The Most Restorative Sleep you will EVER have

Now it is time to bring sleep month all together. Over the last month we have discussed various factors and their effects on sleep. The final step now is to provide you with a resource full of tips, tricks and hacks to ensure you sleep like a baby again.

Design your Sleep Sanctuary

A bedroom should be a place to escape, unwind and sleep. It should not be your main ‘hangout’ place where you watch movies or get hooked on the latest netflix series. Even more importantly, your bedroom should not be another place where you do work.

The bedroom really is designed for two activities and should remain this way! The increase in leisure and work activities you do within your bedroom will promote a negative association with you, your bedroom and sleep. This combination will increase the likelihood of you having a poor night’s sleep. However, if you draw a line in the sand and keep the work, movies, social media at the door, you are setting yourself up for success and unbelievably good sleep.

My goal with this article is to outline the ultimate sleep sanctuary that everybody should strive for. The idea is to provide you with the tools and tricks to create your own sleep sanctuary at a low cost or higher cost if you really want to get serious. But these small changes and additions could be the most impactful investments you ever make to your sleep.

Creating the Perfect Sleep Sanctuary

The sleep sanctuary aka the bedroom, really the most important room in the house to get right. As mentioned above, you need to set yourself up for success. If it is not sleep or sex (sex has many positive sleep benefits) leave it out of the bedroom!

Below what you will find is a list of key things to include to promote a good night’s sleep.

 

Ditch Technology:

“BUT my phone is my alarm in the morning”

Simple buy an old school alarm clock (one that doesn’t emit light). There is no need for you to be surrounded by technology 24 hours a day. Try to make your bedroom a Tech-Free Zone! As discussed in an earlier post the EMF from your phone is causing more harm than good and is something you don’t want to deal with. Beside the EMF’s your body will have to deal with the bluelight from the phone screen.  This can be mediated with an app on the phone, such as FLux, which will extract bluelight from your devices (both laptop and phone). On top of this if you are really serious, like me, I would suggest changing your light to low blue light bulbs and investing in some blue blocking glasses to really full proof your exposure to blue light exposure at night.

 

Black it Out: Every sleep environment should be blacked out, there should be no light seeping through the window or the curtain. Obviously this is even more important if you are living in a city environment. There is some research that has shown that our skin is so sensitive to light that even if we wear an eye mask and shine a light the size of a pin prick on the back of the knee, it will disrupt/disturb our sleep.Therefore, any light seeping through the curtain or even a small flashing light from any form of technology (e.g. like a charging light or alarm clock) is going to greatly impact your sleep.

Target: Ideally you want to be able to extend your arm out in front of you and it should be dark enough that you should not see your hand.

 

Airflow: Crack the window!

First, check that your room is mold free and regularly stay on top of this! Nothing more important than this!

Stale air is the last thing you want in a bedroom, you want free flowing air. This free flowing air will promote the concentration of negative ions within your bedroom especially if you live close to nature. However, if this is not possible or ideal due to temperature or pollution from living within a city you want to look at investing in an ioniser. This will work to produce negative ions within your sleep environment and will help get you bouncing out of bed in the morning.

 

Essential oils

Essential oils are a great way to really create that sleep sanctuary with some sleep aiding scents. Aromatherapy has been used for years and is well recognised for its sleep aiding benefits. There are a wide variety of different oils associated with promoting sleep.

Sleep Aiding Oils: Lavender, Ylang Ylang, Clary sage, Jasmine

Don’t have a diffuser, no worries mix essential oils with a carrier oil (eg coconut oil) to topically apply to skin. Don’t apply directly as concentration is to high for skin and as for anything there can be too much of a good thing.

 

Plants

Plant are natural air purifiers and a great addition to any sleep sanctuary not only will they keep the air fresh they will also aid in decorating and livening up your room.

Examples Include: Aloe vera, English Ivy, & Sansevieria trifasciata (commonly known as Mother-in-Law’s Tongue). All of which are very low maintenance.

 

 

 

Mattress & Pillow

When talking about a sleep sanctuary the Mattress & Pillow combination cannot be skipped over. These two elements are  key component as discussed in previous post. In my opinion you can not go past the ECOSA mattress and pillow as it caters to all sleep positions and body types.

 

 

 

Sleep Aiding Gadgets and Strategies

If you really want to improve your sleep, then this next section is for you! I will provide some powerful sleep tracking and hacking tools, that will take your sleep to the next level.

 

Sleep and Performance Tracking:

Are you rested and recovered? What is quantifiable is measurable.

HRV has been shown to be one of the most powerful measures in identify and tracking excessive stress. It could be used to track mental stress or training stress such as overtraining etc. It measures this by calculating the time variation between heart beats.

Majority of tracking tools now utilise HRV and the tracking tool you choose to use is up to you and your budget. Like anything in this domain the more you spend the more you get. But you also don’t have to spend a fortune to get HRV tracking benefits.

HRV4 Training is a perfect option for the price sensitive person as all you need is the app (small cost: $15.99) and a newish mobile phone that has the capability to track through camera lense (most phones these days). This app is great as it combines with with subjective measures to get a well rounded picture. The app offers a pro-version with even more capabilities (less than: $50/Year). In my opinion whether go go on pro-version or not HRV is an essential measure for any high performing athlete or worker.

