We live in a competitive world. A world in which natural selection separates the smart and ambitious from the rest. Whether it’s a student or a corporate nine-to-fiver, he or she is faced with the challenge of excelling or being average.
We’ve evolved by taking shortcuts. We started using fire to eat more meat so that our brains can grow larger and the wheel to ease transportation. The 2011 movie Limitless sparked the nootropics trend, namely the act of safely using substances to be more productive. The “Limitless pill” in the movie gives superpowers such as the ability to learn a language to fluency within a day. Obviously, such a thing is impossible in real life. Still, certain substances provide significant cognitive enhancement that can definitely provide the user with the needed “mental shortcuts” to learn or work more effectively.
What are nootropics?
Corneliu E. Giurgea, a Romanian chemist, first coined the term “nootropic” in 1972. For a substance to be a nootropic, it must have cognitive-enhancing effects, as well as being safe to use, with little-to-no side effects. Nootropics are often confused with cognitive enhancers such as Adderall or Ritalin. However, many cognitive enhancers also come with unpleasant long-term and short-term side effects, as well as potential for abuse. Nootropics are, by definition, safe choices for improving cognitive functions such as memory, creativity, energy or motivation.
The importance of sleep hygiene.
A good night’s sleep is essential for a productive day ahead. When it comes to improving quality of sleep, you should pay attention to your habits that can either improve or lower sleep quality. These habits are known as “sleep hygiene” and include getting enough sleep, having the right environment and knowing how to end the day. More than often, people feel tired during the day, which leads to sedentarism and laziness. Paradoxically, this can lead to difficulty falling asleep at night. Certain nootropics are effective in helping users lead more active lives:
Phenylpiracetam is a potent stimulating nootropic that is part of the racetam class. It’s a synthesized version of piracetam with an added phenyl ring. This makes it structurally similar to amphetamines and its effects also come to resemble popular stimulants. Phenylpiracetam increases dopamine and norepinephrine levels, as well as acetylcholine, which is typical of racetam nootropics.
Users report that phenylpiracetam is close to Modafinil in its effects, though it does have a few differences in its felt experience. In addition to its mentally-boosting benefits, phenylpiracetam also provides anxiolytic effects that makes it ideal to ease working under stressful conditions. Russian cosmonauts used to take it to mitigate the stress of working in space without impeding cognitive abilities.
If you aren’t a complete noob to nootropics or smart drugs, then you’re bound to have heard of Modafinil. In popular culture, it’s regarded as the “closest real-life version of the Limitless pill”. No, it won’t give you superpowers or transform you into a genius overnight, though it can aid you in your quest to become a genius. Modafinil is a wakefulness-enhancing agent with stimulating effects, not a stimulant, as many people mistakenly believe. Its key benefits relate to wakefulness, motivation and focus, though energy levels are also noticeably increased. The stimulation felt on Modafinil is encouraged rather than forced, and the “euphoric side” is much less apparent. This makes it less likely to be abused and more effective in increasing productivity.
Modafinil doesn’t solely focus on one or two neurotransmitters, as is the case with other stimulants. The mechanism of action is centered on increasing several key excitatory neurotransmitters (norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, orexin, histamine and glutamate) and reducing GABA, the main inhibitory neurotransmitter.
Noopept is a synthetic peptide and a member of the racetam class of nootropics. It’s hundreds of times more potent than piracetam. Basically, you would need a fraction of the dose to feel similar effects. Noopept mainly promotes focus, clear-headedness and it also lowers anxiety (particularly the social type). This could be attributed to the fact that it promotes verbal fluency. Furthermore, Noopept increases the production of NGF and BDNF, two essential substances with neuroprotective properties. On top of that, Noopept is mildly stimulating in a manner that is less apparent than that of caffeine. Noopept is also great for long-term and short-term memory. It aids learning ability by allowing the user to focus for extended periods of time and improving ability to consolidate memories. Noopept’s mechanism of action isn’t fully understood. However, it does act like any other racetam by increasing acetylcholine levels. Additionally, it helps eliminate excess glutamate and calcium and it increases blood flow in the brain.
Rhodiola Rosea, also called Golden Root or Arctic Root, is an adaptogen herb that’s been in use for centuries in Russia and Scandinavia. This herb is incredibly effective in remedying fatigue, brain fog, as well as sluggishness and poor memory. Its adaptogen properties and stimulating effects make it an ideal study aid during periods of high stress. Rhodiola boosts serotonin and norepinephrine levels, which leads to improved mood and a wakeful state.
In addition to its tonic and nootropic effects, Rhodiola also possesses amazing health benefits. The Journal of the American Botanical Council has conducted no less than 180 studies on this herb since 1960. These studies have shown its effectiveness in treating impotence, infections, infertility, flu, tuberculosis and depression. [R] Also, Rhodiola helps the brain repair and regrow neurons by activating the synthesis and re-synthesis of ATP. The herb provides protection against oxidative stress through one of its components, namely salidroside.
Oxiracetam is another member of the racetam class that is comes close in terms of stimulation to phenylpiracetam. It was developed in the 1970s and it’s one of the safest stimulating nootropics. Still, its mechanism of action is still being researched. Oxiracetam provides one with increased endurance to carry out tasks and the speed of recall necessary to maintain prolonged focus. It’s believed to have the potential to halt brain damage caused by dementia. Oiracetam also causes one to feel wide awake by increasing blood flow in the brain and speeding up energy metabolism. Oxiracetam is a mild stimulant, though it’s mostly mental-related and focused on wakefulness rather than forced stimulation.
Sulbutiamine is a synthesized derivative of vitamin B1 (thiamine). It was designed for those who are thiamine-deficient and suffering from fatigue. Sulbutiamine provides nootropic benefits to healthy people. It’s incredibly effective in increasing alertness and energy levels, as well as improving mood and reducing anxiety. Sulbutiamine increases production of glutamate and dopamine, two chemicals that play a key role in well-being and drive. One study has found that it may also treat erectile dysfunction.
Wrapping it up
Daytime sleepiness can decrease one’s professional or academic performance. Also, it can make it difficult to go to sleep at night, thus leading to a vicious cycle. Nootropics can greatly increase one’s daily energy levels without having negative effects on health. Stacking two or more nootropics is also popular, as some may yield a better overall experience. Also, stacking decreases likelihood of developing tolerance.
There are lots of choices that you can make with regards to cognitive enhancement and one nootropic or stack may benefit you more than others. Brain chemistry is unique for every person and expectations also vary greatly. Experimentation under the supervision of your physician will help you test what works best for you while also staying on the safe side.
Alaska Sleep Clinic is the only sleep lab in the state of Alaska to have Cognitive Behavioral Therapist who specializes in sleep, Dr. Angie Randazzo.