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Supercharge Your Sleep by Meditating Before Bed

Supercharge Your Sleep by Meditating Before Bed

No matter the time of day, the benefits of meditation vary from physical, to mental and emotional. From improved focus to lower stress levels, meditation has grown to become an incredibly popular health and wellness practice that can transform your life.

Sleep problems like insomnia are an epidemic, but they are rarely addressed to the extent they should be. As a society, we’ve become blind to the critical effects sleep has on our health and well-being. While we wouldn’t think of going a day without so-called essentials like coffee, going a night without sleep is not considered a big deal.

As we become desensitized to sleep deprivation, the lack of rest still impacts our bodies in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. From heart disease to obesity, significant amounts of over- or under-sleeping have clearly been linked to disease. Luckily, meditation is a key component to healing from disrupted sleep cycles.

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A groundbreaking study by the University of Massachusetts Medical School revealed that 58% of insomniac participants showed significant improvements from meditation. An astounding 91% of those on medication were able to reduce the dosage or stop the drugs completely. After several months, more than half of the participants reported that they were maintaining a better sleep cycle, showing that meditation is a great long-term tool for combating insomnia.

How Meditation Improves Sleep

There are a few key ways meditation impacts sleep. The most obvious point we often hear about is how meditation soothes stress. But to be more precise, meditation soothes stress because it activates our autonomic nervous system, allowing for better sleep, stronger digestion, and deeper breathing.

Due to the development of today’s fast-paced culture, the human nervous system has begun to show signs of dysfunction, going into survival mode far more often than is healthy or necessary. Thus meditation is equivalent to a human “reset” button that puts us back into our natural physiological state.

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meditating before bed

    Another factor research has shown is that meditating before bed preserves Slow Wave Sleep, or the deepest stage of non-REM sleep. This is a common problem area for those over fifty years old. So what can we do to boost the chances of a peaceful and uninterrupted sleep every night?

    How Should You Meditate Before Bed?

    Meditating before bed can look different for each individual, depending on your preferences. Some prefer guided meditations, where a narrator’s soft and soothing voice carries you through to physical relaxation and eventual sleep. Others prefer playing meditative music or binaural beats to relieve the mind and achieve deeper states of calm.

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    Luckily, you can eliminate the confusion of not knowing how to start by meditating online. There are countless free resources to experiment with, from ancient Buddhist techniques to modern variations.

    One of the most grounding practices you can perform before bed is a guided Vipassana meditation. This style of meditation is especially useful for those with overactive minds, anxiety, or the general feeling of being ungrounded. The word Vipassana means to have insight into the true nature of things.

    Beginners may feel as though it is the first time they can sense their physical bodies or notice the room they are in. In this sense, Vipassana silences the worry and mental clutter of the day, replacing it with the simple awareness of what is actually happening in the moment.

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    So how is it done? This technique will have you focus on one or two things at a time – such as your hand, the sound of your breath, or the blank view you see with closed eyes. Regardless of the focal point, these meditations calm the nervous system, allowing for the enhancement of REM sleep. This may be especially helpful to those who get a full night’s sleep, but still seem to wake up feeling fatigued each morning.

    Before even getting started with a meditation habit, it’s wise to cultivate a general evening routine. This will prepare you for meditation so that you don’t have to abruptly make the switch from a chaotic and busy day to a quiet and relaxing night. Try adopting just a few habits every evening, such as turning your phone off, journaling, or making some hot tea as you wind down and transition to sleep. In just a few days, with practice, you may notice a huge shift in your ability to get calm and stay calm throughout the night.

    Featured photo credit: Take Back Your Health Conference | Flickr via flickr.com

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    12 Best Brain Foods that Improve Memory

    12 Best Brain Foods that Improve Memory

    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:

    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.

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    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.

    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.

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

    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!

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

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