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Published on August 3, 2018

5 Insomnia Causes and How to Combat Them to Crush Sleeplessness

5 Insomnia Causes and How to Combat Them to Crush Sleeplessness

The alarm clock numbers change again.

12:06 AM.

“Well”, you think to yourself, “not the worst.” But here’s the problem — you went to bed over two hours ago.

There aren’t many feelings worse than watching your alarm clock work flawlessly with no emotion, showing you little mercy in counting time upwards.

Insomnia isn’t anything to take lightly, and no matter how good your sleep schedule is, we’ve all been struck by its merciless rage. Unfortunately for some, they suffer from it consistently.

The bad news? You may not realize it, but you’re feeding the insomnia directly by some of your habits.

The good news? You can change these habits and enjoy better, more fulfilling sleep on a regular basis.

The following is a list of the most common causes of insomnia, and what you can do to flip the script and lessen the bags showing themselves front and center under your eyes:

Cause 1: Technology

Do I even need to go here?

How many times have you been told to stay away from anything with a screen at night? It almost feels like it’s one step away from a parent scolding their stepchild.

Yet, just like the stepchild, you push the envelope and do it anyway. Why not, right? It’s not physically hurting you or causing any damage, so off you go.

But it is hurting — and it’s hurting big time. Whether you like it or not, we have certain biological tendencies that have been adapted through thousands of years of human existence.

Technology and blue light screens have only been around for 40 (or even less) of those years, and smartphones have cut that number to maybe ten. So now, as you browse Instagram and Facebook in bed, you’re effectively resisting thousands of years of biology by pitting ten years of technology against it.

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Who do you think is going to win this one? Here’s a hint — it’s not you.

While you joyfully laugh at the latest viral Facebook video, your brain’s ability to secrete melatonin is suppressed as a result of the blue light from the screen.[1] Melatonin, it turns out, is the sleep regulating hormone.

So put the tech away. You’ve had all day to stare at it, and you can definitely handle the one hour before bed without it.

Having trouble simply putting it away? Try any of the following:

  1. If you normally plug your phone in on your nightstand, move it away to your desk. If even having it on your desk is too tempting, put it in another room for the night.
  2. Replace the habit of browsing social media or checking email on your phone late at night (because let’s be honest, that’s generally what you do) with another activity, such as reading. Give the eyes the break they deserve.
  3. Put your phone on airplane mode for the night so no one can distract you.

Cause 2: Stress

Work. Family. Relationships. Life.

Rinse and repeat.

Any combination of those, or even all of them, can cause undue stress in your life. We all know stress is bad. Yeah, yeah… yeah. We’ve heard it ten thousand times in ten thousand different ways. But what are we doing about it?

Unfortunately, not much. Out of any of those categories, work is one of the biggest sources of stress. It boils down to three reasons:

  • There’s pressure on you to perform well on a regular basis.
  • Your coworkers are hard to work with or even get along with.
  • You probably don’t even like your job that much.

Mix those together and you’ll get a pretty potent shot of cortisol, courtesy of your own body. What is cortisol exactly? It’s the hormone that’s released during stress.

If you’re feeling the full force of it, spend a little time doing any of the following:

  1. Meditate. The science behind it is proven, and I know you’ve heard it’s beneficial. Give it a shot. Start with sitting still in the mornings for a few minutes. Expand from there. There are a ton of useful guides online, here’s one: The 5-minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime
  2. Unplug for a bit. Similar to meditation but without actually meditating. Put your phone away, don’t talk to anyone, and just unwind for a few minutes. Let your thoughts go wild if you need to. Take a few deep breaths. It’s ok to spend a little time alone. Don’t feel like going out Friday night? Then don’t.
  3. Enjoy a little downtime without the guilt. Downtime is in fact very important to your overall performance. We’re so “go go go” in our mentality these days, we almost feel guilty when we take a minute to slow down. Well, I’m here to tell you — slow down more and don’t feel guilty about it. Watch a TV show or a movie. Read a freakin’ book. Veg out on the couch.

Cause 3: Unregulated sleeping hours/pattern

One of the worst things you can do is keep odd hours with your sleep schedule. Your body is a fine-tuned piece of equipment and thus needs to be treated like one. But like all things, it isn’t foolproof.

At the end of the day, we aren’t robots; we don’t have a switch that we can turn on and off. Do you consider that a pro or a con? I happen to think it’s a pro, but that’s just me.

Your body becomes a well-oiled machine when you give it routine and habits. Ultimately, it’s up to you if those habits are good or bad.

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If you’re looking to get ahead in life, you might want to make them good:

I’ll even give you one good habit to get you started: Keep your bedtime to a pretty consistent time frame.

The idea is simple:

Aim for a certain time and then keep the bedtime to within 30 minutes, even on the weekends.

