Given our current situation, Dia and I have been paying especially close attention to our friends and family who are in the freshly dug trenches of parenthood. We've been getting a wide array of recommendations when it comes to diaper and stroller brands. We've received various "best practices" for feeding, changing, burping, and swaddling.
The more advice we seek, the more apparent it becomes: each kid is different and what works for one, may not work for another.
The one piece of advice that holds true across all parents, however, is to prioritize sleep! So I decided to flip through my notes on a book I read a couple years ago called, Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stephenson.
I originally bought this book back when I was transitioning from the mentality of "I'll sleep when I'm dead" to "Sleep is actually really really ridiculously important".
Some of the advice in the book requires you to change your sleep environment. The last time I read this book, Dia and I lived in a different apartment. We optimized our old place, but we have significant room for improvement in our newer digs. So over the next couple of weeks, I'll be focused on turning our bedroom into a slumber-chamber.
I encourage you to take 5 minutes to scroll through the notes below. I've marked some of the questionable claims from the book with an asterisk(*). I included them for dramatic effect, but I'm not sold on how true they are without doing further research.
If you want to read the notes in your browser, you can do so here. Otherwise, it's pasted below for your convenience.
The lessons from Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stephenson are written as directives below.
Sleep quality & quantity has significant impact on quality of life.
Consider the following:
- Human Growth Hormone releases during sleep. This helps your body maintain and repair muscles.
- One night of sleep deprivation can make you as insulin resistant as someone with type 2 diabetes.*
- Insulin resistance translates to decreased sex-drive, obesity, and aging.
- Fatigued driving is worse than drunk driving. See Episode 152 Mythbusters: Tipsy Vs. Tired
- Graveyard Shift workers are more likely to suffer from diabetes and cancer.*
- Sleep Debt is a myth. Catching up on sleep on weekends is a flawed approach. It doesn't work. The damage is already done.
Daily Sleep Ritual:
The word ritual comes from the Latin word "ritus", meaning “a proven way of doing something.” A ritual is a small sequence of actions that put you in a certain state of mind for getting something done.
For starters, try to go to bed within the same 30-minute window each night. Add to that by waking up within the same 30-minute window each morning. We tend to get ready for everything else. We get ready for a date, we get ready for exercise or a sport, we get ready for work. But, when it comes to sleep, many of us tend to stumble into bed or simply pass out from exhaustion.
Try this first:
Only two things should happen in your bedroom. Sleep and Sex. Optimize for both by eliminating any and all distractions.This includes all electronics (phone, tv, laptop/tablet, e-readers, etc.)
Your room should be so dark you can't see your hand in front of your face. Black out curtains should do the trick. Ditch the nightlight.
Try to fall asleep before 10 PM. If you aren't asleep by 10P, you may get a second wind and have trouble falling asleep until well past 12A. 10 PM - 2 AM are the regenerative hours. Often referred to as "Money Time Sleep"
A great night of sleep begins the moment you wake up in the morning. Try to get direct sunlight on your skin or in your eyes between sunrise and 830AM. This will signal the start of the day to your body. Have you ever woken up early and stayed inside all day? Chances are you had trouble falling asleep that night. The lack of sunlight exposure could confuse your body's biological clock.
Avoid caffeine 8-12 hours before bedtime. Caffeine has a half-life of about 5 hours. So if you have 200mg of caffeine, after 5 hours, you'd still have 100mg in your system. After another 5 hours, you'd have 50mg. Etc. Cycle your caffeine intake: Take 2 days off per week. or 1 week off per month. or 1 month off per quarter.
Optimal room temperature is 68 degrees F. Wear as little clothing as possible. Anything you do wear should be soft and loose.
Leveling Up - Next Steps:
Magnesium Supplementation. Apply a topical spray right before bed. Spray chest, neck, shoulders, and any area of the body that is experiencing soreness. Massage into skin.
Air Humidifiers are great for cold winter months when you can't let fresh air flow through your bedroom
Sleeping Position - Focus on maintaining the integrity of your spine.
