Part of a series of Blogs and Podcasts to help you transform your life, so you can feel Healthier, Happier and Stronger.
Do you want to sleep like a baby? then read on! A good night sleep is the most important factor in having fantastic energy levels, being mentally sharp and having a productive day. It might be surprising to you, that sleep is so important for your wellbeing and future health, as most people think it's exercise and what you eat. But to really feel and perform your best, you absolutely need to get proper restorative, deep sleep.
Sleep deprivation has been linked to a host of negative health outcomes, such as obesity, glucose intolerance, diabetes, anxiety, cardiovascular disease, increased alcohol consumption and other disease mortality. We have all experienced the effects that a night, tossing and turning can have on athletic performance, overall mood and cognition. About 25 years ago I went through a period of not getting any sleep for a period of 2 weeks. I ended up getting full blown Pneumonia. Felt awful. Was put on antibiotics. It happened during a period, where I had to make a life changing decision. So you can imagine I was under a lot of stress. Nowadays, I get around 6,5-7,5 hours of good quality sleep every 24 hour period. It's important to me, I'll say it again: it's as important as your fitness and diet. It hasn't always been that way, I'm generally a light sleeper and can go through periods where I wake up after an hours sleep and then have disturbed sleep until I have to get up. My quest for better sleep has been ongoing for the past 30 years. I used to sleep only 5 hours per night, and the quality of sleep was poor. I was totally overworked and almost burned out after doing crazy hours running my clinic's. Working hours reached, at their worst, nearly 70 per week. But since my own transformation to better health, I have made changes, that have had major impacts on my quality of sleep.
There are lots of supplements, devices, bio-hacks, etc. that you can use to coax your body into falling asleep faster or to increase your deep sleep (some of which I use myself and will share with you), but there are no magic bullets out there, that will, on their own, solve your sleep deprivation. If there where, you would probably have heard of them. In this blog I'm going to focus on 6 simple hacks that should serve as the foundation to just about anybody's sleep protocol.
So how do you master your sleep?
It's not rocket science to master your sleep hygiene. It's actually quite simple. It can be summarised as follows:
MORNING SUN - get early morning sunshine during a walk for 10-15 minutes every day.
10 - No caffeine for 10 hours prior to sleep.
3 - No food or drink for 3 hours prior to sleep. Apart from water.
2 - No work for 2 hours prior to sleep
1 - No screen time for 1 hour prior to sleep.
0 - No hitting the snooze button.
Yoga Nidra - 15-30 minutes before sleep or during the day, few times a week.
When you stay up late at night and then get up late, you may not feel like all systems are functioning properly; they probably aren’t. You may be out of rhythm, and need a reset. A feeling also experienced during "Jet-lag" and night-shift work. When the body is expecting bright light and instead is exposed to dimness or darkness, its' attempts to resynchronise can cause cloudy thinking, fatigue, and even more destructive damage to the psyche and physiology. The power of the morning sun will be your most important tool and will help you to resynchronise your rhythms. 10-15 minutes of bright morning sunlight, during a walk, could be enough to confer significant benefits. Even on a cloudy day, the sun produces enough photons to reap positive results.
Circadian rhythms are variations in physiology, (as regulators for all metabolic processes (2) such as hormonal activity, sleeping and waking in all living tissues, (3) etc., and not least behaviour, that persist with a cycle length close to, but not exactly, 24 hours. It is necessary to synchronise the rhythms on a regular basis to maintain them, and such synchronisation is achieved through regular exposure to light and darkness.(1) This is also known as “resetting the biological clock.”
As the circadian rhythms are vital for normal bodily functions, a desynchronised rhythm can be detrimental to your health. Numerous research papers have demonstrated that. It can lead to premature ageing.(4). It can cause changes to important protein structures that play an important role in cancer and heart disease protection.(5)(6)(7). A link is also seen in poor dental hygiene and dental caries, that's increased by desynchronised circadian rhythms.
So as you can see, sunlight can, and should, be the trigger that resets the circadian clock daily; it is the timing cue, which entrains the physiologies of humans and thereby helps to prevent critical illness.(9),(10).
