We want to think faster, remember more, and have more focus. Unleashing the power of your mind is in your hands. From nootropics to mind-strengthening apps, science and technology keep converging to make brain-enhancing tools readily available. Scientists and supplement companies are also searching for ways to protect the brain and prevent it from aging.
Surprisingly, some of the most effective solutions scientists have found to boost your brain power are simple and affordable.
A lot of us take sleep for granted. We’ve become desensitized because we hear over and over again how significant it is. But if we want better brains, we need put sleep at the top of our priority list. We need to listen to the Dalai Lama and scientists – they know what they are talking about.
Sleep is one of the most important hacks you can do to improve your mental and physical performance. While you’re busy dreaming of sheep, your body is actively repairing itself.
So how does this specifically affect your brain?
During the night, your cells go into hyperdrive to produce the enzyme NADH. NADH is used for a variety of physiological processes, but it is mainly used to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP). All of your cells use ATP for energy allowing you to stay healthy and active. Simultaneously, your brain is actively flushing toxins away through the lymphatic system.
The NIH highlights the importance of sleep for the brain: “Without sleep, neurons may become so depleted in energy or so polluted with byproducts of normal cellular activities that they begin to malfunction. Sleep also may give the brain a chance to exercise important neuronal connections that might otherwise deteriorate from lack of activity.”
All of these processes depend on your quality of sleep. Here are some quick tips to help you get deep, restorative sleep:
Try to go to sleep before 10pm. 10pm-2am are peak hours for regenerative sleep.
Maintain a regular sleep schedule (bedtime and arousal)
Avoid prolonged daytime naps
Limit awake time in the bedroom
Avoid caffeine, tobacco and alcohol
Get regular exercise and try not to exercise within 5 hours of going to sleep
Healthy amounts of sunlight activates Vitamin D, which plays a very important role in bone health by regulating calcium. Those precious moments in the sun do more than help support strong bones, they also protect your brain. A recent study associated Vitamin D deficiency with an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Your skin is not the only organ that benefits from the sun. It turns out the photoreceptors in your eyes send signals to your hypothalamus, which in turn play a role in your circadian rhythm. In other words, stepping outside into the sunshine will help you sleep better at night, which in turn will boost your NADH levels allowing you to wake up refreshed and ready to tackle the day.
It is recommended to get roughly 15 minutes of sunlight a day. The trick is to get a consecutive 15 minutes of sun, rather than 5 minutes here and 2 minutes there. It takes about 10-15 minutes for your body to initiate the process of synthesizing Vitamin D. Sunscreen and hats protect your skin from damage, but small amounts of sunlight is safe. Morning sunlight may reduce your risk from skin damage, and may also contribute to a slimmer waist line.
3. Ditch the Sugar to Fat
Functional medicine doctors and health enthusiasts are leading a paradigm shift with how we view fat. Dr. David Perlmutter, Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. David Ludwig, Dave Asprey and Dominic D’Agostino, Ph.D. all agree that fat has gotten a false reputation for being bad for your health. Your brain is comprised of 60% fat and without essential fats you would have a hard time thinking clearly.
The key is to distinguish good fat from bad fat. Most fried foods contain trans fat, which is famous for damaging the membranes in your cells. On the flipside, certain saturated fats and unsaturated fats are very beneficial to your health. A particular polyunsaturated fat called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), commonly found in fish oil and algae, is a key player in optimal health. DHA increases neuroplasticity, a process that protects your current brain cells and promotes the growth of new brain cells. Other foods such as grass fed butter, avocados, olive oil, and eggs all provide the precious fats your brain is craving.
So if fat is good, then why is sugar bad? There is a new term being coined in the medical field, “type 3 diabetes”, which is the progression of neurodegenerative diseases from high carbohydrate diets. Cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is due to an accumulation of amyloid proteins in the brain. Think of amyloid proteins like a lollipop getting stuck in your hair. The sugar from the lollipop makes your hair stick, and when you manage to get it out, your hair is extremely difficult to brush. When you eat a high sugar diet, it causes inflammation and damage to the neurons in your brain.
4. Meditation and Mindfullness
You don’t have to be an expert meditator, or an experienced yogi to reap the benefits of meditation. Sitting quietly does more than reduce your stress levels, it can actually improve your brain health. A recent study found that mindfulness practice can increase the grey matter in your brain, which is mainly comprised of neural cell bodies. The ratio of grey to white matter is associated with neurodegeneration. As we get older, our grey matter starts dwindling away increasing the risk for neurodegenerative diseases.
Some say your brain is like a muscle – if you don’t use it, you lose it. At the same time, learning to quiet our mind has its benefits too. There is a difference between a mindfulness (or focus-based meditation) and meditation that does not require effort. Both types of meditation practices are proven to be beneficial. Practicing mindfulness may improve your attention span, whereas meditation without effort may reduce stress levels.
Revitalizing the brain is one of the most important health hacks to be able to think quicker and boost creativity. Luckily, these simple steps such as getting quality sleep, stepping out into the sun, eating healthy fats and incorporating a meditation practice into your daily routine help keep your brain healthy. Another natural and effective option to kickstart your brain health is IV NAD+ therapy. Click here to learn more about this breakthrough B vitamin coenzyme that helps restore and enhance the brain.