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Healthy Mind

‘I’m a Neuroscientist, and This Is the One Thing I Do Every Day To Support Brain Health’

Art: Well+Good Creative; Photo: Stocksy/Jamie Grill Atlas
Whether it’s self-identifying as a bookworm, a Sudoku lover, or a trivia champ, there are fun—and challenging—ways to strengthen your cognitive function on the regular. But ever feel like there’s something more you could be doing to support your brain health?

It's a smart question to ask, since your brain affects...basically everything. "I am going to go out on a limb and dare to say that the brain is the most important organ," says neuroscientist Hayley Nelson, PhD. "The brain does control (or at least plays a major role in) everything we do…your ability to read this right now, while sitting in a chair, regulating your body temperature, breathing, hearing the ding of the incoming text message..." And that's in addition to playing a role in your digestive, endocrine (hi, hormones), and sensory systems.

But if there's one thing you can focus on to help your brain health starting today, it's this: sleep. "When considering sleep, keep in mind that we, as humans, spend about one-third of our life doing it," says Dr. Nelson. "Not only is sleep an important part of our daily routine, but getting enough of it at the right times is essential to our survival."

Okay, yes, everyone sleeps—but not everyone gets optimal sleep. To help support the quality of your shut-eye, Dr. Nelson recommends removing phone and TV time from your bedroom, and incorporating a bedtime ritual, like jotting your thoughts down in a gratitude journal.

And if you've checked those boxes, but still find yourself tossing and turning? That's when a supplement could help. Melatonin—a hormone naturally produced in the body that helps regulate sleep function—is one place to start, but what if you want to go beyond that? Neuriva Sleep combines melatonin with ashwagandha, the plant-based ingredient touted for its restorative properties into one new, sleep-supporting formula designed to help you fall asleep faster and wake up feeling refreshed*. For a melatonin-free option, the new Neuriva Relax & Sleep with ashwagandha plus L-theanine (an amino acid commonly found in green tea that's linked to relaxation) offers another route to sounder zzzs*. And in turn, sleep and brain health are BFFs.

Keep reading for 3 reasons the sleep and brain health connection is important.

1. More clarity, less brain fog.

Ever find yourself feeling...kind of fuzzy? “Sleep is important to a number of brain functions, including how nerve cells—neurons—communicate with each other,” says Dr. Nelson. “Without sleep... it’s harder to concentrate and respond quickly. Just ask any new parent who is sleep deprived: The brain just doesn’t work effectively if it’s not well-rested.”

Ideally, you feel energy and focus when you're trying to tackle something that requires your attention, but there are a few signs to watch out for: "Are you feeling sluggish and fuzzy performing tasks that you previously had no problems completing? Do you find it challenging to stay focused through task completion and get confused more often?" If the answers to these questions is yes, says Dr. Nelson, it may be time to work on your sleep.

2.  Better emotion regulation.

Sleep isn’t just about waking up feeling bright eyed and bushy tailed. Another crucial element of the good rest secret sauce includes the ability to regulate emotions. Dr. Nelson asks, “Are you able to keep your emotions under control, without huge blow-ups or breakdowns, or do you tend to snap at the drop of a hat?” If you've been feeling touchy lately, it might be a sign that your sleep game needs some work.

3. Improved learning and memory skills.

Memory is processed during shut-eye sessions, Dr. Nelson says, and that includes anything you learned that day. “One of the main brain functions that occurs during sleep is the processing of information you learn during the day as well as memory consolidation,” Dr. Nelson says. “Is it easy for you to learn and retain new information and skills? Have you become more forgetful?”

Bottom line: Prioritizing quality sleep should be part of your daily brain-health routine, right along with that crossword puzzle. So bring on the room-darkening curtains, ban the blue-light devices, and turn to a supplement if you need extra oomph—because it's time to snooze.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

 

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