Sleep Optimization for Vibrant Energy
I’m not one of those hard-charging, high-achiever, sleep-when-I’m-dead kind of people. I value my sleep immensely and I take it very seriously. I personally sleep seven and a half to nine hours per twenty-four hour period with 7-8 being at night and a twenty to sixty-minute nap mixed in during the day. Hitting this target allows for better workouts, a healthy heart rate, sharp nerves, and increased mental performance – specifically creativity and memory. Let’s start off this week’s module by exploring exactly what happens during sleep and how it affects your physiology throughout the day. After all, humans spend about one-third of our lives asleep!
Why Sleep Matters
Studies have shown the following effects when sleep is not optimal:
#1 – Lack of Sleep Impairs Cellular Waste Clean-up
- Problems with temperature regulation
- A decline in immune function
- Increase in stress hormones
- Imbalances in appetite and blood sugar-regulating hormones
- Increase in inflammatory hormones
- Increased risk for Alzheimer’s
- Increased chance of stress, anxiety, depression
#2 – Lack of Sleep Reduces Anabolic Repair
- Depleted growth hormone
- Inability to repair muscles
- Longer recovery time needed from exercise
#3 – Negative Effects on Training and Athletic Performance
- 11% faster time to exhaustion
- 17-19% increased perceived exertion
- Decreased maximal and submaximal strength levels
- Reduction in cardio-respiratory capacity
- Increase in probability of over-training and injury from reduced proprioceptive and neuromuscular alterations
- Decreased lean muscle mass due to unfavorable anabolic setting
- Increased risk of upper airway infection due to reduced immune function
A Typical Circadian Rhythm
Circadian rhythms are 24-hour patterns of biological activity that regulate the sleep-wake cycle. These rhythms are innately coded in our DNA, and more than a dozen genes are involved in circadian programming. The most notable is the Per, or Period, gene. When scientists have manipulated this gene in animals, they have been able to directly affect sleep and wake times. Once we understand the circadian rhythm, we can use it to determine optimal times for sleep, exercise, sex, meal timing, and everything in between.
6 a.m. – You experience a surge of cortisol to turn on your brain and body. It also coincides with the release of the very important hormone vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP). 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 bring your blood sugar up). VIP relaxes the smooth muscle of your trachea, stomach, and gallbladder, which means that, within two hours of waking, it’s 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 often manifest as cravings throughout the day, this is why it is very important to eat a meal in the morning at some point in the two hours after waking—this regularly timed morning breakfast resets your circadian clock and begins to get your hormones in rhythm. In other words, skipping breakfast or “defying morning hunger” by fasting until lunch is not a good idea if you have hormone imbalances or trouble sleeping late at night.
Decent exposure to morning sunlight helps maximize the effect of this cortisol release by giving your body a little kickstart to get your circadian rhythm normalized. That morning sun can help your cortisol levels naturally decline later at night, and can create a normalized circadian rhythm, so if you miss the sun in the morning, it can be bad news for your sleep! If you can’t step outside in the morning to get at least five, and preferably up to twenty minutes of morning sunlight, you can still maximize this natural release of cortisol with small to moderate amounts of coffee, green tea, adaptogenic herbs, or even fancy light–producing photobiomodulation devices. However, nothing is quite as effective as natural sunlight; this is why you may find that you need very little or no coffee in the summer, but you’re a complete bear if you don’t get your morning cup in the dark winter months.
9-10 a.m. – Sex hormone secretion peaks. Interestingly, sex at this time of day may also help reset your circadian rhythm if you’re having difficulty sleeping at night. So morning movement, morning light, a morning meal, and a morning romp in the bedroom can all encourage a normal circadian rhythm.
2:30 p.m. – You experience a peak in muscle coordination and reaction time. So this can be one good time to exercise or play sports.
5 p.m. – Your cardiovascular efficiency, body temperature, muscle repair, protein synthesis, and workout-recovery capability peak, so this is an even better time of day to exercise, especially if your workout is intense.
