A Preventive Neurologist Explains How Sleep Can Impact Your Long-Term Memory & Alzheimer's Risk

Dr. Kellyann Niotis, a Preventative Neurologist at Early Medical, has learned firsthand how important sleep is for brain health. When it comes to the different sleep stages, otherwise known as our sleep architecture, there are two main stages that are crucial to our brain health, according to Dr. Niotis. These are called deep sleep and REM sleep.

“In REM sleep, our brain is consolidating all of the information it gathered and is storing it as long-term memory,” says Dr. Niotis. “So, if you’re not getting REM sleep, you aren’t going to store memories. Deep sleep, on the other hand, is this detoxifying sleep where our glymphatic system expands and washes out all the toxic proteins that accumulate throughout the day.” She notes that when people are sleep deprived and aren’t getting deep sleep, they have a 5 percent increase in amyloid protein, which is the toxic protein that leads to Alzheimer’s disease.

So, while it’s no secret that sleep is very important, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should be sleeping during the day. “I’m anti-napping for most people because it really disrupts their sleep later on,” says Dr. Niotis. She adds, however, that if you’re really sleep-deprived and need a nap to function, it should be a one-time exception and only for about 15 or 20 minutes. “You don’t want to interfere with your deep sleep, REM sleep, or any of your sleep architecture,” she says.

Dr. Niotis’ Sleep Tips

  • No electronics an hour before bed
  • Keep your bedroom cool
  • Invest in quality sheets
  • Wash your face with warm water before bed
  • Try a white noise machine

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