When we turn in for the night, our brains are getting ready to go to work. Sleep provides our brain the time it needs to restore and recalibrate, and prepare to store new information we will need to recall for the next day.
When we are awake, our brains produce a chemical known as adenosine. It continues to accumulate during our waking hours. The brain monitors the level of adenosine to determine when it is starting to quiet down so that it can start repairing the areas of the brain that fire off synapses.
Strong and rested synapses carry more information and strengthen our memory. Neurons that are tired from constantly firing off synapses lose their ability to convey information, which results in decreased learning, and poor recall.
In other words, when we don’t get enough sleep, our brains can’t recharge. Therefore we can’t process the same amount of information, and we can’t recall as much information. When poor sleep habits become habitual, the brain loses its ability to recover, strengthen, and store more information, and we significantly compromise our memory.
How to Improve Your Sleep
Sleeping aids are just as harmful to the brain as sleep deprivation. Here are 5 natural ways to prepare for a good night’s sleep.
1: Avoid late-night eating.
Avoid eating up to 3 hours before going to bed. Your body needs time to digest, and foods are often loaded with sugar which throws off your sleep patterns. If you must eat late, choose a light, protein-rich food.
2: Avoid caffeine.
Coffee interferes with your brain’s production of serotonin, which is our brain’s feel-good chemical. Too much coffee not only leads to extra energy; it also leads to extra anxiety.
3: Skip late night workouts. Late night workout rev up your system. It stimulates your brain’s neurotransmitters and kicks your focus into overdrive. It’s a perfect way to start your day, but not to end it.
4: Adjust your room temperature.
The optimal room temperature is between 60-67 degrees. Anything too hot or too cold interferes with deep sleep and the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage.
5: Read a relaxing magazine or book – not on a screen.
Screens significantly disrupt our sleep patterns because they tell our brains we should be awake.Instead, opt for a book or magazine that won’t stress you out.
Finally, I recommend printing out this Ralph Waldo Emerson quote and placing it somewhere where you can be reminded that you did the best you could today.
Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in.
Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit
to be cumbered with your old nonsense.
Let go of the day.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.