Sleep Better, Recover Faster, Perform Optimally
Do you find yourself always tired, burned out and under performing in the gym and at the office? A majority of people will answer hell yes, as chronic fatigue is a silent killer that is becoming a monumental problem in today’s high paced plugged in society. But here’s a better question, how’s your sleep situation? We are literally burning both ends of the candle and running our bodies and minds down into the ground on a daily basis, but it’s time to step back and look at the root cause of chronic fatigue and how to fix it.
No, the fix isn’t drinking another $9 cup of bulletproof coffee or taking some new theoretically trivial supplement that promises to reduce stress and fatigue levels. Those quick fix strategies are only adding to the problem, and most likely landed you here in the first place. The real fix is simpler, and it’s FREE.
If your goal is to beat back chronic fatigue, optimize recovery and dominate every aspect of your life, the answer is fixing your poor sleep habits, as SLEEP is the #1 most effective recovery strategy that is undervalued, overlooked and down right neglected. We are going to break down top research backed sleep optimization tools and tactics to create your perfect sleep formula. Here’s how to engineer the perfect night’s sleep.
Sleep Is The Foundation of Recovery
To build a solid recovery process, you must start with the foundations. No matter how dialed in your training program and execution may be, or how structured your nutritional strategies are, each of these two factors become highly dependent on your lifestyle, especially as it pertains to the amount of stress in your life.
You cannot out train or out eat poor sleep habits coupled with a lifestyle of constant physical and emotional stress. These place a heavy strain on the CNS (Central Nervous System) over extended periods of time. (Rusin, 2018)
What is Sleep and Why Do We Sleep?
Sleep is defined as a natural periodic state of rest for the mind and body, in which the eyes are closed, and consciousness is lost so that there is a decrease in bodily movement and responsiveness to external stimuli. When we sleep well, we wake up feeling refreshed and alert for our daily activities.
Sleep affects how we look, feel and perform on a regular basis, and can have a significant impact on our overall quality of life. Also, it allows your body time to heal. If you go without this valuable necessity in your life, your healing process is interrupted. The body is designed in such a way that you will always heal from your wounds after a period of sleep.
To get the most out of your sleep, both quantity and quality are essential. This aim of this guide is to go over some key factors so you may reach a high-quality sleep and reap all the benefits.
What Are The Stages of Sleep?
We all sleep in 90-minute cycles, which is the average amount of time in which we go through all 5 sleep stages. Non-rapid eye movement, or non-REM, sleep comprises the first 4 stages while the 5th and final stage is when REM – or rapid eye movement – sleep happens.
During NREM sleep, we start with very light sleep in stage 1 and move on up to stage 4, which is where deep sleep happens and the stage in which waking up a person can be very challenging. All throughout NREM sleep stages, muscle activity is reduced to a minimum and your eyes normally don’t move. However, your muscles are still able to function even in stage 4. The following is a more detailed account of each stage.
- Stage 1 – During stage 1, which is light sleep, we drift in and out of sleep and can be awakened easily. Our eyes move very slowly, and muscle activity slows. People awakened from stage 1 sleep often remember fragmented visual images. Many also experience sudden muscle contractions called hypnic myoclonia or hypnic jerks, usually preceded by a sensation of starting to fall. These sudden movements are similar to the “jump” we make when startled.
- Stage 2 – When we enter stage 2 sleep, our eye movements stop and our brain waves (fluctuations of electrical activity that can be measured by electrodes) become slower, with occasional bursts of rapid waves called sleep spindles.
- Stage 3 – In stage 3, slow brain waves called delta waves begin to appear, interspersed with smaller, faster waves.
- Stage 4 – The brain produces delta waves almost exclusively. It is challenging to wake someone during stages 3 and 4, which together are called deep sleep. There is no eye movement or muscle activity. Some children experience bedwetting, night terrors, or sleepwalking during deep sleep.