- Pillow should be appropriately sized to your body. The smaller you are, the smaller pillow you should use. There should be little to no angle in the spine between the upper back and neck.
- Side sleepers: Use a pillow between your knees.
- Back sleepers: Ditch the pillow altogether if possible. propping your head on a pillow will decrease blood flow to the brain.
- Stomach sleepers: Half Military Crawl Position. Raise one knee. Raise the same arm and tuck hand under the pillow. Face that way. Other arm and leg should shoot straight down.
White-noise - An app like Calm or Oak has great whitenoise options
Air Ionizer. Oxidize odors, fungi, mold. Bind to dust, pollen, dander - making them bigger and easier to remove while cleaning
Insert plants in the bedroom - The English Ivy, The Perennial Snake Plant, or Jasmine.
Ground yourself. Make it a regular practice to get some time with your bare feet on the ground. Aim for conductive surfaces: soil, grass, sand (at the beach), and even active bodies of water like the ocean.
How Food Affects Sleep:
Avoid gut-damaging chemicals that can hinder serotonin and melatonin production. Strive to eat organic, locally grown, unprocessed foods for the bulk of your diet.* Here are some micronutrients you can optimize for and where to find them:
- Selenium: Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, beef, oysters, chicken, and cremini mushrooms
- Vitamin C: bell peppers, green leafy vegetables, kiwifruit, strawberries, citrus fruits, and papaya
- Tryptophan: turkey, chicken, eggs, sweet potatoes, chia seeds, hemp seeds, bananas, pumpkin seeds, almonds, yogurt, and leafy greens
- Potassium: bananas, leafy greens, potatoes, broccoli, cremini mushrooms, and avocados
- Calcium: kale, collard greens, mustard greens, sardines, sea veggies, and sesame seeds
- Vitamin D (best method is Sunlight): swordfish, salmon, tuna, mackerel, shiitake mushrooms, and oysters
- Omega-3s (heat sensitive): chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, halibut, salmon, and flax seeds
- Melatonin: tart cherries, walnuts, ginger root, asparagus, pineapple, tomatoes, bananas, oranges
- Vitamin B6: bananas, cashews, peanut butter, almonds, avocados, fish, tomatoes, spinach, sweet potatoes, sea veggies, and eggs
- Magnesium: green leafy veggies, seeds like pumpkin and sesame, spirulina and Brazil nuts
How Exercise Affects Sleep:
Workout in the morning if possible. Lift heavy weights using compound movements to trigger the optimal hormonal response
Sprint: Short bursts > long distances. Running for long distances can increase muscle loss through a process called gluconeogenesis.* Muscle is your body’s fat-burning machinery.
Researchers tracked the sleep patterns of participants who worked out at three different times: 7:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., & 7:00 p.m. They discovered the people who exercised at 7:00 a.m. slept longer and had a deeper sleep cycle than the other two groups. In fact, the morning exercisers had up to 75% more time in the reparative “deep sleep” stage at night.*
“Contrary to these findings, Alley et al. found that the timing of resistance exercise did not significantly affect total or REM sleep the following evening . However, the investigators did conclude that, regardless of the time of day, engaging in resistance exercise did improve sleep quality. Specifically, they reported that variations in the timing of resistance exercise instead affected aspects of sleep such as sleep onset latency (SOL) or wake time after sleep onset (WASO). For instance, morning exercise was found to significantly improve the time required to fall asleep, and evening exercise was found to significantly reduce WASO. In a related study with adults, Fairbrother et al. compared SOL, WASO, and the number of times participants woke up during sleep after morning, afternoon, and evening exercise . The investigators discovered that these sleep parameters were at their lowest after bouts of morning physical activity.”
TL;DR: Try to fall asleep by 10PM. Try to go to sleep and wake up within the same 30 minute window on a daily basis. The room should be really dark and cold (68-72*F). Keep your neck and spine aligned. Take it easy on the caffeine and screen time. Get direct sunlight early in the day. Train more for strength, less for endurance. Don't eat like an asshole.