Guide to Sleep
Guide to Sleeping – Focused First’s 1st pillar – Sleep
Contrary to a lot of popular motos of “I’ll sleep when I am dead” and “Life is too short to sleep.” Sleep is not an obstacle but an essential natural process. And since we spend nearly a third of our life sleeping, that’s almost 30 years; so it is one of the first and fundamental pillars of learning to get Focused First to live better.
Better Sleep Checklist:
- Wake up at a consistent time, if you need to make 15 minute changes.
- Or wake up to your sleep cycle using an app.
- Move early in the morning. Take a 15-20 minute walk outside.
- Get sunlight or blue light exposure before 8 am. Or http://amzn.to/2F9oX8R
- Get at least 10-20 minute of sunlight on as much of your skin as possible between the hours of 10:30 am – 3 pm
- Don’t workout late. Ideally most people’s bodies like 4-6 pm.
- Turn off all screens 1.5-2 hours before sleep, or at a minimum turn your phones, tablets, and computers on Night Shift mode.
- Avoid eating large meals 1-2 hours before sleep.
- Eat your carbs at dinner.
- Turn off cues and distractions like cell phone notifications.
- Turn on nighttime settings on phones, tablets, and computers.
- Replace lights at home with low blue lights. Examples (bulbs http://amzn.to/2CwJRt8, nightlights https://lowbluelights.com/product/night-light-combination/)
- Set your sleeping area to be as dark as possible.
- Set your sleeping area to either be quiet or use white noise.
- Set a consistent sleep schedule.
- Sleep a few hours after it gets dark, ideally before 10 pm.
- Only sleep or have sex in your bedroom.
- Turn off wireless, Bluetooth, and any other electrical devices before sleeping. For phones, this means airplane mode.
- Set the temperature between 60-68F.
- Take a warm bath 1.5-2 hours before sleep.
- Don’t drink alcohol more than 3 hours before sleep.
- No caffeine after 2 pm if you are sleeping by 10 pm.
- Learn to meditate as it can help you fall asleep quicker.
So now that you know the quick fixes let’s dive into why we need to sleep, and understand some of these areas in more depth.
Why do we need sleep?
Sleep is a natural process that we need. While we do not understand everything that goes on 100%, among the many processes, during sleep, cerebral spinal fluid is pushed up into the brain, and it washes out the buildup of toxic aggregates, plaques, and debris that accumulates during the day. As you can guess this is a very important process to mitigate many issues including the development of Alzheimer’s disease (which occurs when too much plaque builds up) and an exponential increase in the risk of developing cancer.
Think of it simply as this, when you’re awake your body is using and breaking things down this is called catabolic. And the other side of the coin is anabolic, i.e. when you sleep your body repairs and builds things up.
Sleep is not an obstacle, in fact, beyond repair, it also enhances your memory formation, and quality sleep fortifies your immune system, balances your hormones, boosts your metabolism, increases your physical energy, and improves the function of your brain.
In other words, sleep is the best and most necessary tool for focusing first. But think of it, good sleep helps you burn fat!! Poor sleep causes imbalances and stresses. It will make you dumber and cause you to crave unhealthy foods like sugars.
Before we dive into several areas, we can optimize for sleep. Keep in mind the more you systematize things, the more your better sleep hygiene goes on autopilot. Stack the variables in your favor, so you don’t have to battle your willpower versus your biology.
Light plays an important role in sleep, both in waking up, sleeping, and maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm. Morning light signals your body to wake up in the morning. Your eyes have special receptors that when exposed to a blue light signal that its time to wake up and stop producing melatonin and start producing daytime hormones. This is important for both waking up and understanding that blue light after sunset confuses the body turning off melatonin production and interfering with your natural circadian rhythm.
The blue causes body to produce more daytime hormones such as cortisol and is disorients the body’s natural sleep cycle. Cortisol – is important for balance. It is an adrenal hormone that manages your body’s daily rhythm. It perks us up and energizes us. In a sense turning the systems to go.
Melatonin, a natural hormone, is produced by the body. It is key to getting a good nights sleep. It sends signals to your body to prepare you for sleep.
For best results, create a morning routine that gets you about 30 minutes of sun exposure, between 6-8: 30 am for best results. You will still get benefits even if it is overcast.
If you are stuck inside, even 10-15 min walks in the sun will help.
Try and avoid wearing sunglasses during this time as it blocks the right spectrum from reaching the sensors in your eyes!
If you cannot get sun, find light boxes and other gadgets set to treat SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).