- Stage 5 – During the 5th stage, the REM sleep, your eyes exhibit very fast bursts of movement. And it’s at this final stage where you dream most of your dreams and while your eyes may not constantly be moving, they can move up and down, and back and forth, depending on what you see in your dreams. Overall, it remains to be proven empirically why eyes move the way they do during the REM stage of sleep. And while the eye muscles may be moving quite rapidly at this stage, all of your body’s other consciously operated muscles, which excludes involuntary ones like your heart, diaphragm, and lungs, are practically paralyzed. That’s why you find it nearly impossible to move during vivid nightmares.
Benefits of Sleeping
Many people are neglectful about getting enough sleep because they genuinely don’t understand the benefits from it. So why is it so important?
Sleep is an elevated anabolic state, meaning that the body builds, or repairs, itself from damage in this state. It also fortifies your immune system, balances hormones, boosts the metabolism, increases physical energy, and improves the function of your brain. With all the essential benefits that sleep is giving you; it is also clinically proven that you cannot survive, or thrive, without it.
Sleep deprivation was actually used as a torture technique up until 2009 when it was deemed an inhumane way to treat prisoners, although it is still highly used by the military in training. For example, it is well known that the Navy SEAL’s worst training week (hell week) consists of an overwhelming amount of physically demanding activities on very little to no sleep.
Top 20 Biohacks For A Perfect Night’s Sleep
We’ve all been told to “sleep more” but very few of us have actually been given actionable strategies to help optimize sleep, other than being prescribed medication sleep aids and other dangerous quick fixes. So here it is, 20 sleep optimization strategies that you can instantly implement into your daily routine in order to build a better, more sustainable night’s sleep that will become the single most powerful recovery tool you’ll ever use.
#1 Start Your Day with a Morning Routine, Meditation and Success Planning
Waking up early, even just prior to sunrise, ironically, is one of the best things you can do to improve your sleep. This goes back to our ancestors having a specific pattern of waking up at sunrise and going to bed at sundown. We’ve only managed to override this pattern within the last hundred years with the invention of artificial light but we’ll come back to this point later.
By waking up early, you start the process of helping your Circadian rhythm, or internal clock, link up with the natural rhythms of the earth. Get up when the sun rises.
You might have a challenging time at first, simply take it slow. Strive for 15 minutes earlier than what you used to. Typically, your body will adapt in under two weeks and have you feeling more rested and refreshed when you wake up, but also you will start the day with an instant win.
“The single most important factor in winning your mornings and owning the day is to get up 15 minutes earlier and work on your number one priority before anyone else is awake.” –Craig Ballantyne
Build a success routine. I personally like to drink a big bottle of cold water than I take my dog for a walk, and while on my walk I go through some personal gratitude exercises thanking everything I have in my life which can turn into a meditation. Once I get home, I have a coffee and start writing or reading content for 45 minutes, then I cook breakfast and go along with the rest of my day. This is an example of what I do, and you should create a routine that will help you work towards your own goals.
#2 Prioritize Getting Red Light From The Sunrise
These specific wavelengths pass through human tissue easier than other wavelengths. Specifically, light in the mid-600 nm and mid-800 nm range has been shown to provide optimal biological responses. Red-light creates a biochemical effect in our cells that serves to increase mitochondrial function. This results in improving ATP (adenosine triphosphate) production in the body. Why is this important? ATP is the source of energy for every cell in the body. Without it, we don’t function at all. The more cellular energy production, the better the body functions as a whole.
To get the most out of red light obviously natural light at sunrise is better than artificial, but a lot of companies out there came out with products that create both infra-red and near infra-red wavelengths and could be use in the comfort of your own house.
#3 Get More Sunlight During The Day
It is well known that sunlight is the only way for our body to produce vitamin-D but what is less known is the benefits of sunlight as on our sleeping pattern.
As diurnal creatures, we humans are programmed to be up and active while the sun is shining and sleeping at night, as opposed to nocturnal creatures like owls. This is why melatonin is produced during the dark hours and stops upon exposure to daylight. It is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in our brain and it sends a signal to regulate the sleep-wake cycle in your body.