If you want to get serious, the Oura Ring in my opinion is the best personal sleep tracking device on the market! This company has managed to compress everything in to a ring! No, not a watch but a ring! The light sensor of the ring capture 250 samples per second for a constant flow of reliable data. The ring detects the pulse waveform and amplitude variation, and exact time between heartbeats. It is also equipped with a precise 3D accelerometer and gyroscope to track activity and it’s intensity. Finally, it also records body temperature and tracks it to the minute. These combined measurements provide a high power measure for tracking your current health status. It has phenomenal capabilities for such a small device and the new model coming out next month is now even smaller and more powerful. If you are passionate about sleep this is a device you need to check out! Also they have offered a discount of $50 US at check out with code “Taylored”

 

Body Temperature Regulation:

If the breathability of your new ECOSA mattress is not regulating your temperature enough and you run hot temperature like me, you can take it a step further and get yourself a Chili Pad. This will offer you the ability to set the temperature of your bed for optimal sleep quality. It even gives you the ability to individualise the temperatures to each partner’s needs. This has been referenced by many Kelly Starrett & Tim Ferriss as one of the most powerful sleep hacks you can implement.

 

 

My favorite Downregulation Sleep Aid:

When wired and tired with plenty on the mind and you can not seem to downregulate, that is when I use the Headspace Mindfulness App. This app not only aids in meditation practice and mindfulness but offers a great selection of sleep aiding sessions include my favorite 10 min sleep session that knocks me out everytime.

 

Noisy environment:

For those trying to get to sleep in noisy environments. Get yourself an app or device that plays White Noise or Water Noise both of which have been clinically shown to help you get to sleep.

 

Grounding:

Grounding or Earthing is the connection to the Earth’s natural negatively charged energy. Known to increase mood, decrease inflammation & stress, it is simple and powerful. The hallmark of grounding is its ability to achieve alpha brain wave state, which is seen in deep meditative states and in healing sleep states. There are many ways to do this, but the simple version involves you getting into nature and kicking off your shoes.

But with technology we can now produce this energy through PEMF (Pulsed Electromagnetic Field) Therapy & Electrical Stimulation. These are some of the most powerful biohacking tools with proven benefits. The Earthpulse, a grounding mat or grounding bedspread, is a PEMF therapy device that provides better sleep & recovery than ever before. It is not a cheap device but if you are serious about your sleep it is money well spent!

 

Wake up Fresh & Ready to Go:

Bounce out of bed with a Sunrise Alarm Clock. The Natural light alarm clock was designed for a more natural wake-up. The lamp emits natural light as an alarm to improve your ability to function in the morning.

Other alternative is phone apps such as Sleep as Android that wakes you up in lighter stage of your sleep cycle by tracking movement and noise, helping you wake up fresh in the morning. I am sure we have all felt the effects of the alarm going off while we are in a deep sleep, and well it really isn’t fun. This app also allows you to rate and track your sleep. Plus it is great if you want to see if you snore as it offers a recording function.  

 

Circadian Rhythm Hack

One of the most powerful things you can do for priming your circadian rhythm is morning exposure to sun (No sunglasses or sun protection if possible). This coupled with light movement such as yoga, some mobility or a walk. You will not only be energised for the day ahead but syncing the body clock to the sun.

But what if this is not an option?

Treat Winter Blues

We have discussed the powerful effects of bluelight in affecting your sleep, if utilised smartly it can be a great tool in establishing circadian rhythm especially when access to natural light isn’t easy. The Re-Timer is a tool that you can wear either in the morning or evening, depending on how you want to change your sleep. The light is UV-free and has been independently tested for eye safety to the international standard.

 

 

Sleep Enhancing Supplement

Magnesium is an important mineral and is necessary for overall health. Every cell and organ in your body requires this mineral to function properly. It contributes to bone health, along with brain, heart and muscle function. Magnesium is found in foods such as; green vegetables, nuts, cereals, meat, fish and fruit, so it is important that you aim to eat these foods regularly.

Magnesium is often the first supplement to be suggested for sleep, due to magnesium ability to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (down-regulation system). Therefore, deficiency in magnesium can lead to poor sleep and even insomnia.

Certain populations are at a higher risk of magnesium deficiency, including those people with digestive diseases. Issues with your digestive tract can cause your body to not absorb vitamins and minerals properly, resulting in various micronutrient (vitamins and mineral) deficiencies. Other people affected by this deficiency include diabetics, individuals with an alcohol dependence, older adults (many factors could affect this including current inflammatory state, disease, quantity of food intake) and athletes. It is recommended that athletes get sufficient magnesium to assist in recovery from large training loads

Dose:

Oral:

The Institute of Medicine suggests a daily oral dietary intake of 310–360 mg of magnesium for adult women and 400–420 mg for adult men.

