Wellness Hub August 2016 Is your brain hibernating? Lucy E Cousins August 30, 2016 Share For weeks it’s been about woollen jumpers, slippers and serious couch time, but now winter is on its way out (albeit, slowly…), it’s time to wake that sleepy brain of yours and remember where you last saw your motivation (under the couch?). Luckily, there are some very easy ways to coax your brain out of hibernating, just in time for spring. Check your Zzzz Who says no to more sleep? No one, that’s who. However, when you’re feeling sluggish or you’re busy and stressed, the sleep that you are getting might not be quality sleep. “Our brain much prefers an early bed time and an early wake time,” says naturopath Hayley Stockbridge. “The type of sleep that we have before midnight is much better for stress levels, energy and cognition so the earlier you can get to bed the better.” Her suggestion? Getting to bed around 9.30/10pm and waking up around 6am. Eat brain food Simple changes to our diets can be enough to stimulate the brain out of its winter fog. Swisse nutritionist Sherree Banh suggests looking for food high in omega-3 fatty acids to boost brain function, such as fatty fish like tuna and salmon. And for a quick boost, she recommends a couple of pieces of dark chocolate (which releases mood-boosting serotonin) and walnuts (a great source of essential fats and magnesium). Salute the sun Exercise is a great way to keep your body and mind fit – it stimulates the flow of blood to all your muscles including your often-forgotten brain. Even though it’s chilly outside, a 2010 study published in the Journal of Physiology found that morning exercise was more effective, plus an early workout will help you get your brain ready for the day. Additionally, although the science community is undecided on them, there is some evidence from the American Psychological Association that reasoning ‘Brain Games’ are an effective way to stimulate your mind. So instead of flicking through your newsfeed, give your noggin a work out with a game on your phone. Snack right Eating protein-based snacks can make a huge difference to your brain’s energy levels. They will help balance your blood sugar levels and keep you fuller for longer. “Eating high protein snacks will also help you avoid that 3pm brain crash when you look for a sugar hit,” says naturopath Hayley Stockbridge. “Try snacking on a handful of raw nuts with a piece of fruit. Or try cheese, cottage cheese, natural yoghurt, hummus, miso soups, boiled eggs, tuna, salmon or edamame beans,” she says. Change it up One of the best ways to wake your brain from hibernating is to create a little bit of change in your life. Clinical psychologist Gemma Cribb suggests adding some changes to your normal routines to “increase the brain's alertness and arousal”. Even small changes can help, alter the streets where you walk your dog, get off one stop earlier than your destination, sleep on the other side of the bed. Anything to make your brain sit up and notice!