Free Memory Tips, February 2016 Issue

Below is the February 2016 issue of Free Memory Tips. To learn more about this free email newsletter, or to start receiving it, please visit the Subscription Page. I send out the newsletter about once a month. You can unsubscribe at any time.

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So much to remember, so little time So much to remember, so little time

Welcome to the FEBRUARY 2016 issue of my free Memory Tips email newsletter. Below are powerful strategies for improving your memory. Ready to boost your brain power?

Below are powerful strategies for improving your memory. Plus I've included links to free online brain games that can strengthen your thinking skills.

In this issue:

  • Don't Eat Late at Night: It Can Hurt Your Memory

  • Examine Your Day: A Before-Sleep Ritual to Calm the Brain

  • Create Memories Without Sleeping: Take 10-Minute Time-Outs

  • FREE Online Brain Games: Improve MATH skills

If you like this newsletter, "pay it forward" by sending this to a friend. If someone did forward this to you, and if you like what you read, please subscribe by visiting the Memory Tips subscription page.

My goal is to help you learn faster and remember more. That's why I created Memory-Improvement-Tips.com and this email newsletter.

The secret to a more powerful brain is two-fold: 1) improve your brain health, and 2) learn memory techniques. This can lead to more success and fulfillment in life!

Don't Eat Late at Night: It Can Hurt Your Memory

If you can avoid it, don't eat late at night. New research finds that habitual late-night eating can impair long-term memory.

midnight snack

"We have provided the first evidence that taking regular meals at the wrong time of day has far-reaching effects for learning and memory," says first author Dawn Loh from the UCLA Laboratory of Circadian and Sleep Medicine.

Eating right before bed or in the middle of the night is already known to be unhealthy. It disrupts sleep patterns, is associated with weight gain and increased chance of diabetes, and increases the odds of acid reflux.

Acid reflux itself can lead to unpleasant symptoms include heartburn, indigestion, postnasal drip, coughing, asthma, chronic throat clearing, and difficulty swallowing.

"To stop the remarkable increase in reflux disease, we have to stop eating by 8 p.m., or whatever time falls at least three hours before bed," according to Jamie Koufman, a physician who treats acid reflux.

Weight gain, unrestful sleep, and reflux disease are bad enough. But now we're finding out that the memory centers of the brain, especially the hippocampus, are negatively affected by late night eating as well.

Researchers at the UCLA Laboratory of Circadian and Sleep Medicine recently published a study on this titled, Misaligned Feeding Impairs Memories.

During the study, they found that mice who had their meals during the hours when they normally slept experienced significant problems with memory. In comparison, the mice who ate during their waking hours had no such memory problems.

"Those animals that were misaligned show severe deficits in their recall of the training that they received," according to Christopher Colwell, one of the experts in the study.

Consolidation of memories, the process where new learning is solidified into permanent long-term memory, is thought to occur during sleep cycles. When that process is interrupted by a period of awakening and eating, long-term memories may not form completely.

"We showed that under these eating conditions, some parts of the body, especially the hippocampus, are completely shifted in their molecular clock," says Colwell. "So the hippocampus, the part of the brain which is so essential for learning and memory, is actually following when the food is available."

When you eat at night, the nightly consolidation of memories, of which the hippocampus plays a critical part, is short-circuited. The input of food at the wrong time distracts and disrupts the hippocampus from it's job of forming new, permanent memories.

"By consuming food at the 'wrong' time of day, we induce misalignment between the various clocks in the brain and body," Loh said. "We demonstrate for the first time that this food-induced misalignment leads to profound impairment of hippocampal-dependent memory as well."

Eating a late night snack or meal once in a while probably won't hurt. But if you are eating dinner at 11 pm every night or waking up for a bowl of ice cream consistently at 2 am, you could pay a heavy price with poorer memory and increased risk of serious disease.

Experts recommend eating no later than about 3 hours before bedtime. This provides enough time for your food to digest before going to sleep.

If you've fallen into the habit of eating a very late dinner or getting up for a snack in the middle of the night, try to make changes to your schedule to avoid this. You might be rewarded by a boost to your health and your brain power.

References:
1. Midnight Snacking Is Bad for Your Brain (Smithsonianmag.com)
2. The Dangers of Eating Late at Night (New York Times)
3. Late-Night Snacking May Have a Surprising Effect on Your Brain (Huffington Post)

Examine Your Day: A Before-Sleep Ritual to Calm the Brain

To prepare your mind for a restful night's sleep, review your accomplishments and failures that day - especially with regard to your character. As you lie in bed prepared for sleep, mentally go over what you did well and not so well that day. This can soothe the mind, leading to refreshing sleep.

self examination

Many of us watch TV, read the news on our smart phones, or otherwise engage our minds right before bed. Then we're puzzled why we toss and turn and don't feel rested the next day. (If you must do this, at least block the blue wavelengths of light from these devices.)