Should you take extra melatonin to help you sleep? When you are exposed to sunlight or very bright artificial light in the morning, your nocturnal melatonin production will occur sooner, normally around 16 hours after bright light exposure, and you will enter into sleep more easily at night. Melatonin production also shows a seasonal variation relative to the availability of light, with the hormone produced for a longer period in the winter than in the summer. Getting exposed to early morning sunshine, will help to advance the melatonin production and has been shown to be effective against insomnia, premenstrual syndrome, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
You might ask, if you should take melatonin as a supplement to help you sleep. As melatonin is a hormone, and it's main purpose is to delay the onset of puberty in teenagers, you should only take it with caution (discuss it first with your medical doctor, if you decide to take melatonin as a sleeping aid) and only take it for a short periods of time. I have myself supplemented, for short periods of time, over the years without much help. The things that made a huge difference, in my case, was regular early morning sunshine during a walk and following the 10-3-2-1-0 rule, listed above.
!0 hours. No caffeine for 10 hours prior to sleep.
Limit your intake of caffeine containing substances to the early part of the day. Coffee and certain teas, guarana, yerba mate and even decaf coffee all contain caffeine. There is an abundance of research, which you'll discover below, that shows caffeine intake, even several hours before bedtime, can affect the quality of your sleep.
Around 70% of people consume caffeine, mostly as coffee and tea, in the evening, even though evidence tell us that costuming 2 cups of coffee (containing 200mg of caffeine) 6 hours prior to sleep can reduce your sleep quality.(11).(12),(13). and increases the time it takes you to fall asleep. So stick to the 10 hour window, as it will address the equation, as caffeine sensitivity varies from person to person based on genes, age, and personal experiences. So if you are one of those who have trouble sleeping, you should consider full-day abstinence.
3 hours. No food or drink for 3 hours prior to sleep. Apart from water.
Meal timing, and dinner timing specifically, may play a crucial role in determining sleep quality for the night ahead. Research has shown that limiting food intake close to bedtime can assist in fat oxidation and increase the amount of slow-wave sleep.(14). There is also evidence, that sleep deprivation can also alter appetite-regulating hormones and increase caloric intake. So less sleep can cause you to eat more. It can be a vicious cycle. As your body tries to get in as many calories as possible, it sends out more signals that affect hormones such as ghrelin (produced by the stomach and will increase appetite) and leptin (produced by fat cells in the small intestine, that helps regulate energy balance by inhibiting hunger, which in turn diminishes fat storage.) This can create cravings for more food the next day. If this cycle continues for long enough, it can eventually lead to obesity.(15).
2 hours. No work for 2 hours prior to sleep.
Do you find it difficult in switching off at night from work? You're not alone. Due to technological advances, we're more contactable than ever. Though some people find it easy to leave work mode the minute they leave the office, many of us struggle. With the widespread use of screen technology, our smartphone is only a fingertip away. Many people scroll through their emails and social media platforms late at night.
Other problems pertaining to job and your sleep can be seen in night shift workers (16). They are constantly fighting against the circadian clock and that's not a good thing. They can suffer from attention deficit, fatigue and sleep disorders more frequently. (17). If you are working long hours or having multiple jobs, you can also jeopardise your sleep.(18).
The following tips will help, regardless of your job situation:
Turn off notifications on your phone.
Put your phone into airplane mode late at night.
Separate work and personal email as much as possible.
Set a time to step away from work every day.
It's important to switch off for a few hours prior to bed time if you want quality sleep. I have used Yoga Nidra for mindfulness, a form of meditation, which can be found on You Tube. Prof. Andrew Huberman a Neurobiologist from Stanford University, introduced me to this form of mindfulness, No skills are needed and 15 -30 minutes prior to bed or just used a few times a week during the day is often enough to help you better your sleep hygiene.
1 hour. No screen time 1 hour prior to bed.
In my opinion, the 1 hour rule is probably one of the most important ones. It's all about intensity of the light, screen's emit when used. Computers, tablets and mobile phones all emit a higher light intensity than television. As you are further away from the screen. The intensity of the light has negative effect on melatonin secretion and delay your circadian rhythm. The type of content, watched on a screen, also has an effect, a psychological effect. Too much violence and excitement can increase your heart rate and thereby disturbing your sleep. The opposite is preferential.
There is also some evidence that blue light, emitted from screens in the evening and at night, has a negative effect on your sleep hygiene. Blue light has a short wavelength, and is a stress factor. it's a positive stress factor in the morning, as it "wakes up the physiological and psychological systems in your body. It increases cortisol, a stress hormone, that tells your body to get active. You do not want that effect, before bedtime.
0 hours. No hitting the snooze button.
Not hitting the snooze button in the morning is not to be underestimated. The strength of your first morning routine and sticking to it, will set you op for the day and days to come. The first small victory of the day. This will often lead to, that the rest of the day will be more victorious and productive.