Sunset – This will depend on the time of year and where you’re living. At this point, your blood pressure peaks. Interestingly, this is also a time when 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 by lowering your core temperature. Around sunset, the hormone leptin is released from your fat stores. If your circadian rhythm is in sync and leptin is able to do its job properly, leptin can actually shift your body into fatty-acid utilization, suppress your appetite, and control any late-night food cravings. But excessive nighttime light exposure and enormous evening meals can actually inhibit leptin release, so limiting large amounts of late-night snacking and smartphone tapping is a good idea if you want to normalize your circadian rhythm.
Sunset until bedtime – Leptin continues to rise to control your appetite. Adiponectin, another hormone that can assist with fatty-acid metabolism, also tends to rise during this time. If you’ve constantly got high levels of insulin circulating from a high-calorie evening meal or lack of activity in the later afternoon or early evening, your nighttime fatty-acid utilization can be suppressed. This is why it’s very important to limit snacking—especially on carbohydrates or protein-laden foods—in the evening. Incidentally, some forms of calories, such as coconut oil, MCT oil, nut butter, seeds and nuts, and even fructose from a source such as raw honey in moderation do not actually spike insulin significantly and would be an acceptable evening calorie source.
10 p.m. – Assuming that you haven’t been drowning in artificial light from televisions, movie screens, computer screens, smartphones, e-readers, and bright household light bulbs, your body starts secreting the hormone melatonin at around 10 p.m. Melatonin allows your body to sleep and recuperate, turns off waking brain activity to allow for neuronal repair, pulls oxygen and needed hormones away from muscle tissue and other cells, and generally makes it difficult to be physically active and easy to sleep.
11 p.m. – Gastrointestinal activity begins to quiet down so you should not need to use the bathroom until you wake up.
12 a.m. – Melatonin peaks, and that’s when leptin is able to enter an area of the brain called the hypothalamus. This is very important from a metabolic and weight-control or fat-loss standpoint because when leptin enters your hypothalamus, your fat reserves are released and your thyroid receives a signal to upregulate thyroid function. When leptin enters the hypothalamus, it also induces changes in your mitochondria to help them produce heat. When you are asleep, your core temperature falls, and your body has to maintain a set point of warmth, which can’t be generated from running or lifting weights. In the same way that cold thermogenesis allows you to create brown adipose tissue that then produces heat from calories, a good sleep cycle also allows your mitochondria to produce heat from calories. So, in an ideal world, you mobilize and burn your fat stores while you sleep. Starting to get an idea of why obesity is linked to lack of sleep?
It is also around this midnight point in the cycle that melatonin enters the suprachiasmatic nucleus, and when it does, it decreases your neuron-firing rate. Basically, melatonin slows down your brain and allows 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 melatonin peaks at around midnight is that you get a release of prolactin, which is an incredibly important hormone. A deficiency in prolactin (often found in postmenopausal women) can cause a decline in brain activity, a propensity to gain weight, and high levels of inflammatory cytokine molecules associated with a lack of recovery and chronic pain. Meanwhile, balanced prolactin levels increase the recycling of cells, the renewal of cells, and the creation of new cells. It also promotes the release of growth hormones.
If not much prolactin is released while you sleep, you tend to produce less growth hormone, which can cause low levels of DHEA, another very important hormone. Low levels of these hormones result in reduced cardiac function and reduced skeletal muscle function. You can now understand that, if melatonin doesn’t enter the suprachiasmatic nucleus or leptin doesn’t enter the hypothalamus, there will be some serious repercussions, especially for heart health, muscle repair, full-body recovery, and daily physical performance.
Interestingly, adequate levels of DHEA and growth hormone maintain a woman’s reproductive cycle: Without adequate levels of them, women begin menopause earlier. In menopause, the body no longer produces the corpus luteum, an endocrine structure that is essential to the female sexual reproductive function. The corpus luteum causes a monthly surge of progesterone, which is necessary to balance estrogen levels. When estrogen is out of balance because progesterone is low from low levels of growth hormone and DHEA, women end up with issues like cognitive decline, loss of bone density, and weight gain. And a lot of women bring on these issues purely due to a lack of sleep.