When people are exposed to sunlight or very bright artificial light in the morning, their nocturnal melatonin production occurs sooner, and they enter into sleep more easily at night. The melatonin rhythm phase advancement caused by exposure to bright morning light has been effective against insomnia.
The melatonin precursor, serotonin, is also affected by exposure to daylight. Generally produced during the day and commonly associated with positive mood, serotonin converts to melatonin while in darkness (after sunset).
With our modern-day penchant for indoor activity and staying up well past dusk, melatonin production is at its lowest. For this reason, it is imperative that people get outside as many times as possible during the day and attempt to limit the use of artificial light during evening hours. This can have a significant impact on melatonin production and can result in improvements in mood, energy, and sleep quality. (Mead 2008)
#4 Be More Physically Active
Some studies have shown that morning exercise significantly improved time to fall asleep compared with evening exercises. More specifically, aerobic types of activity in the morning, when compared with say1 PM or 7 PM, was also found to diminish time to fall asleep. Meanwhile, strength training was found to decrease time in wakefulness and led to better sleep quality due to longer REM time. Therefore, practitioners should urge clients who struggle to fall asleep to work out earlier in the morning, whereas those who struggle to stay asleep may benefit more from evening strength training sessions. (Alley, 2018)
It is also worth mentioning that this study shows the best time to help people with a sleeping disorder. If athletic performance and putting on muscle mass is your goal, it’s been demonstrated that later in the day exercises are considerably more efficient than the morning. Overall as long as you give yourself 3 hours prior bed to calm your body down and get a decent amount of physical activity throughout the day, it will impact your sleep positively.
#5 Don’t Eat Within 90 Minutes of Going To Bed
Do you tend to wake up every single night around 2 or 3 am? Research shows that this is actually a part of our ancestor DNA that cues a natural instinct for checking for threats. Nowadays the more likely reason behind this event is due to hypoglycemia, a crash in blood sugar.
First, don’t eat 90 mins before bed especially if you’re eating carbs because the inherent blood sugar spike will cause a sharp drop in blood sugar later and will wake you up. If this happens to you every night try to have a small snack before going to bed high in protein or carbs that contain the amino acid tryptophan. This amino acid increases serotonin which converts into melatonin. For instance, turkey meat has high levels of tryptophan and is why it is commonly associated with the “Thanksgiving coma.”
#6 Prioritize Tryptophan at Dinner
Tryptophan is converted to serotonin through serotonin synthesis, a key hormone that promotes relaxation. In the darkness, serotonin is then converted to melatonin in the pineal gland. Melatonin activates sleep by reducing body temperature and other mechanisms. It also inhibits the release of more insulin from the pancreas, thus preventing a rapid drop in blood sugar level.
Melatonin also promotes the release of growth hormone which governs all of the body’s recovery systems making sleep simply the first step in restorative physiology that occurs overnight.
As the cascade of recovery hormones initiates the repair, maintenance and rebuilding of bone, muscle and other body tissues, Melatonin also goes on to impact memory consolidation. It aids in the formation of neural cell adhesion molecules during REM sleep. These molecules are necessary for the processing of short-term memory from the hippocampus into long-term memory in the brain cortex. (Dawn, 2009)
Top 10 food highest in tryptophan (values of mg in food from the USDA)
#7 Cut Caffeine 5+ Hours Before Bed
Caffeine is the most popular drug in the world. Because it is a powerful stimulant, most people use it after waking up in the morning or to remain alert during the day. According to a survey done in 2017, 83% of Americans are very likely to use caffeinated beverages to combat daytime sleepiness. While it is important to note that caffeine cannot replace sleep, it can temporarily make us feel more alert by blocking sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain and increasing adrenaline production.
Such side effects definitely have its place during the day where we want to have our CNS lit up to promote higher performance in the gym or be more cognitively alert for cognitive tasks like writing an article (wink, wink).
