Here are 10 things that you may be unknowingly doing every day that could be affecting your brain negatively.
1 SKIPPING BREAKFAST
You have probably heard the saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day – well, truer words have never been spoken. It is important to start your day off with a nutritious breakfast that will provide you with the energy your body needs. Skipping breakfast can lead to low blood sugar levels which decreases energy to the brain and other vital organs. This can also affect your mood, making you “hangry”— both hungry and angry at the same time. Lack of fuel for the brain may also lead to a drop in the functioning of brain cells. This could explain why you sometimes experience headaches and dizziness when you haven’t eaten in a while.
2 GOOGLE-ING EVERYTHING
Before the internet came into existence, if you needed to find out something you would have had to ask someone, pull out an encyclopedia or do some research at the library. Today, on the other hand, there is a one-stop solution to everything you could ever want to know: Google. The “Google Effect” is making us more dependent on technology and less so on our own capacity to retain information. “Cognitive offloading” as some researchers call it, is changing the way our brain works. Our brain is learning to disregard information found online, therefore storing less and less in our long-term memory reserve, which can in turn weaken our ability to think critically.
3 NOT GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP
Most of us have personally experienced the effects of insufficient sleep – feeling sluggish, not being able to focus and being in a generally bad mood throughout the day. But sleep deprivation can be even more harmful to the body, especially the brain, than you think. As we sleep, the brain cleanses itself by removing all the toxins that might have built up in the brain within the day. Lack of adequate sleep disrupts this process, resulting in brain damage. Studies have also shown that a chronic lack of sleep causes a significant decrease in brain volume and memory. It is therefore crucial to get your recommended 6-8 hours of sleep every night to maintain brain health and avoid diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.
4 COVERING YOUR HEAD WHILE SLEEPING
This is one seemingly harmless habit that could be causing your brain more damage than you may have imagined. Covering your head with a pillow or blanket while you sleep may be causing a buildup of oxygen and carbon dioxide around your head area. Inhaling the mixture of these concentrated gases may in fact lead to brain damage. Oxygen is vital for brain function and deprivation of oxygen can impede brain growth. Meanwhile, increased exposure to carbon dioxide can lead to increased blood pressure in your head, causing headaches. This habit has actually been linked to an increase in the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Eating too much food – yes, even healthy food – can have negative implications on your brain. It can affect the brain’s ability to build the connections that it needs to think and store memories. Research shows that overeating may harden the cerebral arteries, therefore interfering with the functioning of the brain. Needless to say, overeating also leads to obesity which increases the risk of high blood pressure, stroke and dementia. Some studies show that lower calorie intake may in fact stall the ageing process and even protect the brain from degenerating prematurely. A tip would be to download a calorie counting app to track your calories and ensure that you are not eating excessively.
6 LISTENING TO LOUD MUSIC
Do you like to crank up the volume when your favourite song comes on? You probably already know that listening to music at high decibel levels is bad for your ears, but it is also potentially harmful to your brain. Research shows that those who are hard of hearing are at higher risk of cognitive deterioration. Studies also show that there is a link between hearing loss in the elderly and loss of brain tissue. This could be the result of the brain having to work harder to understand conversations to make up for poor hearing. Protect your ears and your hearing by never going above 60% of your device’s maximum volume. If you are listening to music for long periods of time, also be sure to take breaks every few hours.
7 DRINKING TOO MUCH COFFEE
Many of us are guilty of chugging multiple cups of lattes and cappuccinos to keep us going throughout the day. While this may give you a temporary boost in productivity, too much coffee can lead to an increase in the amount of adenosine receptors – the chemical in your brain that makes you feel tired. This means that you could develop a higher tolerance to caffeine as time goes by and you will be more dependent on your daily dose of caffeine to stay awake. Failure to get your java fix could also result in headaches and withdrawal symptoms. On the other hand, some studies have shown that caffeine may actually help protect or even heal the brain. To enjoy the benefits of caffeine without suffering the possible negative implications, make sure that you are not consuming more than 300mg or 4 cups a day.
8 NOT DRINKING ENOUGH WATER
The brain is mostly made of water – about 75% to be more precise. Staying hydrated is therefore naturally one of the best ways to keep your mind sharp and alert. Our brain requires proper hydration to function optimally and dehydration can cause shrinkage of the brain tissue, impairing cognitive performance. Brain cells require a balance between water and various other elements to work efficiently and dehydration can disrupt this balance, causing brain cells to lose efficiency. This is why we struggle to stay alert and think well when we are dehydrated. One tip would be to not wait until you are thirsty to drink water. Always carry a bottle with you and ensure that you drink at least 2 litres of water a day.
9 NOT SOCIALISING
As humans, our brains are wired to be social and we thrive on human bonds and connections. Interacting with others on a daily basis helps us maintain brain function as well as mental performance. Research has shown that people who socialise with their friends and family more often perform better on cognitive tests than those who do not talk or share their feelings with others on a regular basis. Making an effort to join in a conversation for even a short while every day can help to boost your mood and your mind. Maintaining quality social relationships may also help to reduce the risk of depression.
10 FORCING YOUR BRAIN WHEN SICK
When you are feeling ill or unwell, it is best to take the day off and rest your brain. Your mind would already be fighting to fend off the disease and forcing the brain to work during this period could reduce efficiency even further. This could also lead to long-term damage, weakening the immune system and making you vulnerable to more illnesses in the future. It is best to put your work aside and focus on your healing when you are under the weather.
Make sure to avoid these common culprits to reduce the risk of brain disease and keep your cognitive wheels spinning at their best!