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Understanding Sleep: How to Improve Your Memory

Understanding Sleep: How to Improve Your Memory

Memories are something that many of us fear losing: traditional family recipes or the first time you went out on a dateeverything has a sentimental value that deserves a place in your memory. Think of the times you’ve flicked through old photos and spent the next few minutes or hours running through all the past memories; it’s a great feeling.

Due to our hectic lifestyles and multitasking schedules we’ve inadvertently lost the ability to remember things, but there is a saviour and few acknowledge the power of it. Sleep, alongside food and water, is one of the most essential parts of your life. An essential tool in recovery from a day’s worth of gruelling tasks, sleep has a sensationally brilliant effect on your memory storage and recalling abilities. We spend a third of our lives sleeping—by the age of 60 you would have slept a total of 20 years, so it’s important that you’re using that time effectively right?

To use it effectively, you need to understand the powers and capabilities you can unleash, try it tonight and chances are you’ll wake up with a number of new memories stored.

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So, let’s look at how to improve your memory with sleep:

Habitual Practice

In order to improve both cognitive and muscle memory, the general guideline is to practice, practice, and practice some more. We assume that if we spend 1 or more hours going through the motions then the process will be stored into our memory bank.

This is true to an extent: Let’s say that you’ve got an important business meeting coming up that will require you to pitch from memory. Most people will walk around running through the slides for hours on end hoping that they remember everything and miss nothing.

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The problem will be that only certain key stats and figures will be stored; in order to remember everything you’ll need to sleep on it. This is when the power of REM sleep (see further down) takes over and begins to rehearse the motions during your sleep.

High Value

Research shows that the if a memory has a higher value placed onto it, such as money-related tasks, the more likely it is to be rehearsed and stored in our memory bank during sleep. So how can you improve your chances of storing the pitch to your memory? Sleep on it.

Stress Free Problem Solving

Stressful situations release hormones into your body – notably cortisol, which, when large amounts are released, not only causes cognitive damage but also impairs the hippocampus (located in the medial temporal lobe of the brain) and its ability to store and recall memories. Excess cortisol leaves the body in a constant physiological arousal, the stress will then begin to activate our fight-or-flight responses which during pro-longed periods of stress can begin to impair our cognitive abilities.

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When we sleep we go into the “safe zone”, which then drastically lowers chemicals in our body associated with stress. Memories can now be effectively rehearsed during periods of REM sleep, which will have a far higher chance of being stored in the long-term memory bank.

REM Sleep (Rapid Eye Movement)

To fully maximise the benefits and effects of sleep and improving our memories, we need to ensure we go through all the stages of REM sleep. Generally REM sleep occupies 20-25% of an adults total sleep, which equates to 90-120 minutes. We generally go through REM four to five times during a sleep cycle, with it generally being shorter at the beginning of the night and longer towards the end.

Stages of REM Sleep:

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  • Stage 1 is when we close our eyes—this stage lasts between 5 and 10 minutes, during which we can be easily awoken.
  • Stage 2 is when our body begins to produce positive and negative waves, with the heart rate slowing and body temperature dropping, preparing to go into deep sleep.
  • Stages 3 & 4 are the deep sleep stages, also known as slow-wave sleep.

Each of these stages has a responsibility for our process of learning and memory storage. Some are good for creating and remembering new habits, others are good for retaining new facts you’ve learned, whilst others are used for building the understanding of relationships with the new found facts.

Some stages of learning during sleep are most notably effective at the end of the cycle, so when you’re doing research on how to improve your memory, it’s vital to understand that a full night of uninterrupted sleep is essentially the reason why you’ll store something or throw it away.

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How to Increase Brain Power: 10 Simple Ways to Train Your Brain

How to Increase Brain Power: 10 Simple Ways to Train Your Brain

How often do you think about your brain? Do you ever stop to marvel at its incredible power and supreme cleverness? Or at least check in and give it a little spring clean and a recharge it from time to time?

If you’re like the majority, then your answer will likely be “no”.

