My daughter is preparing to begin the school year, once again. Any suggestions for making this a more successful year academically?

Without knowing more about your daughter, her routines, her strengths and her weaknesses, it is difficult to give a pat answer. However, here are some great ideas for boosting brain performance.

Sleep More

Few people realize how important sleep is! It has been known since the 1920s that sleep improves recall in learning. However, only recently, research by Dr Robert Stickgold, assistant professor of psychiatry at Massachusetts Mental Health Center, demonstrated that sleep is necessary for learning! Without sleep we reduce the retention of facts we have learned the previous day. During sleep our brains release growth hormones essential to growth, development and alertness. We should aim for an optimum of between 7 to 8.5 hours of sleep each night.

Studies show that 20 minutes of sleep in the afternoon provides more rest than 20 minutes more sleep in the morning. Power naps can help you with tasks that require sustained attention and concentration. Contrary to popular opinion, napping isn’t for the lazy or depressed. Famous nappers have included Bill Clinton, Lance Armstrong, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and Buckminster Fuller.

A 15 minute self-hypnosis session often refreshes and allows a person to feel as though they have had a 3 hour nap!

Feed Your Brain

To prevent memory loss, enhance learning, decrease stress, and improve productivity and concentration, the brain requires healthy food.
Start your day with a protein-packed breakfast full of vitamins. Try eggs and whole wheat toast or fruit and yogurt.
Evidence is accumulating that a diet that draws heavily on fatty food and only lightly on fruits and vegetables isn’t just bad for your heart and linked to certain cancers. It may also be a major cause of depression and aggression. The brain is almost 60 percent fat, therefore, it can easily get clogged up with trans-fats that will slow you down. Avoid processed foods, and refined sugars. Keep your brain well-oiled with Omega 3 Fatty Acids and DHA such as those found in fish, flax oil, olive oil, avocados and almonds.

Retrain your appetite to include healthy, natural foods through neuro-linguistic programming if need be.

Get Physical

Aerobic activity boosts the flow of oxygen to the brain and this extra oxygen helps promote rapid growth of new brain cells. I mentioned the importance of exercising your brain in yesterday’s post Monday Morning Musing it is also true that physical exercise is an important factor in brain health.

A recent UK study found that schoolchildren who exercise four times a week get higher grades on exams than those that don’t. Prolonged sitting allows the blood to settle in the posterior and the feet. So when you tire of studying, get out there and get your blood pumping.

Change a habit

Research into the neuroplasticity of the brain has shown that if you make changes in sensory input patterns to the brain it helps activate new neural pathways, improving brain power! For instance, if you normally brush your teeth with your right hand, change to your left for a few days. A recent study showed that London taxi drivers have more developed areas of their brains due to their need to navigate a complex maze of city streets. Try taking a different route to school or work and make your brain bigger. Or walk around your house or yard with a blindfold on and make yourself smarter-just be careful not to bump your head! Think of the self confidence you will develop at the ability to change old tired habits and ways of thinking!