Welcome to the next chapter of “Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health & Life”, in which I’m going to give you everything you need to know to get better sleep, eliminate insomnia, beat jet lag and master the nap.
I’ll begin by answering a question I get quite often: how much do you sleep?
I personally sleep 7.5-9 hours per day for every 24 hour day cycle, usually in the form of 7-8 hours of nightly sleep and a 20-60 minute nap. For every 24 hour cycle that I hit this targeted amount of sleep, my workouts are better, my heart rate is well tuned, my nerves are sharp and my creativity and memory are through the roof.
This may seem like a lot of sleep to you. But sleep is pretty darn important. And 99.99% of the time, if someone is telling you they need “less sleep than the average person”, they’re lying to you or lying to themselves.
Even successful celebrities and athletes who don’t sleep very much (AKA “the sleepless elite”), like Barack Obama, Dean Karnazes, Martha Stewart or Donald Trump – all people who claim to sleep only 4-5 hours a night – are probably giving up something somewhere else in their lives or their health to achieve those relatively lowly amounts of shut-eye.
Somewhere in their life (for reasons you’re about to learn) creativity or memory is suffering.
Somewhere in their body, inflammation is running rampant.
Somewhere in a muscle or brain cell, regeneration is not being allowed to happen.
This is the kind of biological damage you create when you don’t sleep enough, especially when you combine lack of sleep with high amounts of physical or mental activity.
In this chapter, I’m going to show you what a normal sleep rhythm looks like, how much sleep you really need and give you 2 reasons why you’ll die if you don’t sleep, 4 biohacks to get better sleep, 7 supplements to help you sleep better, 10 ways to master the nap, the top 5 ways to track your sleep, 5 strategies to eliminate insomnia, and 5 tips to beat jet lag.
Two Reasons Why If You Don’t Sleep, You Will Die
That’s right, if you don’t sleep you will die.
Or, as I believe I heard Paleo author Robb Wolf put it at one time: “If you want to kill someone quickly, take away their sleep.”
OK, so this may be a slight over-exaggeration. After all, nearly every one of us has pulled an all nighter at least once in our lives. Although it can be an unpleasant experience, you can nearly 100% recover from one lost night of sleep with one single night of a solid 8-9 hours of sleep.
But cumulative sleep loss is a different story altogether.
In one study, sleep researchers constructed a cruel contraption that would wake up rats as soon as they fell asleep. Using this contraption, it took an average of 3 weeks to kill a rat by sleep deprivation. Other studies (17) have shown demonstrable brain damage in sleep-deprived rats, primarily due to a severe lack of neurogenesis (regrowth or rebuilding of new brain neurons) from rampant levels of sleep-deprivation induced cortisol.
While sleep deprivation is a well-known form of torture for rats, researchers could not for ethical reasons reproduce these studies in humans. But by looking at sleep disorders, we can get a pretty clear idea of what happens when you don’t sleep enough.
For example, death occurs within a few months in humans who have fatal familial insomnia, a mutation which causes the affected person to suffer from a progressively worsening insomnia that ends in death within a few months (1). Morvan’s syndrome is another example of how lack of sleep causes death, and in this case, an autoimmune disease destroys the brain’s potassium channels – which leads to severe insomnia and death (12).
Because of it’s ability to cause high blood pressure and heart disease, each year sleep disorders add $16 billion to national health-care costs. And that does not include accidents and lost productivity at work, which in America alone costs us $150 billion each year in higher stress and reduced workplace productivity (21).
Think of the disasters at Three Mile Island. Chernobyl. The gas leak at Bhopal. The Zeebrugge disaster. The Exxon Valdez oil spill. Go do your research. You’ll find that these and many other major industrial disasters have been directly linked to sleep deprivation.
So why is sleep deprivation fatal?
It’s primarily because sleep deprivation is very similar to speeding up the process of dying of old age. There are two primary reasons for this:
1) your brain cleans up cellular garbage when you sleep;
2) your body repairs itself while you sleep.
Let’s look at the first reason why if you don’t sleep you will die – the need to clean up cellular garbage.
One of the most important functions of sleep is the re-organization of neural networks in your brain. All day long – even on the most boring day possible – you are consciously or subconsciously learning new things, memorizing facts or task processes, acquiring skills, setting new memories through creative associations, meeting new people, etc. After a long day of these wake-time activities, your brain is full of all these disorganized pieces of information that need to be integrated with other things you have learned on other days earlier in your life life.
If this re-organization isn’t allowed to occur, then your mind simply becomes a chaotic storehouse for cellular garbage, and you literally run out of space to store new memories. Once this happens, it affects nearly all functions of your body that are governed by your central nervous system, and your body begins to malfunction.
