Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Engineering the Perfect Night's Sleep

I have read many articles on sleep hygiene in search for the illusive good night's rest. Note that I said, I have read them, not tried them all... But that is about to change. Now, in my mid- to-early forties, I have decided that my sleep is very important to me. Currently working as a health care data analyst, a bad night of tossing and turning can really take it's toll on my ability to perform my job. Staring at a computer all day is tough enough, but crunching numbers, writing computer code and staring at endless reports, debugging code and trouble shooting are all very difficult tasks to do when you are foggy from a restless night. I first told you about my sleeplessness here. Where I decided to start using an app to track my sleep and then try different things to see what impact they may or may not have on my sleep and sleep quality.

I am a reader, an endless seeker of knowledge and learning. Many times, I read something just so I know the answers I seek, because I don't like not knowing something. One of the many books I have read over the years was the Four Hour Body, by Tim Ferris.

Without going into a thorough analysis of his book, or his methods, for this post, I am primarily interested in what he has to say about sleep.

His recommendations include:

Taking 200 micrograms (mcg) of huperzine-A 30 minutes before bed: to :increase total REM sleep
Don’t drink more than two glasses of wine within four hours of sleep: Drinking more than two glasses of wine within four hours of sleep decreases your deep sleep. This is not news to me, we have known for some time that alcohol reduces the amount of quality sleep we get, even if it does make it easier to fall asleep. I am not a drinker in the first place, so this is an easy one for me.
Taking 15+ drops of California Poppy extract: to increase deep wave sleep up to 20%
Eat two tablespoons of organic almond butter on celery sticks before bed: to avoid nighttime low blood sugar. This one is something easy to live with and not so experimental, what could be bad about adding some almond butter and celery do my diet? However, I am looking for something a little bit more promising than a full belly at bedtime to help me sleep, I will save this one for later too.
One to two tablespoons of flaxseed oil (120-240 calories) also to avoid nighttime blood sugar dips. This one is going to add healthy Omega 3 to my diet and help keep my blood sugar steady throughout the night, but, again, I am looking for something just a little bit more drastic. Desperate times call for desperate measures and I want some sleep! This is another one I can save for later, when I am fine tuning my glorious new sleep habit when I find it.

  • Do a single session of Tim’s Pre-Hab Testing from the “Pre-Hab” chapter in the Four Hour Body. Following is a quick breakdown of the four exercises and recommendations:
  • Chop down to left knee x 6-12 reps
  • lift up to the right knee 6-12 reps
  • 5 TGU one side (16-kg kettlebell)
  • 5 TGU one side (24-kg kettlebell)
  • 5 reps single side
  • 10 reps

Huperzine A is a moss. It is reproduces through spores. It has been used in Chinese folk medicine for many years to relax the muscles, improve blood circulation and for the treatment of rheumatism, bruises, swelling and even schizophrenia. Numerous clinical trials have been conducted for its efficacy in treatments of alzheimer's disease. There is no real evidence to support its use, however, its potential for alzheimers and other central nervous system disorders has been studied. While I AM searching for a decent night of sleep on a continual basis, I don't feel that I need to do anything so drastic just yet.... I think I will try some other less dramatic, or at least less questionable things to improve my sleep/sleep quality.

California poppy has been used for many years by native Americans for toothache and colic. It is supposed to reduce tension and give a sense of calm. It acts as a sedative and is considered less addictive than the opium poppy. Once again, there is insufficient evidence to support its use for anxiety,insomnia, aches, bedwetting, diseases of the bladder and liver, and other conditions.California poppy appears to be safe for most people when taken appropriately by mouth for three months or less. There isn't enough information to know if California poppy is safe for long-term use. While I feel a little more comfortable with this than the Huperzine A, I think I will still pass on it for now, there are still many things I can do before taking an experimental approach. 

What is next Tim Ferris? Give me something to help me sleep already!

