Want to significantly increase your brain power?
I’m sure most of us do, so in this article I’ll share some science backed tips on improving your mind, thanks to my most recent read, Brain Rules by John Medina. We’ll focus on understanding and optimizing exercise and sleep.
We were evolutionarily designed to thrive while moving, not lounging. We were forced to think on our toes, literally, to avoid predators. Data shows not much has changed since then; studies consistently report that a sedentary lifestyle has a significant negative effect on mental sharpness. The good news is these same studies indicate it’s not too late for a tune up. Try incorporating 20 minutes of aerobic exercise into your weekly routine and your brain (and body) will thank you. Exercising pumps more oxygen through your body, allowing you to keep your system well-oiled and optimized.
Science Time! Your brain uses glucose from carbohydrates for fuel. The glucose molecules are ripped apart by cells inside the body, leaving behind electrons that bounce around (and harm) your body. You may have heard of these electrons, they’re known as Free Radicals. Oxygen works as an electron-sponge and picks up these free radicals, transforms them to carbon dioxide (makes them transportable) then delivers them to the lungs to be exhaled. Phew! Talk about a breath of fresh air!
Put it in practice: Next time you need a break to clear your mind, try going for a brisk walk; or take a walk first thing in the morning to start your day on the right foot.
You know you should sleep more. I’m sure you’ve seen a million articles on it, but let me illustrate this point once more and throw in a few suggestions for optimal sleep. If our ancestors chose to risk their lives by sleeping in jungles, knowing a leopard could rip us to shreds at some point in the night; don’t you think something essential is happening during sleep? Let’s dive in to find out why sleep is necessary for optimal brainpower.
Research indicates the science of sleep is more fascinating than we could have ever imagined. It turns out our body is waging a war every second of the day. Two systems consisting of various neurons, chemicals and hormones are at odds. The Circadian Arousal System wants you awake all the time, while the Homeostatic Sleep Drive would prefer a never ending rest. These systems battle each other until one becomes exhausted and the other takes over (fall asleep vs. staying awake). Once one system has enough rest, it begins fighting back! Now that we know how we sleep, let’s see what makes it so important.
Once we fall asleep, our mind begins to categorize and repeat the things we experienced and learned throughout the day. Millions of neural pathways communicate with each other to create and embed pathways that allow us to retain information. Sleeping allows us to shut off the exterior world and focus on improving our cognitive interiors. We know that sleep is important now and how it works, so how do we improve it? It turns out sleep is far more about quality than quantity.
Check out these tips to optimize sleep.
- No Phones – Avoid looking at any blue-light emitting device at least an hour before bed. This includes your TV, tablet and phone. Additionally, try to only use your bedroom for sleep. By watching TV in bed, your mind associates your bed with entertainment rather than sleep.
- Black Out – You want to immerse yourself in total darkness for optimal sleep. This means no lights, even alarm clocks. You shouldn’t be able to see your hand in front of your face.
- Keep It Cool – The cooler the room, the better the sleep. Shoot for around 67- 70 degrees. Also try to avoid showering or bathing right before bed, as it raises your internal body temperature. Opt for the shower right when you get home.
- Avoid Exercise – Stop exercising at least two hours before bed.
- Make a Routine- Try to keep your body’s circadian rhythm in check by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. (Try to go to bed before 11 P.M).
Focus on the fundamentals to start your journey towards optimal brain health. It doesn’t get much more basic than a good night’s rest and the occasional jog, but most of us neglect to consistently do either. Now that you understand the importance; I hope you can implement these practices into your life and feel the difference! I guarantee you will!