These malfunctions typically manifest in:
-problems with heat or cold regulation…
-a decline in immune function…
-an increase in cortisol, catecholamines, and other stress hormones…
-imbalances in appetite and blood sugar regulating hormones…
-increased levels of inflammatory hormones such as interleukin and C-reactive protein…
In later stages of sleep deprivation, you experience malnutrition, hallucinations, malfunction of your autonomic nervous system (e.g. heart arrhythmias, kidney and liver function, etc.), changes in cell adhesion and cell clotting abilities, skin lesions and DNA damage (13). So that’s the first reason why you die a slow death if you don’t sleep: your body basically falls apart.
This is why it can be so freaking hard to do a run, bike, swim, WOD, or race when you’re sleep deprived – much less make it through a day of mentally or physically demanding work. Your body is full of inflammation, hormone imbalances and blood sugar dysregulation, and operating well below peak mental and physical capability. Unfortunately, many people live most of their adult lives this way, thinking it is completely normal to feel like a waking zombie.
It’s very important that you understand the fix for this is not simply “an easy day” or a period of time spent “getting your feet up”. Unlike rest or conservation of energy, the mechanics of neural repair require your brain to be shut off entirely from environmental input – which means you must actually be sleeping for the repair magic to happen.
The second reason you’ll die if you don’t sleep is because sleep is the primarily anabolic state of the human body.
During nighttime sleep, you experience an increase in growth hormone and testosterone – two crucial muscle repairing hormones which also significantly affect your neural growth and the way you feel during the day. One study describes these nighttime hormonal surges as playing a “crucial role in consolidating and enhancing waking experience”. And it’s why you feel so damn good after a solid night of sleep (6). It’s also why your body can take 2-3 times longer to repair and recovery from physical exercise when you’re not sleeping.
Not only do your muscles get a chance to fully repair and recover when you’re sleeping, but the same can be said for the restoration of your adrenal glands, the detoxification of your body by your liver, and the rebuilding of your immune system. As a matter of fact, one of the leading causes of death in those rats who underwent sleep deprivation was opportunistic bacterial infections caused by a decline in immune function.
So when you don’t sleep enough, your body is in a continuous, hormonally depleted catabolic state that gets sicker and sicker.
And this is why I shake my head and laugh at people who brag about their low levels of sleep. They’re shrinking their brains, shrinking their muscles, and making themselves sick.
Now I’m not saying you need to be like professional Ironman triathlete Andy Potts and sleep 11 hours a day (although for the extent to which he beats his body up in training he may indeed need that much sleep), but you most likely need to prioritize your sleep more than our overachieving, productivity-obsessed pop culture would have you to believe.
How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?
So how much sleep do you really need?
This is a big can of worms. Because of age, genetics, environment, and individual differences in daily physical and mental strain, there can be a huge variation in ideal sleep times.
The National Sleep Foundation (10) has established some pretty good guidelines (shown below) based on their up-to-date sleep research.
If you’re reading this book, you probably fall into that laster category: adults. And in most adults, sleeping fewer than 7 hours per night is associated with decreased alertness and increased risk for chronic disease, while sleep more than 9 hours per night is also associated with a shorter life and higher risk of chronic disease.
That’s right: more sleep is not necessarily better.
However, if you’re reading this book, you’re probably not a 100% normal adult, and you probably have a higher than normal level of physical activity preparing for or completing triathlons, marathons, Crossfit workouts, cycling tours, ocean swims or other feats of physical endurance.
Go ahead and click on the infographic below and zoom in. It’s entitled “Why Pro Athletes Sleep 12 Hours A Day”.
Just in case you missed it, allow me to highlight a few of the quotes from the graphic:
Usain Bolt, the faster sprinter on the planet, says: “sleep is extremely important to me – I need to rest and recover in order for the training I do to be absorbed by my body.”
Roger Federer, professional tennis player, says, “If I don’t sleep 11 to 12 hours a day, it’s not right.”
Steve Nash, one of the world’s best basketball point guards, says, “For me, sleeping well could mean the difference between putting up 30 points and living with 15.”
Jarrod Shoemaker, professional triathlete, says, “Sleep is half my training.”
Some of the stats are quite interesting too, including:
Maximum bench press drops 20 pounds after 4 days of restricted sleep.
With proper sleep, tennis players get a 42% increase in hitting accuracy.
Sleep loss means an 11% reduction in time to exhaustion.
Perceived exertion increases 17-19% after 30 hours of sleep deprivation.
