What Can Sleeping Do For You?
Dec22

What Can Sleeping Do For You?

It can be easy to underestimate the importance of sleeping in your life. Consider all of the tasks you have to accomplish each day. Some may use the excuse of not having enough time to get sleep a full night’s sleep. In reality, though, much of the way you conduct your daily routine relies on the amount and quality of sleep you got the night before. Basic reflexes and the immune system can be strongly affected by sleep. So why is getting enough good quality sleep so important? What exactly can a solid night’s sleep do for your body? Increases Physical Health Think of everything you do during the day – whether it’s mainly mental or physical labor, or a little bit of both. Your body uses the time that it’s asleep to recharge, reset and repair itself from all that it’s done during the day. Not only is this time critical for repairs, but sleep deficiency is also linked to an increased risk of heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, among other things. Without enough sleep, your immune system can become weakened, making you more susceptible to common infections. Proper sleep also aids in balancing out hormones. Promotes Healthy Brain Function You probably think a lot during the day. While sleeping, your brain gets a mini break. Preparing for the next day, your brain will be able to more easily retain information or remember things from the past. Your creativity also flows much more freely after a good night’s sleep. Betters Emotional Well-Being Sleep deficiency can make it much more difficult to control emotions or behaviors. It’s not uncommon for someone to be cranky after not having had enough sleep the night before. Improves Performance Throughout the Day It probably goes without saying that your functionality during daily tasks seems much more daunting when you haven’t had a good night’s sleep. Better sleep means quicker reflexes, the ability to think more clearly and hone in on tasks with focus and concentration. Things like the ability to problem solve and have strong attention to detail can be lost without enough sleep. This can negatively affect your productivity at work or increase your risk of making mistakes in the workplace or elsewhere. What Can You Do? There are a number of ways to not only help you fall asleep in the first place, but also to help you in getting great quality sleep after you do doze off. Try taking a warm bath, putting lavender on your pillow or avoiding electronics before bed....

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Is Alzheimer’s Preventable?
Jul29

Is Alzheimer’s Preventable?

Despite ongoing research, currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease. Alzheimer’s, affects over 5 million Americans. While an estimated 5.2 million people are age 65 and old and often seen as an “elderly disease”, approximately 200,000 individuals are under the age of 65 and are diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. While memory loss is one of the major signs of Alzheimer’s, it can affect each individual differently.   According to the National Institute on Aging, when Alzheimer’s occurs, there is a loss of connections between nerve cells (neurons) in the brain. Neurons are responsible for transmitting messages between different parts of the brain and from the brain to muscles and organs in the body. As neurons become damaged and die, the hippocampus (responsible for memory) is typically the first part of the brain to be affected, but damage can spread, ultimately shrinking the brain.   Although there is no cure, some treatments may slow down the progress and while there are many factors that can contribute to Alzheimer’s, some researchers believe that the disease can be prevented. While the disease itself remains a mystery and the research is a constant work of progress, here are some tips to keeping your brain healthy and possibly prevent Alzheimer’s disease: Regular Exercise   Exercise is an important component to being healthy and regardless of your age, it’s never too late to take charge of your health. Not only can regular exercise reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, but it may also prevent Alzheimer’s disease, as it can stimulate the brain’s ability to maintain old network connections and make new ones that are vital to healthy cognition. Research reveals that after a year long study, older participants who exercised on a daily basis showed improved connectivity in the part of the brain that engages in daydreaming, envisioning the future, or recalling the past. They also had an easier time plan and organize tasks. Healthy Diet   Like exercise, eating well can benefit your mind and body, overall. Every couple of months, there seems to be new research surrounding diets or “super” food and it can be overwhelming. Is that extra cup of coffee actually good for you? How about that glass of red wine? Experts recommend to try out the MIND Diet, which is a combination of a heart healthy and Mediterranean diet.   Additional Prevention   In addition to regular exercise and eating well, some research has shown that staying social and engaging in intellectual activities may prevent or slow Alzheimer’s. Whether you enroll in a continued education class or meet with friends on a regular basis, stay active...

