“Sleep is the ultimate performance enhancing drug with only positive side effects.”
– Arianna Huffington
In 2007, Editor in Chief Arianna Huffington fainted while working in her office. When she passed out, her head slammed on her desk breaking her cheekbone and resulting in the need for five stitches in the area surrounding her eye.
Attributing her faint and injuries to a lack of sleep she proclaimed herself a “sleep evangelist”. Here are some points she covered in a recent post:
The effects of poor sleep can be devastating to your health and wellbeing. It can shorten your life and make you more prone to serious disease processes.
As you read this article more than 1/3 of American’s are getting less than 6 hours of sleep each night. Compare that to just over 1/10 back in 1942.
There are Approximately 60 million prescriptions for sleep medications each year.
Quote and points via https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/big-idea-2016-sleep-revolution-allow-us-better-solve-huffington
Sleepless in America? Check out These Stats!
Here are a few sobering stats from the highly acclaimed documentary “Sleepless in America,” recently featured on the National Geographic Channel:
People who don’t get enough sleep are:
- 20% increased mortality
- 27% higher rate of Obesity
- More Likely to become carb-addicted and to
- Consume 500 more calories per day
- A 30-40% reduction in Glucose Metabolism
- 62% increased risk of Breast Cancer
- 48% increased risk of Heart Disease
- 5X higher risk of Diabetes
- 3X increased risk of suffering from a Cold because of decreased Immunity
- 4X greater risk of Stroke
- 5X increased risk suffering from clinical Depression
- Impairment of the brain’s ability to remove toxins related to Alzheimer’s development
Sleep deprivation can impair your driving:
- 100,000 car accidents per year
- 1,500 car accident related deaths
- 71,000 auto injuries
- $12.5 billion in accident related money losses
Sleep Statistics from Sleepless in America. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.mhealthtalk.com/sleep-statistics-sleepless-america
Sleep Deprivation is Like Alchohol Intoxication:
According to research cited in the same documentary, driving while sleep deprived can be like driving drunk, with 5 hours sleep reportedly equaling a whopping 5% blood-alcohol level!
And sleep deprivation is not just hurting peoples’ health, wellbeing and driving safety. It’s also likely one of the most critical sources of workplace accidents, errors, absenteeism and general workplace under-performance.
According to the Washington Post, the typical employee loses the equivalent of eleven days of productivity every year because of insomnia. Can you imagine the direct and indirect costs of those kinds of numbers?
In fact, insurance giant Aetna may be setting the stage for the next best-practice trend in corporate wellness by actually paying their employees to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night.
The real key to falling asleep faster and deeper each and every night is practicing good sleep hygiene. Here are 9 powerful sleep science hacks you can start applying for a better sleep starting tonight!
#1 -Try a Glass Milked-at-Night Cow’s Milk (at night)
You’ve probably heard or tried the folk sleep-remedy of taking a warm glass of milk at night right?
Well, recent research shows that milk that’s been milked from cows at nighttime has much higher levels of sleep-accelerating tryptophan and nearly 10X the amount of sleep-inducing melatonin.
Other foods that are high in drowsiness-enhancing melatonin include:
- White & black mustard,
- sunflower seeds,
2 #- Instant-Relaxation Breathing:
One of the biggest reasons for sleep difficulty is the bodies stress response.
Want a near-instant all-natural tranquilizer, one with none of the nasty side effects associated with many of prescription sleep aids: like habituation, morning grogginess, or worse physical and psychological addiction?
According to many sleep and stress management experts, this incredibly easy to learn breathing exercise can help you turn on your body’s complete relaxation response in as little as 60 seconds.
Developed by leading health and wellness expert Dr. Andrew Weil, “The 4-7-8 Breathing Method” can be done at home at work or just about anywhere and at any time a you need to relax fast.
It’s a great way to help you fall asleep quicker and deeper. It’s also a powerful, fast-acting stress management tool that can be used strategically throughout your day. For example, try it before your next public speaking event or presentation or before discussing hot-button issues with your partner, your boss or a coworker.
The 4-7-8 Breathing Method: A Quick Study Guide:
- It’s best when first learning this breathing exercise to sit with a straight
- Point the tip of your tongue tightly up against the ball-like structure at the top of your two front teeth.
- When exhaling push the air out around your tongue and past your lips (or you can purse your lips)
- Make a steady “whoosh” sound as you completely exhale (emptying your lungs of air) through your mouth.