Trust me, going to bed one night at 11 PM, the next night at 9:30 PM, and then 1 AM on Saturday night won’t do you much good.

Your brain picks up on these habits, and when you get into a routine of going to bed at the same time, you’d be surprised at how much more quickly you’re capable of falling asleep.

Cause 4: Bad diet and caffeine

We love dessert. We love greasy, cheesy, carb-loaded meals. We could literally eat this every day and not blink an eye. If only it was healthy for you.

What is it about the salt and the sweet that has us craving absolute crap a lot?

I won’t get into the science of why we love to eat everything that’s bad for us, but I will get into the science of why eating unhealthy on a regular basis will absolutely affect your sleep.

Let’s start with the physical discomfort you’ll probably get when you eat a heavy meal close to bedtime. That bloated, gassy, full feeling is never appetizing, let alone when it hits you as you lay in bed.

There’s also the aforementioned weight gain that comes with eating trashy foods all the time. And in turn, your chances of developing sleep apnea increase.

For those unaware, sleep apnea is where you stop breathing for short amounts of time overnight, causing your body to lose out on precious REM sleep. Many times, even after a full night’s sleep, you wake up feeling tired.[2]

Those who suffer from acid reflux due to bad diets can also suffer from nighttime heartburn as well, making it hard to fall asleep.[3]

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So, still want to eat a bunch of junk food? I hope not, but either way I’ll add another complex layer: caffeine, and your penchant to ingest a lot of it.

Here’s what I mean:

You’re tired on a regular basis, so you decide that caffeine was your drug of choice to combat the constant sleepiness. That’s cool. It works for a bit.

But as you begin to ingest more caffeine, you have a harder time falling asleep at night because you’re still wired. In turn, you wake up even more tired, and so you decide that more caffeine is the answer.

Get where this is going?

Try the following tips to start a healthy diet:

To start, try ingesting less caffeine. If you drink three or more cups a day, try replacing one of them with green tea, or cut that last cup out completely. Slowly backtrack down to one or two cups a day if you can, and don’t drink any caffeine past lunch time.

If your diet needs some improvement, try to start small again. If you happen to love sugar and find yourself eating or drinking the deliciously sweet stuff on the daily, try to cut out one source of it for the day. In other words, if you drink two sodas a day, try to cut one out and replace with sparkling water or some other non-sugary beverage.

This isn’t rocket science and is more than likely advice you’ve heard before.

If you eat dessert after every lunch and every dinner, try to skip one of them. Then, like with the caffeine, backtrack until you either completely eliminate it or have just a tiny amount.

I’m a firm believer in moderation — nothing wrong with enjoying a little coffee shop rendezvous with caffeine or a midnight meeting with chocolate…but when given an inch, we take a mile. Regulate your intake.

Cause 5: No exercise

Exercise has been proven as one of the most beneficial sources of stress relief, but more importantly, as a way to regulate your sleep.[4]

Just think about it — exercise means you expend a ton of energy in a short amount of time. Naturally, you get tired from this expense of energy and it follows you throughout the day even if you don’t actively feel “tired”.

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When you don’t exercise, you’re robbing your system of a chance to release this energy. With nowhere to go, it stays bottled up, and you guessed it — your sleep cycle takes the hit.

Try the following ways to get out there and get moving, people:

The source really doesn’t matter, but here’s what does:

Finding some physical activity that you enjoy. The fastest way to fall off the wagon is to do something you don’t enjoy and get bored (here’s to looking at you, career sufferers).

If you enjoy playing a sport, get more involved. If you enjoy the feeling of lifting some iron, get a membership to a gym. If you enjoy both, then guess what…do both.

If you prefer working out in groups, join any number of gyms that offer group classes. Your choices are pretty much unlimited. Go move.

You can flip the script

There are a number of factors that can trigger insomnia but lucky for you, most of them have solutions and ways you can tackle them to lessen their impact. A lot of them require discipline and effort, though.

Are your waking hours spent in a daze, full of brain fog? Are you getting mad that you can predict the mid-afternoon slump that accompanies you on a daily basis?

These five ways are some of the most time-tested, easiest solutions to implement.

Give it a go, because I can guarantee you one thing if you don’t: nothing will change.

Want to know more about hacking your sleep cycle, check this out:

Your Sleep Cycle And How To Hack It For Better Sleep

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Health Publishing: Blue light has a dark side
[2] Health: Weight Gain and Sleep Apnea: How 2 Patients Beat the Vicious Cycle
[3] National Sleep Foundation: Diet, Exercise and Sleep
[4] Sleep.org: How Exercise Affects Sleep

More by this author

Adam Bergen

Adam Bergen is the founder of Monday Views, a movement dedicated to showing that with focus and self-discipline, your potential is limitless.

