Sleep Seminar

Sleep Seminar

The Learning Brain

In this next series of blogs I will be discussing the brain and how it learns and performs. Firstly, I will cover some basic facts (terminology) that will be helpful when we look at topics such as

• Attention     • Emotion

• Memory      • Context and

• Motivation

Some brain facts……

Weight: 3 pounds

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Colour: Uncooked liver

The brain is divided into two hemispheres called the cerebral cortex (commonly known as the conscious thinking centre), covered in a thin skin of deeply wrinkled grey tissue, and separated by the corpus callosum. That curved band of white tissue acts as a bridge between the two halves, shuttling information back and forth at such a rate of speed that for all practical purposes the two hemispheres act as one. With the exception of the pineal gland, every brain module is duplicated in each hemisphere- another of nature’s creative duplication systems.

The areas lying beneath the corpus callosum make up the limbic system, the area that relates to the unconscious and yet profoundly affects our experience. Its job is to feed information upward to the conscious cortex. Emotions are generated in the limbic system along with many urges that direct our behaviour and usually help in survival.

Within this limbic system, are the

Thalamus: Directs incoming information to the appropriate part of the brain for further processing.

Hypothalamus and pituitary glands: Adapt the body to environment by constantly adjusting hormones.

Hippocampus: Involved in securing long term memory

Amygdala: Registers and generates fear.

Finally, the brainstem carries information from the body into the brain and establishes general levels of alertness and such automatic tasks as breathing, blood pressure and heartbeat.

A few additional terms are needed to understand the brain’s physiology:

Neuron: The primary building block of the brain. Neurons carry electrical charges and make chemical connections to other neurons.

Axons: Long fibres (extending from the cell body) that transmit messages.

Dendrites: Short fibres (surrounding the cell body) that receive messages

Synapses: Tiny gaps between axons and dendrites( with chemical bridges) that transmit messages.

Myelin: A sheath that serves as insulation and allows electricity to flow between the axons and the dendrites.

Now we have all our terminology in place and defined , in Blog 4 we will look at how the brain organises itself to a state of ATTENTION.

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The Brain & Sleep

Many of us do not suffer from sleep issues such as insomnia. To some extent, this may be due to our positive and unworried outlook on life, for much of our feeling of tiredness, when we must sleep, is psychological.

We expect to be tired the next day because we know we have not had as much sleep as we ‘should’. Yet, for most of us, it is not really the lack of sleep which is the problem but the worry about this lack of sleep.

Worry compounds itself really, for probably the main cause of insomnia is fretting about the difficulties of the day. Many ‘instant cures’ have been effected when people change their thoughts to create happiness and optimism – change the thought, change the pattern and change the brain’s wiring.
To do this, firstly change or remake your day as you rest in bed at night. Think back over the good things which have happened. Feel cheerful about these. Secondly, take the bad things one at a time, wiping them from your mind and remaking them, imagining them happening the way you would have preferred. By repeating this process, you will be rewiring the brain to shift to a pattern that is helpful to sleep.

Some other tangible and easy to implement techniques include:

→    Adopt a regular bedtime routine. Retire at the same time after the same set of non-stimulating evening activities – the brain loves routine!!!!
→    Exercise immediately before bedtime is not a good idea, nor is the intake of alcohol, coffee, tea, cola drinks and cigarettes.
→    It is preferable to turn to natural sleep inducers such as a glass of warm milk (with malt eg, horlicks), a slice of cheese or a piece of chicken. These foods are rich in an amino acid called L-tryptophan which exerts a sedative effect.
→    Herbal teas can also be useful in this context. The research indicates that Valencia, catnip, lady’s slipper, scullcap and hops (malt) are valuable in promoting sleep. Put a teaspoon of any of these herbs into a cup of boiling water for 10 minutes and drink while hot. You will gain an added general tonic effect without the troublesome side effects of chemical sedatives. Should no herbs be available, try hot grapefruit juice.
→    Though naps taken during the day (no longer than 30 minutes) are generally beneficial, one taken after the evening meal is likely to make sleeping at night more of a problem. Interestingly, research shows this problem may however be more imaginary than real. This is because we find it difficult to estimate how we have spent the night. People who complain about sleeping little usually wildly underestimate the length of time they have slept. This has been proven dramatically in laboratory based sleep research. In these experiments, subjects claim they have been awake all night, yet monitoring devices reveal they may have slept anything from 4 to 8 hours.
→    Finally, use calming breathing to help you drift off to sleep- particularly when you have a lot on your mind!!!!!!!!

Dr. Rodski’s Better Sleep Seminar is also now available! Click here to get access.

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The Brain: Optimising our Energy and Vitality

For the brain, a good day begins with the waking up procedure.

As we drift out of sleep, we need to dreamily think of the coming day, visualising things going well.

We need to create a positive expectancy for ourselves and a feeling of pleasant anticipation.

When we first start thinking in this way we find it hard. For many of us the waking time is our low for the day. Our thoughts are anything but optimistic. We need to create a NEW HABIT.

A habit which will change our lives in many ways, releasing energy and vitality we did not know we possessed.

Vitality comes not only from thoughts however. We can’t just jump straight out of bed. We need to spend time stretching every muscle in our body, languidly and fully.

We need to turn our head slowly from side to side, up and down so the neck rolls loosely. Our back arches, our legs stretch and we yawn widely. Stretching in this way gets the blood circulating, the oxygen moving and the neurotransmitters firing in the brain.

As we get out of bed, shake your legs, loosen up your knee and hip joints and shake your hands and wrists.

In the bathroom, place your hands in a sink full of cold water. While doing this roll a golf ball or tennis ball under each foot in turn. Keep your spine (back) straight and use the brain breathing technique you have learnt (Go to the tutorials on the website if you have not learnt this or have forgotten).

Do the breathing, 10 times.

Remember, this is not time consuming and takes only about 5 minutes, 5 minutes that change you with a level of energy that will be the envy of your friends and colleagues.

Complete the morning vitality and energy session with a glass of warm water and lemon juice together with stretching exercises. For optimum vitality there should be at least 6 exercises.

The 6 brain peak performance exercises should be completed at this time. These exercises can be found in the tutorial section of the website. (Please fill out our “Contact Us” form if you need the password)

Should you feel a lack of energy during the day, a rapid vitality and energy increaser is a spoonful of peanut butter. As a variant, stuff a celery stick with peanut butter or have a handful of cashew nuts or dates. These foods are good energy sources.

Vitality is promoted by magnesium and phosphorus rich foods. Kelp, wheat bran, wheat germ, almonds, tomatoes, and dandelion all figure prominently.

~Next Blog: The Brain and Sleep~

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