According to Benjamin Franklin “there will be sleeping enough in the grave” but what if it a lack of sleep was another modern day behaviour that is sending us prematurely to our grave?
In his book, “Why We Sleep, The New Science of Sleep and Dreams”, Sleep Scientist Professor Matthew Walker states that:
No aspect of our biology is left unscathed by sleep deprivation.”
Sleep deprivation has been linked with cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity and poor mental health while I am the first to admit that after a sleepless night that I am hangry for much of the following day. My increased appetite for unhealthy food can be linked to my lack of sleep and this is supported by science (1) and also my own experiences.
At my heaviest, I suffered from Intermittent Sleep Apnoea which resulted in about two hours of sleep a night and in me starting my day with a Mars chocolate bar to help me work, rest and play.
Through the use of a cpap machine I eventually improved the quality and quantity of my sleep, but looking and sounding like Darth Vadar did nothing for my love life and is possibly one of the reasons my wife became my ex-wife.
Only when I lost considerable weight was I able to rid myself of the mask and now that I have regained some weight, I am aware (or my gf makes me aware) that my snoring has returned.
That has not stopped me from staying up late, while the rest of the house is sleeping, to watch Netflix, write blogs posts and generally enjoy the silence and some valuable me time!
The pressures of life and a 24 hour society can make sleep feel like a barrier to achieving all that we can be and people like Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher are remembered and revered for only sleeping five hours a night (President Trump sleeps for three to four hours each night, so that might be a great counter argument on its own).
However, we are now now being warned that sleep deprivation is a major risk factor for many conditions, including cancer (2) and over the past few months, I have been attempting to sleep more. However, sleeping more is similar to moving more and eating less. It is a great objective, but unfortunately, it is often easier to say than it is to do and I have had to take several steps and make a few changes to help me achieve this goal.
The first step was to look at why I stay up late. Blog writing, TV watching, social media updating and all too often, late night online shopping at Lululemon.
How To Sleep More
In order to get to bed earlier, I would have to look at the above. I realised that very few care about my Facebook ramblings at any given time, never mind at midnight; that I could write blogs in the early evening; that my favourite TV shows are on demand and could be watched at any time and that I had bought enough clothing recently to open up a stall in the local market. In fact, I have recently started giving stuff away to the local community. I needed sleep more.
So, I decided to retire to bed at the same the as everyone else. Not only has this increased my sleeping hours from an average of seven hours a night to nine hours a night, but it is nice going to bed as a family. The boys settle and my girlfriend and I have time to talk, read and cuddle (I am a sucker for cuddles). As a bonus, I am eating less, as my two hours watching TV, ranting on social media and writing blogs were accompanied by intermittent eating. Not on carrot and hummus sticks but on crisps and biscuits.
But going to bed earlier is only part of the plan as there is no guarantee of immediate sleep or even a deep sleep, so what else have I done?
Well, I have put away my smartphone. Research (3) suggests that sleep is delayed and also significantly impacted by too much exposure to the blue lights of our electronic gadgets. It reduces the production of melatonin which is our body’s cue to go to sleep. If I am not tired, I read a book for a wee bit, but I now find (my Garmin watch tracks my sleep) that by 10pm most nights, I am fast asleep.
I now retire to bed at the same time almost every evening. Going to bed at a regular time has been shown to have a positive effect on our sleeping pattern and quality of sleep while an erratic bedtime has the opposite effect (4). While not perfect, I am experiencing regular sleep cycles of light and deep sleep.
I have also stripped off and now sleep in my birthday suit. The body cools as we sleep and not only does this help us sleep more soundly, it promotes the production of human growth hormones that helps repair cells while it also helps in the battle against obesity (5). Teresa likes to be snug and needs a thick duvet, so it is sleeping in the buff for me (it is ok, there is no picture).
The final thing that I have been doing is supplementing again with 200 mg 5-HTP capsules kindly sent to me by Focus Supplements who sell a range of Nootropics. 5-Hydroxytryptophan which is an amino acid and precursor to serotonin, a chemical that can affect mood and social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory and sexual desire and function. 5-HTP helps raise serotonin levels in the brain (6). It was part of my daily regime back in 2011 when I lost 178 lbs in twelve months. I am hoping that it will help again.
In my Ariix post I wrote extensively about the need to look at the dosage of ingredients in supplements and check against clinical research. Some sellers of 5-HTP sell 50mg capsules when 200 mg is the stated dose in trials looking at Depression (7).
I have been taking one 200 mg capsule with my evening meal and my girlfriend has noted (with some envy and much to her annoyance) that I am falling to sleep very quickly. I have also noticed that I am eating less later in the evening and I am less grumpy (ok…..only marginally)
With all the above changes, I am sleeping more and sleeping more deeply. I am awakening each morning feeling refreshed and in no need to press the snooze button on my alarm. I am not missing my extra three hours of Netflixing and Facebooking and I am enjoying my extra time with my family.
Are you someone who prides themselves on burning the candle at both ends or do you also want to improve your sleep? Let me know if you you follow my example and how you get on.
P.S. if all else fails, maybe reading my blog will help you sleep.
Links to Research
This post was sponsored by Focus Supplements who gifted the 5-HTP and donated £20 to cancer charities.