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5 Simple Tips for Improving Your Quality of Sleep
May20

5 Simple Tips for Improving Your Quality of Sleep

Life can be pretty hectic sometimes, and it can be difficult enough to actually get a decent amount of sleep each night. With work, school, a significant other, kids, or other obligations, it’s not uncommon for us to feel like we’re being pulled in ten different directions at once. So if you’re already struggling to fit sleep into your schedule at all, it’s especially important that you understand how the sleep you are able to get is helping you wake up well rested each morning. Here are 5 easy tips for improving your quality of sleep, helping you fall asleep more easily and wake up feeling restored and rejuvenated. Check Your Sleep Position You most likely have a sleep position that you’ve maintained for the majority of your life. Maybe you can’t even imagine switching it up. Better posture and less back pain is said to come with side sleeping, but what’s best for your brain? While we sleep, our body clears the glymphatic pathway of toxins more so than while we’re awake. Side sleeping appears to help the functioning of this pathway. Ultimately, sleeping on your side helps filter out damaging proteins that can build up around the spinal and brain cord. Listen to Classical Music Listening to classical music at any time can help lower your blood pressure and relieve stress, so think about how great it can be for a good night’s sleep. As a baby, your parents or other family members might have sang lullabies to help you doze off. Things are no different now! The instruments used in classical music like the harp, piano, and orchestras are incredibly soothing and have been proven to reduce sleep problems. Look Away from Electronics The last thing you want to do before settling in for a relaxed slumber is to really excite your brain with the bright light from a phone screen. Try to settle in with a book instead to help relax your mind. Exercise Early Exercising is great for falling asleep and sleeping really soundly if it’s done at the right time. While exercising, the stimulation of the body tells the brain to secrete certain hormones that keep the body alert. This works out really well while you’re exercising, but it’s also the reason you should try to finish exercising at least three hours before bedtime. Establish a Pre-Sleep Routine Create a really relaxing bedtime ritual for yourself. Give yourself a little extra time each night to do the things that help you unwind. Do you love to take hot baths? Right before bed at night is the perfect time to take them. The quick...

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Suffering From SAD? Get Through the Season
Mar31

Suffering From SAD? Get Through the Season

There are many things to love and hate about every season, particularly if you live in a part of the country where you truly experience all four seasons, but winter can tough on millions of Americans. Whether it’s the cold temperatures, the shorter daylight hours, or a combination of both, the season can leave a lot of people feeling bummed out. How do you know if you are suffering from post-holiday blues, cabin fever, or something more serious like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? What is Seasonal Affective Disorder? Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, is a type of depression that’s related to the changes in the seasons and for most individuals it begins and ends at the same time each year. While SAD typically starts in October and ends in April, some individuals feel the symptoms in spring and summer. A lot of people assume that low energy, moodiness, and trouble getting out of bed just goes hand in hand with winter, however if you feel the same symptoms around the same time of year, for consecutive years, you may struggle with SAD. The farther you live from the equator, the greater the chance of feeling some level of winter depression. This is due to the lack of sunlight which causes your brain to work overtime to produce melatonin (the hormone responsible for regulating sleep patterns and your body clock). SAD Can Be Serious Although SAD is a seasonal disorder, it should be viewed as seriously as major depression (since SAD is a subtype of major depression). The Mayo Health Clinic warns that if you feel any of the following symptoms, you should contact a doctor: Feeling depressed most days and for the majority of the day Feelings of hopeless, worthless, or frequent thoughts of death or suicide Low energy or little interest in activities you typically enjoy Changes in appetite or weight gain/loss Having little motivation, extreme moodiness, or difficult following through with daily activities Additionally, if you turn to alcohol or drugs to help you “get through the season”, you should make an appointment with your doctor. Treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder Even though SAD is a seasonal disorder and symptoms will improve with the arrival of spring, there’s no need to suffer through the winter months. There are three main treatment options that doctors recommend: Light Therapy: With light therapy, or phototherapy, the patient sits near a special light therapy box and exposed to bright light (which mimics outdoor light). Light therapy seems to an effective treatment for SAD because it may change the brain chemicals linked to mood. Talk Therapy: Talk therapy, or psychotherapy, may be...

