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I recently watched a TED talk that knocked my socks off–and leads me to write this newsletter– about eating to support a healthy brain. In this talk we see an MD standing on stage, talking about her MS (a disease caused by degeneration in the brain). And near the beginning of this talk we see recent photos of her–wheelchair bound–and her description of how very recently she was quickly degenerating until…..she changed her diet.
We don’t think about the fact that the brain needs food, specific vitamins and minerals, to use as building blocks for new neural pathways and repair work. And it needs specific foods to run on–brain fuel.
Brain Fact: The brain is 3% of your body weight but uses 25% of the calories!
One of the first positive shifts from neurofeedback training is improvement in sleep—sleeping more soundly, falling asleep more quickly, not waking up in the middle of the night, and feeling more rested—even when sleep is not the presenting concern.
Why is that the case? The brain is starting to regulate itself more effectively by applying what it is learning in neurofeedback: using the present to decide what to do next, not old habitual information. As a result, at night the brain is “seeing” that the body is tired and safe so, therefore, it is OK to switch out of “alert” mode into “rest/repair” mode.
Tips for Good Sleep
- Go to bed and get up roughly at the same time each day (even weekends)
- No stimulating activities just before bed—get that TV out of the bedroom!
- Bed is just for sleeping, decrease associations with non-relaxing activities such as computer work
- When you are ready for bed, do a body scan
- What gets in the way of good sleep?
- Alcohol—it can help you fall asleep but then wake you up later when its metabolized
- Alcohol (get it?!), nicotine, caffeine, antihistamines, alpha blockers, beta blockers, antidepressants,
- Upsetting conversations, media input, and movies just before bed
- Heavy, rich meals late in the evening
- Drinking a lot of fluids in evening, which require getting up in the night
It’s a sad state in our busy lives when we realize that we don’t know the feeling of relaxation. Since starting my neurofeedback practice a year ago, I’ve discovered that many New Yorkers don’t know calmness when it arises in their bodies. Here’s a typical conversation I have with stressed-out, go-getter New Yorkers, around their fourth session of neurofeedback:
What is this sensation? Am I getting depressed?
No, you’re calming down. That weighty, rested state you are experiencing in your body at the end of the session is relaxation.
But is this OK? Will I still get my work done? Will I still be as productive?
You are used to living from a stress response where your nervous system (brain) is acting from a fight/flight/freeze response. It’s actually the most primitive part of your brain that is in charge—your reptilian brain—and it motivates you to misperceive the environment as one where there is ALWAYS danger present.
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