Do yourself a favour. Don’t read this article until you’ve read Sleep 2.0 of Joompa and implemented everything recommended there. Not bothering with any of those basic lifestyle tips but trying the hacks listed below is comparable to being that guy who takes 3 different protein shakes a day but doesn’t go to the gym. Sorry, but supplements, equipment and technology aren’t the foundation of success, they’re either a means of helping those struggling to make the basics count, or tools for those trying to get an edge to take their success to another level. This is not medical advice, but it is information you can use to discuss possible solutions with your doctor, which should be done before you begin taking any supplement.
If we’re getting scientific with sleep, the key word is Melatonin. It’s known as the darkness hormone, and is released by the pineal gland in your brain at night. Good sleep is dependent on it, and to facilitate melatonin release requires it’s precursor to be produced as a neurotransmitter in your brain; serotonin. To perfect this process requires 3 key steps: consumption, metabolism, and production.
If we look at what serotonin is made from, its ingredient in your diet is the amino acid, tryptophan. Whilst this is present in foods like salmon, turkey, eggs, cheese, nuts & seeds, pineapple and spinach, it’s absorption is improved when consumed with carbohydrates. Carbohydrates also have a calming effect on those suffering from high stress levels, assisting in making it easier to get to sleep. The key, as mentioned in Sleep 2.0, is to ensure the carbs are not simple sugars and you’re not eating a large quantity too close to bed that will mean your stomach is digesting food until far into your sleep cycles.
A key part of tryptophan metabolism in the body is Vitamin B6. The good news is that your salmon, turkey and spinach tryptophan sources are rich B6 providers, with the addition of avocados, bananas and potatoes also being effective.
Two supplements that we don’t fully understand the mechanisms of, but both of which contribute to serotonin release.
Taurine is notorious for its inclusion in energy drinks, where in low quantities it can enhance the effects of caffeine, whilst also reducing the anxious side effects of it. However, in isolation and higher doses, taurine provides a contrary effect to caffeine, assisting in calmness and sleepiness. Experiments on flies with similar sleep mechanisms to us have shown improvements with Taurine supplementation. It’s the result of improving GABA and serotonin release, both of which play a role in magical melatonin production.
Glycine, taken in a range of 3-5g orally before bed, also has studies to show it assists in increasing serotonin production.
Magnesium is a key mineral in your electrolyte balance and is crucial for entering the parasympathetic state (ie being relaxed). If you’ve had a blood screening and it’s low then 100% you need to be on it, but it’s a commonly deficient mineral and harmless to try supplementing. Take Magnesium Bisglycinate an hour before bed and it could help with both getting to sleep and staying asleep.
Find yourself unable to sleep because you’ve got 22 things running through your mind? Decisions for your day that you’re questioning, ideas for the next big project, countless items that you can’t forget to add to your to-do list tomorrow. These can all be stressful and go round and round in your mind, but a commonly effective solution is to write them down. You are no longer concerned about forgetting important moments of inspiration, and you make peace with your thoughts on things that have happened. It’s easily the cheapest kit you can buy to assist with sleep, just don’t turn on a bright light each time you need to roll over and write something down.
Breathing is essentially linked to your body’s state of relaxation. One of the key differences in one’s breathing is whether they’re doing so with their nose or their mouth. Nasal breathing should occur when one is in what is referred to as the para-sympathetic state (i.e., calm) and oral breathing happens when one’s shoulders are rising and they’re sympathetic (stressed).
Equally, one can induce these states through intentionally modifying their breathing accordingly. The body is reactive to its own systems. If one’s nasal airway is blocked and they are force to breathe through their mouth, this affects their level of relaxation and quality of sleep.
Nasal strips help to keep the airways in one’s nose as wide open as possible, thus ensuring their wearer is able to breathe through them all night through. They can even be used in the build-up to sleeping by encouraging deep, relaxed nasal breaths and helping one wind down. The only issue arises when one forgets to take it off in the morning and arrives at work looking like they’ve been in a cage fight.
Remember the issue with light exposure from Sleep 2.0 of Joompa? Well that’s just the half of it. What is even worse at hitting these receptors is the screen devices we use. Screens emit blue light that is otherwise only present in sunlight and we then hold them inches from our face, increasing the intensity and tricking our brains. It inhibits melatonin release and stimulates cortisol release, a terrible combo for good sleep.
First of all try using the blue light fighter on your phone. Set it to turn on at sunset each day. If you find yourself watching TV or using your pc in the evenings and this isn’t possible, you can also buy blue-blocker glasses. Better still, just ditch devices in the evening. There are many activities that our ancestors indulged in during the evenings that didn’t involve a screen, like… reading a book by a dim bedside light.
The one point of note is to really do your research on the grade to which the lenses in the blockers you’re using have been tested. It’s easy for a company to get some glasses with red lenses made in china and slap a fancy price tag on the. A good provider lists the actual stats for their glasses, and has you recommended to wear yellow-lensed blockers around sunset hours and red blockers that screen out blue AND green light after dark.
If the above seems a bit low-tech, then drop some heavy change on the most advanced sleep monitoring technology out there. At 300-400 USD The Oura Ring is not cheap, nor is the $25 a month subscription paid for The Whoop Band. Both provide a comprehensive interface showing every stat you need to know in order to measure your sleep quality and Heart Rate Variability (the best measure of stress and rest levels). This will keep you accountable, as well as allow you to monitor your experiments with making lifestyle changes to see what is most effective. It’s one thing feeling a little bit tired at work and reaching for a coffee, but it’s another when you can see exactly why that’s the case and the effect it has on your sleep quality that night.
Still don’t feel like you’re spending enough on your sleep tech? How about kitting out your bed? The correlations discussed between temperature and sleep quality in Sleep 2.0 can be manipulated using your sleep environment. The bed-jet and Chili Technology systems regulate the temperature of your bed overnight by passing air and water respectively through a pad that in placed on top of your mattress. This changes throughout the night to keep you as cool or warm as you find optimal to achieve the best quality of sleep. The Moona does the same thing, but uses your pillow to control your core temperature instead.
The efficacy of the above is best measured using a wearable device that provides accurate feedback and by recording what temperature resulted in what quality of sleep each night. You should be able to work out your optimal numbers over the course of a couple of weeks.
The downside? You will be paying anywhere from $450-1450 for a mattress cover. However, if this resulted in you being able to sleep without aircon, the resultant power savings would eventually result in an ROI over the course of a few years.
Head over to the next article to see us cover Culture Conditioning