Astoundingly, we only use around 10% of our brains yet we seldom think to invest in a little training every now and then.

For a long time, scientists believed that we were stuck with the brain we were born with! Luckily for us, that hypothesis has gone out the window!

Enter neuroplasticity – a new theory that has proven one very incredible fact: Our brains can change.

This means, if you’re not very intelligent in one area – that’s OK! You have the option to literally ‘change that area of your brain’ through some little trainings.

Your brain is a muscle. You need to exercise it regularly.

The exciting thing is that you don’t have to be a millionaire to increase your brain capacity. All you need to do is invest some time to regularly train your brain.

So how to increase brain power?

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Here are 10 simple ways to increase your brain power and improve your intelligence!

1. Do something new

When you experience something ‘new’, that actually ‘stimulate’ your brain!

Don’t get stuck in a rut doing the same old things – the only way to change the structure of your brain is to do something new. This creates new neural pathways, increasing your intelligence level.

You could take a new route to work, try a new recipe for dinner, or even a new form of exercise – mix them up!

2. Ditch the GPS

Gone are the days of map reading! Sat Nav may have made our lives easier, it has also made our brains lazier and less efficient at the same time!

Go back to the old school and use a map to navigate every now and then. This exercises the part of your brain responsible for understanding spatial relationships.

3. Ban the calculator

Remember back at school when we were taught to use our brains to do simple sums like times tables? It’s incredible how we now rely on devices like smart-phones and laptops to calculate really simple equations.

Resist the urge to work things out using an external device and use the device you were born with – your brain!

4. Be curious

Instead of taking everything at face value, get into the habit of questioning everyday things/products, services that you come into contact with.

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By being ‘curious’ and questioning everything, you force your brain to innovate and create new ideas.

Curiosity may have killed that cat but it created super important things like electricity and computers!

5. Think positive

Stress and anxiety kill existing brain neurons and also stop new neurons from being created.

Research has shown that positive thinking, especially in the future tense, speeds up the creation of cells and dramatically reduces stress and anxiety.

Try and get a handle on negative thoughts and make an effort to replace them with positive ones.

Not sure how to do it? Take a look at this article:

How to Turn Off Negative Thoughts in Your Mind

6. Exercise regularly

It’s been proven that regular exercise helps to increase brain function and enhances neurogenesis. This means that every time you exercise, you are creating new brain cells!

Here’re 5 Ways to Find Time for Exercise, get off the couch and get moving!

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Your brain will thank you for it.

7. Train your memory

How often do you hear people say “I wish I had a better memory!’ Yet no-one does anything about this!

If you discipline yourself to memorize phone numbers and other important numbers (passport, credit card, insurance, driving license) you will start to see a marked improvement in your memory.

8. Eat healthy

Our diets have a HUGE impact on brain function. Our brains consume over 20% of all nutrients & oxygen that we consumed – so remember to feed your brain with the good stuff! (i.e. fresh fruit and veg & plenty of OMEGA 3 oils found in oily fish)

Here’re more healthy foods that will boost your brain power:

10 Healthy Foods That Make You Smarter

9. Read a book

Reading relieves tension and stress, which is brain-cell killers because it’s a form of escapism.

Research has also shown that using your imagination is a great way to train your brain because you force your mind to ‘picture’ what you are imagining. Reading is a great way to trigger your imagination!

Reading every day helps your thinking and imagination, learn more about it here:

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10 Benefits of Reading: Why You Should Read Every Day

10. Get enough sleep

Sleep is like a mini detox for the brain. This is when your body regenerates cells and removes all the toxins that have built up during the day.

Get to bed between the hours of 9pm and midnight to benefit from the most effective hours of sleep!

If you have difficulty sleeping, you should read this guide:

The Ultimate Night Routine Guide: Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

An intelligent brain comes from hard work

If you do take my suggestion and do these things consistently, you’ll soon realize your brain is sharper and you can remember more stuff.

You don’t need to do everything all at once, pick one to two and start making them your daily habit.

Intelligence comes from hard work. Make effort to train your brain and you’ll become smarter.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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