2 a.m. – 6 a.m. – Your core temperature falls the most drastically, allowing for more neuron and nervous system repair, neuron growth, 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’ll have a stronger immune system and less inflammation. But in order for your core temperature to drop like this, you need to have been asleep for up to six hours already. So unless you’re genetically programmed to be a night owl (more on that later) if you’re going to sleep at, say, midnight, your body is going to get less rebuilding and repair done between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.
Interestingly, that drop in temperature also signals your body to begin producing cortisol at about 6 a.m., which restarts the entire cycle. At that point, you rinse, wash and repeat the entire cycle, healing your body, building new neurons, and strengthening your immune system along the way.
Every person has an internal clock that impacts several aspects of his or her physiology, such as sleeping, waking, cognition, and digestion. This clock is called the primary circadian pacemaker, and it’s located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of your brain. Sure, you can control when you sleep, wake, and eat, but your internal clock has a built-in preset for these things based on your genetics. This means that there is a perfect time for everything from exercise to sex to creative work, and when you synchronize your activities with your biological clock, your entire life flows better. One of your tasks this week will be to complete Michael Breus’s “The Power of When” quiz to determine your chronotype.Rather than forcing yourself to adhere to the recommended sleep, wake, productivity, and creativity times dished out by books written for a broad market, perhaps it is better to determine your unique chronotype and design your schedule to take advantage of your natural rhythms.
How Much Sleep Do You Actually Need?
Focus on sleep cycles in a 24-hour time period more than the total hours
The goal is to achieve 4-6 sleep cycles per 24-hour period. Each cycle takes approximately 90 minutes during the night. A 20-60 minute nap during the day comes close to simulating a full cycle. Research suggests that anytime between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. (7-8 hours after waking for most people) are good times to nap.
- 7 hours of sleep at night with a 20-40 minute nap during the day (1 additional cycle).
- 6 hours of sleep at night with a 60-90 minute nap during the day (2 additional cycles).
Sleep cycle quantification
If you use a wearable such as an Oura ring or Whoop here are the targets you should be aiming for each night:
REM – 20-25%
Light sleep (N1 + N2) – 50-55%
Deep sleep – 15-20%
Optimizing Your Sleep Environment
|Get exposure to light during the day:||Eliminate exposure to light at night:|
|Dawn/sunrise simulator alarm clock||Avoid screens as much as possible after sunset|
|Sun exposure first thing in the morning for 10-30 minutes||Wear blue-light-blocking glasses|
|Blue spectrum biological lights in office/work rooms||Use blue-light blocking technology on devices|
|Blue spectrum biological lights in office/work rooms||Avoid/unplug electronics in the bedroom that emit light|
|Use a photobiomodulation device||Use warm spectrum biological lights in bedrooms|
|Use blackout curtains in bedrooms|
|Wear a sleep mask to be the ultimate sleep princess|
Utilize the power of aromatherapy by diffusing essential oils in the bedroom, preferably with a nebulizing essential oil diffuser. The following essential oils have been shown to be effective at helping manage insomnia and promote deep sleep:
- Juniper Berry
- Roman Chamomile
- Ylang Ylang
– Keep bedroom temperature around 65°F/18°C.
– Avoid intense exercise within 3 hours before bed, as it increases core body temperature. If can’t be avoided, take a cold or hot-cold-contrast shower.
– Utilize biohacking devices to cool your core body temperature such as the Chilipad.
Sounds for Sleep
– Block out ambient noise with a white noise app, wraparound sleep mask w/earplugs, or soft slide-sleeper-friendly headphones.
– Binaural Beats apps to enhance delta brainwave production such as Brain FM.
– Background music tracks plaid in the bedroom to induce sleep (I recommend speakers placed on both sides of the bed, or a sound-conducting pillow).
Grounding for Sleep
– Get in direct contact with the earth as much as possible.
– Sleep on a grounding mat, or put one under work station.
– Use PEMF devices that emit the same magnetic frequency as the earth.
– Wearing grounding shoes/sandals when not possible to be barefoot.