The way caffeine work is by entering the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine. The stimulating effect can take hold in as little as 15 minutes after it is consumed. Once in the body, it takes on average 5 hours for our body to get rid of. For that reason, you should not drink coffee 5+ hours before bed. If you are very sensitive to caffeine, then you might want to have an even earlier curfew. I have a general rule of not drinking coffee past 4 pm. If your nervous system is lit up, you can forget about having quality sleep.
#8 Limit Alcohol Consumption
If you booze, you lose. This may sound counterproductive but drinking alcohol is a terrible idea if you are looking for quality sleep. While studies show that you may fall asleep quicker after drinking alcohol, the quality is far from being the best.
Alcohol before bed is linked with more slow-wave sleep patterns called delta activity. That’s the kind of deep sleep that allows for memory formation and learning. At the same time, another type of brain pattern, alpha activity, is also turned on. Alpha activity doesn’t usually happen during sleep. Together alpha and delta activity in the brain after drinking may inhibit restorative sleep and memory processing. This is essentially inhibiting REM sleep and, therefore, you are not allowing short-term memories and experiences to convert into long-term memories.
Ever blacked out after partying too hard and don’t know what happened or how you got home? Yep, thank the few to many shots you had the night before. I am not going to tell you to get rid of alcohol altogether, but moderation is key and gives yourself a couple of hours to get it out of your system before going to bed.
#9 Supplement With Magnesium Before Bed
Magnesium is an element and mineral found throughout nature and one of the body’s electrolytes. In the body, it is the fourth most abundant mineral and is crucial to many aspects of health.
Magnesium deficiency is likely the #1 mineral deficiency in our world today. Estimates suggest nearly half of adult men and women in the United States aren’t getting enough magnesium.
This is a bonafide anti-stress mineral that offers many more benefits, including that it can
alleviate premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms, reduce blood pressure, boost performance, relieve inflammation, prevent migraines, improve blood sugar levels, fight against depression, enhance sleep quality and promote relaxation.
Getting your magnesium levels up can almost instantly reduce your body’s stress load and improve the quality of your sleep. Research indicates supplemental magnesium can improve sleep quality. (Nielsen, 2015). Possible side effects include bloating, diarrhea, upset stomach, nausea, vomiting. Consult your physician before supplementing with magnesium.
Insomnia is a common symptom of magnesium deficiency. People with low magnesium often experience restless sleep and frequent waking during the night. Magnesium plays a role in supporting deep, restorative sleep by maintaining healthy levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation and sleep.
Top 10 Magnesium-Rich Foods Based on Magnesium Concentration:
- Spinach, cooked — 1 cup: 157 milligrams
- Swiss chard, cooked — 1 cup: 150 milligrams
- Dark Chocolate — 1 square: 95 milligrams
- Pumpkin seeds, dried — 1/8 cup: 92 milligrams
- Almonds — 1 ounce: 75 milligrams
- Black beans — 1/2 cup: 60 milligrams
- Avocado — 1 medium: 58 milligrams
- Figs, dried — 1/2 cup: 50 milligrams
- Yogurt or kefir — 1 cup: 46.5 milligrams
- Banana — 1 medium: 32 milligrams
*Note: mg values are according to the USDA
#10 Use Blue Light Blockers
Researchers found that blue light has the most potent effect on prohibiting the secretion of melatonin from the pineal gland. Unfortunately, in today society most of our lighting, computer screens, tablets, TV and cell phones fall into this blue zone of the light spectrum.
Harvard sleep researcher Lockley suggests a link between exposure to blue light at night, may contribute to not only lack of sleep but also some types of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and depression. (Sigurðardóttir,2013)
Another research program showed that the effects of blue light can be felt even for as short as 15 seconds. In that extremely short time frame it induces significant circadian phase shifts in humans. Such inadvertent phase resetting may be an unrecognized risk factor for insomnia, circadian rhythm sleep disorders, and a variety of adverse health effects associated with circadian rhythm disruption. (Rahman, 2017)
Therefore, blocking blue light should be a primary objective and one of the most beneficial quick fix that you can do to improve sleep quality.