On the other side of things, after dark cutting out / down screen time before sleep is one of the best things to do. Also, you can and should replace your bulbs with low blue bulbs for use at night.
Regular exercise, especially lifting heavy weights is one of the best things for you and for sleeping. But don’t workout late in the evening.
Start the day off with some movement in the morning. Morning workouts are great, and for many afternoon or early evening is the ideal time. So working out at 4:30 pm can set you to sleep at ten. But when you push your body, you often will need an extra hour of sleep for repair and recovery.
Find an exercise you enjoy doing. Kettlebells can be fun, effective, and very light on time.
And remember, it’s not just exercise that impacts your sleep, but sleep also impacts your exercise.
Try and lift weights at least 2x per week.
Sound & Stimuli:
Setting up ideal sleeping conditions means to mitigate and avoid stimuli. Sounds is one such issue for many people. And white noise generators can often solve noise issues. The other option is to sleep with binaural sounds or earplugs.
What people are just starting to realize though is that social media and mobile devices are turning into one of the biggest detractors of sleep for some less than apparent reasons.
We won’t dive into deep, but dopamine is all about seeking, and its triggered by the internet and social interactions, and feedback we get from modern interfaces and experiences. Seeing that dopamine is tied to motivation and alertness, and serotonin is tied to contentment and relaxation. Suffice to say that our new social media addictions are tied into how they stimulate us. And in a major sense cause us both an additive response and most troubling overstimulation. If your over stimulated by these interactions and hormonal responses you will not sleep well. So simply learn to keep activities and your devices out of the bedroom at least 1-2 hours before sleeping.
Circadian Rhythm, I.e. “The Body Clock” in humans refers to the biological processes that relate to the 24hour cycle of our standard days. Most living things function on these rhythms, and it is important because when your body does not follow or its Circadian Rhythm is off, you sleep, and thus your health will suffer.
Interestingly, for sleep, this means that getting on a regimented sleep cycle is key. Thus it’s not just the length but the timing. For instance, you have likely noticed that if your up past ~ 10 pm sometimes you get a second wind? This is because, generally speaking, between 10 pm – 2 am, the body focuses its energy on repair processes. But if you are not asleep this extra energy will be used for your wake time. So it’s important to be asleep during this time when you get the most rejuvenating effects.
Aim to sleep within a few hours of getting dark.
Get sunlight asap in the morning, usually before 9 to fully wake up and reset.
Avoid night shifts, as they increase the risk of cancer and severely disrupt the cycle.
Sleep cycles typically last 90 minutes and repeat 4-6 times a night. So use a sleep app to minimize waking up during a cycle. This will help avoid those groggy morning moments.
Humans are creatures of habit and habitats. The brain is always looking for patterns to automate to save energy. So ideally we create a sanctuary for sleep where when we walk into it we do nothing but sleep and have sex.
Another trick is some type of external trigger to sleep, like putting on PJs can be a trigger to sleep. Be sure it sets the right temperature and is not too restrictive or tight.
EMFs are a new phenomenon of the last 100 years. However, over the last hundred years, there has been a massive expansion of EMF editing devices. We now have a 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 times more EMF than 100 years ago. These low-frequency magnetic fields can cause massive stress to the body over time. And while we don’t understand all the variables, we know this is causing some serious issues.
And while only a small percentage 5-10% of people are hypersensitive to EMFs, EMFs have been shown to interfere with things such as calcium channels in our cells. We won’t go into it here, but it has significant enough impact to both affect your sleep quality and health in general.
So what can you do?
Turn off any devices you can at night, and during the day to minimize your exposure to WiFi and Bluetooth.
Interestingly, magnesium, which is great for sleeping and other body processes is also helpful in dealing with EMFs.
With about a third of our life spent sleeping, all too often we do not invest enough in the right solutions for the best night sleep. From mattresses to sleeping position, to whether we sleep alone or not, all these variables a very subjective and very important. And one of the most important things to realize is that spending the money on a good bed that matches the variables that fit you will make all the difference in the world.
While we cannot go into all the details here are a few well-received mattresses to consider for your options
Now that you have a dark room and the right mattress, you need to finish off your personal cave with the right temperature. Studies show optimal room temperature is around 60F-68F. Whether its a cooling mattress, AC, or whatnot, try these temperature options to sleep better.
On a side note, insomniacs tend to have higher body temperatures right before bed.
A warm bath 1.5-2 hours before sleep can help your body temperature lower before sleeping.
The Chilipad is a popular tool when you don’t want the AC or need separate sleeping temps in the same room.