Every time you hit the snooze button and dose of to sleep again, you disturb the restorative REM stage, which is the cycle you are in prior to wakening. Out of bed and then get some morning sun!
Gadgets and supplements.
There are numerous sleep trackers on the market to choose from. I find that the Oura ring produces the most detailed information. ( I'm not paid to say this). It is very satisfactory to see how ones lifestyle affects ones sleep hygiene.
I do not take melatonin to help me sleep, I try to aid my body in self-production by my actions during the day ie, by following these steps in this blog. Occasionally I will take two supplements; L-teanin 200 and magnesium L-threonate. They will help my frontal cortex to relax, as it elevates GABA together with SEROTONIN and DOPAMINE, brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that have a calming affect on my brain, thereby aiding my sleep. I am not a medical doctor, so I do not prescribe. If you decide to take these supplements, discuss it first with your medical doctor.
Other resources from Morten:
heavencanwait.life - helping you in transforming your life, so you also can feel HEALTHIER, HAPPIER AND STRONGER.
wolffclinic.dk - Musculoskeletal health.
wolffseminars.com - Seminars for chiropractors, physiotherapists and osteopaths.
Let me know what you think
Do you have a friend who would benefit from this information?
Please forward this to them!
Health, Happiness and Strength
(1) Duffy J, Cziesler C, Effect of Light on Human Circadian Physiology. Sleep Med Clin. 2009 June; 4(2): 165–177.
(2) Mitchell MI, Engelbrecht AM. Circadian Rhythms and Breast Cancer: The Role of Per2 in Doxorubicin-Induced Cell Death. J Toxicol. 2015;2015:392360.
(4) Grosbellet E, Zahn S, Arrivé M, Dumont S, Gourmelen S, Pévet P, Challet E, Criscuolo F. Circadian desynchronization triggers premature cellular aging in a diurnal rodent. FASEB J. 2015 Aug 10. pii: fj.14-266817. [Epub ahead of print]
(5) Mitchell MI, Engelbrecht AM. Circadian Rhythms and Breast Cancer: The Role of Per2 in Doxorubicin-Induced Cell Death. J Toxicol. 2015;2015:392360.
(6) Vignesh Shanmugam, Amro Wafi, Nawaf Al-Taweel and Dietrich Büsselberg. Disruptions of circadian rhythm. Increase the risk of cancer, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. Journal of Local and Global Health Science, 2013:3.
(7) Bratsun DA, Merkuriev DV, Zakharov AP, Pismen LM. Multiscale modeling of tumor growth induced by circadian rhythm disruption in epithelial tissue. J Biol Phys. 2015 Aug 21. [Epub ahead of print]
(8) Lundgren AM, Öhrn K, Jönsson B. Do adolescents who are night owls have a higher risk of dental caries? – a case-control study. Int J Dent Hyg. 2015 Jul 22. doi: 10.1111/idh.12165. [Epub ahead of print]
(9) Remi J. Humans Entrain to Sunlight – Impact of Social Jet Lag on Disease and Implications for Critical Illness. Curr Pharm Des. 2015;21(24):3431-7.
(10) Hasegawa Y, Arita M. Circadian clocks optimally adapt to sunlight for reliable synchronization. J R Soc Interface. 2013 Dec 18;11(92):20131018.
(11) Christopher Drake, Ph.D., F.A.A.S.M, et al., Caffeine Effects on Sleep Taken 0, 3, or 6 Hours before Going to Bed. J Clin Sleep Med. 2013 Nov 15; 9(11); 1195-1200. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.3170
(12) Timothy Roehrs, Thomas Roth, Caffeine: Sleep and daytime sleepiness, Sleep Medicine Reviews (2008) 12, 153–162.
(14) Lopes TVC, Borba ME, Lopes RVC, Fisberg RM, Paim SL, Teodoro VV, Zimberg IZ, Crispim CA. Eating late negatively affects sleep pattern and apnea severity in individuals with sleep apnea. J Clin Sleep Med. 2019;15(3):383–392.
(16) Anna Korompeli RN, BSc, MPH, PhD, et al. Sleep Disturbance in Nursing Personnel Working Shifts. Nursing Forum 2013 Feb 05: 45-53. dos.org/10.1111/nuf.12005.
(18) Helen R. Marucci-Wellman, David A. Lombardi & Joanna L. Willetts, Working multiple jobs over a day or a week: Short- term effects on sleep duration, Chronobiology International, 33:6, 630-649, DOI: 10.3109/07420528.2016.1167717