The standard advice for getting a good night’s rest is to get a good hour of it before midnight and to aim for 6 – 8 hours. The trouble with all things “standard” is that if you are a human being, you are unique (good news for modern man) and therefore have a unique pattern of rest requirement that suits your chronotype – that’s the thing that makes you an early bird or a night owl and all things in between! There is no one size fits all when it comes to sleeping pattern – the 8 hour prescription is a myth and if you are in good mental and physical health, this is probably too much for most people. Those that live the longest sleep less but don’t believe the carefully put together myth that Margaret Thatcher only needed 4 hours as that’s hogwash! According to Dr Michael Breus in ‘The Power of When’ there is a perfect time to do everything based on you biological chronotype which is an individual matter. TAKE A LISTEN IF THIS TOPIC INTERESTS YOU:
First tip for best sleep efficiency is to pay attention to WHEN you go to bed and get up. Stop gloating now if you are an early bird who is stuffed full of worms because it’s not that getting up and bouncing around early is BETTER, you are just as efficient if you are a night owl… you just need to organise your day around what works best for your biological clock. This is a biologically determined factor based on hormones and genetics (the PER-3 gene in particular which you can read about here). Since this is set by your biology it is pretty pointless attempting to reset it and far more advisable to design a life around what works for your Chronotype. To identify your Chronotype, pop on to the do the quiz here.
My second top tip as a Psychologist and Yoga Teacher is to avoid focusing on the amount of sleep you are getting and instead draw your attention to the Quality or the Efficiency of your sleep and once you know what you need and when, stick to the routine rigidly and have a sleep inducing routine. Ideally you want to get to sleep quickly and not wake through the night. I use the app Calm which gives bed time stories for grown ups read by people who are even better at putting one to sleep that my ever so Yoga Teacher Meditation voice does!
I also set an alarm at 8pm to “hydrate” so that I’m not drinking late at night and ending up getting up to empty my bladder. This has had a fantastic effect on the quality of my sleep. Hydrating never consists of alcohol which is the biggest blocker to sleep as it is a stimulant, usually kicking in at around 4am when the toxins reach your kidneys. Speak to me if you need support to give up alcohol in one foul swoop and NEVER look back. It is INCREDIBLY EASY to give up the booze (even though our society would have us believe that it’s terribly difficult and you have to take it one day at a time) but you have to know the right way and I can help you with this and am living proof that it works. It may be one of the biggest enhancers you ever do to increase your sleep efficiency.
Further to hydrating early on, if I am heard gently snoring, the next night I sleep with micropore tape over my mouth to stop any mouth breathing. More on the subject of Buteyko breathing in another blog in the next few weeks but the most efficient and effective sleep is done with your mouth closed. Remember your mouth is for eating and talking, not for breathing. However if you are on your back as recommended in this blog, you are more likely to breath through your mouth so tape will be the only option. If you are on Instagram and type in Buteyko breathing, a ton of pictures of people with tape on their mouth will pop up! Take a look at their experience of stopping night mouth breathing on their sleep.
Much of a long nights faffing around in bed for hours, if it involves sleep is that it may be in extended periods of the second stage of sleep which is less effective at restoring the body – see my blog post about brainwaves to understand sleep stages. The real message here is to get your sleep at the time that suits your Chronotype and it will immediately become more efficient which will cut out a lot of the stage 2, less effective sleep and condense the number of hours in bed that you need.
We need to facilitate the glymphatic system to operate at it’s most efficient if we want the toxin removal process In the brain (which happens in REM sleep when the brain is the most metabolically active – almost as much as in the day) to be heightened and facilitate the avoidance of Alzheimer’s. More on how the Glymphatic System can be optimised to facilitate a healthy aging process here
Third tip – we are on to lighting. The type and brightness needs to be used to your advantage and to avoid muddling your Chronorhythm. It’s a myth that the blue light from your iPAD is keeping you awake. It’s what you are watching On the iPad / smartphone / laptop that is probably more destructive according to Michael Mosley in ‘Fast Asleep’ as it is so seductive to be drawn in by the material. If you love to fall asleep to the tV and it works for you and your sleep is efficient, just set the timer on the device and go ahead! However, you can make sure your smartphone is optimised to night lighting (on an iPhone and iPad you will find that in settings, under Display and Brightness – Night Shift – slide the button over to on so that your iPhone will give you a less blue tone at night). As much as possible, avoid very bright LED lighting during the day. Use blue light blocking reading glasses when you are at your computer and turn the screen brightness down. These are the ones I use.
If you are choosing lighting for the best evening light prior to bed then red lighting is your best option as it will help to induce sleep and relax you. Getting a blast of sunlight (20 mins or so) first thing in the morning will ensure your melatonin production (which reduces with age) Is efficient and ensures your brain has clocked that it’s daylight. This has a fabulous effect on getting you off to sleep at night. In the podcast above Dr Breus says that “lighting is medicine” when he is discussing the negative effect of White LED lighting on the mitochondrial production.
I have an Lifx lightbulb in my bedroom (this one) and lounge (this one) that I can change depending on my lighting needs and it’s controllable by Siri without the need for any kind of home hub or extra app (it works with the built in home app on iPhone). Here is a video of me telling Siri to turn it on, change the colour and turn it off again.
If you have the opportunity you can cure insomnia by train yourself to the natural light cycle. However if you can’t head into the woods for 3 weeks to reset your sleep cycle by rising with the dawn and going to bed when the light fades, you can work on the dysfunctional thinking that affects the psychophysiological phenomena of sleep deprivation. We will be working on this in our Yoga class but it is essentially interrupting your catastrophising thinking and learning to live I n the present moment so that you aren’t always planning and jumping into the what if’s of the future such that your sleep is interrupted. Most importantly don’t panic if you currently aren’t getting the amount of sleep you would like. Instead, research, work on it, and get help. Make it a life project to get things right, in other words, your top priority for your individual physical and psycholgical healing needs.
Fourthly, Glucose and ketones are great energisers in the day but have hellish effects on your sleep so avoid consuming your Steaks, Magnums and Tangfastics late at night! What you need are Mitochondrial enhancers before you go to bed to enhance the toxin removal process. Magnesium supplementation will not only do that but it will enhance your oxidative capacity (help your muscles oxygenate to produce ATP) to avoid muscle fatigue and give you a better exercise performance. Doing more exercise will also increase your mitochondrial efficiency. Foods that are high in magnesium (that are not heavy in proteins) are
- green leafy vegetables – such as spinach
- brown rice
- bread (especially wholegrain)
- dairy foods
CBN (oxydised THC) works with the endocanabanoid system in the body as a helpful medicine for pain relief and sleep disorder according to The Sleep Doctor (see here) and is (apparently) available from a chemist in tinctures that you drop under your tongue as you go to bed. This is more advisable that sleeping tablets that entirely cut out your most needed 4th stage and REM stage of sleep which could lead to Alzheimer’s with long term use.
Fifth make getting enough of the right kind of sleep a big bio-hacking project in your life. Your life would change immeasurably if you got better quality pain-free sleep (that is postural good for you) and you know it really or you wouldn’t be reading this. A good night’s shut eye doesn’t just happen to you, you have to be willing to make it your life’s work in a dedicated fashion. The pay off is excellent though as all your other life projects are much more likely to happen as a result.