Are you getting the idea that athletes and physically active people may need to sleep more? In my personal experience, hard-charging professional athletes need 10-12 hours of sleep per 24 hour day cycle and the typical Ironman triathlete, hardcore Crossfitter, marathoner, cyclist or above-average exercises needs 7.5-9 hours of sleep per 24 hour day cycle (9).
What A Normal Sleep Cycle & Circadian Rhythm Should Look Like & What Happens When It Breaks
So if you don’t want to die faster and you want to optimize your performance, it’s essential that you understand the basics of your circadian rhythm. Everything else that I am going to tell you in this chapter will make much better sense if you have a basic understanding of what a typical 24 hour cycle looks like.
On my SuperhumanCoach.com website , you can get a free 7 part video series that reveals little-known tips and tricks to enhance your performance, fat loss, recovery, digestion, mental performance, hormonal balance, and sleep. Below is a video from the Superhuman series that explains what a normal circadian rhythm looks like, and teaches you why some of the suggestions I’m going to give you below the video actually work.
Keep reading, because I’ll spell this all out below the video too…and I’ll include a helpful circadian rhythm graphic a few times along the way for you to take a quick glance at and “refresh your memory” as you go.
Starting at about 6 AM you get a surge of cortisol, and this surge of morning cortisol is what turns on your brain and body. It also coincides with the release of a very important hormone that is fittingly called VIP (Vasoactive Intestinal Polypeptide), and VIP causes a variety of important wake-up actions such as increased contractility in your heart, vasodilation (widening of your blood vessels), and liver glycogenolysis (breakdown of your liver’s glycogen to naturally start to bring your blood sugar up) (20).
VIP also relaxes the smooth muscle of your trachea, your stomach, and your gallbladder, which means that sometime between the time you awake and 2 hours later is a good time for a bowel movement. VIP also results in a natural surge of ghrelin, a hunger hormone which can make you feel like eating breakfast. If you happen to have hunger hormone imbalances, which are often manifested by you experiencing appetite cravings throughout the day, this is why it is actually very important to eat first thing in the morning, because this resets your circadian clock and begins to get your hormones in rhythm. In other words, skipping breakfast or “defying morning hunger” by fasting is not a good idea if you have hormone imbalances.
Good morning sunlight exposure will help to maximize the effect of this cortisol release give your body a bit of a kickstart in the morning to get your circadian rhythm up and running. As you’ll learn later in this chapter, it is that morning sun exposure that may actually help your cortisol levels to naturally decline later at night, so if you miss the sun in the morning, it can deleteriously affect your sleep!
I personally step outside every morning to try and get at least 5 minutes of sunlight, but if you’re not able to get sunlight, you can still kickstart cortisol with a coffee, green tea, or adaptogenic herbs. However, nothing is quite as effective as sunlight exposure, and this is why you may find you need none or very little coffee in the summer or in times of high sun exposure, but you’re a complete monster if you don’t get your morning cup of coffee in the grey winter months.
“The Body Clock Guide to Better Health”
At about 9-10 AM your sex hormone secretion peaks. This is good to know if you’re trying to identify the very best time of day for a “quickie” or if you’re having trouble finding your libido and want to jumpstart the process. Sex at this time of day may also help you to reset your circadian rhythm if you’re having difficulty sleeping later at night.
About 2:30 PM, you experience a peak in your muscle coordination and your reaction time. So this can be one good time of day to exercise or play sports.
However, at around 5 PM, your cardivascular efficiency, body temperature, muscle repair, protein synthesis, and workout recovery capability peaks, so this is actually an even better time of day to exercise, especially if your workout is intense. For this reason, whenever I have a choice of which time of day to workout, and the luxury of choosing when I time my workout to begin, I’ll usually start around 4:30 and finish up sometime any time between 5 and 6 PM. This not only means that I’m exercising hard when my body is most capable of it, but it also means that post-exercise dinner is occurring during a time of peak protein synthesis and muscle repair. This is also why I also encourage folks to do any easy, aerobic exercise earlier in the morning and then harder interval training or weight training later on in the day.
Next comes the sunset, which is obviously going to depend on the time of year and where you’re living. At this point, your blood pressure peaks. Interestingly, this is also a point at which your body temperature can peak again, which is why an early evening cold shower or cold soak can help you get to sleep a bit better. It is around sunset that another hormone called leptin is released from your fat stores. If your circadian rhythm is working properly and leptin is able to do it’s job properly, this hormone can actually shift your body into fatty acid utilization, shut down your appetite and control any late night food cravings (2). This is why people who are constantly eating excessive calories, eating too many carbohydrates, eating too many meals or sleeping improperly get into a vicious cycle of late night food cravings, which can often be fixed by getting the body back into a proper circadian rhythm.