– Avoid consuming high-glycemic carbohydrates, and large meals in general, less than 4 hours before bed.
– Keep saturated fat intake at dinner low-moderate
– Higher protein intake (>0.7 g/lb) may help sleep when in an energy deficit.
– If very active and waking frequently during the night is an issue, more carbohydrates might be necessary (100-200g)
– For a slow release of energy and adequate minerals to keep blood pressure and cortisol regulated, try a spoonful of coconut oil topped with a dab of nut butter, a pinch of sea salt, and a drizzle of raw honey.
A Day of Perfect Sleep
How to Counteract a Night of Lost Sleep
A crappy night of sleep is bound to happen every once in a while. Whether it’s from pulling an all-nighter, crying babies, or international travel, here are some important steps to counteract the negative effects of sleep deprivation and get your circadian rhythm back on track.
Your body has been working overtime. Be kind to it and refuel it by making sure you are drinking plenty of water. Try adding some electrolytes or a pinch of sea salt to give your adrenals the minerals they need to function.
Resist the urge to supersize that morning coffee. 50-100 mg or one to two 8 oz cups over the entire day will keep your eyes open without derailing your next night of sleep. Choose your caffeine wisely. Extra sugar means an extra hard crash. Pass on those energy drinks or quad-shot caramel frappes. Keep it simple with black coffee or tea.
The best way to reset your internal clock? Get outside, catch some rays, and do some light aerobic exercise. Whether it’s yoga or a quick walk, the movement, and vitamin D will realign your circadian rhythm, and quell any sleep-deprived
Your sleep cycle cues your appetite. Lack of sleep means your hunger hormone (ghrelin) levels will be high, and your satiated hormone (leptin) levels will be low. Don’t cave and go for those easy carbs and fats. They’ll just make you more tired. Your goal is a slow and steady burn: high protein, low fat, low glycemic. Protein intake increases orexin production, a hormone that keeps you awake and alert.
Compromising your sleep compromises your immunity, so be proactive. Take 1,000 mg of activated charcoal to flush your system of existing toxins, and place 4-5 drops of oregano oil under your tongue to guard against new invaders.
This is the proper time for a short-term polyphasic sleep regime. It takes some planning, but your body will thank you. It repairs your body about as much as possible without the proper eight hours of shut-eye. Get at least three hours of sleep at night, then take three 20-minute naps evenly spaced during the day. For example, you could sleep from about 4 am to 7 am, and then try to get a 20-minute nap at noon, a quick nap in the afternoon, and another right before dinner.
Jet Lag & Sleeping on Airplanes
Jet lag sucks, as anyone who frequently travels intimately knows. Similar to the types of sleep problems caused by shift work, jet lag is a “chronobiological” issue that occurs when you travel across many time zones. Your body clock isn’t in sync with the destination time because you’ve experienced daylight and darkness that are contrary to the rhythms to which you’ve grown accustomed. This upsets your body’s natural rhythm, and the problem becomes compounded because the times for eating, sleeping, hormone regulation, and body-temperature variations no longer correspond to what you’re used to. So I’ve come up with a “recipe” for beating jet lag, allowing me to step off an airplane feeling refreshed and ready to perform.
Jet Lag Fix #1: Grounding or Earthing
Grounding/earthing involves exposing your body to the natural magnetic frequencies released by the Earth. At no time does grounding become a more effective destination strategy than when you’re traveling in an airplane since hurtling through space in a metal tube 40,000 feet above the planet is about as disconnected from the Earth as you can get. The basic idea is that you aren’t able to discharge all the positive ions that build up via cellular metabolism, you aren’t able to absorb the negative ions you’d normally get if you were touching the ground, and this ion imbalance decreases the natural electrochemical gradient across your cell membranes, so you get disrupted cellular metabolism and inflammation. As soon as I land at my destination, I make it a point to either (1) put on a pair of special shoes called Pluggz or sandals called Earth Runners, both of which have carbon plugs in them that allow for grounding without being barefoot or go outside in my bare feet (yes, I’m the guy in spandex or a Speedo doing barefoot yoga in the grassy lot behind the hotel). I also use PEMF devices like the Flexpulse or the Earthpulse underneath my mattress or on my body to the ground while I sleep.
