The Sleep Cure

The fountain of youth may be closer than you ever thought

By Alice Park

TIME February 27-March 6, 2017, pp. 56-60

Mark Zielinski

  • Psychiatry teacher at Harvard Medical School
  • mice sleep experiment – to understand the causes of insomnia and then how to fix it
  • the body’s signal that it’s time to sleep can be change

Sleep deprivation

can compromise nearly every major body system

higher risk for early death, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, dementia, depression, , anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

I used to suggest that sleep is the third pillar of good health, along with diet and exercise. But I don’t agree with that anymore. Sleep is the single most effective thing you can do to reset your brain and body for health. — Matthew Walker, Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology, University of California, Berkeley

Because we’re asleep, we don’t see the benefits of it. That’s the disaster and tragedy of our current world. — Robert Stickgold, Associate Professor of Psychology, Harvard Medical School

American Cancer Society 2002 study

  • 6-year study
  • more than 1 million healthy men and women
  • Conclusion: 7 hours of sleep each night is the amount needed for longevity (people who slept 7 hours were most likely to be alive at the end of the study compared to those who slept 6 hours or less, or 8 hours or more)

Finland study

  • 22-year study
  • 21,000 twins
  • Conclusion: Those who regularly slept less that 7 hours daily were 21-26% more likely to die of any cause during the period of study compared to those who slept 8 hours or ┬ámore.

Dr. Maiken Nedergaard

  • Neuroscientist, University of Rochester
  • 2014
  • sleep- the body and brain are active on the molecular level
  • brain is active cleaning out debris
  • neurons pulse with electrical signals that wash over the brain in a rhythmic flow
  • checks the balance of hormones, enzymes and protein
  • brain cells contract, opening up the spaces between them so that fluid can wash out toxic accumulations
  • without that nightly wash cycle– damage healthy cells
  • short term effect: impede memory, ability to compose our thoughts and manage emotions
  • long term effect: faster aging of brain cells

Effects of sleep in mental health

Deep quality sleep, over consistent nights:

  • revisits the events of the day in a more organized way
  • processes the emotions attached to those recollections
  • strips some memories of some powerful feelings – fear, grief, anger or joy– that might have clouded the experiences in the heat of the moment
  • allows remembering without reliving
  • removes emotional baggage
  • stores the memory in a neutral way

We sleep to remember and we sleep to forget. I call it overnight therapy. — M. Walker

  • without this, more PTSD (common even in the general population)
  • Walker’s Experiment: Show a scary video. Let one group sleep and the other not. Those who did not not sleep remembered the negative aspects of the video more


Insufficient sleep

  • may be a trigger for (not just a symptom) depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, manic episodes
  • makes the body under constant stress —> inflammation
  • chronic inflammation—-> some cancers, cognitive decline, heart disease, type 2 Diabetes, chronic pain

The biggest thing I do to improve my sleep is to pull the plug. — R. Stickgold

Make sleep a priority.


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