I’ve uttered this phrase. You probably have too.
Not getting 8 hours of sleep? You should start. In a recent podcast interview with Peter Attia, MD and Matthew Walker, PhD they discuss over a three part series just about everything when it comes to sleep. Matthew Walker is the author of “Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams.”
You can also follow him on twitter where he has tons of tips and data to help you sleep better and deeper:
Want to greatly reduce your risk of cancer, Alzheimers, dementia, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, low energy, and much more? Then you should REALLY consider getting 8 hours of sleep.
Sleep and mental illness are also very closely intertwined. For people struggling with depression, anxiety, and other mental illness, it’s likely that sleep has also been affected. As they discussed, this is likely in a bidirectional manner, too. Lack of sleep leads to higher anxiety, and higher anxiety typically leads to worse sleep.
From personal experience, when I get < 8 hours of sleep, or if it is broken up due to the neighbors dog barking, or loud people, or a multitude of other factors, I will 100% be more anxious during that day and of course, more tired.
This is why I think it is so important to make sure to keep our sleep as consistent as possible in terms of our evening winding down routine and to control what we can control. We can’t control the noisy neighbors or dogs or random alarms that go off at 2:33 am. What we CAN control are our habits prior to going to sleep.
Each of us likely has a different guilty pleasure before going to sleep which could be hindering our depth and length of sleep. Here are a couple:
Blue light + electronics before bed:
I tend to read on my phone or scroll on instagram before bed which not only keeps me awake longer from the blue light but also keeps me up later, sometimes as much as 30-45 minutes which significantly cuts down on my time asleep. This also applies to TV. I know a lot of people have a TV in their room and it’s how they wind down, however, if you are struggling with sleep, it may be time to switch up this habit. What’s more important, living longer and healthier, or catching one show?
- Solution: Leave your phone outside your bedroom or at the other side of the bedroom and get a $15 alarm clock from amazon. This is the one I use: https://www.amazon.com/Travelwey-Home-Digital-Alarm-Clock/dp/B01CEGW56O/ref=sr_1_5?crid=1HULSAGI2DWA9&keywords=alarm+clock&qid=1571603737&sprefix=alarm+clock%2Caps%2C241&sr=8-5
If you are drinking that beloved afternoon caffeine this could be causing you to not sleep as deeply. Caffeine blocks the adenosine receptors which are required to help you fall asleep. Instead of adenosine binding to these receptos, caffeine does, which prevents us from feeling sleepy.
- Solution: limit your caffeine consumption to 12 hours before bed.
As much as I love having an ice cold beer or some wine an hour or so before bed, it ain’t great for sleep. While alcohol and THC will help individuals fall asleep faster (in some cases) you end up not reaching the same depth of sleep. The deep sleep component of sleep is where we experience more of our memory solidifying from the day prior.
- Solution: limit alcohol consumption to 3-4 hours before bed, not 1-2 hours before.
Have you ever felt incredibly HOT after a large meal? I’m talking about physically sweating and feeling a bit uncomfortable — usually after eating an entire pizza. I love a great meal, however try to…
- Solution: limit a large meal to 3 hours prior to bed as food is calories and calories is heat energy. It’s harder to fall asleep if your core body temp is elevated.
As nice as it is to be in a cozy room, it’s not great for staying asleep as we’ll often wake up in a sweat. I am very temperature sensitive and I always love when winter comes around (in California) as my room will be a perfect temperature (mid 60’s) to help keep me asleep for longer.
- Solution: Use A/c, open windows, get a fan, use lighter sheets, or checkout a chili pad:
Americans are only getting 6.25 hours of sleep on average which is a large reduction from what it used to be just two decades ago. In order to function at our highest possible level, 8 hours is recommended.
From an evolutionary standpoint, sleep seems to be very disadvantageous. If we were sleeping back before we had shelter, this made us very susceptible to predators (so sleep could get us eaten). For our species to survive mother nature must have a VERY GOOD reason for keeping sleep as a core portion of our life.
If you want to greatly greatly greatly reduce your risk of Alzheimers, mental illness, and a host of other diseases, START OPTIMIZING YOUR LIFE AROUND SLEEP, not the other way around.