The Real Causes of Lack of Energy That Go Beyond Your Physical Health How to Instantly Boost Your Productivity by Modifying Habits at Work 10 Best Task List Apps Out There for Getting Stuff Done 5 Insomnia Causes and How to Combat Them to Crush Sleeplessness Have Trouble Sleeping? 7 Proven Ways to Get More Rest

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Last Updated on February 21, 2019

Top 9 Foods for Incredible Brian Health And Brain Power

Top 9 Foods for Incredible Brian Health And Brain Power

Your brain is the most intricate and powerful organ in your entire body. It’s essentially a super-computer with brain power like a Ferrari.

If you have a Ferrari, would you put cheap gasoline in it? Of course not. You want to put in high-octane performance fuel to get the most out of your investment.

When it comes to the brain, many people are looking for the top foods that will supercharge the brainpower to help focus better, think more clearly and have better brain health.

In this article, we’ll look at the top 9 brain foods that will help create supercharge your brain with energy and health:

1. Salmon

Salmon has long been held as a healthy brain food, but what makes this fish so valuable for your brain health?

It’s important to understand that your brain is primarily made up of fat. Roughly 60% of your brain is fat. One of the most important fats that the brain uses as a building block for healthy brain cells is omega-3’s.

Omega-3’s are essential for building a healthy brain but one of the most important omega-3’s for your brain is DHA. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) forms nearly two-thirds of the omega-3’s found in your brain.[1]

Omega-3’s and DHA in particular help form the protective coating around our neurons. The better quality this coating is, the more efficient and effective our brain cells can work, allowing our brain power to work at full capacity.

Studies have shown that being deficient in DHA can affect normal brain development in children, which is why so many infant formulas and children’s supplements are beginning to include DHA.

Being deficient in DHA as an adult can cause focus and attention problems, mood swings, irritability, fatigue and poor sleep.

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2. Blueberries

Blueberries top the list as one of the most beneficial fruits to maximize your brain health and performance.

Blueberries have some of the highest content of antioxidants, particularly anthocyanins, than any other fruit, which helps protect the brain from stress and promote healthy brain aging.

Blueberries antioxidant content also help reduce inflammation, which allows the brain to maintain healthy energy levels.

Blueberries have begun to receive attention for their connection to brain performance.[2] Studies have demonstrated that eating blueberries on a regular basis can not only improve brain health but also brain performance as well including working memory.[3]

Blueberries not only taste great but are low in calories, high in Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Manganese.

3. Turmeric

Turmeric is a very impressive spice that has well-researched and proven to have tremendous benefits for your brain. Turmeric’s main compound that benefits the brain is called curcumin, which is responsible for turmerics bright yellow appearance.

Curcumin has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-cancer properties.[4]

Curcumin increases the production and availability of two important neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, two important neurotransmitters involved with happiness, motivation, pleasure, and reward.

Curcumin has been well documented to have powerful anti-depressive effects. In one study, it was found to be as effective for depression as popular medications such as SSRI’s like Prozac.[5]

Curcumin has also been shown to:

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  • Increase blood flow to the brain.[6]
  • Increase BDNF production, a powerful stimulator of neuroplasticity.[7]
  • Increase DHA availability and synthesis in the brain.[8]
  • Increase antioxidant levels in the brain to prevent brain aging and inflammation.[9]

4. Coffee

Coffee is the wonderful elixir of energy that many people cherish every single morning. The biggest reason people drink coffee is to get a dose of caffeine.

Caffeine is a natural neurological stimulant that not only gives you energy but also prevents adenosine, a neurotransmitter involved with feeling tired, from binding in the brain.

Many people are surprised to find that coffee actually contains a large quantity of antioxidants called polyphenols, which are important for reducing inflammation in the brain and keep your brain energized. The antioxidants in coffee also provide a neuroprotective effect, protecting the brain from stress and damage. [R]

Coffee can also:

  • Improve alertness and concentration.[10]
  • Help with neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease.[11]
  • Reduce your risk of depression.[12]
  • Improve your memory.
  • Provide short-term boost in athletic performance.[13]

5. Broccoli

What was your least favorite food as a kid growing up?

Most likely, broccoli was your answer.

Broccoli may not have been your top choice, but it might be the top choice for your brain.

Broccoli contains a compound called sulforaphane. Sulforaphane has been shown to promote the proliferation and survival of brain cells by reducing inflammation and boosting production of BDNF. It has also been shown to boost neurogenesis, the production of new brain cells.[14]

Broccoli is also loaded with important nutrients Vitamin K and Folate. Vitamin K plays a vital role in protecting brain cells.[15] Folate plays a crucial role in detoxification and reducing inflammation in the brain.

