As students, our brains are an incredibly important part of our bodies. Our personality, thoughts, and emotions and the ability to interpret and interact with the world around us comes from the brain. We can’t get a transplant for the brain, so it’s incredibly important that we take care of the one we have right now.
Unfortunately, we hurt our brains in a lot of different ways without even realising. And some of them might be surprising. So let’s take a look at some of the ways our brain can be harmed, and sometimes these damages can be permanent
1. Enjoying Too Much Alcohol
Up to 60% of students (especially male students) are guilty of this! Alcohol has its benefits for our health, as you probably know. It’s possible you even think of these benefits every time you refill your glass of beer or whiskey. Unfortunately, as in all things, too much alcohol is bad for you, especially if you’re a student.
You might be tempted to ask me, “how much is too much, though?” Studies show that two drinks a day is the maximum amount that doesn’t cause harm. But how much is a drink? For beer, it’s about 35cl, assuming the beer is five-percent alcohol by volume (ABV). For wine, it’s about 14cl at 12-percent ABV. Take each of those measures and multiply by two to see just where the limit should be each day. So that’s the limit, but what really happens if you go over that?
There’s a lot that can happen if you drink too much. You can develop high blood pressure, have a stroke, or cause damage that leads to heart failure. For a student who constantly has need for the brain, your brain desperately need a good, steady flow of blood in order to function properly. If you start messing with that flow through damage to your heart, then your brain will suffer the consequences.
2. Burning The Midnight Oil A Little Too Much
You need sleep! There’s no getting around it. You can fight it all you want, but eventually, sleep will find you. Fortunately, sleep is a good thing for you; it helps you form new memories and learn through the creation of pathways in the brain. Sleep also helps remove toxins that build up in your brains while you are awake. Students need seven to nine hours of sleep on average.
Unfortunately, sometimes the demands of student life step in and make sleep seem not that important. You have some great birthday party to attend, a school project to finish, or a demanding class quiz to prepare for. You can just catch up on sleep later, right? So you begin to think if you get a few hours, then you’ll have a tough day tomorrow. And then you tell yourself you’ll catch up on sleep tomorrow night.
Sadly, that’s not really the case. This lack of sleep can cause lasting harm to the brain. Every night that you avoid sleep, is another night that the brain won’t effectively form new memories and store needed information. Depression can start to form, which may further lead to insomnia. Lack of sleep can also increase appetite, which can lead people to eat more (potentially sugary) foods and develop obesity.
3. Not Keeping The Brain Active
Keeping your brains active as a student is important to their survival. Brains need input and new information to process in order to continue building and strengthening connections.
In fact, research has shown an amnesic effect to daydreaming. The farther your mind travels from where you are now, the greater the effect, and the harder it is to remember what happened before the daydream.
There was a study which showed that participants who were asked to daydream about a very recent event (a few hours ago) were better at remembering words they’d just been shown than people who daydreamed of events from weeks ago.
Related: 6 Amazing Tips For A Healthy Brain
4. Over-indulgence In Sugary Stuff
Our bodies need sugar, in the form of glucose. In fact, the brain, as the most energy-hungry organ in the body, needs a lot of sugar. Do you know? Half of the sugar needed by your body goes to the brain. No kidding. The brain uses the energy from that sugar to power neurotransmitters, which facilitate communication throughout your brain and are fundamental for your memory and learning as a student. If your brain is low on sugar, then these abilities suffer. So you should make sure to give your brain an abundance of sugar, right? No. I’m really sorry, but no.
Having too much sugar in the diet, can cause your body to develop a resistance to insulin, by virtue of leading to weight gain. Insulin is a hormone that your body uses to regulate its blood sugar levels. That’s why insulin is so important for people with diabetes. Unfortunately, if your sugar intake causes changes in insulin level, then that can change how your cells use and store sugar. This change affects how the neurons in your body use sugar and therefore how they facilitate communication throughout your brain.
In case you’re curious, the worst kind of sugar you can have is high-fructose corn syrup. Unfortunately, many food companies use this in so many types of foods that it’s extremely difficult to avoid.
So be careful how much of these sugary processed foods you eat.
5. Can’t Get Enough Cigarettes
When you smoke, you don’t just hurt the brain; you’re actually causing harm to almost every organ in your body. Although the damage to all of these organs can have an effect on the brain as well, let’s focus on what specifically happens to your brain.
By now, it’s probably not new knowledge to you that cigarettes have nicotine. But did you know that nicotine actually causes your brain to change? It’s true. Cigarettes flood your brain with so much nicotine that your brain actually build more receptors to handle it all. Now that your brain have all these receptors, if you don’t keep them happy, then we’ll go into withdrawal and probably be smoking again before long.
Having a ton of nicotine receptors isn’t all that happens to your brains. Research has shown that people who smoke have, on average, a thinner cortex than those who don’t smoke. This is huge because the cerebral cortex is where the brain processes memory, language, and perception. As your cortex shrinks, your brain’s abilities in those areas also shrink. Unfortunately, the problem doesn’t completely go away after someone stops; some cortical thickness will be restored but not all.
6. Taking Memory-enhancing Supplements
There’s not much (if any) reliable evidence that supplements are actually helping us retain memory unless we are actually deficient in a vitamin. All those memory-enhancing supplements that are advertised everywhere? Yeah, generally speaking, the only thing they enhance is the wallet of the manufacturer.
The evidence also shows that while memory supplements might not have much benefit, they still carry risk. Do you know how supplements are regulated? As long as the manufacturer follows good manufacturing processes and claims to have supporting research, don’t make specific medical claims, and includes a disclaimer on the label, they’re good to go. The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control doesn’t actually follow up and evaluate the research of any supplement unless evidence comes to light that it’s dangerous. So as long as the supplement only slightly harms people, not enough to really gain attention, then it will probably never be noticed by NAFDAC.
In addition to these supplements probably not helping you, and maybe harming you, they might also interact with other medicines you are taking. Be sure to talk with your doctor before using herbal supplements so that they can help you avoid some potentially nasty side effects.
And, there you have it! Which of the points above are you guilty of? Have you tried to quit before? Tell me in the comments section below. I’d be delighted to hear from you. Do you know someone struggling with any of these? You can help them by sharing this article with them using any of the share buttons below👇.