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Lack of Sleep Can Tremendously Affect How Our Brains Deal with Emotions

Lack of Sleep Can Tremendously Affect How Our Brains Deal with Emotions

Insomnia is a common but highly irritating problem: the Sleep Health Foundation (SHF) estimates that 1 in 3 people will suffer from mild insomnia at one point in their lives. There are a number of causes for this disorder, including hormonal imbalances, bad sleep habits, some medications, too much caffeine and even pregnancy. And whatever the underlying cause, sleepless nights can cause a range of problems, including fatigue and tiredness, difficulty concentrating and focusing, lack of memory, mood or emotional disorders, and the increased chance of committing an error or getting into an accident.

What is even more surprising is that, according to new research, a person’s emotions can be negatively impacted by even missing just one night’s sleep.

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Sleep deprivation led people to lose their neutrality, the ability of the brain to separate the important from the unimportant

This new research was coming out of Tel Aviv University in Israel, where researchers were able to gain a better understanding of the specific effects that sleep deprivation has upon the brain. What they found was that, surprisingly, the negative cognitive effects began after just one night’s sleep.

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Losing Neutrality

    During the study, 18 volunteers stayed up all night one night and got a good night’s sleep on the other. Brain imaging from MRIs and EEG were done throughout the study in order to better understand the brain activity of the participants. After each night, participants were asked to take the same test which involved tracking and identifying the movement of dots across different pictures, which were either emotionally positive, emotionally negative, or emotionally neutral in content. The combination of this test and the brain imaging was enough to get a good idea of the brain’s cognitive processing ability.

    The results showed that lack of sleep negatively impacted the regulatory processing ability of the brain, and the EEG scan revealed little difference in its reaction to positive and negative images. Further testing showed that volunteers were more easily distracted by any kind of image after staying up all night, but that after a good night’s sleep, only the most emotionally charged images registered on the brain.

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    In short, the researchers noted that sleep deprivation led people to lose their neutrality, the ability of the brain to separate the important from the unimportant. See the brain scans and other images taken directly from the study below.

    Losing Neutrality
      Figure 1
      Losing Neutrality
        Figure 2
        Losing Neutrality
          Figure 3

          Before the study, scientists were not certain about just what mechanism in the brain was responsible for emotional impairments which happen when sleep is taken away. Dr. Talma Hadlar, one of the researchers who published this article, noted that:

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          “We assumed that sleep loss would interfere with the processing of emotional images and….executive functions. We were incredibly surprised to find that it significantly impacted the brain in the processing of both neutral and emotionally charged images.”

          The Study in Context

          The Tel Aviv research is part of a recent and growing body of evidence that ties lack of sleep or insomnia to emotional and/or cognitive dysfunction. All three studies below were published just this year:

          • One study, published in the Journal of Integrative Medicine, found in their review that insomnia “poses a major threat to mental health…. Anxiety and depression are the two most negative emotions impacted by insomnia”.
          • An article which appeared in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that, for patients suffering from insomnia due to tinnitus (a chronic ringing in the ears), the level of emotional and cognitive distress was directly related to how severe the insomnia was.
          • Research published in the Review of Neurology found that the comorbidity between insomnia and depression is high, and that a vicious cycle begins:

          Anxiety and depression can cause insomnia and the insomnia in turn can make the emotional problems worse.

          In short, those who are suffering from insomnia―even for a very short time―are at an increased risk for emotional and cognitive problems as well. That is why it is important to see a doctor or other healthcare professional about this problem early on to discuss safe and effective remedies for this problem before it gets any worse.

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          Brian Wu

          Health Writer, Author

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          Last Updated on September 25, 2019

          15 Brain Foods to Eat Regularly for a Sharper Brain

          15 Brain Foods to Eat Regularly for a Sharper Brain

          These days, there are so many food choices. Every marketing trick is used to make you buy brain foods, all-natural, fat-free or gluten-free products.

          Could you blame them? They need to make a profit to keep existing and delivering their goods to the consumers.

          But does this mean that foods with these labels are just regular products or do brain foods really exist?

          That’s when research came in and proved that brain foods (meaning: foods that have a positive effect on the brain) really do exist.

          In this article, you will find 15 brain foods you should be eating to keep your mind sharp.

          1. Blueberries

          One of the greatest gifts of Mother Nature — blueberries. Blueberries are known as the king of antioxidants[1] and are used to detox the body.

