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Part One in the Series:
Top Tips for Best Brain Health and Function
© 2018 Dr Kathie Nunley

We have learned so much about the human brain over the last quarter century that it is at times mind-numbing (pun intended). What has emerged though are a few broad lifestyle categories that most affect how our brain functions, learns and impacts our lifespan. Let's take a look.

1. Sleep

The human brain needs sleep - and plenty of it. Unfortunately our society has come to regard sleep as a bit of a "waste of time" and adults and students often even brag about how little sleep they get, as though it's an attribute to be lauded. That's just not true. Sleep is critical for learning and for brain health. It's during sleep that our brains are able to sort through the day's experiences, categorize learning and information, clean house, strengthen connections and restore the brain to peak efficiency for the next day's learning.

How much sleep should people get? This varies by individual and by age. While the old rule of thumb of 8 hours is a good place to start, be aware that different people have different sleep needs. Our sleep requirement tends to decrease somewhat as we age, but most adults still need at least 7 hours. Children require 8 - 12 hours of sleep.

Wondering how much sleep your body needs? There are a couple of ways to find out. First, do you need an alarm to wake you? If so, you're not getting enough sleep. The brain will wake up, naturally, when it's finished its maintenance for the night. If you wake artificially using an alarm, you've cheated your brain out of repair and maintenance and long-term learning. A second way to find out is to all allow yourself to sleep and wake on a natural schedule over the long school summer break and log it. This will give you an idea of what your sleep needs are. Once you know your sleep requirement, adjust your bedtime so that you can wake naturally for your school day.

Go to bed and wake at the same time every day. Every day. Every day. (that required repeating). So many people suffer from what is termed "weekend jet-lag". These are folks that short themselves on sleep during the week and then stay up particularly late on the weekend, knowing they can sleep in the next day to catch up. Your brain suffers from this weekend shift just as much as if you went jetting off 4 times zones each weekend and then back again. Be as consistent as possible every day of the year.

Make sleep one of your big priorities and then speak about it to your students so that hopefully they might come to value it as well. The bottom line is that sleep-deprivation leads to shorter lives, difficulty learning, and overall poor health and brain function. Sleep on that tonight!

2. Nutrition

(part 2 is coming in the next newsletter. Stay tuned)

About the Author:
Dr Kathie Nunley is an educational psychologist, researcher and author of several books on parenting and teaching, including A Student's Brain (Brains.org) and the best selling, "Differentiating the High School Classroom" (Corwin Press). She is the developer of the Layered Curriculum® method of instruction and has worked with parents and educators around the world to better structure schools to make brain-friendly environments. In addition, her work has been used by the Boeing Corporation, Family Circle Magazine, the Washington Post, and ABC television.
Email her: Kathie (at) brains.org

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