One of the fastest ways to hurt your brain is to get less than seven or eight hours of sleep at night. – Daniel G. Amen


We live in a world where concussions are being taken very seriously. Youth sports coaches are being highly trained to recognize concussions and take immediate steps to prevent further problems. Our society is greatly focused on concussions; rightly so. However, there is a more common way to hurt your brain. In fact, it is the fastest way to hurt your brain. Any ideas?


One of the fastest ways to harm your brain is to get less than seven or eight hours of sleep in a day! That’s right, the impact of sleep deprivation on your brain is so great and yet many of us have no idea.


Researchers have concluded that chronic insomnia triples your risk of death from all causes, and is associated with significant cognitive decline. Get less than six hours and you lower the level of blood flow to the brain, and affect your mood, focus, and memory for days after.


The high rate of depression and suicide among teenagers can be linked to getting just one hour less of sleep than their peers. Imagine that, only one hour less! Are you beginning to understand the impact of sleep deprivation on your brain?


Researchers performed a study comparing the performance of people that were drunk to people that lacked sleep. The study concluded that the negative effects of sleep deprivation are so great that people who are drunk outperform those lacking sleep!


New research has found that during sleep, the brain has a mechanism that cleanses itself of harmful toxins that accumulate during the day. The problem is this mechanism is only activated during healthy sleep hours and doesn’t function with sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep leads to a build-up of harmful toxins in your brain like sludge or plaque in your arteries! This buildup leads to cognitive and emotional problems.


Clearly by now, I am hoping that you have a pretty good understanding of the importance of sleep for healthy brain functioning. The following is a list of a few good sleep hygiene tips:


  1. Make sleep a priority and get seven to eight hours per night.
  2. Utilize mindfulness or meditation techniques to aid in sleeping.
  3. Eliminate or limit caffeine and alcohol intake.
  4. Exercise in the morning rather than at night.
  5. Turn off all blue-light-emitting devices like cell phones, tablets, etc.
  6. Make sure your bedroom is cool and dark as possible.
  7. Supplements like melatonin and magnesium can be helpful.


There are many more tips and tidbits to improve your sleep. I would invite you to make your sleeping habits a priority and begin to work on learning more and more ways to improve your sleep. Begin to make a list and start experimenting. You only have one brain and you will never ever get another one, so I would suggest starting taking care of it today!



Chris Swenson is a licensed Couple and Family Therapist currently helping people become more functional and adaptable in their lives at his private practice counseling office in Sterling, CO (Rhino Wellness Center). To contact Chris, you can call 970-522-0796 or schedule an appointment online at