Transdermal (absorbed through skin):

Often not thought of when it comes to supplementing magnesium but an Epson salt bath or a Float, which has a high concentration of magnesium, can be absorbed through the skin and bypass the gastrointestinal track. Therefore, these are great alternative methods if you struggle with oral supplementation. Additionally, you can get magnesium sprays, which are great to apply prior to jumping into bed.

What is the best option?

Yet to be conclusively defined. Transdermal does seemingly offer great potential but I think a combination of both may be best! Oral is easy to comply to on a routine basis where booking in for a float is often less frequent. My routine is a weekly Float coupled with daily supplementation of BePure new Magnesium.

 

Summary:

The ability to hack your sleep is endless and this is a quickly growing industry as we learn more about the power of sleep. Above is a my favorite sleep hacks and if implemented you will achieve the best most restorative sleep possible and feel amazing for it!

The most Important Investment to Enhance your Sleep

In this time poor world, our time is the greatest commodity! It is greater than money because money without time is seemingly shallow and pointless, well at least in my opinion. Anything I spend a significant time doing, I take pretty seriously.

Already this month we have discussed some key factors that impact your sleep. We have talked about effects of; technology, stress, nutrition, exercise, air quality and along with a lot more. Now it is time to talk about one of the most important investments you can make towards your sleep.

YOUR MATTRESS!

Do you know you spend a ⅓ of your life asleep?

Well now you know that you will spend the majority of your life laying on it, I would suggest you make sure you select the right mattress for yourself and possibly your partner as well.

This is never an easy decision and at times can be quite painful as you jump from one bed to the next within a big show room, in the hope that you find one that feels good. From coil springs to intellisprings the shop assistant bombards you with confusing branding lingo. At the end of the day a lot of it means the exact same thing, just brands calling it different names. You often leave the store more confused than when you first went in.  If you are anything like me I find it near impossible to really identify the best bed without having a few good nights sleeping on it.

 

So where to start? What is important?

Sleep Position:

Before we can talk about mattress and pillows we must first discuss sleep positions. As with anything there are ideal positions to sleep in but everybody is different and what might work for one person will not be the same for the next person. I am not one to preach that everyone should sleep in a similar fashion and only recommend a change of sleep position when required. With each sleep position there are ways in which to improve the quality of the position to enhance your sleep. When it comes to positions there are endless variations but for purpose of this article I want to focus on the 3 main variations and give you a quick overview:

 

 

Back Sleeper:  

Positives: Provides optimal spinal alignment

Negatives: If you are a snorer this will exacerbate it and is the worst position for this.

Sleep Hack for Back Sleepers: Place pillow under the back of knees to decrease lower back load

 

 

Side sleeper:

Positives: Often the most comfortable as it mimics being in the womb. It is the next best for spinal alignment. Better position if you snore when you are on your back. Recently been highlighted as optimal position for clearing cellular waste while sleeping through glymphatic pathway.

Negatives: Can aggravate shoulder instability, neck and lower back if you don’t have a supportive mattress and pillow

Sleep Hack for Side Sleepers: Place a pillow between knees to neutralise pelvis and again reduce lower back load.

 

 

Front Sleeper:

Positives: Great for reducing snoring

Negatives: Worst for spinal alignment with the arch in the lower back and the head twisted to the side especially if you use a pillow.

Sleep Hack for Front Sleepers: Ditch the pillow that is lifting your head up. Instead place the pillow under your hips to support your lower back and where possible bend one knee up towards chest to deload the spine.

 

 

Mattress and Pillow Considerations

Trial Period

You need to sleep on it, literally.

When investing in a new bed, mattress or pillow, you really want the ability to sleep on it for at least a couple of weeks and have the ability to return it if needed. Most places will offer a service similar to this with varying time frames. However, a lot of these periods will only be possible if you also buy a mattress protector from them at same time.

 

Firmness

Firmness is the next most important thing to get right.

Soft, Medium, Firm??

Truth is it depends on the individual and sleeping style, which for most people greatly varies depending on lifestyles factors e.g. injury, sickness etc. For optimal spinal alignment you will be a back sleeper and ideally should choose a firm mattress to support this position. A firm mattress won’t support your spinal health if you are a side or front sleeper, as the firmness of the mattress will force your body into misalignment. So if you are a side or front sleeper then a less firm mattress will be best to maintain spine alignment.

 

Why is alignment important?

Do you wake up feeling fresh from a good night’s sleep, with no aches and pains?

Well you should! Anything that is misaligned is more prone to injury and is placing unneeded stress on your body. Especially with the time we spend in our beds this is especially important! Poor mattress and sleep position often lead to postural imbalances which greatly increases your potential of developing chronic injuries. If your issue is stemming from your mattress or sleep position, it really doesn’t matter how much physio or rehabilitation you do the imbalance will remain an issue. Even if you are good and see your physio 1-2 x per week (20 min) and are really good and do the exercise homework  (~10 min daily) that equates to less than 2 hrs per week, compared with 50 hrs+ per week sleeping in a bad mattress or position. You stand no chance of getting on top of your issue until you address the chronic load you place on your body (mattress, pillow and or sleep position).

 

Partner disturbance

There is nothing worse than a restless partner, keeping you awake all night. This is one thing you should not share!

