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Light, memory and performance

senior taking a nap

This week I’m sharing some articles about memory – 

Inspired by Jim Kwik’s brilliant book Limitless and your feedback to share some tips on how light can boost your memory. Jim points out that acronyms help with recall – so here is one you might want to try.

The ‘CANDO’ method….

C = Chronotype

Your working memory shifts radically over the day so choose your optimal time to learn -Early birds learn best at 2pm, evening types closer to 8pm – State-Based Metacognition: How Time of Day Affects the Accuracy of Metamemory

A =Activation.

Bright ‘cool’ light is better than a cup of coffee. So sit by a window and boost with bright cool light if you want to feel alert to encode information – A Comparison of Blue Light and Caffeine Effects on Cognitive Function and Alertness in Humans

N = Nocturnal Habits.

30-60 minutes siesta can consolidate your learning and improve mood to boot – Can a Nap Boost Brain Health?

D = Diet.

Vitamin D helps you to build neural connections so get some sunlight 😉 – Vitamin D3 administration prevents memory deficit and alteration of biochemical parameters induced by unpredictable chronic mild stress in rats

O = Organised.

Your brain creates a ‘visuospatial scratchpad’ to organise information and make it easier to retrieve. Use lighting to create a balanced and visually tidy space so you brain can focus – Different Abilities Controlled by Visuospatial Processing

I am excited to be Jim’s podcast guest – a link to the interview is here!

The cost of forgetting…
We are all living longer – which is great. But we are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases that affect our ability to remember the simple things that allow us to live independently. That’s distressing for the elderly trapped in an unfamiliar world of strangers and surprises, The cost in taxes and insurance premiums, let informal care- is rising fast. The link between sleep disruption and memory loss is clear. People who sleep badly are more likely to be diagnosed with neurodegenerative conditions – and poor sleep can be an early warning sign that something is wrong.
 
Bright ‘cool’ light in the morning, warm light in the afternoon – and darkness at night – helps us all to wake up- and then get the sleep we need – Dementia and sleep: What do we know about this link? 

Prevention is always better than cure – and this survey suggests that poor sleep in your 50’s and 60’s increases your risk of dementia in later life – Lack of sleep in middle age may increase dementia risk

So perhaps we need to remember to take of our body clocks!

MYTH: Old people just don’t need as much sleep…

Wrong! This research demonstrated that older people need just as much sleep as you always did – you just struggle to get it – Sleep and Human Aging

Want to beat your personal best?
Choose the best time of day to compete! According to this study, your aerobic capacity shifts by up to 25% over the course of the day – Chronotype differences in circadian rhythms of temperature, melatonin, and sleepiness as measured in a modified constant routine protocol Another experiment found shifts of up to 10% in physical performance and 9% and 7% variation in simple and complex measures of cognitive performance. This paper suggests that the length of time between the time you would naturally wake up and the training session is the best predictor of your ability to be your best: Early Chronotypes delivered peak muscle strength (a grip test known as ‘maximum voluntary contraction) at 2pm – The effects of time of day and chronotype on cognitive and physical performance in healthy volunteers . Night owls had the strongest grip six hours later at 8pm. 
 
So how can lighting help?  You can shift your natural chronotype by up to two hours by setting a regular routine of bright light during the day, warm / dim light at least two hours before bed and a completely dark room. Have your last meal of the day at least three hours before you hit the sack. 
 
I can’t promise you’ll win – but you’ll give yourself a fighting chance. After a good nights’ sleep you might be able to smile and congratulate your rival too.

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