Monday, June 27, 2016


Its never been a problem for me.  In fact my sleeping prowess is pretty legendary among my family.  However this is not the case for many people and the more I learn about health and wellness the more convinced I've become that sleep might be one of the most overlooked aspects of maintaining proper health.  I think diet is still the number one factor but that is closely followed by sleep.  Yes ahead of exercise.  Why is sleep so important?  Well 2 functions of sleep are
  1. your brain cleans up cellular garbage when you sleep
  2. your body repairs itself while you sleep
If you aren't getting this nightly clean up it can manifest itself in some of the following problems.
  1. a decline in immune function
  2. an increase in cortisol, catecholamines, and other stress hormones
  3. imbalances in appetite and blood sugar regulating hormones
  4. increased levels of inflammatory hormones such as interleukin and C-reactive protein
  5. Testosterone and thyroid hormones
  6. lower will power
Just to name a few

Still aren't convinced, check out this TED talk by Dr Doc Parsley.  He discovered the importance of sleep working with Navy Seals.  Nearly all of them had broken sleep patterns and were using sleep aids to help them sleep.

Or perhaps these low performing athletes

“sleep is extremely important to me – I need to rest and recover in order for the training I do to be absorbed by my body.”

  “If I don’t sleep 11 to 12 hours a day, it’s not right.” 

Gareth Bale, yeah you know that guy that is crushing it for Wales in the euro cup at the time of this writing.  He and Real Madrid hired sleep expert Nick Littlehales to help the team.

How Gareth Bale and Real Madrid sleep their way to the top

Ok we get it, sleep is important.  What can I do to sleep better?  Below are all the tools, tips and tricks I have accumulated in no particular order.

1) Avoid blue light in the evenings.  Blue light from TV screens, computer screens, phones, lights around the bathroom mirror etc late in the evening will disrupt your circadian rhythm and block your natural release of melatonin at night which makes you tired.  So either go tech free an hour before bed or alternatively this is what I do, I put on glasses that block blue light around 8-9 pm.  Yes I look like a complete idiot.

I use these cheap $9 safety specs and yes these do really work, you will get tired watching that evening movie or show.

Want something that looks a little cooler, you could spend a bit more and get these.

Or perhaps these, designed for gamers.

Apple obviously thought this was enough of an issue to include it as a new feature in IOS 9.3.  You can now get Night Shift which changes the amount of blue light on the screen depending on the time of the day.  It gives it an orange hue to it.  It only works on iphone 5s or higher and certain ipads.

For your computer screen and some other devices you can install the free utility f.lux.  Below it shows how much light is blocked for a Macbook Air with f.lux turned on.

Or perhaps you don't want to wear some silly glasses and you have a tv in your bedroom.  You can now buy a device that your tv plugs into that will filter the blue light for you depending on the time of the day or whatever schedule you set.  I've bought one of these for the tv in our bedroom as my wife likes to watch tv before bed.  We just moved and its not hooked up yet but I'll give a full report once we start using it.

2)   Make your sleeping room absolutely pitch black, no lights of any kind.  My wife watches tv so I wear a sleep mask and ear plugs.  I use this sleep master mask.  

3)  Keep the room cold 68 deg or lower.  If one of you is hot (normally the woman) and the other cold.  You could try one of these cooling mats for the woman.  They are pretty pricey $450 but some people swear by them. 

4)  Don’t drink alcohol close to bedtime.  More than two glasses of wine within four hours of sleep decreases deep-wave sleep 20–50%. Even four glasses six hours beforehand did not appear to have this effect, so the timing is crucial.

5)  Caffeine.  This can vary widely from person to person but as a general rule I don't drink any after 12 pm, except the occasional spot of tea of course.  The half life of caffeine can vary widely depending on the person based on genetics and other factors.  I'm sure you know that person that can drink coffee right before bed and sleep like a log, it is likely partially due to genes.  Here is my DNA Fit report for caffeine based on my genetics.

Perhaps some soothing tea instead. 

6)  Low blood sugar can kick you out of sleep, if you find this happening eat a low glycemic snack right before bed.  Almond butter on a celery stick for example.

7) Supplemental sleep aids.  As always I'm NOT a doctor so don't take this as medical advice always work closely with your doctor.  I'm not a fan of prescription sleep aids, they are more of a band aid to the underlying problem.  They also just knock you out and don't put you in the restorative REM sleep that you so badly need.  So you will end up with a host of side effects and they are also very addictive.  However if you want to stop using them because you read some hack on the internet and he said so DO NOT STOP COLD TURKEY always work with your doctor.

