Let’s Talk About Sleep

I love sleep.  As far as I’m concerned: the more quality the sleep, the better.

The reality is, if I don’t get enough good sleep, I feel sluggish, look run down and my mind isn’t as sharp.

Not to mention that my mood could be compromised (irritable, anxious, etc.) and I might also make less-than-ideal nutritional choices which ends up with me being in more of an overall wellness deficit.

Sleep quantity is different for everyone, but my personal sweet spot is between seven to eight hours.

While everyone has their unique preference and/or set point for the ideal amount of sleep, there is objective scientific research and studies that have shown that not enough sleep and rest results in a lack of the body’s ability to heal and rejuvenate, as well as create bodily inflammation.

And while this post isn’t about inflammation, let’s just go with the understanding that inflammation is not good.

As I get older and more dedicated to building habits for quality longevity, what I am finding is that my relationship with sleep is not going to remain consistent throughout my lifetime.

I would have considered myself a very solid sleeper for about 40 years (and believe me, I tried not to take it for granted), but the relationship between sleep and I have been very up and down the past few years.

Whether it’s waking up in the middle of the night / very early morning or not being able to sleep past a certain time in the morning (even when I would want and have ample time to), the quality of my day would definitely be dependent on the quality and quantity of sleep from the previous night.

I suspect that a drastic change in my nutrition a little while ago, as well as hormonal changes, were the impetus of the change in my sleep habits.

It’s now become about constant adjustments to figure out how to maintain better health through nutrition, movement, self-care and other means, but to also find the right balance to provide the right internal and external conditions for ideal sleep.

I intend for this particular post to be an organic list of resources that I come across in regards to sleep, and also specifically to share what has been helpful for me… in case it might of help for you.

Also, if you have any suggestions not mentioned here, please reach out and share.  I’m always looking for new tips and insights.

The following are a description of my current sleep hygiene routine, as well as things I would like to try in the future or have tried:
• I limit blue light exposure (from electrical devices such as computers, mobile devices, television) at least one hour from the time I intend to go to sleep.
• Yes, I also wear those dorky-looking blue light blocking glasses later into the evening.  btw: They are not as dorky as they used to be!
• I make sure that there is as little light in the bedroom as possible.  There are those who create complete darkness by not having anything like alarm clocks or other devices that emit light in the room, but I don’t know that I will ever go to those extremes.
• I wear an eye mask to block out most light, but I have yet to find one that completely blocks light out that is comfortable enough to wear while sleeping and also doesn’t shift during the night.
• I have tried to use the Apple Watch to track sleep quality using an app like AutoSleep, but I do find the watch bulky and distracting to wear to sleep.  I’ve considered Bellabeat (can be worn as a clip), but I have my eye on the Oura Ring.
• I have a cup of dissolved Calm in warm water with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar approximately an hour before sleep.  Calm is a magnesium supplement, and apple cider vinegar (ACV) has often be cited as helping to calm the nervous system.  ACV is often suggested to be paired with honey as a sleep tonic, but as I am a low carber, the honey is not something I have added to my pre-sleep beverage (yet).
• I am currently experimenting with taking either a cold or warm shower before bed to influence core body temperature.  My current thinking is that the cold shower jolts me into wakefulness, while a warm shower feels more conducive to winding down for the night.
• The temperature in the sleep area is kept at the warmest 19 degrees C.  I have come across information that’s actually on the high end of what the bedroom temperature should be.
TEMPERATURE UPDATE: In writing this post, I decided to experiment with setting the room to a cooler temperature for sleep: 17 degrees C.  The first few nights at this cooler temperature have produced longer and restful sleeps.
• While I do not currently use a sleep app to fall asleep, I have used Pzizz in the past which I found useful. Since my issue isn’t really falling asleep, having an app such as Pzizz (binaural beats, music and running – hypnosis-based? – narrative) running as I am falling asleep can be distracting.
• I would like to find a good solution for sound blocking or control.  Ear plugs or having something else on my head in addition to the sleep mask feels like too much.  Have not yet experimented with some kind or noise cancelling or white noise machine.
SOUND CONTROL UPDATE: I downloaded a white noise track and have it playing on repeat on one of my devices. Still too early to know if there’s any benefits from it, but I was not woken up this morning by the early morning construction that is a constant in the area that I live.  I will be sure to report back after a few more nights using the white noise track!
• It turns out that I’m pretty fussy about optimal physical comfort for sleep.  Whether it’s what I have on my head, too bulky watch on my wrist, or sleep wear without cuffs on the legs or arms, for me at least, it has be a very right and specific balance.
• I am fortunate that I do not require an alarm clock to wake up, so it’s my belief that I wake naturally at the most optimal time in my sleep cycle.  But it might also be unfortunate in that it tends to be at the same time regardless of whether I feel like I would like to sleep some more or if I had fallen asleep a later than anticipated the night before.  If waking up is something I had difficulties with, the sunrise simulation clock would be something I would try.
• I am currently thinking about maintaining a consistent circadian rhythm and I have started to start my day with some gentle movement work in front of a blue light lamp.

Wow, now that I read back on all that, it appears not only do I love sleep, I take it very seriously, or at least I’ve put some intentional time and effort into improvements.

Here are a few further readings on sleep:

1) Your sleep environment matters.
Science Direct: A review of the environmental parameters necessary for an optimal sleep environment

2) Your hormones could be messing with your sleep.

The Dawn Phenomenon – T2D 8

3) Lack of quality sleep can have psychological implications.
American Psychological Association: Why sleep is important

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