Did you know a good night's sleep can improve your test scores without you doing any extra work? And a wrongly timed chocolate bar can slow your thinking right down? Your brain's very sensitive and it constantly needs to repair itself and build new connections between the cells as you learn new things.
To do this, it needs top class nutrition, a steady supply of energy, a steady supply of oxygen, and time asleep to do all its updating.
So here's how to send your brain to the spa:
Tip 1: For general brain health, you need to eat a balanced diet, containing plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Every other part of your body will benefit from this too.
Tip 2: Your brain needs a steady supply of energy, but it can only get this from a type of sugar called glucose. This glucose comes from the carbohydrates you eat, but only certain kinds of carbs will do. These include wholemeal bread, pasta, porridge and pulses, which take time for your body to break down, so release their glucose slowly and steadily. Chocolate, biscuits and other sugary snacks are sadly not good for your brain. They release their sugar so quickly that your brain will peak... but then quickly crash afterwards leaving you feeling less energised than before. Not recommended for any brainy work.
Tip 3: Your brain needs to be primed with oxygen. It gets this from exercise (Tip 6 below), but you also need to have a good supply of iron in your bloodstream. This iron comes from foods such as red meat, green leafy vegetables like spinach, dried fruit, fortified cereals, and pulses, including baked beans.
Tip 4: Don't skip breakfast (or lunch) – especially before an exam. Your brain will perform less well if you haven't eaten for hours. Brain scientists have shown that a student's test results are lower when they haven't eaten. But you need to eat the right thing. Again, junk food won't work. The brain needs those slow-releasing carbohydrates. Beans on toast for example has been shown to be particularly beneficial.
Read more here: Everyone needs breakfast – and girls need extra.
And if you think skipping breakfast will keep your weight down, read this: Breakfast 'keeps teenagers lean'
Tip 5: Don't go thirsty. Dehydration will affect your brain's performance. Don't go mad though – especially if you're about to sit an exam. Trips to the toilet will be a distraction.
Tip 6: Your brain needs the rest of you to get moving, and pump the oxygen-rich blood it needs through every capillary. Studies show that exercise improves your memory capacity – and lack of it will make your brain age prematurely. So get on your bike! Your brain will thank you, and it helps you also to do Tip 7.
Tip 7: Possibly the quickest and easiest treat for your brain – a great night's sleep. You get to rest, and your brain gets to repair itself and consolidate all the day's new learning. Even an hour less sleep can affect your test scores the next day. And experts say if you want to maximise your revision, you should get some sleep as quickly as possible after you've done it. Catnap, anyone?
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