From sunset until the time you actually go to sleep, leptin continues to rise to help you control your appetite. Adinopectin, another hormone that can assist with fatty acid metabolism, also tends to rise during this time (interestingly, a pre-bed ritual of 300-500mg of magnesium can enhance the adinopectin release). Unfortunately, high levels of insulin can hamper adinopectin production, so if you’ve got high high levels of constantly circulating insulin from high energy intake or high sugar and protein intake, you suppress your body’s evening fatty acid utilization. This is why it is very important to limit sunset to bedtime snacking, especially on carbohydrate or protein-laden foods. I have lots of tips on how to do that below.
–How To Stop Carbohydrate Cravings (audio)
–How To Fight Candy Cravings (article)
Assuming you haven’t been exposed to high levels of artificial light from television, movie screens, computer screens, phones, e-readers and bright household light, it is around 10 PM when your body’s natural melatonin secretion is going to begin. Melatonin allows your body to sleep and recuperate, shuts down waking brain activity to allow for neuronal repair, pulls oxygen and needed hormones away from your muscle tissue and other cells, and generally makes it difficult to be physically active and easy to sleep. As you can imagine, if you don’t make melatonin, it becomes much harder to fall asleep (16).
The other thing that tends to happen right around 10 PM is you get a peak of a protein called “agouti protein”, which actually has the potential to massively stimulate the appetite similar to the way that ghrelin hormone would stimulate your appetite…
…unless leptin is there to actually bounce that agouti protein. So you can see how would set yourself up for a vicious cycle of poor sleep, fat gain or nighttime appetive cravings if you’re snacking from sunset to bedtime, because you experience a rise in insulin from the snacking, followed by a drop in leptin and a drop in leptin sensitivity from the high circulating levels of insulin, and then an inability of leptin to be released (5). Consequently, leptin isn’t there to balance the peak in agouti protein, so you get a massive stimulation of appetite when you’re supposed to be falling asleep!
Around 11 PM is when your gastrointestinal mobility begins to quiet down, and as long as you’ve got everything else discussed so far in place by this time of night, you should not be experiencing a need to use the bathroom after this time. Of course, this can be slightly thrown off by evening water consumption habits, but for the most part, your brain-gut connection should be less active at this point.
Around midnight, you experience a peak of melatonin secretion – and it’s at that point, when melatonin secretion peaks, that leptin is going to be able to enter an area of your brain called your hypothalamus. This is very important from a metabolic and weight control or fat loss standpoint, because when leptin enters your hypothalamus, you experience a release of your fat reserves and a signal to your thyroid to upregulate thyroid function.
When leptin is allowed to enter your hypothalamus, it will also induce changes in your mitochondria to help your mitochondria produce heat. This is because as you are sleeping, your core temperature begins to fall and your body has to maintain a setpoint of warmth that it can’t, if you’re sleeping, produce from running or lifting weights. So in the same way that cold thermogenesis can allow your brown adipose tissue to produce heat from calories, a good sleep cycle can allow your mitochondria to produce heat from calories. So in an ideal scenario, you mobilize and burn your fat stores while you sleep. Starting to get an idea of why obesity is so linked to lack of sleep?
It is also around this point in the cycle that melatonin is going to enter an area of your brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) and when melatonin does that, it decreases your neuron firing rate (14). Basically, you can think of this as melatonin slowing down your brain and allowing your neurons and nervous system to heal, while cementing learning and memory and allowing you to feel a lot sharper when you wake up in the morning.
The other nice thing that happens when that melatonin peaks around midnight is that you get a release of prolactin, which is an incredibly important hormone. A deficiency in prolactin (often found in post-menopausal women) can cause a decline in brain activity, propensity to gain weight, and high levels of inflammatory cytokine molecules associated with lack of recovery and chronic pain. Meanwhile, balanced prolactin levels actually increases the recycling of cells, the renewal of cells, and the creation of new cells, and also increases growth hormone release.
So, if you experience low levels of prolactin release while you’re asleep, you tend to create low levels of growth hormone, and this can result in low levels of another very important hormone called DHEA. Low levels of these hormones results in reduced cardiac function and reduced skeletal muscle function. So, you can see how an inability of melatonin to enter your suprachiasmatic nucleus or an inability of leptin to enter your hypothalamus will create many, many downstream issues that have some serious implications, especially for heart health, muscle repair, full body recovery, and daily physical performance.
Interestingly, adequate levels of DHEA and growth hormone are what maintains a woman’s reproductive cycle – so if you’re a female and you don’t have adequate levels of these hormones then you basically go into menopause earlier.
