Sleep smarter

https://www.librarything.com/work/17512525/150336148

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has now classified overnight shift work as a Group 2A carcinogen. This means that staying up late repeatedly, and working overnight, is a strong enough cancer-causing agent to be lumped in with lead exposure and UVA radiation. That might sound crazy, but there s now a ton of scientific data showing exactly how this happens.

~ Shawn Stevenson, pg 43 of Sleep Smarter

Shift work that involves circadian disruption? Carcinogen.

A while back I wrote a piece on Sleep. It turned into three parts and after writing it, I felt I had only scratched the surface. Then I stumbled over this book.

I read the book and it’s really good! I blasted through it agreeing all the way. If you know everything about sleep, you’ll still enjoy seeing it all laid out in an approachable fashion. If you have NOT YET MASTERED SLEEP — wait, what is wrong with you?! Sleep is the single most important thing in your life. It is the activity you spend the most aggregated time doing. Remind me why you have not spent time studying sleep and improving yours?

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§6 – Sleep Epilogue

(Part 6 of 8 in Changes and Results)

Here are a couple more things which I’ve read about, but haven’t tried as part of my sleep hacking.

Sleep journaling

Some people have suggested keeping a sleep journal. In it you record everything related to sleep: notes about your last meal (what and when), what time you go to bed, when you wake up, perceived quality of sleep, dreams… everything. You would then be able to review this sleep journal periodically and use it to inspire changes in your sleep rituals.

The best way to improve you sleep is to conduct experiments. Change some detail and then sleep with that for a month. Then review your sleep journal notes to compare with the previous month.

In my general life hacking, I was often changing many things at the same time. Some of the details of sleeping which you would hack on with a sleep journal, I was already hacking and tracking.

Sleeping alone

My Grand-parents’ generation seems to have slept more frequently in separate beds than is popular these days. (A quick search of the Internet leads me to believe as many as 1/3 of couples currently sleep in separate beds on a regular basis.)

I haven’t graduated to this level, yet. But I can tell you that having another person immediately next to you whose movements, or snoring, may wake you, is just another thing to mess up your sleep. When I first started hacking my sleep, I realized that we were waking each other up frequently in the night. It turns out that if I’m only sleeping lightly, the other person’s movements will wake me. But it seems that as my sleep quality has improved, movements and sounds are now much less likely to make me.

That said, if you wanted to try separate sleeping, you could try sleeping on the floor (with futon cushions, or air mattresses.) You could then move your bedding closer or farther apart as the mood strikes, and still be on a solid surface which would not convey any sense of movement from the other person. You’re still close enough, of course, that sounds could be an issue.

Aside: This is one reason why I prefer to sleep on my air mattress on the floor when I travel. Sharing a pull-out sofa or large bed with someone I don’t know, is the worst-case scenario for being disturbed all night.

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§5 – Sleep

(Part 5 of 8 in Changes and Results)

Q: I’ve been entirely preoccupied by a most frightening experience of my own. A couple of hours ago, I realized that my body was no longer functioning properly. I felt weak, I could no longer stand. The life was oozing out of me, I lost consciousness.

Picard: You fell asleep.

sigh Sleep. Sweet. Rejuvenating. Blissful. …when you can get it.

Preamble

There is a huge amount of information about sleep available on the Internet. Over the years, I’ve collected a wide range of references upon which I’ve based my actions and opinions. I do this for a lot different topics, and I have a companion web site where I collect all the health related information I’ve found. In the case of Sleep, please see Sleep Quality, Light Sensitivity in the Human Brain, and Magnesium and Sleep over on Hilbert’s Library.

Darkness

I sleep best in complete darkness.

Long ago, I had no idea that light was messing up my sleep quality. Light is everywhere in modern life: it comes from windows, from doorways, from the alarm clock’s LED numerals, from the blinking LEDs on the WiFi router. But, after a lot of reading, and over ten years of experimenting, I’m convinced that light is enemy number one.

Sure there are other things which will wake me, (noise, movement, etc) but light is pervasive. Light is subtle. Light is insidious. Rage! Rage against the light!

So the goal for me is complete darkness.

Aside: Yes, I’ve considered using a sleep mask to cover my eyes. However, the human brain is broadly sensitive to light, so I’m not convinced a light mask is as good as a good old-fashioned dark room. See Light Sensitivity in the Human Brain.

