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Want to Improve Your Quality of Sleep? Avoid These 8 Things Before Bed

Want to Improve Your Quality of Sleep? Avoid These 8 Things Before Bed

Do you wake up feeling rested and ready to tackle the day, or groggy and desperate for a cup of coffee to help you pry your eyes open? The truth is that most of us aren’t getting the right amount of sleep each night, and one survey found that 58% of workers feel they don’t sleep enough, and only 16% are getting the recommended eight hours of sleep each night.[1]

Chronic sleep deprivation can contribute to everything from obesity to cardiovascular disease, but even a low level of sleep deprivation can impact cognitive function and will almost certainly affect your performance at work, and eventually maybe even your career.[2]

So what can you do to ensure that your nights of rest are actually restful?

Most of us know better than to consume caffeine or sugar late at night, but there are likely plenty of other things you do regularly that are messing with your quality of sleep. With this in mind, here are eight things you should try to avoid at all costs before bedtime.

1. Smoking or drinking alcohol

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    Obviously you’re aware that smoking and drinking alcohol aren’t the healthiest of habits to begin with, but smoking or drinking right before going to bed can make it more difficult to fall asleep, and also cause you to wake up more frequently throughout the night.

    Nicotine is a stimulant, so smoking just before bed will leave you feeling wired, and while alcohol may initially cause you to feel drowsy, it also disrupts your restorative rapid eye movement (REM) sleep,[3] leaving you feeling groggy and unable to concentrate throughout the day.

    2. Heavy meals

      In general, it’s best to avoid eating too close to your bedtime, as a full stomach will make it harder to fall asleep. Lying down right after you’ve eaten can also cause heartburn and indigestion, which obviously doesn’t contribute to a good night’s sleep.

      If your schedule makes it impossible to eat at least three hours before your bedtime, try to eat your heavier meals for lunch and then eat lighter meals that are easier to digest at the end of the day, such as salads, or fruit and yogurt.

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      3. Technology in bed

        Research shows[4] that the blue and white light given off by the screens of our favorite devices prevents the brain from releasing melatonin, which is the hormone that tells your body when it’s time to sleep.

        With this in mind, it’s best to avoid reading on your smartphone or laptop before going to sleep, and if you usually watch TV or binge on Netflix in the evening, try to give yourself at least one hour of screen-free time before you climb into bed each night.

        4. Hot baths

        Hot baths can certainly be relaxing, but taking one too close to your bedtime can also prevent you from falling asleep. This is because your body temperature naturally drops a bit in preparation for sleep, so when you take a hot bath, your body needs more time to cool down before you feel sleepy.

        If you like taking hot baths right before bed, you can avoid this problem by taking a cold rinse off right after your bath to bring your core temperature down again.

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        5. Strenuous exercise

          Exercising during the day can lead to more restful nights, but if you’re working out too close to your bedtime you might actually be sabotaging your sleep. Just like hot baths, strenuous exercise causes your core body temperature to rise. It also leads to increased brain activity and releases adrenaline, which is not ideal when you’re trying to sleep.

          If you’re not a morning person, try to do your workout at least three hours before you go to sleep, and when this isn’t possible, try a less strenuous form of exercise, such as swimming or yoga.

          6. Work related activities

            Checking your email or taking work calls right before you go to sleep not only exposes you to the melatonin-suppressing light of your phone’s screen, but also prevents you from ever really relaxing.

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            One study even found that people who used their smartphones for work purposes at night were less productive and had difficulty focusing the next day.[5] With this in mind, it’s important to set some clear boundaries and make a conscious effort to unplug and relax once you finish work for the day.

            7. Intense conversations

            Arguments tend to elevate cortisol and other stress hormones, which is really the last thing you want just before bed. While it’s not always possible to avoid arguments and stressful conversations entirely, try to hash things out earlier on in the day rather than leaving frustrations to simmer until bedtime.

            If you know you have an important decision to make, or need to talk something through with a friend or partner, it’s better to agree on a time to discuss the issue the following day when you’ll be free to reflect and process things.

            8. Not following a routine

              Humans are creatures of habit, and if you’re constantly going to bed at a different time, it will be difficult for your brain to slow down and fall asleep. With this in mind, try to develop your own little nighttime ritual that starts about an hour before you plan to go to sleep and helps you relax and wind down.

              This could include anything from laying out your clothes for the next day, to stretching and meditating, to reading or journaling, which has been shown[6] to relieve stress and anxiety, and even lower symptoms of depression.