When you go into menopause earlier, your body is no longer producing the corpus luteum, which is an essential part your sexual reproductive function. The corpus luteum is causes a monthly surge of progesterone, and progesterone has to be around in order for to balance a woman’s estrogen levels (15). High levels of estrogen, low levels of progesterone from low levels of growth hormone and DHEA results in issues like cognitive decline, loss of bone density, and weight gain. And you actually tend to see a lot of aging, chronically fatigued, overweight, worn-down women who have done it to themselves via pure lack of sleep.
From 2 AM to 6 AM is when your core temperature falls most dramatically, and this allows for more neuron and nervous system repair, the growth of neurons, an upregulation of circulating T cells (the killer cells of your immune system) and a decrease in inflammation. If you can get solid sleep during this phase, you’re going to have a stronger immune system and less inflammation. Interestingly, in order for the core temperaturea to drop like this, you need to have been asleep for up to six hours before this phase actually begins. So if you’re going to sleep at, say midnight, you can imagine how much less rebuilding and repair your body is going to do between 2 AM and 6 AM. While I realize that it may not be logistically feasible for you to go to bed at 8 PM, I would highly encourage you try to to be asleep by 10:30 PM, and I personally try to consistently hit the sack by 10pm whenever possible. I often go to bed earlier than that in the winter, due to the natural shortening of the daily cycle – a strategy you can learn about in the resources I share with you at the end of this chapter.
Interestingly, that drop in temperature is the signal to your body to begin producing cortisol at about 6 AM, which then restarts this entire cycle. And so you rinse, wash and repeat the cycle, healing your body, building new neurons and strengthening your immune system along the way. Pretty cool, huh?
…are you convinced yet that sleep is important?
Now that you know why you’ll die if you don’t sleep, how much sleep you really need, and what a normal circadian rhythm should look, let’s jump right into how to enhance your sleep, reset your circadian rhythm if it’s “broken”, and fight the constant stressors to a normal sleep cycle, such as jet lag and insomnia.
Specifically, I’m going to give you 4 biohacks to get better sleep, 7 supplements to help you sleep better, 10 ways to master the nap, the top 5 ways to track your sleep, 5 strategies to eliminate insomnia, and 5 tips to beat jet lag.
4 Biohacks To Get Better Sleep
You already understand the importance of light in amplifying your morning cortisol levels. Go back and read through the circadian rhythm again if it doesn’t make sense yet!
Ultimately, you may live somewhere or have a life that doesn’t allow for adequate morning sun exposure. In this case, you can use special alarm clocks that simulate sunrise, along with morning light therapy “boxes” that you can set on your desk or kitchen table in the morning.
–NatureBright Sun Touch for morning light therapy
–Sunrise Alarm Clock for waking
It should go without saying that you shouldn’t use this kind of light therapy at night unless you’re attempting to “hack” shift work (3, 8). This means that if you work a shift job, you can try to convince your body that it is day when it is night and vice versa. In this case, being exposed to light while working at night would be one way to mitigate the biological effects of shift work on your body.
You also now understand the importance of limiting artificial light at night, especially after sunset. Aside from keeping a television out of your bedroom, and keeping the laptop, pad and e-reader out of your bed or dimmed as low as possible, you can also use the following darkness producing tools:
–Install “Flux” on your computer so that the screen dims at night
-Wear blue light blocking glasses, especially for evening computer use. I recommend Gunnar brand because they actually look cool
-Use black-out curtains in the bedroom
–Put blue light blocker screen on computer
-If you really want to geek out, install low blue light bulbs in your home (or at least in your bedroom)
To those of you who argue that our ancestors “slept under the stars”, and that therefore none of these darkness-creating tools are necessary, I am 100% willing to accept that fact assuming you are going to go to sleep relatively close to sunset and wake at sunrise. I don’t know about you, but I personally don’t have that amount of discipline.
If you live in a noisy neighborhood, or you (like me) have a train that passes by your house at midnight, 2 AM and 5 AM, then you may need some help covering up noise. In this case, you can simply:
-use a White Noise app for sleeping in loud settings (if you’re sleeping where dogs are barking, kids are crying, sirens, airplanes/airports, etc.).
-use the Dream Essentials contoured face mask with fitted ear plugs to block light and sound altogether.
But sounds can go way above and beyond simple white noise. if you understand how sound and music actually change your brain waves, you can use this knowledge to alter your mental and physical performance states with laser accuracy.
It sounds geeky, but I’m going to explain how.
At first glance, brain waves seem a bit like “woo-woo” science, and it can be a bit intimidating and confusing to understand how they work. But here’s the basics.
