Exercise mentally for better sleep

 

Most insomniacs recognize the importance of physical exercise in promoting better sleep, but sometimes overlooked is the value of mental exercise.  By tiring yourself out both physically and mentally every day, you will help yourself sleep better every night.

For many of us, the focus and sustained concentration required by working a full time job is plenty of mental stimulation to sleep well.

But if you are retired or underemployed, you may need to find stimulating ways to use your mind productively each day.  And even if you work full time, you may be able to improve your sleep by increasing mental stimulation.  There are numerous ways to accomplish this.

Many experts suggest completely new life experiences or learning completely new skills are excellent ways to stimulate your mind and create new neural interconnections in the brain.

Consider this: there are approximately 100 billion neurons, or nerve cells, in the brain.  (In comparison, the number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy is estimated at 100 to 200 billion).  In addition, there are approximately 1 quadrillion synapses, or connections, between neurons in the brain.  This is the physiologic basis of thinking: neurons and the synaptic connections between them.

Any way you look at it, 100 billion neurons and a quadrillion synaptic connections represent a lot of natural computing power.  Neuroscientists suggest that the best kinds of mental exercises to keep your brain in shape involve creating new links and efficient passages between the neurons, in effect stimulating the synapses by thinking about new things in new ways.  This has the effect of keeping the cells and connections between them healthy and working well.

A good example of thinking about things in new ways would be learning an entirely new language.  Another would be traveling in a foreign country, completely out of your normal everyday routine.  So taking a foreign language immersion course in another country would take this stimulating process to a very high level, requiring many different mental pathways and creating new neural connections.

Of course you don’t have to do anything nearly as involved as taking a foreign language immersion course to reap the benefits of mental exercise.  Learning how to draw or paint, taking up a musical instrument, even putting on your pants a different way – left leg first instead of right leg for example – all of these activities help create new and different synaptic connections to stimulate your brain.

Mentally engaging activities of all kinds are excellent – reading stimulating books, writing, playing intellectually challenging games are all worthwhile.  These kinds of activities are stimulating and help work your brain.

In fact, playing demanding games like chess, poker, or bridge – and especially games that involve social interaction – are excellent ways to keep yourself mentally stimulated and nurture personal relationships at the same time.  All of these activities help keep you thinking and solving problems.

For better sleep, be sure to mentally challenge yourself in some form every day.  Try to get out of your normal routine now and then.  Watching TV sure won’t do it.  Make it a point to mentally stretch and reach beyond your normal comfort zone once in awhile, and you’ll sleep better.

Explore posts in the same categories: Health, Insomnia, sleep

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