6. Bone broth

Bone broth wasn’t just created to combine with soups, you can actually drink bone broth by itself.

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Drinking bone broth has become one of the biggest trends in the health and wellness industry and for good reason. Bone broth isn’t actually a new thing. Bone broth has been used for centuries as a healing tonic to promote health and longevity.

Much of the nutritional benefits and value of bone broth comes from its substantial vitamin and mineral content. Primarily calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium.

Your gut is called your second brain for a reason. Research continually shows that there is a direct and indirect connection between your gut and your brain. Your gut also houses and stores many important brain compounds involved with optimal brain performance. Therefore the health of your gut is vitally important for your brain health and performance.

Bone broth has become a go-to tool for helping heal the gut and provide the gut with the vital nutrient and resources it needs to heal and perform optimally.

With the vast amounts of nutrients that bone broth contains, it makes the list as a go-to food for your brain health.

Look for high quality, organic bone broth for the best results.

7. Walnuts

Walnuts are one of the top choices of nuts for brain health. Walnuts also look similar to a brain.

Amongst the wide variety of nuts available, walnuts contain the highest amounts of the important omega-3 DHA. DHA, as seen above, is a critical building block for a healthy brain.

Walnuts also contain high amounts of antioxidants, folate, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus, which help to lower inflammation.

Melatonin in walnuts is an important nutrient for regulating your sleep. Having low amounts of melatonin can make it challenging to get good quality sleep and getting poor quality sleep can dramatically impair brain health and performance.

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8. Eggs

For years, eggs were put on the nutritional naughty list; but now, eggs are finally getting the credit they deserve. Eggs can provide a tremendous boost to your brain health and longevity.

Eggs, particularly the yolks, contain a compound called choline. Choline is essential for building the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine plays an important role in mood, memory, and intelligence.

Egg yolks contain some of the highest quantities of choline. This is very important because low levels of choline can lead to low levels of acetylcholine, which in turn can cause increased inflammation, brain fog, difficulty concentrating and fatigue.

9. Dark chocolate

You’re about to love chocolate even more because chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, is great for your brain.

Chocolate boosts levels of endorphins, your brains “feel good” chemicals. This is why you feel so good eating chocolate.[16]

Chocolate also increases blood flow to the brain which can help improve memory, attention, focus, and reaction time.[17]

Dark chocolate contains high levels of magnesium, which has been coined “natures valium” for its ability to calm and relax the brain.

Lastly, dark chocolate has one of the highest antioxidant profiles out of any other food, including popular superfoods like acai berries, blueberries, or pomegranates.[18]

Conclusion

Your brain is a high performing organ and it uses quite a lot of energy, roughly 20% of the bodies energy demands.

In order to maintain a healthy brain, you need the right fuel to ensure that your brain has all the nutrients it needs to perform as well as adapt to the stress of life.

If you want to keep your brain performing well for a lifetime, then you want to make sure you are including as many of these brain health foods as possible.

More Resources About Boosting Brain Power

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: DHA Effects in Brain Development and Function
[2] Canadian Science Publishing: Enhanced task-related brain activation and resting perfusion in healthy older adults after chronic blueberry supplementation
[3] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Cognitive effects following acute wild blueberry supplementation in 7- to 10-year-old children.
[4] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Curcumin: the Indian solid gold.
[5] Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition.: Turmeric, the Golden Spice
[6] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Effect of combined treatment with curcumin and candesartan on ischemic brain damage in mice.
[7] Science Direct: Curcumin reverses the effects of chronic stress on behavior, the HPA axis, BDNF expression and phosphorylation of CREB
[8] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Curcumin boosts DHA in the brain: Implications for the prevention of anxiety disorders.
[9] PLOS: A Chemical Analog of Curcumin as an Improved Inhibitor of Amyloid Abeta Oligomerization
[10] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Effects of Caffeine on Cognitive Performance, Mood, and Alertness in Sleep-Deprived Humans
[11] American Academy of Neurology: A Cup of Joe May Help Some Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms
[12] American Academy of Neurology: AAN 65th Annual Meeting Abstract
[13] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Effects of caffeine on the metabolic and catecholamine responses to exercise in 5 and 28 degrees C.
[14] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Hyperammonemia induces glial activation, neuroinflammation and alters neurotransmitter receptors in hippocampus, impairing spatial learning: reversal by sulforaphane
[15] Oxford Academic: Vitamin K and the Nervous System: An Overview of its Actions
[16] Diana L. Walcutt, Ph.D: Chocolate and Mood Disorders
[17] Health Magazine: Chocolate can do good things for your heart, skin and brain
[18] Chemistry Central Journal: Cacao seeds are a “Super Fruit”: A comparative analysis of various fruit powders and products

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