Your brain is made up of billions of brain cells you’ve already learned about. These are your neurons, and your neurons (just like the rest of your body) use electricity to communicate with each other. As you can probably imagine, these millions of neurons sending signals all at once produces an enormous amount of electrical activity in your brain, and this can actually be detected using medical equipment like an electroencephalography (EEG), which measuring electricity levels over areas of your scalp (4).
When you graph the electrical activity of your brain using EEG, you generate what is called a brainwave pattern, which is called a “wave” pattern because of its cyclic, wave-like nature (18).
Brainwave patterns are generally categorized like this:
Most of us live the majority of our lives in a state of primarily beta brain waves – aroused, alert, concentrated, but also somewhat stressed.
But when we lower the brain wave frequency to alpha, we can put ourselves in an ideal condition to learn new information, perform more elaborate tasks, learn languages, analyze complex situations and even be in what sports psychologists call “The Zone”, which is a state of improved focus and performance in athletic competitions or exercise. Part of this is because being the slightly decreased electrical activity in the brain can lead to significant increases in feel-good brain chemicals like endorphins, noroepinephrine and dopamine. And of course, you can also lull your brain into delta or theta brainwave production.
For example, when you meditate, you are focusing on something, whether it’s a candle flame or your breath going in or out, or a mantra or a prayer. When you focus like that, the electrical patterns in your brain slow down and relax, and the amplitude of your brain-waves generally stabilizes into a relaxed brain wave range. But it turns out that you don’t need to be a trained monk or meditate for weeks on end to be able to achieve this state of brain wave relaxation.
Instead, you can use a concept called “brainwave entrainment” to get the same effect. Brainwave entrainment is any method that causes your brainwave frequencies to fall into step with a specific frequency. It’s based on the concept that the human brain has a tendency to change its dominant EEG frequency towards the frequency of a dominant external stimulus (such as music, or sound).
The type of sound frequencies that are typically used in brainwave entrainment are called “binaural” beats. The way that these work is that two tones close in frequency generate a beat frequency at the difference of the frequencies (22).
I know this sounds complicated, but it’s pretty simple to understand when you think about it. For example, a 495 Hz audio tone and 505 Hz audio tone (whether overlaid in music or in a sound frequency) will produce a 10 Hz beat, roughly in the middle of the alpha brain wave range, like this:
In my article “How You Can Use Sound And Music To Change Your Brain Waves With Laser Accuracy And Achieve Huge Focus And Performance Gains“, I interview Dr. Jeffrey Thompson from the Center for Neuroacoustic Research, and during the interview we discuss how you can use binaural beat-creating strategies such as:
-The PZizz iPhone app. I’ve found this works really well for short naps, but not so well for long nights, and you need to use them about 5-10 times in a row before you brain gets “trained”.
-The “The Delta Effect” CD’s/mp3 downloads designed by Dr. Thompson, which you can play as relaxing background to lull you to sleep in your bedroom.
-The Superhuman Entrainer tracks, which are normally packaged with a grounding wristband, but which you can also purchase separately for around six bucks. These are actually packaged as three separate audio tracks: a pre-workout, pre-performance and during performance downloadable audio .mp3.
I also have homemade sleep audio playlist that I made, which has been very successful in helping me sleep, especially when I’m hyped up from work or on an airplane. This particular track is designed to enhance delta wave production, and works really well at enhancing sleep. Basically, it was very easy to make, and all I did was the following:
-I bought a 99 cents album, which is a 2 hour long track:
And then I put 4 of those tracks above (for a total of 8 hours) on an iTunes playlist which begins with this free 20 minute relaxation podcast track I downloaded from iTunes:
And that’s it! Compared to any other app or CD, this is the sound strategy that has worked best for me. Finally, if headphones bug you while you’re piping this stuff into your ears while you sleep, then use the soft, wrap-around SleepPhones.
I personally spend about 90% of my time barefoot, or wearing grounded shoes or sandals, sleeping with a grounding device under my mattress, and wearing a grounding wristband. This may seem strange, but grounding one of the best sleep and recovery-hacking strategies I use.
Basically, the idea behind earthing is that the surface of the earth emits a natural magnetic frequency that assists with our circadian rhythm, hormonal cycles, and absorption of negatively charged free electrons (7) (which can mitigate oxidation, stress, etc). Dr. Jack Kruse, a brilliant neurosurgeon, recently wrote a really good blog post about grounding called “EMF – Does Your Rolex Work?”.
Since most of us spend much time wearing shoes, being indoors, not touching the ground/grass, etc. we can benefit from this frequency by increasing contact with the earth or the “ground” – and using a mattress or mat wired to the earth via an outlet in your home or office is one way to do this.