My life is organized around the time on the clock, so I do not have the luxury of arranging my sleep around the sun’s rise and set. Therefore, I needed to manipulate my environment. When I began hacking my sleep at our apartment, my first light source to tackle was a street light that completely illuminated our bedroom through a high window in our cathedral ceiling. I had to buy a tall ladder just so I could climb up and cover the entire window with cardboard wrapped in velvet. Although we only had nearly-useless mini-blinds on all the other windows, this first light-reduction hack made an improvement in my sleep quality.

When we bought a house, the bedroom was the first room we remodeled. We set it up to be PITCH BLACK. The alarm clock is dimmed, there are no chargers or electronics in the room, and I added black-out curtains to the windows. Each night, when I first lie down to sleep, I cannot perceive a difference between having my eyes open or closed. (Of course, by the middle of the night, my dark adapted eyes can easily tell the difference.) If I step out of the bedroom in the wee hours of the night, the rest of the house seems so bright! There’s a light on the smoke detector, all the windows admit outside light, the microwave’s clock, the standby light on the TV, and on and on.

So my first suggestion is to get as close as you can to pitch black. Change things, move things, buy things, whatever — sleep is the most important part of your life.

The alarm clock

Initially, I had a generic alarm clock… beep beep beep BEEEEP! There’s nothing like waking up with a shot of adrenaline and cortisol to start me off on the wrong foot for the day.

First, I changed to an alarm clock which played music, but it had blindingly bright green numerals. Eventually I read about alarm clocks which have a bright light which slowly — over a half hour — fades up to fully illuminate the room. (Search for “Philips HF3470”; It’s discontinued, but it will get you going in the right direction.) Some mornings, the fact that “the sun has come up” in the room is enough to wake me up. But usually, the alarm clock proceeds to an audible alarm, and ours urges us by playing various tweeting bird sounds. (If I wasn’t so deaf, the light would probably wake me up enough to hear the actual birds outside.)

When to sleep

If you have all the above under control, you can technically sleep at any time of day. But there’s a catch: You need time to physiologically wind down before going to sleep. If it’s bright daylight when you want to sleep, you’ll need to craft a dimmed, calm space where you can relax and wind down. (But not where you actually sleep, don’t lay on the bed to wind down. More on not making your bed a multi-use space below.)

Consistency in sleep times is key. There are physiological processes which occur in the body which are not under conscious control. The body works on habit (and environmental cues) and it’s sluggish about changes. Wonky work shifts that make you change your sleeping patters are not healthy; if you’re into that type of work, just realize you’re trading your quality of life to accomplish your job. Be sure it’s worth it.

Remember: For me, sleep is the most important thing in my life. Work, play, scheduling, consistency… these are all things I’m will to work on, hack on, and change, to improve my sleep schedule because poor sleep leads to a poor life.

Temperature

Slightly cooler works for me (and agrees with what I’ve read.) But it doesn’t seem to matter too much. As long as you’re comfortable. But if the temperature is consistently UN-comfortable, you need to correct that.

There are obvious ways to hack the temperature, (e.g., air conditioning, a fan,) but you can also hack the general room environment. Figure out where the air moves through the room. (For example, if air normally moves from your open window to the door, move your bed to be near the window.) Get creative and sling a hammock across your room and sleep close to the floor, (where it’s cooler in summer, or closer to the ceiling where it’s warmer in winter.) Find the room with the best sleeping temperature and move your bedroom there.

Different mattress and sheet surfaces will feel cooler or warmer, so experiment to find what works best for you. Different types and extent of clothing obviously matters, but have you actually experimented to see how what you wear (or don’t wear) affects your perception of temperature?

Comfort

In general, splurge on things for your bed: Mattress, sheets, covers, comforters, pillows etc. Buy the most comfortable mattress, and the sheets you love to slide into. Then go another step and buy two sets of the sheets you love. (When you change the sheets you can strip and immediately remake the bed with clean linen.)

Improve the psychological comfort of your bed. Make changes, and build habits, which make the bed a comfortable, inherently relaxing, space. Room details such as color (hint: darker hues and blues are relaxing), lighting and general “busyness” of the room all have a subtle effect on your mood.

Slightly less obvious is to make your bed every morning. It doesn’t have to be fancy with specific folds or tucks, just make it up to whatever your definition of “made up” is. Later, each time you see the bed it will look inviting all made up, and you’ll look forward to peeling it open and sliding in.

Because it is a large, clear, open, space it will generally attract — but especially if you make it up each morning — random items throughout the day. Pay attention to what ends up on the bed and find proper homes, or invent systems, to keep those things off the bed. (For example: Clothes go ‘here’, worn-but-still-wearable items go ‘there’, pets are excluded by closing the door, put a chair in the room for sitting when dressing, etc.)