              Featured photo credit: Hernan Sanchez via unsplash.com

              Reference

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              Marianne Stenger

              Writer, Open Colleges

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              Last Updated on August 8, 2019

              How to Improve Your Brain Memory Naturally: Foods to Eat And Skip

              How to Improve Your Brain Memory Naturally: Foods to Eat And Skip

              Staying focused and maintaining high performance in a hectic work rhythm leads to stress and mental exhaustion. So how to improve brain memory naturally?

              The good news is that the negative effects of increased cognitive efforts can be prevented: brain foods, combined with healthy sleep regime and exercise, improve memory, concentration, and intellect.

              What’s more, cutting many foods that we consider “generally harmful” out of the diet improves brain function and reduces brain health risks.

              How does food improve brain health? Research proves that specific elements contained in the food positively influence molecular systems and support cognitive function.[1] Here’s how:

              • Amino acids support neurotransmitters, endogenous chemicals that transmit signals between nerve cells. This helps keep the brain sharp.
              • Glucose is the main source of energy for human brain. Almost all energy that the brain consumes is derived from glucose.
              • Fatty acids strengthen nerve cells. They bring essential nutrients into brain cells and keep harmful toxins out.
              • Antioxidants protect brain cells by inhibiting oxidization, reducing its negative effects, and removing oxidizing agents from the body.

              Knowing what substances are good for brain health, it’s easier to choose a diet that improves memory, maintains brain health and protects it from damage factors. Many foods are known to have positive effects on cognitive health, so anyone can choose their favorite ones to include in their daily diet.

              10 Foods That Improve Your Brain

              1. Nuts and Seeds

              Nuts, such as walnuts and almonds, contain fatty Omega-3 acids that the brain needs for its healthy function, and antioxidant vitamin E that protects nerve cells and reduces brain health risks.

              Whole grain, beans, and seeds – sunflower, pumpkin and others – are also a great source of amino acids and zinc that improve memory and contribute mental clarity.

              Nutritionists recommend consuming nuts and seeds as a healthy snack – a handful of them is enough to satisfy midday hunger and to cover your daily requirement of brain-supporting substances.

              2. Salmon and Other Fatty Fish

              Salmon is another source of omega-3 fatty acids that maintain brain health. Essential fatty acids contained in fatty fish, such as tuna, herring and sardines, have a protective effect on brain in the aging process by reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

              In a shorter-term perspective, they show positive effects on cognitive-behavioral health: they significantly reduce the risk and the symptoms of depression, ADHD, and anxiety.

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              3. Dark Green Vegetables

              Rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, green leafy vegetables are known for their positive effects on general well-being and sharpness of mind.

              Additionally, such veggies as broccoli, avocado, or kale are powerful cancer fighters. They contain vitamin K that fights lack of concentration, prevents Alzheimer’s disease, and works as an anti-aging substance.

              Spinach, kale, and chard also contain brain-boosting vitamins B and iron that helps transfer oxygen to the brain.

              4. Dark Chocolate

              We often assume that healthy food is not tasty and our favorite sweets are unhealthy, but that’s not quite true.

              Combining the useful with the pleasant is possible when it comes to chocolate – and the darker the better: the best choice is 70% cocoa and more. Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids that stimulate blood flow to the brain, and such elements as iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium that boost energy and support many body functions.

              Consuming cocoa improves cognitive function , reduces stress, and protects mental health.

              5. Tomatoes

              Tomatoes are packed with carotenoids that safeguard fat in the body. As brain is mainly made of fat, this function is especially important for it.

              Tomatoes are a great source of two carotenoid types: lycopene and beta-carotene. They are powerful antioxidants that protect brain cells from free-radical damage, regulate cell growth, have anti-aging effects, and improve memory.

              6. Eggs

              Many of us mostly consume eggs as a source of proteins, but they have much more value for our health. They contain choline that regulates enzymes essential for mental health.

              Eggs are a safe way to consume cholesterol that strengthens brain cells and structures. Apart from that, eggs are packed with antioxidants and healthy fats that nurture and protect the brain.

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              7. Berries

              Berries are a great source of vitamins that help our body function properly. They contain vitamins C and K, antioxidants, fiber, and many other important nutrients.

              Dark berries, such as blackberries, blueberries, and cherries, are a source of flavonoids that improve brain health and boost memory.

              And while fresh berries are usually a seasonal treat, dried and frozen ones are also rich in healthy nutrients and can be consumed throughout the entire year.

              8.Green tea

              Green tea has been being used as a medicine throughout the centuries.[2] The list of its benefits for health and well-being is very long – but we’ll focus here on its positive effects on brain. It is extremely rich in antioxidants that protect brain from harmful free radicals and reduce the risk of cancer.

              In 1494, Japanese scientists identified in green tea an amino acid called L-theanine. It promotes relaxation and facilitates sleep, helping maintain concentration, regulating emotions, and boosting cognitive abilities.

