Experiencing memory and sleep problems is generally accepted as an unfortunate, but inevitable part of getting older. With every year that passes, we chalk up our increased lapses in thought and memory to “aging.” However, this is a significant misconception. Yes, there are functions that will inevitably diminish as we age – we cannot, at this time, live forever. However, how does this explain people such as Warren Buffet, who is pushing 90 years old and still leading his investment firms quite capably? Moreover, if Alzheimer’s disease is to be an “elderly” disease, why are we increasingly seeing those in their 30s and 40s showing symptoms? We want to address the lie that memory and sleep problems are due to the fact that your brain is simply getting old. The brain has an incredible and amazing ability to be malleable and rewired. By exercising your brain, making the proper changes in your lifestyle, diet, and treatment regimen, it is entirely possible to prevent, but also reverse brain symptoms. Do not accept the lie that you are simply “getting old.”
Both memory loss and sleep problems start in the hippocampus region of the temporal lobe. It is one of the first part of the brain that starts to degenerate in those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. The temporal lobe controls memory (especially short term), but it also exerts control on circadian rhythm, which is your sleep cycle, and therefore it is memory loss and sleep that are first affected when we do not take care of our brain health. It is not old age that makes the temporal lobe start to deteriorate, but due to improper care.
To understand this concept fully, it is interesting to take a closer look at Alzheimer’s disease, what is also known to be the “old person’s disease.” Alzheimer’s is an epidemic, plain and simple. It affected 5.7 million Americans in 2018 and is the 6th leading cause of death in seniors. By 2050, the number of people will increase from 5.7 million to approximately 14 million people. This is almost a tripling of people affected by the disease; however, the population is not expected to triple. This clearly illustrates that Alzheimer’s, while most commonly affect the older generation, is not actually an old people’s disease. It is a symptom of your brain degenerating at a faster rate than your brain can compensate, in essence aging your brain faster.
So, how can we prevent and reverse symptoms of brain degeneration that leads to memory loss?
Well, first, it is important to understand that there are two requirements for your brain to stay healthy: fuel and activation. Fuel comes in the form of oxygen and glucose. Oxygen deficiency can come from a lack of iron, anemia, shallow breathing, as well as both high and low blood pressure. These factors can negatively affect perfusion to the brain. Perfusion problems need to be addressed with proper lab testing and evaluation by a qualified healthcare professional. Once identified there are natural therapies and supplements you can take to address the root cause.
Glucose also fuels the brain; however, it needs to remain steady. Both high blood sugar in the case of diabetes and low blood glucose are bad for the brain. Lab test and working with a functional medicine physician can help you identify your tendency. If you struggle with low blood glucose, eating small frequent meals rich in protein, fiber, and healthy fat can help. If you struggle with high blood sugar, consider reducing sugar and carb intake, exercise, and intermittent fasting.
Activating your brain is simply a fancy way of saying: use your brain! The activation of neurons literally keeps the neurons in your brain alive. You can active your brain by doing something novel: learn a new language, a new hobby, or create something. If you have a repetitive or monotonous job, challenge yourself with some memory or concentration games.
In addition to fuel and activation, brain cells also needs an environment of no or low inflammation. Inflammation is detrimental for the health of the brain, and can result from improper diet, blood sugar issues, heavy metal toxicity, different environmental toxins, infections, stress, low autoimmune problems, and leaky gut.
Alzheimer’s disease falls under the umbrella of dementia, which is the term for cognitive loss, or losing function of the brain. Along with Alzheimer’s, dementia includes Parkinson’s disease, vascular dementia, neurotoxicity-induced dementia, and super nuclear palsy. Other aspects of temporal lobe memory loss include impaired visual-spatial memory and verbal memory. Many people are experiencing both – such as difficulty remembering directions without GPS or struggle to find the right words in conversation. These are signs of neurodegeneration and needs to be taken seriously and addressed early.