Last thing you want is your partner’s bad sleep to affect your sleep. It is a recipe for disaster with short tempers eventually boling upto fighting. At least if one partner is well rested they can diffuse the situation…well hopefully.

Even if you don’t have a partner now, this is something you may want to consider for the future. You want to select a bed that absorbs movements so that your sleep is not affected. On average a person changes sleeping positions 12 times per night, unless you want to wake up 12 times per night this is absolutely something to consider. However, not something that I really need to highlight as I am sure most have dealt with this first hand at one point or another.

 

Breathability:

A commonly overlooked factor is the mattress breathability.

When it comes to breathability the first thing most people consider is body temperature regulation, something that can greatly dictate your sleep quality. A mattress that does not breath will play havoc with your body temperature as you just get warmer and warmer throughout the night making it difficult for your body to regulate your temperature.

Beyond temperature control mattresses and pillows can become a petri dish of bacteria if they do not breath. As we discussed in our previous post, the bedrooms air quality has been estimated to be 16 times worse that the rest of the house, this is something you need to consider.

Breathability as you can imagine is even more important when it comes to your pillow, as your face is in direct contact with it. Plus with the moisture created during a deep sleep drool you better make sure your pillow doesn’t absorb that moisture. If your mattress or pillow doesn’t have technology to breathe you will restrict your body’s temperature. If it doesn’t breath it will collect and grow bacteria and mould, leading to endless the health and performance concerns

 

Pillow

Once you got the mattress the pillow is the next key consideration. Most of the points highlighted above for the mattress will also apply to your pillow selection

The pillow is extremely important when it comes to a good night’s sleep. I am sure many of us at one point or another have faced the effect of a bad nights sleep on a pillow that doesn’t match your needs.

 

Support: Cervical spine alignments

Pillow height is everything! The last thing you want is a pillow / pillows that crank your head up too high and out of alignment. You probably also want to avoid the opposite with your head dropping to low. You want a pillow that supports and promotes alignment in the neck.

If you place your arm under your pillow is a sign that your pillow is not high enough to support your neck, this is not a good sign as you move around in the night.

 

Mattress & Pillow Recommendation

Time for a change in set up?

Look no further than ECOSA!

After doing my research and doing the painful store to store testing. I choose to go with ECOSA and I have now been on my new mattress and pillows for just over a month. I could not recommend anything better that ticks all the boxes I look for in a good mattress and pillow set up. For years I have struggled to find a mattress I could recommend but the ECOSA is a mattress and pillow that is designed for the masses that offers so much adjustability to suit all sleeping styles and body types.

Let’s discuss some of my favorite features:

Trial period: 100 nights! Plus if you return it you get your money back and it gets sent to Salvation Army. This significantly more nights than most stores. Plus they come with 15 year warranty.

Mattress Firmness: No longer the need to stress over what firmness works for you. It has 3 levels of firmness to shift between. This offers great interchangeability as your body evolves. Plus a great chance to identify your prefered firmness to match your sleeping style, keeping your spine aligned.

Adjustable Pillow: Just like adjustability in mattress so does the pillow as comes with 3 height adjustable levels to suit every sleep position and body type.

Partner Disturbance: None! it is amazing if you go online you will see videos of people jumping on it with full wine glasses stacked on top not even falling with the impact. Plus even if it did spill it is waterproof!

Breathability: The ECOSA mattress and pillows have extra cool layers and built-in air circulation system that allow free flowing air, keeping you from getting too hot. Not only is it breathable but has activated charcoal to absorb moisture, that is a feature highlight of mine!

Waterproof lining: German micro-filament technology keeping the mattress waterproof and dust mite-free. Not only is it breathable but it is waterproof so that it protects against any build up of sweat, oils or moisture that can cause mold.

No Base, No Problem: Built to work with any base even floor so what you put the mattress on is up to you.

Cost: With all these features you are most likely preparing yourself for a big price point. Well that is one of the best features of all. Due to no storefront overheads etc they are able to bring a mattress to your door significantly cheaper than any store. Plus if your prefer interest free payment/finance option, they offer them as well!

Free Delivery: Yup it comes in a box and they deliver it to your door for FREE! As it is in a box no difficulty getting it up stairs or through doorways just roll it in and around on its wheels.

                  

If you don’t believe me the reviews on their website say it all with close to 8000, 5 Star Reviews and if that is not enough try it for 100 nights yourself and you will be convinced and stoked as I am.

 

Air Quality & Sleep

Air quality is too often looked, yet it is such a vital component when it comes to health. As we have stated previously anything that affects your health will affect your ability to sleep well.

Toxic Mold

If your home is not well ventilated, it can be a breeding ground for mold, leading to poor air quality. Mold is the silent killer that is not getting enough attention. It is making more people weak, fat, and tired than ever before. It is largely invisible and can have a huge impact on your energy and stress levels, not to mention how long you’ll live.

