Could You Do With More Sleep?
I don’t know about you, but I could certainly do with a few more hours of sleep a week. I have struggled with insomnia over the last few years and I thought I would share with you the things that I have found whilst researching solutions to give you the best chance to get your optimum amount of sleep. I hope by sharing this with people, they might be able to gain some insights to improve their overall sleep.
I remember talking to a friend once about not being able to get to sleep and he said “so lying down and closing your eyes, can’t do that hey?” Now, he was just stirring me up as blokes do, but what he didn’t know and neither did I at this stage is that over 30% of adults in western countries struggle with insomnia and over 70% of people don’t get 8 hours of sleep per night. Considering sleep is the time when we recover both physically and mentally, this is a worrying trend as it means our whole system isn’t getting the resources it needs to recover and something misses out. When you consider all of the systems in our body that rely on sleep to recover such as circulatory system, immunity, gut health, muscle repair and our brains, it is not ideal to have anything missing out on recovery time.
Some of you may have heard of Sleep Hygiene which is the things you do to prepare yourself to go to bed. Here are a few tips that I have found that I found during my research, and while it may seem counter intuitive, it starts first thing in the morning:
- Go outside and get 5 – 20 minutes of natural light within for first 30-60 minutes of waking up. This then calibrates your circadian rhythm to start producing melatonin naturally when you should be going to bed
- Avoid caffeine after 12 noon as caffeine has a half life and this allows you to expel the caffeine before you go to bed.
- Drink 2-3 litres of water a day and restrict your liquid intake after 6pm.
- Most of us love the occasional drink (alcohol) but you just have to understand that if you have more than 1 standard drink it is going to affect your sleep. Now that doesn’t mean you have to avoid alcohol, but just be aware if you are going to have a drink it will severely affect your quality of sleep, in particular your REM sleep. It increases your resting heart rate, increases your core body temperature whilst your body works to expel, what is in effect, a poison.
- Eat 2-3 hours before you intend to go to sleep, this allows your body time to digest your food and allows your body to go back into that parasympathetic state which is when you are at rest.
- Limit blue light exposure 2 hours before you intend to go sleep, that means limit screen time in the lead up to going to sleep and using blue light blocking glasses can help if you are watching screens.
- Make sure you have your bedroom on the cooler side as you want it to be slightly cool when going to bed. When at rest your core temperature lowers slightly and your core temperature rises when you wake, so keeping your room temperature on the cooler side can not only aid in helping you go to sleep, but help you have better quality sleep and stay asleep longer. I haven’t done much research on them, but I have spoken to plenty of people who rave about cooling pads that go on top of your mattress that can regulate your temperature and they can even separate between you and your partner if you run at different temperatures. The one I have heard recommended the most is eightsleep.com although I have not had the chance to try it yet
- Keep your room dark and silent (you can even use your Urban Recharge ear plugs), these are key components for quality sleep. Kelly Starrett from thereadystate.com mentioned that studies have shown that even a small light on the back of your knee can unsettle you in REM and slow wave sleep. One thing I found as a game changer for me was wearing an eye mask, when we moved to QLD the sun gets up very early up here, especially in summer compared to country NSW where we moved from and I found this a must to help with my sleep. One last thing that can be used are lamps that mimic dawn, these can be set to turn on slowly at any time of the day so it simulates dawn by slowly brightening of your room so you can wake up as the room gets brighter slowly.
- Supplementation is a controversial subject and I am not a doctor, I am just describing what has helped me and directing you to some resources that I have found from doctors and other health professionals. A lot of people find that melatonin is great to aid in sleep but my research has shown that this can be right and wrong. Yes, melatonin is a chemical produced by your body as part of your circadian rhythm and starts getting produced naturally to help you get to sleep. Dr Andrew Huberman discusses this chemical in a number of his podcast episodes and he contends that supplementing with melatonin can actually inhibit the natural production of melatonin thereby causing your body to produce less and actually hurt your sleep in the long-term. Couple that with the fact that melatonin helps you get to sleep but actually doesn’t help you stay asleep, it may not be as good as you may think. If you have been into the centre and we have met then you have probably heard me mention that most of us are deficient in magnesium and that the best way to absorb magnesium through your skin. What better way to get your fix of magnesium than by relaxing in a float tank (we may be a little biased here, doesn’t mean we are wrong). An hour in a float tank as you know makes you super relaxed and that is in no small part because of the magnesium. Dr Huberman has his best mix of supplementation and that consists of Magnesium Threonate, this is the only type of magnesium that crosses the blood brain barrier which mean it has higher access to the central nervous system. Theanine and apigenin are also suggested but the best way to learn about this would be to listen to Dr Huberman’s podcast the Huberman Lab as he is far better at explaining this that me. I have personally used these supplements and can highly recommend them as it helped my sleep greatly but again I would like to point out that I am not a doctor and I suggest speaking to your own doctor if you have concerns.
- Wearables are a great tool to help you learn what works for you. I have been wearing a Whoop for nearly two years now, it was a game changer for me as I was having huge trouble sleeping and had no idea why. A Whoop not only tracks your vitals and sleep but you also update a logbook every day asking you what you did the day before so it can cross check your results with your behaviour to find patterns and trends that help aid in recovery. Why it was such a game changer from me was I found I was dehydrated. I used to drinking a lot of my water before, during and after training and when COVID hit and the gyms closed, I wasn’t training and therefore I was missing out on much of my water intake. It also made me aware of the effects of alcohol had on my sleep and how recovered I felt the next day. There are a few of these wearables in the market but I have found Whoop to be great and they also have a podcast which is also worth a listen at whoop.com.
These are just a few things that I found whilst on my sleep journey and whilst I still wouldn’t class myself as a good sleeper, I am much more aware of what will put me in the best possible place to get good quality sleep.
Here are some of the resources I have found through my sleep journey
- https://hubermanlab.com/master-your-sleep-and-be-more-alert-when-awake/ -Dr Andrew Huberman
- Joe Rogan – You can find his podcast on Spotify but search for the episodes with Matt Fraser, Andrew Huberman, Dr Rhonda Patrick, Peter Attia, Lex Friedman