Avoidance

I’ve read various things about avoiding blue light in general, computer screens, TV, etc. But I’ve found that simply avoiding whatever it is that “winds me up” is sufficient to not sabotage my sleep. So, while I will look at my computer or phone near bed time, I don’t go to web sites or apps where I know I’ll get sucked down the rabbit hole. Instead, I’ll read through news feeds, e-books, or review my personal productivity systems and to-do lists. A lot of being able to readily fall asleep is related to my thinking-brain being relaxed. If there are things on my mind then I find I’ll be stuck laying awake in bed.

Eating

As with everything here, the key is to figure out what foods, and what eating times, affect your sleep.

I try to avoid eating within a few hours of going to sleep.
(In another part of this series, I’ll talk about intermittent fasting.) I find that I can sleep very well after a meal, particularly if I’ve had a couple hours for my digestion to get started.

What I’ve eaten also has a huge impact on my ability to fall asleep, and on my sleep quality. Too many sweets, or almost any amount of alcohol, to close to bed time will affect my sleep; I can fall asleep, but after an hour or so I find I’m wide awake. Same thing if I drink too much coffee. I’m pretty sure the stimulants (sugar, caffeine) and depressants (alcohol) affect my ability to reach the deeper sleep levels, and so I wake up instead of sleeping deeply. There’s a tremendous amount of information available about food and diet. Related to sleep, it’s worth looking into issues of digestion and experimenting to see what works for you.

Magnesium

There is solid evidence that Magnesium deficiency can cause sleep problems (restless legs, muscle cramps and more.) It is also a well-known relaxant. So that’s doubly suggestive that Magnesium (reading, experimentation, supplementation) could be very useful in improving your sleep. See Magnesium and Sleep.

Technology

There’s a lot you can do in terms of tracking sleep with things like Fitbits and Beddits. (Tracking is part of the “quantified self” movement.) Here again, the goal would be to measure something (sleep duration, quality, presence of sleep apnea, number of sleep cycles, etc.,) correlate that with how you feel and how it affects your life, and then make adjustments to your sleeping environment, habits and life in general. I did a small amount of tracking with a Fitbit. (I didn’t like the blindingly-bright green lights it uses for the pulse sensor. That’s how dark it is where I sleep.) But, for the period of time when I was tracking my sleep quality, it certainly helped focus my attention and efforts on improving my sleep.

Mental Activity

If I have too much on my mind, I sometimes have trouble falling asleep. When I first started working on my sleep I wasn’t yet journaling. Years later I started journaling and I found that emptying my brain in the evening was a wonderfully relaxing way to prepare for bed. Over the years, it became clear that as my time ran out each day, sitting down consistently to journal was difficult. So these days, I don’t regularly journal in the evening. (Instead, I write as part of my morning routine.) But sometimes I will journal to empty my thoughts if I feel that I’ve too much on my mind to readily fall asleep.

Room Usage

Don’t do anything other than sleep in your bed. Don’t read in bed, watch tv, or use digital devices. Whatever you do regularly, that is what you’re training yourself to do in that space. Have a “going to bed” routine, and turn out the lights.

Napping

For me, I can take a half hour blink-nap in the afternoon without it missing up my sleep. (A blink-nap is where I’m thinking, “I feel like I need a nap,” I lay down, blink, and a half hour has elapsed.)

Next up…

A few things I have not tried…

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§4 – Sleep Prologue

(Part 4 of 8 in Changes and Results)

I’ve been talking about writing a post about sleep for years. But as I started writing, it turned into a huge article. Which makes sense, because fixing my sleep is the single most important healthy change I have ever made.

I realized that if I wanted to get a sufficient, healthy amount of sleep — let’s say around 8 hours — I would be spending ONE THIRD of my life sleeping. That means sleeping vastly outweighs any other activity in my life. I became determined to optimize the time spent sleeping and to ARRANGE MY LIFE AROUND SLEEPING. This was the critical, first step.

Failing to plan is planning to fail

I only know how much sleep works for me. You’ll need to find out for yourself how much sleep you need. This is another spot where the habit journal will really pay off. If you can track when you go to sleep, when you wake, how much sleep you get, and your quality of sleep, then you can make changes as you review each month.