Symptoms of Mold Exposure & Mold Poisoning:

Fatigue + Weakness + Aches + Muscle Cramps + Unusual Pain + Ice Pick Pain + Headache + Light Sensitivity + Red Eyes + Blurred Vision + Tearing + Sinus Problems + Cough + Shortness of Breath + Abdominal Pain + Diarrhea + Joint Pain + Morning Stiffness + Memory Issues + Focus/Concentration Issues + Word Recollection Issues + Decreased Learning of New Knowledge + Confusion + Disorientation + Skin Sensitivity + Mood Swings + Appetite Swings + Sweats (especially night sweats) + Temperature Regulation or Dysregulation Problems + Excessive Thirst + Increased Urination + Static Shocks + Numbness + Tingling + Vertigo + Metallic Taste + Tremors

Exposure to mold and it effects are more common than you may realise. Dampness and mold exposures ranges from 18% to 50% in buildings. The bad news doesn’t stop there sadly, in America over 25% (could assume similar numbers in NZ) of people are believed to carry the HLA-DRBQ gene. This gene promotes hypersensitivity towards mold. Essentially there bodies are unable to recognise mold as a toxin to eliminate it and instead they store the toxic mold within their bodies.

Mold toxins are lipophilic, in other words, their molecular structure is made up of fatty acid molecules. As the brain is the fattiest organ (60% fat) the mold toxins migrate and cross the blood brain barrier and deposit themselves within the brain. Once mold toxins enter the brain, they start to destroy neurons,  they can alter hormone production, and eventually this can lead to many chronic health issues including:

  • Autoimmune Diseases
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Hashimoto’s Disease
  • Graves Disease
  • Scleroderma
  • Sjogren’s Syndrome
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Heart Disease
  • ADD/ADHD and more

 

Air Quality & Sleep:

Now that you have some background around mold and air quality, lets discuss how air quality can be affecting your sleep.

You spend ⅓ of your life in your bedroom, therefore bad air quality in the bedroom is a recipe for disaster! Some stats suggest that exposure to poor air quality can be 16 time higher in some people bedrooms. Poor air quality affects sleep and as a result has been shown to impact next day cognitive performance and increase perceived feelings of poor concentration and increased sleepiness. In rooms with poor circulating air comes and increased moisture and the development of bacteria and mold will not only impact your sleep but may cause a whole host of serious health concerns.

Want to Learn More:

Dave Asprey from Bulletproof, is a leader in this space after struggling personally with mold intoxication. He is leading the charge globally and highlighting the impact of mold on individuals health.  He has developed a lot of content around mold including a documentary on toxic mold (Moldy Movie), and even discusses the topic it in his book Headstrong.

Naturally cleanse the Air

Plants

Beyond toxic mold removal there are a few other ways to improve air quality within your bedroom. Research at NASA has found that a number of house plants go beyond just looking good, they actually possess the ability to double as a natural air purifiers. Improving air quality by absorbing and filtering out toxic agents from our indoor air. The NASA study listed a number of plants that have beneficial effects for air purification including Aloe vera, English Ivy and Sansevieria trifasciata (commonly known as Mother-in-Law’s Tongue). I personally own the Mother-in-Law’s Tongue due to it being very low maintenance and have found it extremely powerful.

  

Ever wondered why you sleep better in nature  especially if you are close to water?

Water, air, sunlight and the earth’s inherent radiation produce what is called negative ions (oxygen molecule charged with an extra electron). These negatively charged ions are most prevalent in a natural place particularly around moving water (waterfalls, ocean, thunderstorms etc). The taste and feeling of that “Fresh Air” when near a beach, waterfall or storm is your body receiving and influx in the beneficial negative ions.

Negative ions are good but positive ions are not and the most dangerous levels of harmful positive ions occur in the polluted, large industrial and heavily populated cities. Exhaust fumes from cars, trucks and buses, factory smoke, cigarette smoke, dust and soot, electromagnetic pollution and overall atmospheric pollution caused by air and sea crafts; all act to develop a mixture of harmful positive ions. In doing so reduce the production of the beneficial negative ions in our surroundings and subsequently affecting our overall health, lungs and may be the cause of general lack of energy and depression.

 

Strategies

Prevent, Identify & Repair

Prevent:

  • Avoid moist environments that lack airflow (stuffy environments). As these environments act as the perfect breeding ground for toxic mold.
  • Avoid Water Damaged Buildings:

Water soaked buildings are the perfect breeding ground for toxic mold. You should want to avoid living, working or attending school in any building that have been damaged by water whether from a flood, broken pipes, condensation, or water leaks of any kind. Signs would include; Water stains on walls and ceilings & a funky smell

  • Allow natural airflow as much as possible, sleep with window open as has been shown to greatly impact air quality.
  • Live close to nature, obviously where possible.
  • Get some nature into your bedroom, add some natural air purifying plants such as: Aloe vera, English Ivy, & Sansevieria trifasciata (commonly known as Mother-in-Law’s Tongue)
  • Remove any condensation 
  • Purify and Negatively ionise your air within your bedroom and home with a Ioniser

 

  • Identify:

  • Ensure you have no leaks or mold present in your house.