Another option is
Let us go beyond you “are what you eat.” As we mentioned serotonin is an important hormone, and it is also a building block of melanin. 95% of your body’s serotonin is located in the gut. It aids in the digestion and flow of your system. Your gut is known as the second brain. Its filled with 30 types of neurotransmitters like the brain. It has more neurons than the spinal cord.
Also key with this is that in our gut we have a symbiotic relationship with bacteria and fungi. There is good and bad flora. You want to good flora to dominate and steer you right.
We will go more into diet and nutrition strategies, but for better sleep, fewer carbs and more fats are the ideal diet to balance flora and hormones. This is partially because our body has two processes. Either we are burning, or storing fat. Insulin is the body’s major fat storing hormone, and the #1 thing that insulin reacts to is carbohydrates. So if you want to sleep better and burn fat, you need to focus on the two macronutrient groups of protein and fat. By eating a higher ration of protein and healthy fat you’ll produce more glucagon which triggers the breakdown of stored fat acids for fuel. Additionally, the carbs feed the bad flora.
One of the easiest tricks is to try and start the day with a low insulin triggering meal, or fast. And save your carbs for dinner time.
Caffeine, a little piece of heaven. This wonderful and often innocuous substance, however, has some serious ramifications to sleep. Caffeine is a drug that fits over and blocks our adenosine receptors. These receptors signal the body to relax when it thinks we need it. Caffeine also affects the endocrine system, provoking the adrenal glands to produce two anti-sleep hormones: adrenaline and cortisol. Thus, first energizing us for that “caffeine high” and then producing the troublesome crash.
Few people realize that it can take several days for the after effects to wear off. And that with its half-life it can take 5-8 hours for the major effects to wear off. You can become resistant to the effects of caffeine after just 12 days.
To deal with this but keep the caffeine coming
Set an unbreakable caffeine curfew usually around 2-3pm.
Also, wait at least an hour after you wake in the morning for your natural systems to fire before your first coffee.
Maximize benefits by cycling. Take at least 1-2 days per week off.
Alcohol is a blessing and a curse. While it does help you to fall asleep faster, REM sleep is significantly disrupted. Thus the sleep won’t be as effective. Interestingly being tired shows the same effects on the body as being drunk.
So wrap up drinks 3 hours before sleeping.
Drink more water to metabolize and flush alcohol. And 8 ouch glass for every drink of alcohol you have.
Learning to meditate can help you fall asleep quicker. As little as 10-20 minutes 1-2x a day can within just a few weeks start to impact and improve your sleeping. We will dive more into meditation, and options in further articles.
As with diet, supplements is something we will dive further in to in other articles. But here are a few supplements worth considering to sleep better.
Melatonin – while produced in the body, and in some foods, sometimes it makes sense to supplement. Remember it is a hormone so it’s not about the quantity but the correct alignment of how much your body needs. Try smaller doses and go from there.
Magnesium is the second most abundant mineral inside our cells, and it is the second most common deficiency next to Vitamin D. Ironically, likely due to over farming our soil is greatly depleted, and normal vegetables do not provide enough for our needs. Upwards of 80% of the population is likely deficient. Magnesium is essential and has tons of benefits. It is an anti-stress mineral. It helps balance blood sugar, blood pressure, relax muscles, calm the nervous system and optimize circulation. It’s not only important to optimizing sleep but critical to health and longevity overall. Its responsible for over 300 enzyme reactions and found in all your tissues. You must have it to make energy.
Best through skin absorption. But can be taken orally.
Potassium – small amounts of magnesium can have a synergistic affect and prevent those nighttime cramps. This supplementation is not recommended for anyone taking an ACE inhibitor or who has kidney disease.
L-lysine – is an essential amino acid that the body does not make. It has been suggested in studies to enhance information processing, concentration capacity, long term and short term memory, executive function and reasoning. It may also reduce anxiety, and help you sleep better. It also is helpful in repairing tissue damage, and taking 1g before bedtime can enhance your sleep.
5-HTP – is a precursor to melatonin and serotonin. It is converted from the amino acid Tryptophan, it can help you sleep and lift your mood.
L-Tryptophan – works well with 5-HTP and GABA. It is very relaxing and can help you fall asleep.
GABA – is a neuro-inhibitor transmitter. It generally has a calming effect, but be careful because it can calm you too much the following day.
Apps & Toys to consider:
Oura Ring For tracking sleep and so much more.
Full color led light bulb
Books to dive more into the topic of sleep:
Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams. This book effectively lays out the studies, data, and science behind why we need to sleep.
Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to a Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success.