You can reverse symptoms such as brain fog and short-term memory loss if you address the root causes of the condition. The brain has an incredible ability to be malleable and be rewired. Stroke patients can regain some if not all of their functions due to something called neuroplasticity. You cannot make new brain cells; however, you can make new and stronger connections with existing brain cells. This same concept applies to those without a stroke and looking to improve brain function. You can increase neuroplasticity and your brain function can improve if you take care of yourself properly! Healthy diet, addressing heavy metal toxicity, making proper lifestyle changes, getting rid of inflammation, minding blood glucose levels, activating and feeding the brain well. It is important to recognize that the brain is basically a big antenna that picks up environmental stimulus and then responds. So therefore, without any input, there is no output. You must keep your brain stimulated, active, and alive.
How are my sleep issues related to the health of my brain?
As we mentioned, the hippocampus region of the temporal lobe not only controls memory, but also controls circadian rhythm, which is your day and night, or sleep and wake cycle. Two hormones influence your circadian rhythm: cortisol and melatonin. In a healthy sleep cycle, melatonin would be low in the morning and high at night, while cortisol would be high in the morning and low at night.
When these two hormones are released in the proper amount, and more importantly, at the right time, it results in deep restorative sleep that has you feeling so rested that you wake up jumping out of bed full of energy. If this is not what you experience, you may have a circadian rhythm problem.
Many people take melatonin supplements to help get better sleep. However, this is not as effective as one might think. The logic is sound: you are not sleeping well enough, so you want to increase your melatonin. However, a lack of melatonin is not usually the problem. Many people have excess cortisol due to inflammation and stress. The high cortisol has an antagonistic effect of lowering melatonin, and can lead to sleep disturbance. Cortisol is toxic to the hippocampus and destroys hippocampal tissue in the brain. Stress can cause your body to release so much cortisol that it can not only disrupt your sleep/wake cycle, but also destroy your brain.
The reality is that there is no supplement to directly lower cortisol. Some supplements may calm the nervous system and support the body’s response to stress, and therefore have a dampening effect on cortisol. Melatonin may act as an antagonist to dampen cortisol’s effects; however, you must ultimately find the root cause of why you are inflamed in the first place, leading to high cortisol.
How else can I help with temporal lobe function to improve my sleep?
One of best ways to improve your sleep is to modulate your cortisol so that it does not have an adverse affect on your temporal lobe function. To modulate your cortisol, there are a few suggestions that can provide aid. Phosphatidylserine helps lower cortisol and improves memory. Adaptogenic herbs such as ashwaganda, eleuthero, and holy basil can support a healthy stress response and have an impact on bringing cortisol to normal levels, creating a healthy melatonin/cortisol balance.
There are also a few interesting auditory practices that could help temporal lobe function. For example, if your goal is to stimulate the right side of the brain, one should listen to music in the left ear. This will bias the right temporal lobe a little more than the left, as the left ear feeds 60% of auditory input to the right temporal lobe. To stimulate the left side of the brain, try and listen to music with a repetitive beat, like techno music, because the left brain processes linear information. To stimulate the right brain, one should listen to more nonlinear sounds, such as nature sounds.
With brain exercise, always work up to your level of tolerance. Over doing any exercise, especially brain exercise may cause brain cells to fatigue, which may lead to more brain fog, fatigue, and memory loss.
It is important to remember that when it comes to dementia and the deterioration of brain function, drugs are there only to treat the symptoms. In order to create permanent and lasting change, you must make the proper lifestyle choices and changes to correct the root cause. It will always be much less expensive to prevent a condition than to have to treat it.
Work with a qualified functional neurologist or functional medicine physician. Have the functional neurologist examine and find out if you have a right or left temporal lobe dysfunction. The doctor can help you with specific exercises based on your findings.
Schedule a 15-minute free discovery call to learn how our virtual functional medicine consultation program can help you identify the root cause and reverse your symptoms. Click here to schedule: https//askdrkan.com/get-started.
The above information and statements are for education and information purposes only and have not been evaluated by the FDA. The information and products mentioned above are not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease. Please consult a qualified healthcare professional for the management of a medical condition or disease.
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