Check baseboards, ceilings, and walls in your home, office, and school frequently looking for soft spots, stains, or other signs of water damage. If you have any serious concerns or even just for peace of mind get the building inspected by a professional. Additionally, ensure you have a properly installed AC or HVAC system especially in hot humid climates as this can be a red flag and could make the problem worse.

  • Take the Test: The Biotoxin Test can help determine if you are affected by mold. Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker developed a formula to determine if you are presenting with the symptoms associated with exposure to toxic mold.

 

Repair:

  • Outsource: If testing deems your house to have mold. Remove yourself from the environment & work with a remediation specialist to develop a cleanup plan. You don’t want to skip corners on this.

Hopefully in reading this I have been able to shed some light on the invisible killer that doesn’t get enough attention. This is something I have dealt with personally and was ignorant to the impact it played as I became sicker and sicker as the mold grew thicker and thicker. It is not something you avoid and hope it goes away you need to take action otherwise you will end up with serious health concerns. Just watch the moldy movie for some good case studies.

Potent Sleep Affecting Potions  

Let’s discuss key drinks that are detrimental towards your sleep. You will probably be aware of the two drinks we will discuss, but our goal is to inform you of HOW they affect you and then give strategies that will allow you to enjoy them without compromising your sleep.

Caffeine:

Caffeine is the most widely used drug in the World. Approximately 90% of Americans consume caffeine in one form or another, every single day. It is a stimulant that is often utilised to mitigate the effects of bad sleep as it blocks the sleep-inducing chemicals (eg. Adenosine) in the brain. Normally, adenosine would accumulate throughout the day and is then reduced when you are at sleep and your body regenerates. Adenosine affects chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) in the brain including dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine and noradrenaline. Caffeine has a similar molecular structure to adenosine and competes with the adenosine receptors in the brain, and if caffeine is present it will always beat adenosine to the binding site. As a result it blocks adenosine from carrying out its effects and causes the reverse effects to occur. So instead of feeling tired, you now feel energised and alert. The caffeine is acting to mask the natural sleepiness you may have had.

Caffeine is well established with a wide range of positive benefits and is probably one of the most widely studied stimulants, if not the most studied. There is no debating its benefits. However, we must keep in mind that it is a stimulant, and while it can be beneficial in some 

instances, if we rely on stimulates then they can greatly affect us long term. Many people today are hooked on this drug and require it daily to function. This in itself is a negative cycle as the caffeine is probably what is reducing your sleep and then you require more caffeine the next day to work and concentrate which becomes a vicious cycle.

When it comes to sleep, it is important to consider the effects caffeine has on your circadian rhythm. Habitual caffeine intake has been shown to affect sleep quality, increased daytime dysfunction, and increased levels of night-time disturbance. One study showed that caffeine abstinence significantly lengthened sleep duration and improved sleep quality. In fact they showed that individuals had less difficulty falling asleep on days when they drank decaffeinated coffee.  

Strategy Bedtime and Caffeine:

I am not saying give up coffee or go ‘cold turkey’, but try stay clear of caffeine ~6 hrs before bedtime. The closer you ingest caffeine to bed the greater the impact on your sleep quality. This rule is not only for coffee but also includes your teas (kombucha included). Select a sleep enhancing tea like chamomile or rooibos as they are caffeine free. Caffeine is not necessarily stopping you from getting to sleep but it is affecting your quality of sleep! Keep in mind everyone has varied ability to metabolise caffeine. This can be tested through genetic testing like 23andme. Even if you are a quick metaboliser I would still not be having it much closer than 6 hours before sleep!

Some new research done here in New Zealand will be looking at two genes involved in caffeine metabolism. These genes are; CYP1A2 (determines how quickly you break down drugs in your liver) and the ADORA2A (role in caffeine induced anxiety). Knowing what your genetic description of these two genes are will give you information on how fast or slow you metabolise/breakdown caffeine and your sensitivity to caffeine. This will allow you to tailor your caffeine intake to your genetic makeup to get the greatest effects for your work and performance. The research in genetics and caffeine is new but is a growing field of science and one that holds a lot of potential for high performers. If you want to become apart of this study I can link you with the researches to see if you meet their requirements.

Coffee Detox

Yup I said the dreaded words detox! If you are heavily reliant on your morning cup of Joe it may be time to say goodbye!

As I mentioned above you should never be reliant on a stimulant, if you are you are, then you are most likely not functioning at your full potential. You are also not getting the caffeine hit you used to love. As with any stimulant abuse or addiction, we end up with a resistance to the initial level we were providing our body. Gradually over time we have to ingest more and more of the stimulate in order to achieve the same response.

The best thing you can do for yourself in this case is have a coffee break, with the aim of removing coffee for 1-2 weeks. Caution if you are regularly having 3+cups per day, I suggest gradually cutting down before detox. Caffeine is addictive, going cold turkey could be to big a shock on the system. The first few days will be hard, trust me! You will get mind numbing headaches, you may lack motivation and energy but stick it out! By the end of the two weeks you will be asking yourself why I didn’t do this sooner. You will no longer be held hostage by your morning coffee, instead you will already be full of energy and ready to go. Now when you require that extra boost of energy coffee will be there to help, but you will receive the full effects of your coffee! (Learn more: OPTIMISE YOUR COFFEE BREAK)

 

Alcohol:

Is it time for a night cap?

