Originally Published on DavidBardsley.com

Written by Dr. David Bardsley, Author, founder of Silver Eagle Media and TEC Canada Speaker

Many of us find our memory is not what it used to be. People often think this is an inevitable part of aging; it is not. Something as simple as sleep deprivation can cause or exacerbate memory loss which is a major component of Mild Cognitive Impairment. The good news is that this can be reversed; here is how.

 SLEEP.  We all know people who say they get by on five or six hours of sleep a night. They are correct. That is just what they are doing: getting by. They are not performing at their mental best. One of the simplest tests to perform in psychology is to measure the decrease in mental functioning that occurs with sleep deprivation. Just one night of disturbed sleep will produce a measurable decrease in your cognitive ability the next day. Studies have shown that when military personal are given a cognitive test and then deprived of sleep, so they receive six or less hours sleep for five consecutive nights and then are retested: there is a sixty percent decrease in their test scores. Adults with rare exception, need seven to nine hours sleep per day. Less than one percent of the population can function optimally on less.

    Three steps to achieve a better quality and quantity of sleep.

  • Adjust Room Temperature. Turn down the thermostat. Studies show there is an optimum room temperature for sleeping. Much cooler than you might think. 60 to 66 degrees F (15 to 18 C) Use an extra blanket but keep the room temperature low.
  • Set three alarms:
    -Wake up alarm. The time you wish to get up and start your day.  (ex 6am)

    – Sleep alarm. Set this eight hours before the sleep alarm. (ex 10pm)  When this alarm goes off you should be in bed or ready to immediately get into bed.

    -Preparatory alarm. The most important. Set this thirty minutes before the sleep alarm. (ex 9:30) This alarm signals it is time to prepare for sleep. Begin your normal bedtime routine: brush and floss your teeth, put on your pajama etc. Most importantly, close down ALL screens; television, computer, tablet, cell phone etc. The bright light emitted from these screens will shut down the production of melatonin in the pineal gland of your brain. Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced in your brain in response to darkness and helps you fall asleep and stay asleep. Light decreases its production. This is why people often wear eye masks at night; to block out the light so the brain produces more melatonin. As we age our melatonin production often decreases. Melatonin supplements can easily be purchased, without a prescription, in any store that sells vitamins. They come in 3,5 and 10 milligram tablets. They work best if placed under the tongue thirty minutes before sleep. (when the preparatory alarm sounds) Should you feel groggy in the morning or have strange dreams, simply reduce the dosage.  Natural melatonin production usually decreases as we age.

  • Block out worrisome thoughts. These negative thoughts are what keep us from falling asleep initially and keep us from falling back to sleep should we awake in the middle of the night. An effective way of blocking negative thoughts is by listening to an audiobook as you are trying to fall asleep. The human brain cannot have two simultaneous thoughts. It is impossible to have a happy thought and a sad thought at the same time. The audio book gives your brain something to focus on so you cannot ruminate on negative thoughts. You can set the audio book to play for a specific length of time (10, 20 mins etc) so it does not continue to play all night.

Three simple steps:

  • Turn down thermostat.  60 to 66 degrees
  • Set three alarms.
  • Listen to an audio book.

Sleep well and notice the improvement in your clarity, energy and mental ability the next day.