#11 Limit Natural Blue Light Exposures
Optimally you’d want to go to bed as soon as darkness set, but we all have lives and things to do at night, but do not despair here are some of the things you can do to counter blue-light pollution.
According to a National Institute of Health study, amber-colored glasses are particularly effective at blocking the melatonin-suppressing effects of blue-light waves. (Burkhart, 2009)
Now, these are not for a fashion statement but they do work, and they are cheap.
Another solution if you must use the computer or your phone, you can set them to “night shift” which will automatically switch your device to a warmer color. I have mine set between 6 pm to 6 am so I don’t pay attention to it anymore.
Finally, for the hardcore biohackers out there, you may want to change your LED light bulbs to a more amber or even red light. If all of this sounds entirely bonkers to you, try to at least stop using the computer, phone or TV an hour before bed this should allow you to get some melatonin and help you get better sleep.
#12 Use Natural Supplements To Help You Sleep
Chamomile is widely regarded as a mild tranquilizer and sleep-inducer. It is a great herbal supplement to have as a tea before bed.
Traditionally, chamomile products such as tea and essential oil aromatherapy have been used to treat insomnia and to induce sedation. Sedative effects may be due to the flavonoid, apigenin, which binds to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain. (Avallone, 1996)
In another study, inhalation of vaporized chamomile oil reduced a stress-induced increase in plasma adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) levels and GABA receptors in the brain. This also might be responsible for some sedative effect. (Gupta, 2011)
Kava Kava is another herbal remedy that’s made from roots of a plant found on the islands of the Pacific Ocean. Locals to Fiji and Tonga have used it for centuries in social gatherings and traditional medicine. This herb is predominately used to treat anxiety. In clinical trials it has demonstrated to be superior to the placebo, and roughly equivalent to oxazepam 15 mg/day or bromazepam 9 mg/day. (Cauffield, 1999)
It’s no secret that essential oils have been used for different health purposes over the past 5000 years and are considered as a more natural/ holistic approach to treat a particular type of disorders with no side effects at all.
A study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice was conducted with patients who have insomnia. It reported that aromatherapy using essential oils could help with providing a calming effect and aid with sleep. For this study, aroma sticks were given to patients over a 13-week period. Of the participants, 94 percent reported using the aroma sticks with 92 percent saying that they saw benefits and would continue to use.
Bergamot oil, lavender oil, sandalwood, frankincense and mandarin all have studies that showed properties to have the calming effect that we look for to aid with sleeping.
Passionflower contains numerous benefits, including calming and anti-anxiety effects. When you have anxiety, it can significantly affect how you sleep because you cannot seem to turn the brain off especially while you’re trying to rest.
Clinical trials have shown that passionflower can reduce anxiety as effectively as the prescribed drug known as benzodiazepine oxazepam. A four-week, double-blind study of patients with anxiety disorder compared passionflower to the common anti-anxiety medication. While the oxazepam worked a little faster, both demonstrated similar results. However, the passionflower did not cause problems such as lingering tiredness and drowsiness the next day, unlike oxazepam. (Ngan, 2011) Passion flower can be taken as a tea or capsule supplement.
Countless different brands (including ONNIT which Dr. Rusin takes and recommends) sell melatonin as a supplement, and you can buy it pretty much anywhere. I left this one for last because even though it is very effective, it also comes with a few side effects.
By using the supplement version you are actually compromising the secretion of your natural melatonin, and you are likely to build a dependency if you use it regularly. High dosages have also been shown to cause lingering drowsiness the next day, so unless you have difficulties falling asleep, I wouldn’t supplement with melatonin.
Reishi Mushroom, St. John’s Wort and Valerian root, make this list because they have been used for years in treating depression and anxiety, but the research is inconclusive and does not show any significant findings in helping with either of these, other than providing a placebo effect.