Nothing better than relaxing post work and getting that extra bit of help to fall asleep, right?

In fact, 20% of all Americans would agree (American Sleep Foundation), and think that alcohol is beneficial for sleep. While it has been shown to get you you to sleep quicker, what is it doing to the quality of your sleep?

Did you know you get smarter as you sleep this is due to your bodies ability to process memories. This is where short term memories get transferred into long term memories. Memory processing is predominantly affected by varying stages of REM sleep. If you are getting optimal sleep then all is well, but if your sleep is disrupted your health and memories will suffer.

 

Don’t mistake sleep quantity for sleep quality

Alcohol does get you to sleep faster but at the cost of reducing your REM sleep. With alcohol in your system you won’t be able to fall into deep consistent levels of REM sleep, therefore your brain and body will lack the ability to fully regenerate and to process memories. Hence, the feeling you have when you wake up from a alcohol ladened sleep.

 

Strategies for Alcohol and Sleep:

I am not here to say give up the bottle, although it would be extremely powerful for your health, longevity and performance if you did…. Instead I want to make you aware of what is occurring in your body when you choose to drink and hopefully help guide you through the times you choose to drink.

While I have just previously said you don’t have to give up the bottle,  if you are utilising alcohol in a similar manner to a caffeine (daily or most days) then I would say the same principles apply. In this case: it is time for a detox! You will often find it is not so much about the drink itself instead it is more the habit you need to break. When undergoing a detox it is therefore essential that you find another winding down method to fill this time. Any of the methods mentioned in our previous post around mental and emotional stress are great strategies that could be utilised.

Aim not to drink within a few hours before bed and stay hydrated with electrolytes to combat the electrolyte imbalance as your body retains sodium and expels potassium created with drinking.

 

Key takeaways:

  • Caffeine and Alcohol both affect sleep quality not necessarily sleep quantity
  • If you are reliant on a stimulant like caffeine or alcohol it is time for a detox
  • People poses varied abilities to metabolise caffeine based on their genetics (watch this space in science)
  • Don’t drink Caffeine with 6 hours before sleep
  • Don’t drink Alcohol few hours before sleep and stay hydrated and maintain electrolyte balance

 

What is Impacting your Sleep

In the previous article we discussed the mechanisms and the impact that stress can have on your sleep. In the next couple of articles we will discuss what the key stressors in your life are and how they impacting your sleep.

 

  • Mental & Emotional:

Mental and emotional stress is the most common stressor, so it makes sense to start here. This is a common issue when trying to get to sleep, especially if you are a ‘Worrier’ or you are a A-Type personality who is always on the go and unable to sit still.  I like to call this group “tired and wired”. When they lie down at night their minds are wired with endless thoughts with an inability to shut these down (this used to be me…) making it extremely difficult to get to sleep.

But did you know, this is more than just the cognitive load keeping you awake, there is an associated hormonal response. Towards the end of our previous post we discussed the stress related increase in cortisol and how it is preventing the secretion of your sleep hormone melatonin (the inverse relationship discussed in stressed out about sleep)

Strategies to overcome emotional and mental stress:

Implement a 1 hour cut off of all technology before sleep. Instead replace the time on your mobile device with a down regulation technique. Some examples include:

  • Mindfulness Practice: I use Headspace a guided practice
  • Breathing Practice: My favorite downregulation technique: Breath in for 4 sec – Hold 7 sec – Exhale for 8 sec and repeat as many cycles as needed
  • Mediation Practice: Find a technique that works for you
  • Light exercise: Yoga / Mobility / Walking
  • Exposure to Nature & Grounding: Get outside away from light where possible
  • Read a book: Leasure reading, Non cognitive or stimulating
  • Cold Shower the effect on decreasing body temperature increases the parasympathetic nervous system encouraging you to relax.

 

  1. Exercise:

Sleep is the best performance hack for physical performance, so don’t compromise your sleep for training. However the timing of this training does matter.

Exercise can cause a potent circadian shift, almost to an equivalent level of bright lights.

Strategies to use exercise to encourage sleep:

Including some form of light exercise (eg. 10-45 min) prior to breakfast to really help to kick start your day. A tip is to keep it relatively short and not too intense as you may wish to avoid amplifying the natural elevation in cortisol that occurs in the morning. Something like yoga, mobility, walk, recovery session are perfect options, for an added benefit try linking this session with exposure to natural light (sun) to improve awakeness. Simply put get outside early and move. Where possible try leave your longers volume based sessions for the early afternoon. Sessions (up to 2.5 hours long) between 2:00-6:00 pm at 50-80% VO2max can drastically improve sleep. The most positive 

effects have been seen within a 4-8hr window prior to bedtime. If you have a short 30 min high intensity session (85–90% of max HR to exhaustion) save this for 3-4 hrs before bed as it can actually result in better sleep, increased sleep efficiency and lower sleep latency.