              9. Sage and rosemary

              Adding these herbs to your favorite dishes not only improves the taste, but also sharpen the mind, alleviate fatigue, and increase mental clarity.

              These herbs contain over 40 active compounds that benefit brain health and enhance cognitive activity. They promote focus, concentration, and calmness, which is essential for alertness and long-term memory.[3]

              10. Red wine

              While high levels of alcohol are destructive for overall well-being and for brain health in particular, small amounts of red wine are refreshing and vivifying for brain.

              Studies have shown that red wine, alongside with it relaxing effect, also improves the brain’s ability to remove harmful toxins by regulating the glymphatic system, reduces the risk of inflammation, and improves cognitive abilities and motor skills.[4]

              5 Foods That Harm the Brain

              We’ve figured out what food is healthy – but knowing what is to avoid is also essential for maintaining brain health, good memory and sharp focus. Here’s a list of the most harmful foods that impair memory, impact mood, and increase health risks:

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              1. Sugary Foods and Beverages

              Studies prove that higher sugar levels in the blood not only result in excessive body weight and increase the risk of diabetes – they also expose you to the risk of dementia.[5] That’s why rep lacing sugary drinks and foods with healthier products is essential.

              Consider consuming unsweetened tea, water, vegetable juice, and unsweetened dairy products instead.

              2. Trans Fats

              Trans fats, or unsaturated fatty acids, in small amounts occur in natural and healthy products, such as dairy and meat, where they’re are not a major concern. Much more harmful are industrially produced ones, which are used in snacks, packaged baked goods, and fast food.

              As there’s a relation between the intake of trans fats and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, World Health Organization introduced a guide to eliminate trans fats from the global food supply.

              3. Refined Carbohydrates

              Refined carbs include sugar and highly-processed grains – for example, white flour. Due to their high glycemic index (GI), they are considered harmful to brain: foods high in GI impair memory in both children and adults, increase inflammation risks and can cause degenerative diseases.

              A healthy alternative is whole-grain foods, vegetables, and fruits.

              4. Aspartame

              A thing that is considered “better than sugar”, but in fact is not better at all. It is efficient for losing weight because it has zero calories, but its components – phenylalanine, methanol, and aspartic acid – have negative effects on cognitive abilities, mood, and alertness.

              A healthy choice recommended by experts is reducing the amount of sugar and artificial sweeteners in your diet, or cutting them out altogether.

              5. Alcohol

              While experts mention positive effects of moderate amounts of red wine on brain health, the excessive consumption of alcohol can cause severe problems that everyone needs to be aware of.

              Reduction in brain volume, metabolic problems, disruption of neurotransmitters are the most frequent negative effects. They cause memory loss, behavior disorders, and long-term brain damage.

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              Keep alcohol consumption moderate, or avoid it at all, especially if you already have any health risks.

              Bonus Advice…

              Just eating healthy food sometimes is obviously not enough for improving cognitive performance in the long-term perspective. The key to achieving the best result is getting healthy nutrients consistently. That’s why carefully balancing your daily meal is essential for staying focused and productive.

              Here’s some advice on what foods you can choose for your daily diet to boost your memory, concentration, and brain health:

              Breakfast

              A full and healthy breakfast is an efficient way to start your day productively – so never skip it!

              Oatmeal, berry smoothies, and eggs are traditional breakfast meals, and they are a great source of memory-boosting nutrients.

              Lunch

              It’s sometimes tempting to opt for fast food or packaged baked goods, but stay away from them if you want to stay healthy and energized.

              Sandwiches and salads with fish, green leafy vegetables, whole grain and chicken are a great choice for a light and healthy lunch.

              Dinner

              Again, don’t turn fast food into a habit – such options as seafood and fish, salads with tomatoes and green vegetables, kale, and whole-grain products energize your body and are a better choice for brain health and overall well-being.

              Snacks and Desserts

              Cookies and candies are a popular (and not really healthy) option for a snack or a dessert. Instead, try choosing healthier meals for your snack. Walnuts or almonds, fresh fruit or berries (depending on the season), or fruit and nut mix give a powerful energy boost.

              And don’t forget that dark chocolate is also a healthy choice for a dessert!

              The Bottom Line

              Improving and maintaining memory, focus and cognitive abilities is crucial for a full and active life. Choosing healthy foods and avoiding unhealthy ones helps support brain health in both short-term and long-term perspective. Keep your diet consistent, and combine good food habits with exercise, healthy sleep regime and reasonable work-life balance to achieve best results.

              Featured photo credit: Thomas Evans via unsplash.com

              Reference

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