Getting to Sleep: In addition to the sleep optimization ideas above, Tim also recommends the following sleep hygiene thoughts:
Sleep Temperature: Ah, this is one of my things. Tim Recommends starting at 65 degrees and moving your thermostat between 65 degrees as your low point and never going above 70. If you can’t control ambient temperature use socks of different thicknesses to tweak heat loss. Too bad, I already know about this one, nothing new for me, I like my room at a cool 65 degrees. Next!
Eat a large  Fat and Protein Dominated meal within 3 hours of bed time: Tim says that consumed within 3 hours of getting to sleep at least 800 milligrams of cholesterol (four or more large whole eggs) and 40 grams of protein.  Tim recommends eating two 3/4 of a pound rib eye steaks 3 hours before bed. This sounds a bit excessive to me! I am not trying to get fat, I am trying to sleep. While I do know that if I try to sleep when I am hungry, I am going to have a long night, and maybe some protein and fat before bed is a good thing to keep your belly quiet when you are trying to sleep, I am not ready to eat an entire cow and chicken before I go to bed. I think I would rather stick with the celery and almond butter...
Use of light cues: Tim recommends using light therapy in the morning.Used as a replacement for coffee first thing in the morning. 15 minutes pointing about 30 degrees off center angle, light therapy can make you more awake and aware. I have used a "happy lamp" before, but I am not convinced it will help me sleep, nor keep me awake after a sleepless night.
Incorporate Iso-Lateral resistance training (one arm or one leg):
1. Chop and Lift:
image thumb2 How to get 8 Hours of sleep in just Four Hours!
2. Turkish Get Up:
image thumb3 How to get 8 Hours of sleep in just Four Hours!
3. Cross-Body One Arm Single Leg Deadlift
image thumb4 How to get 8 Hours of sleep in just Four Hours!
4. Full Range Squat
image thumb5 How to get 8 Hours of sleep in just Four Hours!

Easy enough to accomplish for sure, and I am looking to lose 50 pounds this year, but once again, this is not the life altering or sleep altering thing I am looking for. Can't hurt to add it to my bedtime routine, if I had one. I will take a look at this in the future, to fine tune my sleep once I find it. 

Take a cold bath one hour prior to bed: Um...... NO, need I say I more? I like to take a nice hot bath before I go to bed, it relaxes me, it gets the knots out of my muscles from sitting at a desk all day, the lavender epsom salts seem to sooth my mind and my body, there is no way I am taking an ice bath instead!
Use an Ultrasonic Humidifier: This seems logical, cool air, decongesting mist, I don't really think this one is life altering either.
Use a Nightwave Pulse Light, (a slow-pulsing light the size of a cigarette pack), According to their website:NightWave silently guides you in a pre-sleep relaxation session in the privacy of your own bedroom. It’s like having your own personal sleep coach.
NightWave projects a soft light into your darkened bedroom. The “luminance” of the light slowly rises and falls. You lie with eyes open and synchronize your breathing with the wave of soft light as its movement becomes slower and slower. After a short time, NightWave shuts off and you roll over and fall asleep. And unlike sound machines, the soft light does not disturb others. 
Hmm, that sounds easy enough. I have seen an app in Google Play that reportedly does the same thing, maybe I will give this one a try. 

F.lux (http://stereopsis.com/flux) According to their website, Computer screens, tablets and mobile phones emit full spectrum light around the clock, it is well documented that blue light at the wrong time of day can keep you awake later and interfere with your quality of sleep. (Actually, now that I think about it, my sleep problems probably started around the same year I got the internet..)f.lux tries to help this by removing blue and green light to help you wind down in the evenings.
The Zeo Personal Sleep Coach (www.fourhourbody.com/zeo) Brad Feld’s favorite sleep device. The Zeo uses a headband that measures electrical patterns generated in the brain and can wake you at a point of elevated brain activity. It was the only recording device that offered usable data and that consistently reduced grogginess.
I think this is interesting, I am very interested in bio feedback, which is what this kind of reminds me of. A little on the expensive side as a first measure. I am going to wait it out on this one, there truly has to be something that I can do that is a little more accessible and will work.
So, there we have it, Tim Ferris's four hour body recommendations for sleep. 
As I sit here writing this, its already past 11pm, my best bedtime is at 10. My screen is kind of an orange color, the color the F.lux has made it, it certainly feels easier on my eyes, guess we will see how it does at helping me sleep, or at least at not making my sleep worse. 

To Read more about Tim Ferris' The Four Hour Body Plan



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