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Mind Games
Jan30

Mind Games

Your mind plays trick on you, mind games. The human brain was slowly developed over many millenia in situations that were very different from anything modern people experience. This leads our brains to do funny things, leaving us confused and frustrated.   Modern neuroscientists and psychologists are doing great experimental work into the functioning of the brain. They’ve put forth some funny and very interesting ideas about what and why our brains do what they do. Your Brain Sees What It Wants to See Web designers have known this one for a while now. The brain bases its perceptions on previous perceptions. In web design, user experience experts like Jakob Nielsen advise that site builders base their pages on pages that look like the ones people are used to seeing.   This is because your brain likes to be a little lazy. The more new things it sees, the more your brain has to work. By making your vision line up with things it has already seen, your brain saves itself stress and hard work.   Magicians and other tricksters also understand this stuff. Magic tricks fool your brain into seeing things it expects to see; this helps bring the illusion that audiences get such a kick out of.   Your Brain Saves Energy By Automating Its Responses This one can get dangerous. Much as the brain tries to save itself effort by seeing that it wants to see, your brain also likes to save itself energy by automating its efforts. Here’s how it works. When you learn new tasks, your brain spends a lot of effort doing them. The more you get used to the task, the less energy your brain needs to spend.   This can be a very good thing. It’s why you don’t need to relearn to drive your car every time you hit the highway. You’ve done it before, so you don’t need to panic. It just sort of happens. Nicholas Carr has written extensively of the way that relying on machines can ruin your mental automation. This prevents experts like airline pilots from adapting to new situations, leading to some scary results.   This can also be a bad thing. When you get too used to familiar tasks, you get lazy. Your brain doesn’t want to experience new things, so it uses its old patterns. This is where we get the saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”      Your Brain’s Flexibility Changes Throughout Your Life Brains change as your age. When you exercise your brain, you build up its flexibility. Neuroscientists calls this flexibility neuroplasticity.  Neuroplasticity is very high...

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Sleep Positions and Your Brain
Oct19

Sleep Positions and Your Brain

Getting a good night’s sleep is vital for survival. Good, consistent sleep keeps your immune system functioning properly, reduces the risk of disease, and keeps your brain sharp. Think about all the nights when you lost a few hours of sleep. Your brain was deprived of valuable sleep and it was obvious as you struggled to think clearly and do other things such as driving, working, or even walking. Not only is a solid 7 to 8 hours of sleep one of the best things you can do for your brain, but the way you sleep can also affect your brain health. Positioning for Good Sleep   A majority of sleepers have a “tried and true” sleeping position. Whether you sleep on your back, stomach, or side, it’s likely you have slept in that position your whole life. Sleep experts recommend side sleeping for better posture and less back pain, but recent research suggests that side sleeping also benefits your brain. When we sleep, our brain clears its glymphatic pathway of toxins more efficiently than during the waking hours. Scientists found that mice, who slept on their sides (a natural sleeping position for humans and animals), had better functioning glymphatic pathways.   Side sleep helps to filter out damaging proteins, that lead to brain diseases, that build up around the spinal and brain cord. When toxins build up in the brain, neurological conditions such as Alzheimers or Parkinsons. Additionally, side sleeping is often a more “sound” sleeping position. The fewer sleep disturbances may mean fewer issues in brain health such as memory loss. Stay on Your Side, Stay Asleep   Proper sleep positioning can help you sleep longer and without interruptions that can keep your glymphatic pathway working. According to researcher, Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, many types of memory issues are linked to sleep disturbances, such as trouble falling asleep. The increase of sleep disturbances can result in greater chance of memory loss, hence the importance of having a restful night of sleep.   What if you’re not a natural side sleeper? It may take some time to acclimate to side sleeping, but over time you may notice the benefits. If you’re worried about shifting to a different sleeping position in the middle of the night, put a pillow behind your back to prevent easily rolling onto your stomach or back.   Falling asleep or staying asleep are issues that many not-so-sound sleepers face on a nightly basis. If you struggle with sleep, check out these natural sleep solutions for a better night’s sleep and for a healthier...

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