#13 Use Binatural Beats Before Bed
What are binaural beats? They refer to a type of brainwave entrainment that’s transmitted via audio tracks that you and I can listen to through our headphones. These audio tracks are made up of a pair of tones, each with a different frequency than the other. One tone is played to one ear while another tone is played on the other. The audio illusion of another tone – a 3rd one – is created by the differences in frequencies between the 2 tones. And this 3rd tone is called a binaural beat, and a binaural beat can only be created with two tones with a difference of no more than 39 Hz. Effectively, the frequency of the binaural beat is the difference between the first 2 tones. So, if your left earphones’ tone is 480 Hz while that of the right’s is 475, then the binaural beats frequency would be 5 Hz, which is the difference between the 2 tones. And this is the frequency that your brainwaves will mimic.
To appreciate the importance of the binaural beat and how it can influence your brainwaves, let’s take a look at how different brainwave levels can influence specific behaviors and emotions. By knowing how brainwaves work, you can practically craft specific moods and experiences for yourself, including deep sleep.
Based on the table above, you can use binaural beats with specific frequencies to induce specific states, emotions, or behaviors. Since we’re talking about deep sleep here, you should use a binaural beat track with a maximum frequency of 4.00, which is considered to be within the Delta Wave range that’s optimal for a deep and slow wave sleep.
The good news about binaural beats is that it’s fairly easy to create your own binaural beat tracks for deep sleep. But if you find it to be a very cumbersome endeavor, you can always listen to Delta Wave binaural beats for deep sleep on Spotify or YouTube.
To use binaural beats for deep sleep, it’s crucial that the tracks you listen to while sleeping feature beats that resemble delta waves, which are brainwaves that are associated with dreamless and deep sleep. Listening to binaural beats with your earphones can help your brain slow its waves down to that of the binaural beat tracks and eventually, its natural delta frequency. It’s within such frequency that you can promote total relaxation and enjoy a deep and restful sleep.
Binaural beat audio tracks are considered by insomniacs and people who suffer from anxiety to be a very valuable sleeping resource. Listening to such tracks prior to hitting the sack at night can help quiet and calm one’s mind sans the unwanted side effects of taking sleeping pills. Studies have shown that over 8 weeks of using binaural beats did improve sleep quality in soccer players. (Abeln, 2013) Many users swear that they’re able to fall asleep much faster and enjoy longer sleep time in REM sleep, which is considered to be the stage in the sleeping cycle that’s most relaxing and restorative. In short, many people swear by binaural beats’ ability to help them enjoy deeper and longer sleep.
It is highly recommended that you listen to them just prior to hitting the sack so you can optimize its deep sleep benefits. Many people choose to listen to beat even while they’re sleeping, which is cool too. Just make sure that when you listen to binaural beat audio tracks, you use stereo headphones. This is because you need to be able to hear one frequency with one ear and the other frequency with the other, which can only be effectively done using stereo headphones.
#14 Turn Your Bedroom Into a Cave
If you are serious about recovery and want a high-quality sleep, your bedroom should be only for sleeping and sex.
You need to create a neuro-association within your brain that once you step into the bedroom its sleep time and not watch five episodes on Netflix. You should make it as dark as possible, the science behind this is that light is a stimulus, no matter if you close your eyes because your skin reflects that stimulus back to your brain and during that time you should not have any stimulus or at least keep it as low as possible.
#15 Stay Away From Electro Magnetic Fields (EMF)
No electric devices, such as TV, phone, alarm clock and whatever other electronic devices you have, these produce EMF (Electro Magnetic Field).
EMF has been shown to have detrimental effects on our health including a possible link to cancer but for the purpose of this article we are just going to talk about the effect on sleep. In one study, EMF was associated with less total sleep time, reduced sleep efficiency, increased time in Stage II sleep, and decreased REM sleep.
Subjects exposed intermittently to the field also reported sleeping less well and feeling less rested in the morning than subjects in the controlled group. (Graham, 2016) Furthermore, EMF exposures in the bedroom can undermine sleep cycles and cause other symptoms such as tiredness upon awakening and weakening of your immune system.