There is a vast difference in OTC meds that function off antihistamines (you CAN stop those stop cold turkey) vs. molecular manipulation from prescription medications. Even a product such as Ambien, which is considered a non-benzodiazepine, still binds to the Benzo1 receptor whereas the likes of Valium binds to all benzo receptors. So even though it is marketed and as a non-benzodiazepine, the system still becomes dependent on Ambien just like it becomes dependent on Valium.
for folks who are dependent on prescription sleep medications, some physicians are also using acupuncture to rehabilitate the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, as the prescription meds get these systems way out of balance. It’s recommended to step off sleep meds over a period of a few weeks. For example, if you are taking long-acting 12.5mg benzodiazepine, then get to 10 mg, and try that for 2 weeks.
Again I'm NOT a doctor.

However there are natural options.  Dr Parsley who did the TED Talk referenced above has a product that uses all the natural supplements that he has found to help with his Navy Seals.  You can purchase his sleep remedy here.  I should probably mention it does contain a tiny amount of melatonin, but it is in such small doses that it shouldn't effect natural melatonin production.  People seem to be all over the map on whether larger doses of melatonin are safe but I'm not convinced that larger doses over a period of time doesn't mess with the bodies natural production.  You can also try individual supplements like GABA, 5-HTP and others, but if you want a one stop shop that is proven and in the right quantities I would go with the sleep remedy.

8) Epsom Salt bath.  Magnesium has a calming effect (its one of the ingredients in Dr Parsley's sleep cocktail), so an Epsom salt bath in the evening can help with sleep.  Preferably a cold bath see below.

9) A cold shower before bed.  Body temperature plays a role in your sleep routine and its why you want a cold room, so along those lines a cold shower will bring down your body temperature and therefore make you fall asleep faster.  One study found that subjects fell asleep faster and had a better overall quality of sleep following behaviors that cooled the body. 

10)  Meditate.  Use a guided meditation app like Calm or Headspace to meditate right before bed.  Especially if you are the type that can’t stop the mind racing.  

11)  Go to sleep before 11.  This is to align with your circadian rhythm.  Sleeping 10-6 is much better for you than sleeping 12-8.  Also if you get to 11pm you will find you will get a spike in energy but I can't remember why.  Whatever it is I don't like to go beyond 11pm.  Easier said then done if you're not a washed up 40 year old with kids.  Incidentally you can reset your circadian rhythm sleeping under the stars for 7 nights, no seriously go camping.  

12) Avoid Wifi.  Do not put wifi or bluetooth devices by your bed.  Turn them off or put them in airplane mode.

1    13)  Pulse Electro Magnetic Earthing device.  Ok I admit this is a bit out there but there is solid science behind it and if I couldn’t sleep I would definitely try this.  They are expensive, the double magnet pro basic is $900. 

Another PEMF device The SR1 DeltaSleeper ($500), it attaches to your collarbone.  The pulse device above  goes under your mattress.  Lots of good info and links also in this article.

14) Binural Beats.  This is basically different frequency noises that are played through each ear.  I have no experience but if you google it you will find plenty of info.  There are also binural beat apps for you phone.  Sleepstream 2 is one for the iphone.

15) If your mind races or you need a TV to fall asleep, try making a list. Again I turn to Dr Parsley from an interview he did.  

Full Transcript

 Most people who say I have to have a television to fall asleep or some people even who say they have to read to get asleep, the reason that they need to do that is because is because they have to distract themselves because if they don't distract themselves their minds will go racing. And I think the biggest problem is not all of the constant external stimulation but the constant internal stimulation and the constant denial of that.
And what that leads to is this constant external stimulation. And then people are really uncomfortable with their own thoughts. So, once everything goes away and there is no more external stimulation, a lot of people get really freaked out. And I don't mean this to be sexist at all but women by and large really more than men start thinking about all the potential things that could go wrong or every mistake that they made in the past. 

 I know this is about distracting them. 100% of the time it's about distracting themselves. There's nothing about television that causes you to go to sleep. I mean, that should be obvious to anyone. So, what I say is take a piece of paper, draw a line down the middle of the piece of paper. You can go get a notebook if you want because you're going to do this every night for a while. On the left hand side of the paper, put down, write down every single thing that you need to do the next day. That's to do list. 
    On the right side of the paper, write down everything you need to worry about. Even if it's something you have no control over, which is most of the things people worry about, put it on your list because you want to make sure you don't forget to worry about it. And then the second part of that is like, okay, I have this list now, it's 100% complete, and literally -- I give people permission to do this -- if you lay down and you think about something that you forgot to put on your list, get back up, turn on the light if you need to and write down that other thing. Everything needs to be on the list.
    And then what you do is you make yourself an agreement that I know no matter how terrible this list looks, how intimidating this list is, I know as a matter of fact the best I will ever be at handling this list is after I've had a really good night sleep, full night of sleep. And my alarm clock is set for the latest time I can possibly get up or whatever amount, whatever it is that will be give me eight hours in bed. 

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