- For a mental count of 4 seconds inhale deeply but quietly through your nose (with your mouth closed).
- For a count of 7 seconds, hold your breath (some people find this challenging at first but get much better with a bit of practice).
- For a count of 8 seconds, make a complete exhalation, again through your mouth with tongue placed up behind and just above your front teeth
- You’ve now completed one cycle of 4-7-8 Relaxing Breathing – also known as one breath. Repeat this breathing cycle three more times for a total of 4 breath cycles.
Adapted from: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART00521/three-breathing-exercises.html
#3- Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)
Do you want to experience a genuinely profound state of pre-sleep, deep-relaxation?
Replace your stress response with your complete relaxation response by learning and doing Progressive Muscle Relaxation or PMR for short, each night before you go to sleep.
PMR is a science proven insomnia-buster that significantly reduces stress and anxiety, high blood pressure and even takes the edge off chronic pain.
Developed by Edmond Jacobson in the 1930’s, PMR is based on the idea that psychological relaxation results from the physical relaxation of your body, primarily through the release of muscle tension.
PMR is also a perfect synergistic complement to the 4-7-8 breathing exercise described earlier. You might want to start with the breathing exercise and then move on to PMR. Another suggestion would be to set aside time earlier in the day to practice PMR until you get a clear sense of how it works. You can then integrated PMR into your daily pre-sleep routine.
Although it often takes 10-20 minutes of practice at first to become deeply relaxed through PMR, your goal is to make scanning your body for muscle tension and then quickly releasing it, an over-learned almost automatic response. You’ll then be able to self-invoke increasingly deeper levels of relaxation in just minutes.
PMR works by combining diaphragmatic breathing with the brief tensing and releasing of different muscles starting with your feet (i.e. curling your toes to tense then release) followed by the various muscles in your legs, abdomen, chest, arms, hands and face. Here’s how you do PMR step by step:
PMR Quick Study Guide:
- Start by inhaling deeply, filling your belly and then lungs from the bottom up with air. How should you breathe? In through your nose and out through your mouth with pursed lips (or using the 4-7-8 strategy of placing the tip of your tongue at the just above the back of your front teeth)?
- As you inhale, tense or contract the first muscle group (i.e. curl your toes to create muscle tension in your feet and gently (don’t over tense) hold that muscle tension for 5-10 seconds:
- Exhale fully and quickly through your mouth while at the same time quickly releasing the muscle you were tensing or flexing.
- Take 10-20 seconds to allow a state of relaxation to flow into each muscle after you release its tension and then move onto the next muscle group (i.e. after your feet, flex your calves, as you move upwards through each muscle type).
- During the tension-release/quick-exhale step, focus your attention entirely on what it feels like for the muscle to become deeply relaxed as you release the tension and the seconds that follow.
- Slowly move from your feet, tensing and relaxing each muscle up to and through your legs, torso arms, hands, and finishing off by tensing and releasing your facial muscles.
Adapted from: http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/muscle-relaxation-for-stress-insomnia
#4 – Count Backward from 300 by 3’s
This tip is a personal practice developed by sleep expert and clinical psychologist Michael Breus, Ph.D.
He counts backward from three hundred by sets of three reporting that it’s so mathematically challenging it makes thinking of anything else virtually impossible. It’s also so “boring,” he says, that it puts him to sleep super-fast.
300, 297, 294… zzz
#5 – Try to Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol Hours Before Sleep
Not only is caffeine physically addictive but it’s super available in so many forms. From coffee, to wake up pills, to soft drinks and so-called energy drinks, caffeine is everywhere.
As a stimulant when caffeine is active in your system it’s very likely going get in the way of your getting a good night’s sleep.
According to the “Sleep Geek” Pete Bils of Sleep Number Mattress fame, caffeine can stay active in your system for more than 10 hours after you consume it. At the very least caffeine should not be taken at least 4-6 hours before bedtime.
Alcohol and Sleep also Don’t Mix:
The idea that having a glass of wine before bed can help you sleep is actually a sleep-interfering myth. Sure it may help you fall asleep at first because it starts out acting as central nervous system depressant.
Just a few hours later though, as alcohol is processed by your body, it begins to serve as a stimulant that can result in poor sleep quality. It may be best to avoid alcohol at least a few hours before bedtime.