How to get rid or reduce EMF in the bedroom:
- Get rid of all electronics in the room
- Turn WI-FI off at night
- Put your phone into airplane mode
There are other ways to protect yourself against EMF, such as earthing, or grounding, and other protective gear. I would advise you to look deeper into it especially if you are by a power station or close to other electrical devices.
#16 Sleep In A Cold Environment
Studies show that optimal room temperature should be between 60F – 67F (15C – 19C) to get the highest sleep quality. Many benefits come from sleeping in cooler temperatures. Check out THIS cold thermogenesis article.
I live in South Florida and I remember that one day when the power went off, there was no air conditioning and all the sudden the room goes up to 90F (32C) what a nightmare. There was no way I could fall asleep. I am sure you have had an experience similar to this one and have had to attempt to sleep in a hot environment, which isn’t at all easy or comfortable if it is even possible.
When we fall asleep our body drops in temperature to initiate the sleep cycle, if the temperature of our environment is too high then it can take a longer time to start the cycle.
#17 Have Sex
Oh yeah, we going to have “the talk.” Like I stated above there are only two things you should do in your bedroom, sleep and sex.
This should be a no-brainer but having an orgasm has a huge sedative effect on most people. This is because during the act there’s a rush of endorphins and other hormones towards the same part of your brain that regulates your arousal and your sleep-wake cycle. Endorphins are hormones that make you feel great and drop your cortisol level usually related to stress.
So, there you have it, having trouble sleeping? Ask your partner for some help.
#18 Incorporate Breathing & Meditation Exercises
This is an excellent tool I learned not too long ago and I am still very new to the practice of meditation, but it really works. Ex-Navy SEAL and founder of SEALFit Mark Divine has hailed box breathing as a great tool as well and I now use this breathing technique daily to unwind before bed or in bed. Here is how you can apply it:
- Step 1 -Mark recommend that you sit upright for this, but I like to be comfortable laying down in bed, it also helps me with diaphragm breathing instead of chest breathing, so choose what is more conformable for you. Slowly exhale, getting all the oxygen out of your lungs. Focus on this intention and be conscious of what you’re doing, the all idea is to be mindful of the breathing.
- Step 2 – Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose to the count of five. In this step, count to five very slowly in your head. Feel the air fill your lungs, one section at a time until your lungs are full and the air moves into your abdomen.
- Step 3 – Hold your breath for another slow count of five.
- Step 4 – Exhale through your mouth for the same slow count of five, expelling the air from your lungs and abdomen. Be conscious of the feeling of the air leaving your lungs.
- Step 5 – Hold your breath for the same slow count of five before repeating this process.
#19 Go To Bed Earlier
This is key to get better quality sleep, now that you are waking up earlier you need to get to bed earlier. If you aim to wake up around 5 am and according to the national sleep foundation the recommendation for adults is to sleep between 7 to 9 hours, you should be in bed by 9-10 pm.
Not only you will get in better sync with your circadian rhythm, but you can eventually switch to being a morning person, and achieve a lot more in life. If your friends are making fun of you with the common adage: “you are so old, you go to bed by 10,” take into consideration there is nothing “normal” about being up so late, we as humans are not nocturnal creatures, we are up when the sun rises and we sleep when the sun goes down. Also, you can tell your friends some of the most successful and greatest minds in history wake up in the early morning from Mozart, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Gates, Tony Robbins, Warren Buffet, Richard Branson to Tom Brady and the list goes on
The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following amount of sleep for varying age groups:
- Newborns: 14–17 hours
- Infants: 12–15 hours
- Toddlers 11–14 hours
- Preschoolers 10–13 hours
- School-aged children: 9–11 hours
- Teens: 8–10 hours
- Adults: 7–9 hours
- Older adults: 7–8 hour
#20 Use A Sleep Cycle App
Now what does an app have to do with the sleep cycle? You see, one of the best ways to wake up refreshed and go through the day relatively energized is by waking up in accordance with the average 90-minute sleep cycle. Remember at the top of this article I mentioned that generally we tend to go through all 5 stages of the sleep cycle in 90 minutes more or less. Waking up during the middle of a sleep cycle significantly increases the chances that you’ll wake up feeling heavy, groggy, and sluggish. But if you time your alarm to coincide with the end of a sleep cycle, then your chances of waking up energized, refreshed, and alert are much, much higher.