Obviously lifestyle demands and work schedules don’t allow us to truly match up our training to ideal times, instead most people will squeeze in their training wherever possible. However, hopefully by arming you with this knowledge, it can help guide your training schedule to optimise your sleep quality. 

 

 

  1. Fueling your Sleep (Nutrition & Snacking):

 Increased body mass index (BMI) has been linked to short sleep duration. In one study, the researchers sought to identify why this effect of BMI and sleep occurred. The results indicated that shorter sleep duration decreased Leptin (the appetite suppressing hormone secreted by adipose/fat tissue) and increased Ghrelin (appetite stimulating hormone secreted from the stomach). These results provide evidence that sleep quality has a part to play with increased BMI. So lack of sleep can be increasing your hunger and be increasing your BMI, so your change in body weight may not be fully due to a lack of willpower but triggered by a hormonal responses.

Let’s get to know our hormonal responses:

Note: This is a little more technical for the science geeks like me, who want to understand the physiological mechanisms at play.

In the evening, leptin is released from your fat stores, well that is if your circadian rhythm is not dysregulated. This hormone is important as it controls any late night food cravings you may experience. Anything that throws your circadian rhythm off eg. exposure to blue light or an excessively big meal (spiking that insulin response) can limit your bodies ability to produce leptin. Another key hormone; adiponectin also tends to rise during this time and assists with fatty-acid metabolism and breakdown. 

High levels of insulin have been shown to dampen adiponectin production. Constantly high circulating levels of insulin from a high calorie evening meal or lack of activity in the late afternoon or early evening, can suppress your night time fatty acid utilisation. Then around 10 pm a protein called agouti peaks, it appears to act in similar fashion to ghrelin and can stimulate your appetite. That is unless leptin is there to mitigate the effects and keep hunger at bay. Constant snacking from sunset to bedtime promotes an elevated blood glucose response and inturn high insulin levels which causes a subsequent suppression in leptin and inability to counteract the effects of agouti protein.

Normally at midnight, your melatonin peaks and that’s when leptin is able to enter an area of the brain called the hypothalamus, or  the ‘god-father’ of the endocrine system. The hypothalamus is a key regulator of all metabolic processes and therefore has a role in weight-control or fat-loss. Leptin can interact with the hypothalamus, as a result of this interaction signals are sent from the hypothalamus to the thyroid and an increase in thyroid hormones is observed. The increase in thyroid hormone activity induces a change in your mitochondria (intracellular powerhouses) to produce heat, this is important as our body’s core temperature drops throughout the night. In a healthy individual this would mobilise and burn fat stores to maintain a set point of warmth.

 

Why are we fat?

You are probably starting to see the vicious cycle of poor sleep; there is fat gain and night time cravings. It all seemingly stems from hormonal responses, and once you understand these physiological mechanisms it becomes a lot easier to combat and overcome.

In this discussion gut health can not be forgotten, as obviously poor gut health can be a key contributor to stress. An, interesting fact we now know is that 90% of your feel good neurotransmitter, serotonin is produced in the gut.  This is just another reason to prioritise your gut health. The Pineal Gland is located near center of the brain and is also known as the ‘third eye’ due to the organs ability to sense light. It was named due to the shape and size of the gland as it resemble a Pine Nut and secretes melatonin. However, it has now been discovered that 400 x more melatonin is produced in the gut. Even if your pineal gland is removed, your body is still able to maintain the same levels of melatonin. So it is key to ensure you have optimal gut bacterial balance and should avoid damaging your gut in any way to ensure optimal sleep.

Strategies based on the timing of eating to improve sleep quality:

When looking at the evidence, further research is required but my interpretation and what I practice personally is to ditch the carbohydrates, or at least minimise them especially your highly processed carbohydrates (i.e. your high sugar high GI foods). Shift your diet towards higher fat which will nourish and stabilise your hormones resulting in less spikes and crashes in insulin and energy which will inturn improve circadian rhythm and your sleep and help keep your cravings at bay. (for more information around high fat diet all last month was focused around this area with 8 blog posts to help you gain a greater understanding)

I need to snack options!

As mentioned we want to limit snacks especially on carbohydrates in the evening. Incidentally, if you need something there are many great options, such as coconut oil, MCT oil, nut butters, seeds and nuts. Even fructose from a source such as raw honey in moderation will not actually spike insulin significantly and would be an acceptable evening calorie source.

 

Summary

Hopefully loaded with new information about lifestyle stressors will allow you to become more aware of the factors in your life that will be impacting your sleep. Being able to identify what is a key stressor in your life is critical to improving sleep and will allow you to select and implement the right strategy. There will always be an individual approach and may require some trial and error until you find the strategy that works best for you.

 

Key takeaways:

  • Develop Evening Routine that removes technology 1hr before bed that involves a downegulation technique in replacement
  • Develop Morning Routine light movement 10-45min (Yoga, Mobility, walk) with sun exposure
  • Schedule Longer Training Sessions (up to 2.5 hours long) between 2:00-6:00 pm at 50-80% VO2max
  • No Snacking Before Bed to maintain hormone balance but if required select High Fat sources eg coconut oil, MCT oil, nut butters, raw honey, seeds and nuts

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