          There are not a lot of studies that tried to prove the relationship between blueberries and the improvement of brain function. But there’s one study that consisted of 9 elderly people. They found that consuming blueberry juice on a daily basis for 12 weeks improved memory function.[2]

          If this is not reasonable enough to include blueberries into your diet, you should read the following article on other benefits of blueberries: 10 Benefits of Blueberries That Will Impress You

          As with every single one of the brain foods listed here: Consuming more than necessary can also lead to side effects, this is the same with blueberries.[3]

          When including blueberries in your diet along with other brain foods; make sure to eat no more than 0.5 cups (4 oz./113 grams) a day.

          2. Broccoli

          The first vegetable on the list, broccoli. Whatever you do with it; roast, steam, blanch or saute.[4] It will still improve the sharpness of your brain.

          There are two main nutrients in broccoli that makes it one of the brain foods on this list. Vitamin K, which is also found in lower amounts in blueberries, helps strengthen cognitive abilities.[5] The nutrient Choline improves your memory.[6]

          There’s six times more vitamin K in broccoli than in blueberries. The downside is that blueberries are a bit tastier.

          Include some broccoli with every warm plate you eat in a day, and your brain will turn into a SUPER brain.

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          3. Walnuts

          Walnuts are the best choice of all the nuts when it comes to improving cognitive function. They have the same benefits as every other nut, but walnuts also contain omega-3 fatty acids.[7]

          Beside the improvement of heart health,[8] walnuts also provide a sharper memory (at least to women).[9]

          Consuming walnuts also help slow mental decline[10] because of the Vitamin E that is found in walnuts.[11]

          Next time you crave a snack, buy a bag of unroasted and unsalted walnuts. In the future, this will be the replacement of all unhealthy snacks like Twix.

          Brain foods are not brain foods because they contain a lot of sugar. Brain foods usually consist of a high amount of vitamins and antioxidants. That’s how you can recognize them.

          4. Green Tea

          Some of us are coffee drinkers while others prefer tea. You don’t have to choose one or the other because both of them made it to the list (you’ll read later about coffee in number 11 of brain foods).

          Green tea contains more than just caffeine; it contains L-theanine which essentially lowers the anxiety levels.[12] It also increases the levels of dopamine and alpha wave production (relaxation).

          The lower levels of caffeine in green tea compared to coffee makes this a perfect brain function drink. Caffeine and L-theanine show synergistic effects that work best with the amount of caffeine found in green tea.[13]

          People who drink green tea have proven that they have a more stable energy level and increased productivity compared to when they drink coffee. So, if you’re looking for brain foods that will enhance your productivity; green tea is the way to go.

          5. Oranges

          Orange has a high amount of Vitamin C in it. One large orange is enough to fulfill 100% of your daily Vitamin C intake. Vitamin C has a lot of benefits:

          • Vitamin C reduces the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease[14]
          • It may help fight against high blood pressure[15]
          • Vitamin C boosts immunity by increasing the production of white blood cells[16]
          • The most important of all: high levels of Vitamin C are found to be related to the improvement of memory and thinking. People suffering from dementia has been shown to have low levels of Vitamin C.[17] This may mean that by consuming enough Vitamin C, you will be able to prevent dementia.[18]

          To learn more about everything related to Vitamin C, read the following article: All You Need To Know About Vitamin C Benefits (and Recipes To Boost Your Daily Intake)

          6. Avocados

          Avocados fit very nicely in your salad, or you may even like it on toast.

          Avocado is a source of healthy fats; monounsaturated fat. Monounsaturated fat is believed to contribute to healthy blood flow which in turn means a healthy brain.[19]

          Besides that, avocados also lower blood pressure which will prevent a decrease in cognitive abilities.[20]

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          Adding 1/4 or 1/2 avocado daily should do the trick and help your brain function as a superhero.

          If you need practical ways to include avocado in your daily diet, check this out: 50+ Super Easy Avocado Recipes At Home Now

          7. Coconut Oil

          Coconut oil is a multi-functional oil; some bathe in it, some put it all over their skin, and it’s also used for cooking. To get the following benefits out of it; you should consume it orally (but that’s up to you of course).

          When it comes down to improved brain function; coconut oil has proven to boost brain function in Alzheimer’s patients.[21] Although it isn’t shown to work on people without Alzheimer’s; it can never hurt.

          Besides that, there are many more benefits to coconut oil.

          8. Spinach

          One research found that when elderly consumed one (or two) daily serving of spinach (or other leafy greens for that matter) for an average of 5 years had the same cognitive abilities as someone 11 years younger who never consumed leafy greens.[22]

          This all is thanks to Vitamin K that is found in leafy greens like spinach, kale, collards and mustard greens.