Sleep cycle apps help make it much easier for you to determine the best times to set your alarm to wake up the next day. A very useful sleep cycle-timing app is the Sleep Time app. When you open it on your smartphone, it will show you either the ideal times for you to wake up, which coincide with the end of every 90-minute sleep cycle, if you sleep now, or what time you should ideally sleep if you want to wake up at a specific time in the morning, depending on which you option you choose. If you choose the option where you can find out what time you should ideally wake up if you sleep now, you can choose the closest suggested waking up time to your ideal time, which may be before or after it.
One of the best features of this app is its ability to set your phone’s alarm automatically according to the recommended time at which you choose to wake up. You no longer have to remember your chosen wake up time and open your phone’s alarm clock app to set it for that time. Just choose the time and the app will automatically set it for you. It’s that convenient.
BONUS #20.5 Drink The Sleeping Brew
If you’re under budget and you want an all-natural sleeping concoction to help you get sleepy fast and enjoy a really deep and refreshing sleep on most nights, then you should give this sleeping brew – one that I learned from one of bestselling author and personal productivity guru Tim Ferriss’ podcasts. Tim is one of the ultimate biohackers out there and he drinks this brew daily before bed. It’s also pretty easy to make. All you need are 3 ingredients: 1 tablespoon of honey, 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (Braggs’ is the ultimate option), and about a cup of hot water. Just mix all three ingredients together in a mug, and drink the thing before hitting the sack.
I recommend starting with only 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar because most people I know who tried this concoction felt that 2 tablespoons proved to be too strong a flavor for them. Once you get used to 1 tablespoon or if you immediately find it to be not too strong a flavor, then go for 2 tablespoons. Different strokes for different folks but the important thing is you have all 3 key ingredients in there: honey, apple cider vinegar, and hot water. Oh, and don’t expect it to kick in on the first night you drink the brew. While it can work fast for some people, it typically takes a few nights of consistent drinking before its deep sleeping benefits manifest.
The Perfect Night’s Sleep Formula
Let’s put everything together to create the perfect sleep formula. I know it’s summer and the days are longer, and not everyone has the same schedule but remember this is a guide to help you create your ownperfect sleep formula.
- 5:00 am – Wake up before the sun rises (or at least 15 minutes then your usual time, to get the first win of the day)
- 5:05 am – Start your day with a routine to success
- 5:45 am – Get some exposure to red light from rising sun
- 7:00 am – Do some aerobic type of activity
- 12:00 pm – Lunch break, try to go outside or close to a window where you can get some sun exposure
- 4:00 pm – Last cup of coffee for the day
- 5:00 pm – Strength training workout
- 6:30 pm – No blue light, (use the glasses for TV or computer, or dim the lights down in the house)
- 7:00 pm – Dinner time, try to eat protein that has high tryptophan levels
- 8:30 pm – Passion flower tea with a touch of honey
- 9:00 pm – Prepare for bed, make your bedroom cold and dark.
- 9:01 pm – Turn your phone off or to airplane mode, if you feeling frisky now is the time for the big O.
- 9:30 pm – Start some meditation and breathing techniques, and slowly drift to better sleep.
About The Author
Kevin Masson MS, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, USAW
is a strength conditioning coach, exercise physiologist, and functional training specialist in Florida. His primary focus is working with athletes and general populations to increase athletic performance but also enhancing biomechanics. Kevin’s passion is focused on enhancing overall quality of life and pain-free performance for his clients.
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