Back in the early days of my website, when I was curious how Tour De France cyclists make it through all those grueling stages day after day, I interviewed Dr. Jeff Spencer – who described the concept of “grounding” or “earthing” mat as a strategy used by professional cycling teams at the Tour de France to recover more quickly while they sleep. So if you live in or are traveling in Europe or Asia (not in the USA because it is wired differently, as you can learn about in this podcast), I recommend you use a grounding mat or grounding bedspread.
Another, even more powerful way to ground is through the use of devices which emit the same magnetic frequency as the earth, and this is what I personally do.
I also wear a grounding device on my wrist 24-7 called the Superhuman Encoder (pictured left), which is embedded with a quartz crystal that releases that same 7.38Hz earthing magnetic frequency. I’ve had dozens of users write in to the Superhuman Encoder website about the grounding benefits they’ve gotten from wearing the Encoder, and enhanced sleep is consistently the most noted effect.
Finally, a Biomat mattress will set you back several thousand dollars, but beats the pants off a grounding or earthing mat, for reasons you’ll learn about in just a moment.
And what about those grounding shoes or sandals? I wear a brand called Pluggz and occasionally run in a brand called Earthrunners. Here’s how grounding shoes shoes work: each pair contains black plugs made from a carbon and rubber compound that sit under a weight bearing part of our feet, ensuring electrical contact between us and the earth. These plugs are designed to conduct a flow of free electrons from the earth to our bodies. This technology allows you to get grounded when you walk on grass, sand, soil – or even concrete (such as when standing inside your office or home).
Finally, at the time of this writing, I have just finished watching an amazing new documentary film “GROUNDED” which is about the concept of earthing and grounding – and specifically tells the story of an entire town in Haines, Alaska, whose lives were changed and health dramatically improved after becoming grounded. I’d highly recommend you add this film to your must-see list.
Jim Oschman, the scientist behind much of the research in the film, says that grounding is “probably the most important discovery since penicillin… “. The following is a quick trailer for the film, and you can watch the entire film for free here.
And we didn’t even get to Part 2 yet, in which I’m going to give you 7 supplements to help you sleep better, 10 ways to master the nap, the top 5 ways to track your sleep, 5 strategies to eliminate insomnia, and 5 tips to beat jet lag.
Look for Part 2 on this Friday or Saturday.
But I’m still not quite done.
I want to finish by giving you some of the best sleep resources that I’ve ever found, because I’ve really only scratched the surface when it comes to getting better sleep – and primarily focused on the practical strategies you can implement right away, and you may really want to geek out and become a true sleep expert.
The first resource I’d recommend is a real goldmine of website. I spent nearly a month pouring over the information on it – and learning in-depth everything from advanced sleep hacks to timing naps strategically to perfecting the concept of free-running sleep. And although it’s quite a long, it will surely satisfy the sleep geek in you, and “fill in the holes” if you want to dwell on the science of sleep more thoroughly. It’s over on one of my favorite learning and memory websites, SuperMemo.com, and you can click here to read now.
The second resource is an article on circadian biology by neurosurgeon Jack Kruse, a frequent podcast guest on BenGreenfieldFitness.com. This one is once again chock full of information for geeks, but also does an excellent job delving into the link between hormones, your brain and sleep. You’ll find that it goes into much more detail specifically on the way our circadian rhythm is tied to our biology.
The third resource is a slightly older book, but still an excellent read on the link between modern living, ancestral health, and sleep. It’s called: “Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival” by author T.S. Wiley, who I also interviewed in this podcast episode on bioidentical hormone replacement (another potential sleep strategy). In the book, T.S. talks about how if you are genetically adapted to cold weather and to colder seasons (which defines many European populations) and you also tend to eat a higher carbohydrate diet along with a lot of artificial light exposure, these are signals to your body that it’s constantly summer. When it’s constantly summer, this can decrease the naturally higher leptin release that is supposed to occur in cold weather, and hinder fat loss, melatonin responsiveness, prolactin release, DHEA and growth hormone release, etc. Of course, putting your body into constant summer mode can be accomplished by something as simple as lots of nighttime Kindle time while snacking on your bag of gluten-free crackers or dried fruit.
Finally, take a listen to the podcast “How To Sleep Better“, in which I interview Paul Becker, the inventor of the Earthpulse device I mentioned earlier. The guy is an eccentric character, but he delves into the sleep science of pulsed electromagnetic therapy quite well.
I realize that was a lot of information for you.
So soak it in. Re-read a few times if you need to. It’s important stuff. And then, if you have questions, comments or feedback about the circadian rhythm, sleep, insomnia, jet lag, napping or anything else sleep-related, then leave your thoughts below!
Links To Previous Chapters of “Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health & Life”
Part 1 – Introduction
-Preface: Are Endurance Sports Unhealthy?