          Popeye looks impressive from the outside, and you will look impressive from the inside once you consume your daily spinach: 6 Mouth-Watering Spinach Recipes You Should Not Miss

          9. Oatmeal

          Known for its use as breakfast, oatmeal is one of many kinds of cereal that contains more than just sugar.

          There’s a reason why oatmeal is often used as breakfast. It is because of the many carbohydrates that are in it which act like a shot of glucose that spikes your blood sugar levels.

          Glucose is sent immediately to the brain to help it function. In essence, this means that the higher the concentration of glucose in your blood, the better you can focus and remember things.[23]

          If you suffer from low blood sugar levels in the morning and can’t function without having a big breakfast immediately upon waking, oatmeal is going to be your best friend.

          10. Raisins

          Children often consume them as healthy snacks because it’s sweet. But did you know raisins promote brain function?

          Raisins are the number one source of boron of all brain foods. The research found that the level of boron is related to hand-eye coordination and short-term memory.[24] Increased levels of boron improves both.

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          Besides that, raisins also heal wounds faster and prevent deficiency in Vitamin D.

          11. Coffee

          We touched on the benefits of green tea earlier, but that doesn’t mean coffee can’t serve its purpose to brain function as well. If you prefer coffee over tea; listen (actually read) closely.

          There’s something about coffee that most people don’t even know. The point is that most of us consume more antioxidants through coffee than any other of the mentioned brain foods.

          This is not because there are more antioxidants in coffee; it’s because coffee is consumed the most of all brain foods.

          These antioxidants protect your brain from cell death which in turn protects you from dementia and related diseases.[25]

          Not to mention that caffeine may also prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s.[26][27]

          You don’t have to give up your coffee; except for all the sugar and milk you put in it. Drink your coffee black and keep it to a maximum of 3 per day and you should be okay.

          12. Almonds

          Earlier we touched upon walnuts, but most nuts are generally good for your health (as long as you don’t overdo it).

          Almonds are most known for their potential of enhancing memory and delaying Alzheimer’s progression.[28][29] Of course, they share the same benefits with the walnuts, but almonds are lower in omega 3 fats.

          If you forget things on a daily basis, maybe a handful of almonds per day can help you.

          Five to six almonds a day should do the trick. If you’re not watching your weight, you can just grab a handful. But don’t overdo it because there’s a lot of fats in nuts.

          Here’re more benefits of almonds you should know: 10 Benefits of Almonds That Will Surprise You (+Healthy Recipes)

          13. Lentils

          Lentils for the vegans among you is one of the best sources of protein among legumes. Besides that, it is a rich source of various essential nutrients like iron, Vitamin B6, and folate (Vitamin B9).

          Besides the fact that they make a terrific combination with rice; lentils also serves its purpose in the brain. All the essential nutrients improve brain function in their own way:

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          • Folate (Vitamin B9) keeps your mind sharp while you get older.[30]
          • Iron plays an essential role in cognitive functioning with pregnant women.[31]
          • Zinc is well known for boosting memory.[32]
          • Vitamin B6 and thiamine give you more energy and focus.[33][34]

          As you can see; lentils make up one of the best brain foods on this list. But this also depends on your preference as some of you might’ve never even eaten lentils.

          14. Strawberries

          Most berries and other related fruits like strawberries (which are technically seen not berries) are all known to have beneficial effects on the brain.[35] They help prevent age-related memory loss and may even slow the progress of Alzheimer’s.[36]

          Another thing that is more strawberry related is the amount of potassium in it. Potassium is related to increased blood flow thus improved cognitive function.[37]

          Eight strawberries per day should do the trick and give you many benefits besides these brain-enhancing benefits: 10 Amazing Benefits of Strawberries that You Probably Never Knew

          15. Red Wine

          Last but not least, red wine. Although alcohol itself is not related to any improvement in brain functioning; some studies show that there are benefits to drinking lightly or moderately.

          Out of all the alcoholic beverages, red wine is the one with the most favorable results. Research shows that red wine may even slow aging[38] and it can also decrease the risk of dementia.[39]

          Although these results are based on research, the researchers don’t recommend that any non-drinkers start drinking. Especially younger people shouldn’t aim to drink red wine as the most benefits (or no increased risks) are found in the elderly.

          If you think about drinking red wine, you should drink maximum 1 glass of red wine per day as a woman and maximum of 2 glasses of red wine per day for men. One glass of red wine should contain 175ml, don’t overdo it.

