Be “Brain Smart”: A Round-Up of TED Talks about Brain Health

Sure you use your brain all the time, but do you know how your brain really works? Do you know what you can do to keep your brain strong and healthy to support your concentration, creativity, and decision-making? To help you get a better idea about your brain’s health and functioning, we’ve rounded up a selection of TED Talks about neuroscience that will teach you how health-supporting activities like exercise and sleep affect your brain’s health, what happens in your brain when you think, and focus tips for protecting and improving your brain’s health and longevity!

The Brain-Changing Benefits of Exercise by Wendy Suzuki

What’s the most transformative thing that you can do for your brain today? Exercise! says neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki. Get inspired to go to the gym as Suzuki discusses the science of how working out boosts your mood and memory — and protects your brain against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

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The Best Apps for Better Sleep

An oldie but a goodie: This app round-up was originally published on 11/2/17.

Happy Daylight Savings Time! Although the time switch means it’s time for warmer weather and longer days, when our clocks spring forward, it often leaves us feeling groggy and tired. In general, we tend to be fairly sleep deprived – according to the CDC, more than a third of American adults are not getting at least 7 hours of sleep on a regular basis, causing chronic sleep deprivation. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend that adults aged 18–60 years sleep at least 7 hours each night to promote optimal health and well-being. Sleeping less than seven hours per day is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress. Yikes!

Luckily, aside from Daylight Savings Time, this week is also Sleep Awareness Week, giving you a prime opportunity to focus on getting better rest. There are lots of ways you can improve your sleep, including these tips from the National Sleep Foundation. To encourage you to focus on getting better sleep, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite sleep apps to help you track your sleeping habits, fall asleep faster, and sleep more soundly.

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Habits for Healthier Sleep

Raise your hand if you’re tired right now. OK, now raise your hand if you’ve been tired at least a few afternoons this week. Unfortunately, I bet every single one of you lovely readers raised your hand for at least one of those – according to the CDC, one third of Americans are chronically sleep deprived, regularly clocking in at fewer than 7 hours a night. The number of people who experience occasional and/or recurrent sleep deprivation is even higher – studies show that nearly everyone experiences occasional sleep deprivation. Unfortunately, sleep deprivation can lead to a slew of problems: from reduced concentration, lowered immunity, irritability, and low productivity in the short term to the increased risk of heart disease, anxiety, depression, chronic inflammation, dementia, and much more over the long term.

Luckily, there are some easy ways to help you sleep more and sleep better! Next week is Sleep Awareness Week, so we want to encourage you to try these tips next week to see how you feel! If you find yourself more rested, you can work them into your regular routine.

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Tech Talk Thursday: The Best Apps for Better Sleep

The end of Daylight Savings time, another tell-tale sign that we are swinging into the autumn and winter months, is this Sunday – don’t forget to reset your clocks! My favorite part about the end of Daylight Savings (besides the fact that it means the holidays are coming), is that we get an extra hour of sleep as the clocks fall back an hour on Sunday morning. I personally always can use an extra hour of sleep, and chances are, you can too – according to the CDC, more than a third of American adults are not getting at least 7 hours of sleep on a regular basis, causing chronic sleep deprivation. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend that adults aged 18–60 years sleep at least 7 hours each night to promote optimal health and well-being. Sleeping less than seven hours per day is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress. To encourage you to focus on getting better sleep, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite sleep apps to help you track your sleeping habits, fall asleep faster, and sleep more soundly.

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Decoding Caffeine, the Nectar of the Gods

An oldie but a goodie: this post was originally published on 9/29/16.

It’s no surprise that many of us love caffeinated beverages – many of us thrive (or survive, depending on the day) on the wakefulness and can-do attitude provided by our morning cup o’ joe. I’m personally obsessed with tea, and in the mornings, I’m a struggle to talk to until my cup has kicked in. My fingers are currently flying over the keyboard thanks to a handful of chocolate-covered espresso beans.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone: more than 90% of American adults use caffeine regularly. But how much do you actually know about this substance that you ply yourself with every morning (and afternoon… and some evenings…)? We’ve taken it upon ourselves to decode caffeine – what it actually is, its effects on the body and our health, and the many ways to consume it.

art-heart-caffeine-coffee

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Your Prescription for March: Get Some Vitamin Zzzzzzzzz

March 2-8 is National Sleep Awareness Week! 

Sleepy Cat

This cat definitely has the right idea

Students: are you taking catnaps between classes in your car or in the library (you know who you are)? Staff and faculty: are you getting drowsy during your 10am meeting? I know I’m guilty. This month, let’s all focus on getting some much needed sleep.

The National Institutes of Health has helpful guidelines on how much sleep we should all be getting, how to get your sleep cycle back on track, and how to tune in to your body’s clues for more sleep (hint: falling asleep at the wheel):

  • 50-70 million Americans are affected by sleep-related problems
  • The cumulative effects of sleep loss and sleep disorders can lead to hypertension, diabetes, obesity, stroke, heart attack, and depression
  • Adults (even medical students) need 7-8 hours of sleep every day
  • Napping does not provide all of the benefits of night-time sleep – you cannot make up for lost sleep
  • You might be sleep deficient if you feel like you might doze off while studying or watching TV, sitting in traffic for a few minutes, or sitting quietly after lunch

Here are some helpful strategies for getting more sleep:

  •  Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
  • Try to keep the same sleep schedule on weeknights and weekends, or try to limit the different to no more than an hour to avoid disrupting your body’s sleep-wake rhythm
  • Limit alcoholic drinks and caffeine before bed – the effects of caffeine can last 8 hours!
  • Be physically active every day, especially outside
  • Keep your bedroom quiet, cool, and dark to promote sleep
  • Avoid artificial light from TVs, laptop screens, phones, or tablets before bed – the light can signal your brain to stay awake
  • Try some relaxation techniques like meditation, or take a hot bath, before you go to bed

Check out Your Guide to Healthy Sleep from the National Institutes of Health.

Good night!