from all causes and is related with cognitive decline.

We are in the midst of an insomnia epidemic. According to the National Institutes of Health, 30% of the population has chronic sleep problems and 10% are affected by symptoms of sleep deprivation during the day. The prescriptions for sleep medications, such as Ambien and Lunesta, have skyrocketed in the past decade.

In 1900 Americans, on average, got 9 hours of sleep a night. In 2008, we got only an average 6 hours of sleep at night. Our brains were not designed to have a 33% decrease in sleep in such a short period of time.

Getting less than 6 hours of sleep has been associated with lower overall brain activity, which affects mood, focus, productivity, weight, health, physical safety, and memory for days after.

Lack of sleep lowers brain activity in the temporal lobes, which are involved in learning, memory, and mood stability. This makes it harder to pay attention, solve problems, and remember important information, and it makes you more likely to make mistakes. Sleep-deprived people are definitely not smarter.

They are not happier either. People who are tired from lack of sleep tend to feel irritable and cranky. In one study, 44 percent of American workers admitted that when they are sleep deprived, they are more likely to be in an unpleasant or unfriendly mood.

Teenagers who average an hour less sleep than their peers have a higher incidence of depression and suicide. When you sleep less, you eat more and are more likely to be obese. The negative effects of sleep deprivation are so great that people who are drunk outperform those lacking sleep.

Fascinating new research has shown that the brain actually cleans or washes itself only during sleep. The brain has a specialized fluid system that helps to rid it of toxins that build up during the day, including beta-amyloid plaques thought to be involved in Alzheimer’s disease. During
the day the brain is so metabolically active managing our lives that this cleaning system is inactive. It only turns on when we’re sleeping.

Without healthy sleep, this waste clearance system doesn’t have enough time to operate, thus allowing toxins to build up over time, which can cause cognitive and emotional problems. Think of sleep deprivation’s effect on your brain as what your home or office might look like if no one bothered to take out the trash for a month. Make sleep a priority and strive to get seven to eight hours a night.

So what do you do when you are lying awake with a restless mind struggling to get sufficient quality sleep? If only counting sheep worked!

While there are many causes of sleep disturbances, a good nutritional supplement that supports your body’s natural relaxation response and healthy sleep cycle can make all the difference. BrainMD Health’s Restful Sleep is one such supplement. Dr. Amen’s formula eases you into sleep, helps you stay asleep all night, and wake up feeling great, not groggy.

“Good sleep makes an incredible difference to health and quality of life. Restful Sleep works gently with your body to help you get the sleep you need.”– Daniel G. Amen, MD

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Radha Kauai

Meditation and deep breathing works wonders also

John Dolan

I take great care of myself, so I avoid supplements and don’t take any prescription medication. My success has come from eating clean (whole foods), making sure to get adequate and intense exercise, and logging 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. I refer to this as The Health Triad. It all comes down to building and maintaining a few healthy habits over time. If you want to live to at least 100 as I do, now is the time to build the foundation. We only have one body and one life. I’m simply trying to help myself and others make the best of it… All the best!

David George

Is the avoidance of supplements a moral choice or a consequence of looking at the blood work numbers and dialing in the nutrition to balance?

John Dolan

Hi David, I avoid supplements because I believe that I’m able to get all of the nutrients I need from the foods I eat.