Jet Lag Fix #2: Exercise
Multiple studies have shown that exercise can regulate circadian rhythms. So as lousy and miserable as you may feel training after a long day of travel or a long few days of international travel, the sooner you can vigorously move after arriving at your final destination, the sooner you’ll bounce back from jet lag and normalize your circadian rhythm and sleep. But this doesn’t mean you have to do a killer WOD or an epic run when you get to your destination. My top three choices, if I’m feeling a bit blah after travel, are (1) walking (barefoot if possible) in the sunshine or on a beach, (2) swimming in cool water, and, (3) outdoor barefoot yoga. Finally, for each hour that I’m sedentary on an airplane, I do 50 air squats near the back of the plane or in any other open space I can find.
Jet Lag Fix #3: Avoid Caffeine
It’s a relatively common recommendation for managing jet lag to discourage the consumption of caffeine, alcohol, and other stimulants. Because of their overstimulation of the central nervous system and their potential for disrupting circadian rhythm even more, I absolutely agree and simply do not go near caffeine or any other central nervous system stimulant while en route to my final destination.
Jet Lag Fix #4: Melatonin
For travel across more than three time zones, I consume 60-80mg (yep, that’s a lot!) of melatonin prior to bed for rebooting my circadian rhythm upon arrival at my final destination. Melatonin is also a natural anti-inflammatory, which will help decrease inflammation that builds up during air travel.
Jet Lag Fix #5: Water
You’ve no doubt heard that you lose more water due to the dehydration that occurs while flying in the dry air at altitude—so you obviously need to drink more water to stay hydrated and beat jet lag. But I’ve been going beyond the normal recommendations, drinking closer to 12–16 ounces of water (nearly a full bottle) each hour, and have noticed a distinct difference in sleep, mood, and energy upon landing. Just make sure to book an aisle seat or, if you’re in a window seat, make sure that your aisle-based airline partner is spry and willing to move every time you need to pee—or just politely ask to switch spots.
Jet Lag Fix #6: Cold Showers
Cold showers decrease inflammatory cytokines, assist with the activation of brown adipose tissue for fat burning, and cause a rebound hormone response in the form of a release of adrenaline. I’ve been going so far as to actually go into an airline lounge in the airport for a 10-15 minute cold shower if I have a long layover. I also take a 2-5 minute cold shower in the hotel when I arrive at my final destination. Cold showers also have very good blood-vessel-expanding properties because they release more nitric oxide into your blood vessels, and the subsequent increase in glucose and oxygen uptake can dramatically reduce jet lag.
Jet Lag Fix #7: Curcumin
Curcumin, a substance found in turmeric, is a powerful antioxidant that helps tremendously when taken on an empty stomach both before and after flying. Because of its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and shut down inflammatory cytokines in neural tissue, it is a potent brain anti-inflammatory and may also boost testosterone and growth hormone. I used about 1,000 milligrams of curcumin from a highly absorbable source, such as the “Meriva” form.
Jet Lag Fix #8: Oxytocin
Finally, oxytocin is an extremely powerful hormone that acts to lift your mood and also acts as a potent antioxidant, antidepressant, and anti-inflammatory. Although it’s most commonly known as a hormone that is released after sex in adults and during breastfeeding in babies, you can get your oxytocin hormone fix anywhere and at any time—including while you’re traveling. All you need to do is hug someone or (slightly less effective) warmly shake another person’s hand. The simple act of bodily contact will cause your brain to release low levels of anti-inflammatory, mood-boosting oxytocin. So find the first person who’s OK with it when you get to your destination and give him/her a big, loving bear hug.
Jet Lag Fix #9: Use Light Therapy
My favorite light therapy devices to travel with are the Re-Timer and Human Charger. I use them both, in combination when it’s morning at my final destination to reset my circadian rhythm to a new time zone.
This week’s call info
Tuesday, March 28th at 10:30 am CST
Speaker: Coach Aidan H
Zoom Link: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/4636180446