A Quick Note for Smokers: Nicotine also acts as a stimulant so as a first step to quitting smoking, it’s a good idea gradually reduce the smoking each day starting with the 2-3 hours before bedtime.
#6 – Turn off Your Electronics 1 Hour Before Bed
One of the most important factors in getting a good night’s sleep every night is to increase your exposure to bright (and especially natural) light in the morning soon after you wake up and gradually reducing your light exposure levels as bedtime approaches.
Why? Because light exposure levels play a significant role in setting and regulating your body’s circadian rhythm – your brain’s biological sleep clock.
For example, significantly reducing light exposure as bedtime approaches triggers the brain to produce its own sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Increased light exposure, on the other hand, suppresses the body’s natural sleep drive.
People don’t realize it, but pre-sleep overexposure to artificial light from smartphones, computers, TV screens, and even light bulbs signal the brain that it’s still time to be awake and alert.
Put simply: It’s an excellent idea to turn off your light bearing electronics and other artificial light sources at least an hour before bed whenever possible. At the very least it’s important to try and reduce excess light exposure levels by turning off unneeded lights and reducing screen brightness levels.
#7- Build a Sleep-Enabling Environment and Routine
According to the sleep experts at Harvard Medical School, It’s important to transform your bedroom or sleeping area into a cool, quiet and dark sleep-sanctuary.
You also want to make the transition from full wakefulness to falling into a deep, restorative sleep as quick and as relaxing as possible. Here’s a list of helpful sleep science hacks from Harvard you can start applying today for a better night’s sleep:
Avoid stressors before bedtime (i.e. work related activities, discussing hot-button issues with family members, etc.). Stressful activities cause the body to produce and secrete the long-acting stress hormone cortisol.
- If worrying or stressful problems are stopping you from falling asleep, it can really help to write them down (outside of your bedroom of course) in a journal that can be placed in a drawer to be intentionally forgotten until the next day.
- Use earplugs or white noise to reduce exposure to sounds that interfere with your sleep.
- Too much light coming into your sleep sanctuary? Try an eye mask or heavy curtains.
- Keep your bedroom sleep temperature at around 60-74 degrees °F and make sure there’s good
- Ensure that your mattress and pillows are seriously comfortable and be aware that on average mattress need to be replaced every ten years.
- It’s recommended to use your bedroom for sleep and healthy sexual activity only.
- Make your sleep bedroom an electronics-free zone. This will help reinforce the psychological association of your sleep sanctuary and actual sleeping.
- Try some light, stress-free reading an hour or so before bedtime.
- Taking a nice warm bath before bed can help you become drowsy by increasing then decrease in your body temperature.
- Do some relaxation exercises (i.e. Relaxing Breathing and PMR)
#8- Get Regular Exercise Earlier in the Day
Regular exercise is an essential ingredient in the recipe for a great night’s sleep. But It’s important to avoid strenuous exercise in the hours before you go to bed.
Why? Because vigorous, late day through evening exercise can be a major sleep disruptor. It causes your body to produce and secrete more of that brain-stimulating stress hormone cortisol.
Poorly managed cortisol can have a devastating effect not only on sleep quality and quantity but on how your body regulates blood sugar, metabolizes carbs, recovers from other physical and emotional stressors not to mention compromising healthy immune response.
#9 – Talk to Your Doctor if Sleep Problems Persist
Are you unable to get a great night sleep despite trying these great sleep science hacks?
Are you having more severe problems getting to sleep or staying asleep throughout the night? Do you feel super exhausted throughout the day despite seemingly having slept all night?
If so, it’s crucial for you to talk to your family Dr. asap as you could be suffering from a more severe medically or psychologically based sleep disorder such as sleep apnea or clinical depression.
Although many of the great sleep hacks presented here may be helpful, you might need more specialized expert diagnosis and treatment as well, to help you get a fantastic night’s sleep.
Super-Bonus Tip – Help your family friends, coaching/fitness clients and employees dramatically enhance their:
- Metabolic function,
- Immune function,
- Hormone balance,
- Hunger management,
- Disease prevention,
- Sports performance,
- Accident avoidance,
- Reaction time,
- Good judgment,
- Surgery recovery,
- Happiness Levels
- and over 100 additional functions and behaviors:
Earn the Cutting-Edge “Certified Sleep Science Coach” Credential! Training is 100% online, it’s surprisingly affordable and can be completed in just weeks!