          Keep in mind that there are also potential risks to drinking alcohol. Such risks include addition, depression and weight gain when you’re not drinking carefully.

          Conclusion

          “You are what you eat.”

          One of the oldest sayings ever expresses all you need to know.

          Every food on this brain foods list is put on this list because it enhances brain functioning in some way. So, whichever food on this list you choose to eat after reading this article doesn’t matter.

          What matters most is that you read everything closely and choose one of the brain foods that fit your goal the most.

          Enjoy eating your next brain food!

          More About Boosting Brain Power

          Featured photo credit: Melissa Belanger via unsplash.com

          Reference

          [1] Wild Blueberries: Wild Blueberries Antioxidants
          [2] NCBI: Blueberry Supplementation Improves Memory in Older Adults
          [3] Good Health All: 8 Major Side Effects OF Eating Too Many Blueberries
          [4] Skinny Ms: How to Make Broccoli Taste Good, Each and Every Time
          [5] Wellness Resources: Vitamin K Enhances Cognitive Function During Aging
          [6] The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: The relation of dietary choline to cognitive performance and white-matter hyperintensity in the Framingham Offspring Cohort
          [7] The Journal Of Nutrition: Role of Walnuts in Maintaining Brain Health with Age
          [8] NCBI: Cardiovascular risk factors and cognitive function.
          [9] NCBI: LONG-TERM INTAKE OF NUTS IN RELATION TO COGNITIVE FUNCTION IN OLDER WOMEN
          [10] NCBI: Vitamin E and cognitive decline in older persons.
          [11] NCBI: Vitamin E-gene interactions in aging and inflammatory age-related diseases: implications for treatment. A systematic review.
          [12] NCBI: The neuropharmacology of L-theanine(N-ethyl-L-glutamine): a possible neuroprotective and cognitive enhancing agent.
          [13] NCBI: L-theanine and caffeine in combination affect human cognition as evidenced by oscillatory alpha-band activity and attention task performance.
          [14] NCBI: Effect of five-year supplementation of vitamin C on serum vitamin C concentration and consumption of vegetables and fruits in middle-aged Japanese: a randomized controlled trial.
          [15] NCBI: Effects of vitamin C supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.
          [16] NCBI: Association between nutritional status and cognitive functioning in a healthy elderly population.
          [17] NCBI: Dietary antioxidants and dementia in a population-based case-control study among older people in South Germany.
          [18] National Institute of Health: Vitamin C
          [19] JOURNAL OF NEUROCHEMISTRY: Dietary intake of unsaturated fatty acids modulates physiological properties of entorhinal cortex neurons in mice
          [20] National Institute on Aging: High blood pressure is linked to cognitive decline
          [21] NCBI: Effects of beta-hydroxybutyrate on cognition in memory-impaired adults.
          [22] News Wise: Eating Green Leafy Vegetables Keeps Mental Abilities Sharp
          [23] PNAS: Stoichiometric coupling of brain glucose metabolism and glutamatergic neuronal activity
          [24] NCBI: Nothing Boring About Boron
          [25] NCBI: Neuroprotection and antioxidants
          [26] NCBI: High Blood caffeine levels in MCI linked to lack of progression to dementia.
          [27] NCBI: Hypoxia/reoxygenation impairs memory formation via adenosine-dependent activation of caspase 1.
          [28] Science Direct: Repeated administration of almonds increases brain acetylcholine levels and enhances memory function in healthy rats while attenuates memory deficits in animal model of amnesia
          [29] Science Direct: Almond, hazelnut and walnut, three nuts for neuroprotection in Alzheimer’s disease: A neuropharmacological review of their bioactive constituents
          [30] NCBI: Folic acid, ageing, depression, and dementia
          [31] The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Iron treatment normalizes cognitive functioning in young women
          [32] ResearchGate: A potential medicinal importance of zinc in human health and chronic disease
          [33] ORA: Vitamin B6 for cognition
          [34] Springer Link: Thiamine supplementation mood and cognitive functioning
          [35] J. Agric. Food Chem: Berry Fruit Enhances Beneficial Signaling in the Brain
          [36] NCBI: Dietary intake of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline
          [37] Science Direct: Potassium 2-(1-hydroxypentyl)-benzoate improves learning and memory deficits in chronic cerebral hypoperfused rats
          [38] NY Times: New Hints Seen That Red Wine May Slow Aging
          [39] NCBI: Moderate alcohol consumption and cognitive risk.

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