Part 2 – Training
–Chapter 4: Underground Training Tactics For Enhancing Endurance – Part 1
–Chapter 4: Underground Training Tactics For Enhancing Endurance – Part 2
–Chapter 5: The 5 Essential Elements of An Endurance Training Program That Most Athletes Neglect – Part 1: Strength
–Chapter 5: The 5 Essential Elements of An Endurance Training Program That Most Athletes Neglect – Part 2: Power & Speed
–Chapter 5: The 5 Essential Elements of An Endurance Training Program That Most Athletes Neglect – Part 3: Mobility
–Chapter 5: The 5 Essential Elements of An Endurance Training Program That Most Athletes Neglect – Part 4: Balance
Part 3 – Recovery
1. Akroush, Ann M. “Fatal Familial Insomnia”. University of Michigan.
2. Benloucif, S.; Guico, M.J.; Reid, K.J.; Wolfe, L.F.; L’hermite-Balériaux, M.; Zee, P.C. (April 2005). “Stability of melatonin and temperature as circadian phase markers and their relation to sleep times in humans”. Journal of Biological Rhythms 20 (2): 178–88.
3. Burkhart K, Phelps JR. (26 December 2009). “Amber lenses to block blue light and improve sleep: a randomized trial”. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
4. Buzsáki, G (2006). Rhythms of the Brain. Oxford University Press.
5. Delezie J, Challet E (2011). “Interactions between metabolism and circadian clocks: reciprocal disturbances.”. Ann N Y Acad Sci
6. Frank, M. (2001). Sleep enhances plasticity in the developing visual cortex. Neuron, 30, 275-287.
7. Ghaly, M. (2004). The biologic effects of grounding the human body during sleep as measured by cortisol levels and subjective reporting of sleep, pain, and stress. THE JOURNAL OF ALTERNATIVE AND COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE, 10(5), 767-776.
8. Kayumov L, Casper RF, Hawa RJ, Perelman B, Chung SA, Sokalsky S, Shapiro CM (May 2005). “Blocking low-wavelength light prevents nocturnal melatonin suppression with no adverse effect on performance during simulated shift work”. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. 90 (5): 2755–61.
9. Mah, Cheri. Team ZEO [inforgraphic]. 2008. All rights reserved.
10. National Sleep Foundation. (2013). How much sleep do we really need?. Retrieved from http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need
11. Pilcher, June J.; Huffcutt, Allen J. Effects of sleep deprivation on performance: A meta-analysis. Sleep: Journal of Sleep Research & Sleep Medicine, Vol 19(4), May 1996, 318-326.
12. Plazzi, Giuseppe; Pasquale Montagna, Stefano Meletti, and Elio Lugaresi (2001-10-25). “Polysomnographic study of sleeplessness and oneiricisms in the alcohol withdrawal syndrome”. Sleep Medicine (PDF) 3 (3): 279–282.
13. Read, Bryan F. “Sleep Deprivation”. St. Paul’s School for Girls, Brooklandville, Maryland.
14. Reiter RJ (May 1991). “Pineal melatonin: cell biology of its synthesis and of its physiological interactions”. Endocr. Rev. 12 (2): 151–80.
15. Sack RL, Lewy AJ, Erb DL, Vollmer WM, Singer CM (1986). “Human melatonin production decreases with age”. J. Pineal Res. 3 (4): 379–88.
16. Scheer, F.A.; Wright, K.P.; Kronauer, R.E.; Czeisler, C.A. (2007). “Plasticity of the intrinsic period of the human circadian timing system”. In Nicolelis, Miguel. PLoS ONE 2 (1): e721.
17. Siegal, J. (2003). Why we sleep. Scientific American, (November), 92-98.
18. Speckmann, E-J; Elger, CE (2004). “Introduction to the neurophysiological basis of the EEG and DC potentials”. In Niedermeyer E, Lopes da Silva FH. Electroencephalography: Basic Principles, Clinical Applications, and Related Fields. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. pp. 17–31.
19. Taheri S, Lin L, Austin D, Young T, Mignot E (December 2004). “Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index”. PLoS Med. 1 (3): e62
20. “The Body Clock Guide to Better Health” by Michael Smolensky and Lynne Lamberg; Henry Holt and Company, Publishers (2000)
21. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES. (1994). National center on sleep disorders. National Institutes of Health.
22. Wahbeh H, Calabrese C, Zwickey H, Zajdel J (2007). “Binaural Beat Technology in Humans: A Pilot Study to Assess Neuropsychologic, Physiologic, And Electroencephalographic Effects”. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine 13 (2): 199–206.
Related Articles You'd Like
Also published on Medium.