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5 Reasons You’re Not Sleeping Well, and How to Fix the Problem

5 Reasons You’re Not Sleeping Well, and How to Fix the Problem

Nothing gets your day started on the right foot better than a good night’s sleep. On the other hand, spending hours tossing and turning all night will almost assuredly lead to a slow start the next morning. Of course, getting a good night’s sleep isn’t as simple as laying down and closing your eyes. Your body and mind needs to be prepared to spend eight hours at rest. A lot can get in the way of a good night’s sleep, but with proper care for yourself and your environment, you can optimize your chances of resting well.

Thinking too much

We lead busy lives – there’s no doubt about that. Some of us fill our daily lives with dozens, if not hundreds, of responsibilities and obligations. So it makes sense that, when we lay down to sleep for the night, our brain starts reminding us of everything it thinks we should be doing instead of laying dormant for eight hours. Unfortunately, when this happens, we often get caught in a thought-loop that makes it impossible to fall asleep. Or, if we do fall asleep, something in our dreams will wake us up and cause us to start thinking again, denying us the deep REM sleep we need to become fully rested.

To alleviate this problem of overthinking, you can start using your time during the day more wisely. Procrastinating a few minutes here and there might not seem like much, but if you add them all up you’ll realize you waste much more time than you initially thought (don’t worry, I’m guilty, too). Try to get as much work done as you can during the day, and spend your evenings relaxing and letting your worries fall away until the following morning.

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If your thoughts become too cyclical, get out of bed for a few minutes and take a walk around your house. Sometimes the simple act of removing yourself physically from a situation will allow you to remove any negative thoughts that have been running through your head.

Muscle soreness

Getting a good night’s sleep is all about finding that perfect spot in bed that gives you the comfort needed to drift off to dreamland. Of course, if it’s physically impossible to get comfortable in the first place, you’re going to end up tossing and turning until the wee hours of the morning. Constant neck and back pain can disrupt your sleep patterns, or keep you from falling asleep in the first place, no matter how exhausted you are.

If you’re generally in good shape and healthy, the problem might not be on your end. It might be your mattress. Your choice of mattress should never be taken lightly: it’s where you’ll spend a third of your day, every day of your life. Find a mattress that conforms to the contours of your body, while also giving you the support you need in all the right places. When it comes to adjusting or replacing it, rather than going by a timeline (every three years, for example), go by when it’s necessary. You might end up replacing your mattress earlier than you thought you’d have to, but you can’t put a price on a good night’s sleep, right?

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Irregular sleeping habits

Back in your college days, you could get away with staying up until two in the morning and sleeping ‘til ten, and taking hour-long naps in the middle of the day without it affecting your nightly sleep schedule. I hate to break it to you, but those days are long gone. Now, sleeping in on Sunday morning will mean you’ll get to bed later come Sunday night. And work doesn’t start at noon on Monday like your classes used to; you’ll have to get up and moving whether your body’s ready or not.

The best way to battle this is to keep a routine and stick to it. I don’t mean you need to wake up at five in the morning over the weekend, but you shouldn’t sleep more than an hour later than usual. By sacrificing some sleep time on the weekend, you ensure you won’t absolutely hate yourself come Monday morning. If you absolutely need to rest in the middle of the day, or after a long day of work, set your alarm for no more than 20 minutes. Any longer and you’ll fake your brain out, making it think it should be settling in for the night – and then you’ll have a tougher time getting to bed later on that night.

Irregular eating habits

Whether you’re going to bed too hungry or too full, neither is conducive to a good night’s sleep. Obviously, if your stomach is growling for food and cramping up, you’re not going to be able to just ignore it. On the other hand, however, if you spend your evening gorging on snacks full of salt or sugar, you’re going to be much too bloated to get comfortable – and will probably have to take a trip or two to the bathroom overnight, as well.

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If you must eat before bed, do so about an hour before you lay down. But be careful with the food you choose. Ignore the chocolate donuts, and opt for the more healthy fruit, salad, or protein-rich cheese and eggs. The lighter fare will satisfy your hunger, but won’t bog you down for the rest of the night. Save the sweets for your cheat day.

Too much “noise”

“Noise,” in this sense, refers to any extraneous stimuli that causes a disruption in your sleep pattern. From nightlights and car alarms to pets and a messy room, noise can distract your mind in a variety of ways and keep you from nodding off at night. These stimuli keep your brain active and alert, whether you want it to be or not. The anticipation of feeling your cat jump on your bed or hearing a car horn blare in your complex’s parking lot inhibits your brain’s ability to let down its guard, meaning you won’t be getting to sleep any time soon.

Of course, there are many ways to deal with these distractions and ensure you get a good night’s sleep. Turn off any small lights at night – especially ones that blink (from your computer, for example). Combat intermittent noise from outside with the constant hum of a fan or air conditioner; the droning sound can actually be comforting. Close your door at night so your pets aren’t constantly jumping on and off your bed (and your body). Finally, clean up the area around your bed. You might not consciously realize it, but a room full of “stuff” can subconsciously cause your mind to continue working long after you’ve laid down. Once all external stimuli are stifled, you’ll be free to drift off and enjoy your slumber.

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Featured photo credit: Insomnia / Emil Johansson via farm5.staticflickr.com

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Last Updated on August 12, 2019

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory and brain power:

1. Nuts

The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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2. Blueberries

Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

3. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

4. Broccoli

While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

6. Soy

Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

7. Dark Chocolate

When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate: 15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

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Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

9. Foods Rich in Zinc

Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

10. Gingko Biloba

This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

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However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

11. Green and Black Tea

Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

Find out more about green tea here: 11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

12. Sage and Rosemary

Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

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Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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