This is part 2 of a two part series by Kumar Bandyo, a friend and Kinesiologist. The quality of your sleep is as important as the quantity, and Kumar explains how to get the best nights' sleep possible in this post.
Miss Part 1 - Ten Sleep Hacks? Check it out HERE
This week we talk about creating the ideal sleeping environment. There are many details to consider in this regard, but these little details can make all the difference.
In keeping with the Paleo/Primal theme, before we discuss our bed and bedroom we must consider how we have evolved as humans. We have been genetically programmed to produce melatonin for 12 hours a day. Melatonin is the chemical signal for our body to induce sleep. Therefore we require darkness or very dim light devoid of blue light for that amount of time. In today's day and age, that is not so. Starting work so early, an extended evening full of artificial light, TVs, iPads, computers, nightclubs, and nighttime driving all create a spike in cortisol (the bodies primary stress hormone).
Cortisol is our signal to wake up and get going. Not what we want at 11pm. If we are to produce enough melatonin, we must somehow simulate our genetic ancestors. If you sleep for 7 to 8 hours a night that means for 4 to 5 hours in the evening you must live and work by candlelight or very dim light it. The alternative, if this is not possible, is to wear blue blocker lenses and have yellow lights in table lamps. Using F.lux or blue blocking filters on electronics can help. It’s no use having F.lux on your computer, while sitting under bright lights.
Melatonin is a very potent antioxidant. It has been shown that people who produce the highest melatonin have some of the lowest cancer rates. Visually impaired or blind people (who are basically in a state of darkness 24 hours a day) produce melatonin for 12 hours a day. Blind men have the lowest incidence of prostate and some other cancers.
At night if you wake up to go to the washroom even one second of white light is enough to seize melatonin production. This can prolong the time to fall back to sleep and also disrupt the sleep cycle. This is why it is so essential to have a pitch black room.
You know the lousy sleep you often get in a hotel room, or guest bedroom? It’s a novel environment, with a different bed, strange noises, different sights, smells, sensations, and temperature. Creating the perfect environment takes some experimenting, and everyone is a little different. It’s especially difficult for couples, where the man often needs a cooler room, and the woman wants a warmer room.
Temperature: the brain operates best at cooler temperatures, and we delve into deeper stages of sleep and restoration in a cooler bed. The brain requires this cooler temperature to rest, recuperate, and store the day’s memories. If we want to cycle through all the stages of sleep, then we require a cooler bedroom, as it’s more likely to wake again when the body warms in the lighter 1 and 2 stages. A full cycle lasts roughly 90 minutes, and minimizing wakings is important to feeling rested in the morning.
Personally, I sleep with my window open and fan blowing on me, year round. But, that’s just me. I am a furnace. You can have a fan just circulating air. Just make sure, that in the winter, you turn the thermostat down at night. Ideally get a programmable thermostat, so the heat comes on just after you wake up, and not before.
Light: We’ve talked about the importance of reducing light exposure. I recommend taking this to extremes. Absolutely no light in the bedroom. Invest in blackout blinds. You can get these custom-made at Home Depot. Black out all electronic lights. Even the red LED from the turned off radio or TV can illuminate a pitch black room. If you use an alarm clock, put 2-3 layers of red Tuck tape over it. This is a red translucent tape you can purchase at hardware stores. People often repair their broken taillights with it. This way, you can just see the time when the lights are turned off. I recommend having a bedside table lamp with only a yellow light in it. Mine has a dimmer switch which comes in handy. Check outhttps://www.lowbluelights.com/index.asp It’s not the best website, but excellent content, with top quality products.
Just an FYI: Dr. Edward Carome from the lowbluelights site has been on some podcasts lately, so many of the products are sold out.
Bed: We are going to have an entire post on the bed/mattress. For now let’s talk sheets/blankets. I know it’s common sense, but keeping a clean bed is important. Many people only wash their sheets once a month, some even less often. You need to wash your sheets weekly. You shed dead skin all night and it’s a breeding ground for dust mites. You can never eliminate dust mites, but should try to minimize them.
If you suffer from allergies, frequent sinus infections or colds, this is imperative. Since you are lying on these sheets, often in bare skin, what you wash with is also important. I recommend two varieties of detergent: Nellie’s and the SmartKlean detergent ball. Nellie’s is an all-natural detergent, and SmartKlean is a laundry ball. You can buy Nellie’s at Costco online and SmartKlean online or Home Shows.
Pillows: For pillows, smaller is better. From a postural and health standpoint it is better. Most people’s large pillows push their heads into awkward positions of rotation and excessive extension or flexion. When sleeping on your back, you head/chin should not jut forward. The ear should be in line with the flat top part of shoulder, just like in standing. When on your side, your nose should be in line with the sternum. Stomach sleeping should be avoided, as it puts the neck in the worst position, rotation and extension.
Down pillows do not attract dust mites as bad as synthetic pillows, but they are often only cleaned by dry cleaning, which is like a chemical bath. So, I recommend synthetic pillows which you wash every 3 months, and buy new ones every year! If you’ve been using the same pillow since you were a child, guess what the weight of most of it is? Dust mite feces! Yes, believe it.
Electronics: EMF or Electromagnetic Fields is somewhat controversial, but worth talking about. Houseplants next to routers do not fare as well as plants elsewhere in the home. If EMF can affect a living organism such as a plant, then surely it can, over time, affect us. EMF has been linked to headaches, sleep disturbances, autism, cancer, tumors, and more. Much more research is needed to prove this, and it’s not coming in quickly, as there is little incentive.
We live in an age of electronics, and depend on them for almost every aspect of our life. But, if you can keep the electronics out of the bedroom, then please do so. I recommend taking all TV’s, radios, electric clocks, computers and phones out of the bedroom. If your phone is your alarm, then turn it to airplane mode. If you can, turn all electronics to airplane mode, or turn off WiFi in your home at night. All sleep researchers and sex therapists say the bedroom is only for two things; sleep and sex. Keep it that way!
Slowly try and incorporate some of these sleep hacks into your life. A good sleep will not only extend your life, but makes you feel happier, healthier and more motivated on a daily basis.
Miss Part 1: 10 Sleep Hacks? Check it out HERE
B.Sc., Kinesiologist (BCAK)
Certified Gold Level Coach
Paleo Physicians Network Member
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