Look around and ask yourself, could things be better? We believe the answer is a resounding yes. And this is our ultimate goal in bringing out our new book, Brain Wash.
Brain Wash is a functional roadmap for understanding how so much of what characterizes our modern world influences our brains and, most importantly, our decision-making. From our modern diets to our lack of restorative sleep to our virtual addiction to our digital experiences, the trappings of modern times actually conspire to keep us unfulfilled, impulsive, and self-centered. Brain Wash begins by bringing these powerful influences into stark reality. We present a framework for appreciating the negative impact of these exposures, and then provide a set of practical interventions for reclaiming our brains and improving our physical and mental health. Continue reading
When it comes to understanding the importance of sleep, we’re only scratching the surface. But given the recent science on this subject, it’s become quite clear that sleep is simply essential for optimal brain health. From flushing out metabolic waste to preserving memory and improving our emotional regulation, getting better sleep may be the quickest way to make major strides in your cognitive function and your ability to make better decisions. In Brain Wash, we outlined key strategies to help make restorative brain-healthy sleep part of your daily routine. In addition to those fundamental steps, here are three more ways to optimize for great sleep:
- Make sleep a priority. This may seem basic, but as a nation, we’ve largely relegated sleep to a second-class activity—something we do only if everything else is taken care of. But recent research on sleep shows us that this plan is incredibly counterproductive. Our decisions after a good night’s sleep are much better than after sleep deprivation. We’re less likely to overeat and snap at others, and we’re more likely to remember important facts and generally function at a higher level, not to mention all the long-term benefits to our health that seem to come from getting adequate sleep. With all this said, we must carefully weigh any perceived benefit of a few extra hours awake with the real consequences of missed sleep. Once we value our slumber for all its known benefits, we can start giving it the credit it deserves. Make your bedtime a bit more concrete, and your brain will thank you later.
- Make some physical changes. Sometimes, despite putting ourselves in the best mental space possible for sleep, we find our attempts at slumber ruined by the quality of our sleep environment. Our brains are incredibly sensitive to light at night, and blue light especially. With this in mind, making the bedroom as dark as possible should be your objective. Consider investing in blackout curtains if streetlights penetrate your sleep sanctuary. Unplug any LEDs or other bright lights. If loud sounds at night are an issue for you, consider investing in a white noise machine.
- Take a hot shower or a bath. As the body cycles through its circadian rhythm, temperatures rise during the day and fall at night. One way to get your body into the right state for sleep is to help cool it off before bed. A hot shower will feel great, and afterward, your body will cool off. Ideally, try to shower or take a bath around 90 minutes before bed, as this will give your body sufficient time to cool off afterward, getting your system ready for a great night’s sleep!
And if you want to learn more about the science of sleep, browse our focus page on the subject!
Among the many recommendations that seem like good ideas, we’ve often heard that getting out in nature is a healthy practice. But our mission is not to simply recapitulate what may represent common beliefs, but rather to explore these practices in terms of their scientific support.
As it turns out, there is a lot of science happening right now that is looking specifically at the health benefits ascribed to nature exposure. Much of the literature is being generated by researchers in Japan, where nature exposure is referred to as Shinrin-yoku, a term created by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries in 1982, and defined as making contact with and taking in the atmosphere of the forest, or “forest bathing.” Continue reading
By: Austin Perlmutter, M.D.
Depression is a global epidemic, a leading cause of disability that affects over 300 million people worldwide. Unfortunately, rates of diagnosed depression are continuing to rise in the United States, especially in our youth. When these disheartening statistics are combined with the relatively poor efficacy of our antidepressant medications, it becomes increasingly important to ask whether there may be non-pharmaceutical methods of treating this crippling condition. In recent years, scientific research has increasingly answered “yes.” Continue reading
It’s an all-too-common scenario. Too many restless nights resulting in a visit to the doctor where you confess that you’re “not sleeping well.” In many cases, this results in your doctor writing a prescription for a sleep drug.
However, the problem is that the depth and restorative nature of the sleep you get on sleep drugs is not on par with good, natural sleep. Specifically, the deeper stages of sleep are interrupted by these drugs which can have profound effects on brain function.
So what can you do to improve sleep? Continue reading
How does simply moving around affect the brain? For the past several years I’ve been doing my best to get out the information that shows how aerobic exercise benefits the brain by increasing the growth of new brain cells, as well as reducing the risk for brain degeneration. However, it looks like most adults are not achieving the 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity/week recommended by the 2018 US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Physical Activity Guidelines. In fact, this level of physical activity is only achieved by 57% of adults aged 40-49, and a paltry 26% of those aged 60-69.
That said, researchers recently set about exploring whether simply moving around would have a beneficial impact on brain health. They designed a study of 2,354 participants (with an average age of 53) that ran for three years. The subjects wore an accelerometer that basically determined both the number of steps they took each day as well as the intensity level of their activity. Continue reading