Dr. Matt Walker, a neurologist and sleep expert once said, “It took the Star Wars franchise 40 years to amass $4 billion dollars. It took Ambien 40 weeks.” What he is alluding to is the desperate need of the modern members of society for meaningful sleep. Although things like Ambien have been shown to be terrible for long-term health, the promise of a simple pill that could help someone fall asleep quickly and stay asleep is too great an allure.
Sleep science is new and hasn’t broken through into the modern consciousness yet. This is partly because the solutions that top neurologists offer sleep-deprived individuals are often entirely counter-productive to the layout of the average American’s day. While there’s no excuse for the individual who has looked at the science and determined it is irreconcilable with their lifestyle, there are many who don’t know which keys unlock the gate of sleep. Buy comfortable mattresses and beds with the latest Overstock coupon code to experience peaceful sleep.
Here are the most important things you should know.
1: Avoid caffeine, carbs, and other nutrients that keep you awake.
Caffeine has a half-life of 6 hours and a quarter-life of 12. That means 50% of the caffeine in a twenty-ounce cup of coffee consumed at 2 pm will still be energizing you at 8 pm during sundown. At 11 pm there will still be a third of the caffeine in your bloodstream from a 2 pm cup of coffee. Carbs, on the other hand, must be absorbed into your cells for use or convert into a storage form before meaningful sleep can be achieved. This is deeply impeded by the inability to secrete insulin after the sun goes down. The solution, no sun = no food, any carbs you eat after sundown will continue to circulate in your blood, causing responses and inflammation in the immune system. On a side note, they’ll also increase your inflammation levels – making it harder to go to sleep through the night for other reasons.
2: Light is a trigger of circadian rhythms.
Circadian rhythms are the biological signals that our body has aligned with the solar clock/24-hour day-night cycle. The main trigger for this is light. It causes us to wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night. We have attuned ourselves over millennia uncountable to live in the rhythm of the day-night cycle and we cannot change this fact. Modern life has made us live apart from the natural world but such a distance has also created a host of problems for us.
Receptors in our eyeballs called rhodopsin, detect light spectrums. In the early morning, the light of the sun coming over the horizon is on the far side of the blue spectrum of light. Blue light is energizing and causes our brain to activate all of the necessary genes and pathways for wakefulness, energy, and alertness. During the evening as the sun goes down, the brain begins to secrete melatonin as it begins to perceive the orange side of the light spectrum. Orange light tells our brain the sun is going down and it’s time for bed.
The difficulty here is that computer and cell phone screens, as well as LED and other cool-white lightbulbs all sit on the blue light side of the spectrum – energizing our brains during the very hours when we need them to start shutting down. The solution, download blue light filters on all your devices, turn off all the lights in your house except for orange lights after sundown, and be prepared to go to sleep between 9-10.
3: Live like a hunter-gatherer.
If you really want to improve your sleep cycle, you have to understand that your modern life is to be forfeited. Part of maximizing sleep is reconnecting with normal human behaviors i.e. going out in the sun, exercising, and going to sleep after nightfall. Japanese researchers found that tryptophan concentrations in the nighttime saliva of people who spent 4-6 hours in the sun and did moderate exercise twice during the day were immensely higher than those who did not do those things. Tryptophan is an amino acid that your body uses to create melatonin – the sleep hormone and is concentrated in protein-rich food sources as well as bananas.
Tryptophan is part of why people feel sleepy after eating turkey (most of the reason is people stuff themselves on Thanksgiving). You should live in your house with as much attempt to replicate traditional human life as possible. Go to bed when it’s dark, don’t eat or use screens after sundown, wake up as soon as the sun becomes strong and birds begin singing (opening your windows will help with that). Make sure it’s a bit cold in the room where you sleep (cold temperature is a sleep-trigger) and undertake several exercise periods in a day (even if that’s a 15 minutes vigorous walk). Tire yourself out during the day, and you’ll be more likely to fall into a deep sleep at night.