Far better to turn off the electronics right before bed, and turn your mind inward for a little while. Consider whether you are moving toward your values and away from error.

For centuries, philosophers have recommended a nightly review of this sort to pacify the mind and promote a restful night's sleep. Anyone can begin this practice.

Over 2,500 years ago, the great mathematician and scientist Pythagoras enshrined the nightly review as part of his Golden Verses:

Do not allow sleep to close your eyelids, after you have gone to bed, until you have examined all your actions of the day by your reason.

In what have I done wrong?

What have I done well?

What have I omitted that I ought to have done?

If in this examination you find that you have done wrong, reprove yourself severely for it; and if you have done any good, rejoice.

Later philosophers, including the Roman Stoic philosophers Epictetus and Seneca, recommended this practice. As Seneca (1st century AD) explains in his essay On Anger:

"Can anything be more excellent than this practice of thoroughly sifting the whole day?"

"And how delightful the sleep that follows this self-examination - how tranquil it is, how deep and untroubled, when the soul has either praised or admonished itself, and when this secret examiner and critic of self has given report of its own character."

A similar exercise is also practiced by Buddhists who believe it contributes to sleeping well.

Sleeping more restfully at night has many benefits related to health and the brain, including improved concentration and memory the next day. So take a few minutes before falling sleep each night to review your progress toward your values and aspirations.

Vow to improve and to avoid tomorrow the mistakes you made this day; and congratulate yourself on everything you did well. The key to peaceful sleep is a peaceful mind. Review your behaviors and actions before going to sleep, and you may find yourself sleeping more soundly.

References:
1. Stoic Spiritual Exercises (Buzare, 2012 p.24-25)
2. Seneca, "On Anger" (Loeb Classic Edition, 1928)

Create Memories Without Sleeping: Take 10-Minute Time-Outs

Sleep is not the only way to form permanent long-term memories. It turns out that memory consolidation can also occur while awake during short periods of unfocused relaxation.

relax

Over the course of two studies, researchers at Heriot-Watt University discovered that permanent memories of spatial locations and story-based information can be formed simply by relaxing quietly in a room, without electronics or other distractions, for about 10 minutes.

"As long as you're reasonably relaxed, you might still be experiencing some of the memory-consolidation processes that sleep would normally do," said Gareth Gaskell at the University of York in the UK.

Unfortunately these short time-outs after learning cannot entirely replace sleep. The bulk of memory consolidation, a process required to form permanent memories, occurs during sleep time. So you still need to get sufficient restful sleep to learn and remember.

You might, however, use this discovery to your advantage when studying new material. After a period of intently focusing on the information, try relaxing your mind quietly for a short while. This may boost your ability to recall the details later.

Ten minute relaxed time-outs mesh almost perfectly with time-management techniques like the Pomodoro which have built-in breaks. With the Pomodoro study method, you focus intensely on the material for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, and repeat that cycle.

It would be a simple matter to lengthen the breaks to 10 minutes instead of 5 minutes. If you try this, be sure to sit quietly during those breaks rather than engaging in effortful activity.

References:
1. Sleep Isn't Needed to Create Long-Term Memories, Just Time Out (New Scientist)
2. Wakeful Rest Promotes the Integration of Spatial Memories Into Accurate Cognitive Maps (Research Study)

FREE Brain Games: MATH SKILLS

There are 269 free online brain games on my website, Memory-Improvement-Tips.com. You can play them online anytime.

The games are free to play. No restrictions, no logging in. Just pick a game, go to the game page, and start playing.

Below are links to three of the online games that strengthen math skills, an important brain ability. Having strong math skills helps you more quickly and accurately perform numerical calculations in everyday life.

Play these free games now to give your brain a boost:

pocket change

Pocket Change. Pocket Change is a money counting game that exercises your brain as you practice counting change quickly. This game trains mathematical and analytical ability. Drag to the table the indicated number of coins that add up to the required total.

deep diver

Multiply Aliens Attack. Multiply Aliens Attack tests your skills at mental math. Quickly solve multiplication and division facts to stop aliens from destroying your city! Shoot the alien ships with your ground-based laser before they drop bombs on your buildings.

original tetris

Daily Kakuro. Fill in all the squares with numbers from 1 to 9, following these rules: The numbers in each group of horizontal or vertical connected blocks cannot repeat; the numbers in each group of horizontal or vertical connected blocks must sum up to the number at the left (for horizontal) or top (for vertical) groups.


That's all for now, and thanks for reading. For lots more tricks and strategies to improve your brain, visit the Get a Better Memory page on my website.

If you like the website, tell your friends and family about it. And please click the Facebook "Like" and Google +1 buttons on my site. Every vote of confidence helps. Smilie

Best regards,
Sig
Douglas Jobes
Author, Memory-Improvement-Tips.com
Home of over 250 free online brain games

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