As someone who has been a notoriously poor sleeper most my life, I find it very easy to see how easily poor sleep quality can affect people’s everyday life. Poor sleep can affect everything from your energy levels to your will power and from talking with large groups of people over the years, I’ve seen that a large amount of people have horrible sleep fitness.
They waste time falling asleep and spend hours in a light sleep state that doesn’t have the same body and brain boosting benefits of deep and REM sleep. In the past, I would spend an hour trying to fall asleep because my brain wouldn’t stop rehashing the day’s events or dwelling on what was coming up the next day. I tried different supplements, going to bed earlier, going to bed later, but I would wake up every morning still groggy. Sleep started to feel like a waste of time, not only would I lose an hour every night tossing and turning, I wouldn’t feel any fresher in the morning and felt like a zombie until I had my first cup of coffee.
I spent years trying to figure out ‘why’ wasn’t I able to sleep better which helped me learn more about sleep quality, which is determined by how much time you spend in REM and delta (deep, restorative) sleep.
NUTRITION AND SLEEP:
Sleep is important because there is actually a direct link between your diet and sleep. What you eat directly affects how well you sleep, and the quality of your sleep also has a dramatic impact on your energy levels. Naturopathic physician and founder of Biohealth Diagnostics in San Diego, California talks about how ‘unless people get to bed by 10:30pm and get a full eight hours of sleep, they’re wasting their money’. His philosophy is based of the ‘Circadian Cycle’ which is a natural physiological cycle of about 24 hours that persists even in the absence of external cues i.e. the way we’re designed to sleep based on daylight and nightfall- our body clock so to speak.
As someone who had struggled with sleep for years, I tried going to bed earlier, going to bed later, spending less time sleeping, more time sleeping; I felt like I had tried everything. However, during trials, errors and experiments- I did find something very interesting.
I noticed on nights that I got 5 hours or less of sleep, I felt groggy, tired and needed caffeine o get me going. Pretty standard, right? But the same thing happened on the nights I got 10 hours or more, I felt groggy, tired and needed caffeine to get me going.
In contrast, something very interesting happened when I ‘split the difference’ and got 7 and half or 8 hours, I felt great. If I went to bed at 11pm and set an alarm form 6:30am, I found that I normally woke before my alarm and felt ready for the day. I tested this for three months and suddenly found that I had more energy through the day and didn’t need a nap (which I needed frequently in previous years) and could function optimally until about 9pm in the evening; when my ‘night time routine’ (below) would kick in.
WHY 7 AND HALF HOURS?
We’ve all been told ‘you need to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night’ but why? Admittedly, I try and go to bed for 10:30pm to give my self about a half an hour to unwind (I normally read something that switches my mind off) and then have lights out for 11pm. But I had to ask myself the question, why did I feel so much better and have much more energy with 7 and half hours of sleep over say 10 hours?
After a couple of hours, we enter the dream state sleep, known as rapid eye movement, or REM, stage 1. REM sleep normally occurs 90 minutes after the onset of sleep, according to Dr Patrick Holford, author of Optimum Nutrition for the Mind, if we are sleep deprived, it may occur within 30 minutes.
We have about four or more REM periods per night and they go in 90 minute cycles. That’s why if you sleep you sleep for 7 and half hours and wake up, you’re now fresher as you’ve finished that ‘cycle’ and your body finds it easier to wake up. If you wake up after 10 hours, you’re mid-way through a cycle and that’s what you can feel tired, groggy and need a ‘kick’ just to get going.
Given that it is essential way of resting, recharging and nourishing both your body and mind, sustained, unbroken sleep, and dreaming is part of lifestyle package that determines the quality of our lives and our health.
PART 2: HOW TO DIET HACK YOUR SLEEP (coming tomorrow)
– MCT’s for deeper, more restful sleep
– Carbs before bed to help you nod off
– Omega 3 to knock you out
– Protein Power to repair at night