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3 Reasons you need to prioritize sleep if you want to be successful

3 Reasons you need to prioritize sleep if you want to be successful

All to ofter we wear the ‘all-nighter’ as a badge of pride to our ability to work hard. Sure they’re needed from time to time, but any more than once or twice a year means you’ve got other issues. Lack of sleep isn’t a badge of honor, it’s something to be reviled since it harms us and how we think.

Next time you’re thinking about a night without sleep or with less sleep than needed remember these reasons why sleep is good for you and lack of sleep is going to harm your long term success.

1. Sleep consolidates memories

We all spend most of our day building new memories. From interactions with friends to new ways to accomplish our jobs to some random revolutionary thought we had while walking the dog. A day is full of memories and learning.

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The thing is that when we get the sleep we need after that day of learning our mind takes all those new memories and consolidates them for long term retention. Without proper sleep we simply won’t retain the things we’ve learned well.

Lack of sleep even transfers to the day after. Research suggests that even a single night of missed sleep inhibits our ability to build new memories. We simply can’t make new memories effectively which inhibits our ability to effectively learn. With much of our world changing so fast all the time no one can afford to have their ability to learn impaired and that’s exactly what you’re doing if you aren’t getting the sleep you need.

2. Lack of sleep may lead to Alzheimer’s

Even more alarming than simply having a hard time creating new memories and inhibited learning is that lack of sleep has been shown to have Alzheimer’s like symptoms. Even a sleep schedule change like jet-lag has been shown to have this effect.

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That means not only is our learning impaired but when we aren’t getting good sleep we’re actually more likely to forget things we’ve already learned. This is especially concerning for those that have a family history of the disease already since lack of sleep has been shown to accelerate the effect of Alzheimer’s.

If you find you’re forgetting names, places, events or skills that you previously learned check out your sleep schedule. It could be that the lack of consistent good rest is causing you to unlearn those things you already know.

3. It’s as bad as eating poorly for 6 months

It’s not just your memory that’s affected by poor sleep though, your health is put at risk by as little as a single night of poor sleep.

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One study has shown that one night of no sleep is as bad for your health as a poor diet for 6 months. In particular the night of missed sleep impairs your insulin sensitivity. This impaired sensitivity means your body needs to produce more insulin to keep your blood sugar regulated. Elevated blood sugar is a predictor of Type 2 Diabetes and obesity.

Yes, lack of sleep can help you gain weight as this lack of insulin sensitivity is often tied to increased appetite. Increasing appetite leads to weight gain and obese people take more time off work. Taking more time off work is going to impair your success at work and all of this is because of a single night of missed sleep.

Working all hours is not a badge of pride we should be wearing. It’s not a sign of success or dedication. Lack of sleep is going to harm our ability to learn. Our ability to recall things we have already learned and can lead to obesity which will mean less time at work and less work done.

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If you want to be successful it’s time to start prioritizing sleep. Set an alarm for your bedtime and go to bed. Get a full 8 hours a night. Doing this will increase your ability to learn and your health.

Featured photo credit: luisachesi via flickr.com

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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