One detail I’ve discovered is that some days I simply need extra sleep. So while I have a consistent plan, some days I’m stumble-down tired a half an hour before I’d normally turn in for the night. In these cases I just go to bed a little early, and with that extra half hour I usually feel terrific the next morning. There’s no feeling to match that of walking up, fully refreshed, a few minutes before the alarm.

I started by considering the time I needed to be at work, and subtracted time working backwards (commute, breakfast, shower, etc.) to determine what time I actually needed to get up. It was basically when my alarm was already set for, but it was good to double-check by consciously figuring this out. From there I just backed up 8 hours and that told me when I needed to go to sleep.

That gave me my very first sleep hack: Get to bed at the appointed time. That would lead to sufficient sleep (sufficient is the first hurdle, quality comes next), and a reset of my life at the start of each day. But it was immediately clear that I would have to change much of my evening habit. Dinner had to be coordinated at a more consistent, earlier time, and I had to break the habit of lounging in front of the TV.

This is all VERY hard to do.

I worked to consistently use my habit journal, and to review each month. Each day that I wasn’t in bed on time, I reminded myself that SLEEP was the most important thing in my life. These days — a decade later — I do deviate from the plan. Usually it’s when I’m traveling, or intentionally out late. But the point is: I HAVE A PLAN. My sleep plan sets me up FOR SUCCESS, rather than having no plan, and sabotaging the rest of my life each day, before I even open my eyes.

Partner Buy-in

Since I share sleeping space, this was the first, serious issue I had to solve.

I found that every night we enacted the following scene: I would get sleepy, and ask her, “What time do you want to go to bed?” The response was usually, “I just need ten minutes to finish this up.” Ten minutes later, it’s role reversal: She’s ready for bed, but I’m busy with something new and it’s my turn to ask for 10 more minutes. We’d then repeat this until 1am when we’d both crash, exhausted, and get yet another terrible night of sleep.

( Sound familiar? Maybe for you it’s roommates, or guests that are around all the time. Whatever. )

Our solution was to set a bed time, and a lights-out time. Everyone goes to bed at bed time. At “lights-out” time, the ready-for-bed person, is permitted to turn off EVERY light in the house (because we sleep in darkness), leaving the other to stumble into bed IN THE DARK — no turning lights on after bed time! This means you have to learn to plan the end of your evening so you can have time for your bedtime routine.

Why bed times? Why lights out rules? Because we realize that we must go to bed on time, so we can wake up on time, having slept well.

Sleep is priority number one.

Next up

A long list of sleep hacking ideas…

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The Big Sleep

(Part 8 of 12 in Stephan Guyenet's "Whole Health Source")

wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2010/10/big-sleep.html

The term “adrenal fatigue”, which refers to the aforementioned disturbance in cortisol rhythm, is characterized by general fatigue, difficulty waking up in the morning, and difficulty going to sleep at night. It’s a term that’s commonly used by alternative medical practitioners but not generally accepted by mainstream medicine, possibly because it’s difficult to demonstrate and the symptoms are fairly general. Robb Wolf talks about it in his book The Paleo Solution.

~ Stephan Guyenet

I yap about sleep a lot, for a very good reason. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:

Improving my sleep was the single most important thing I’ve ever done for my health. The first small improvements in sleep led to further steps onward and onward.

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Our lives are not what we think

http://www.raptitude.com/2011/06/our-lives-are-not-what-we-think/

Everything there is, everything we know, hinges on this one bizarre, transient condition — existence — which just happens to be your current reality. We regard the miracle of existence as a goldfish regards water, which means we don’t regard it at all. But if you think about it, it’s an exceedingly peculiar fact — that we exist.

~ David Cain

My energy and drive to write waxes and wanes. But my desire for perspective is constant. Here’s a big ol’ chunk of a different perspective from David Cain.

My favorite sort of perspective—this has happened to me several times—is when I am completely exhausted. Not sleepy, but physically exhausted. Sometimes this has been when I have a slight fever, when a bout with the flu is beginning. But sometimes it’s just after a long day of physical labor. I lay down, and every muscle in my body is completely relaxed. There’s no urge to fidget, and no urge to move. When I’m completely relaxed like this, exhaling is such a delightfully emptying feeling.

…and sometimes my brain gets quiet enough to think, “oh! This is quite nice.”

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A conversation with Mandy Lam

(Part 2 of 2 in The interviews from my perspective)

27 — Mandy Lam

rabbit. hat.

This conversation with Mandy was the first time I tried simply recording a long conversation [which we published with almost zero editing]. I had been talking to people on our team about trying this form of recording, but at some point, you just sort of have to jump in the pool.

I don’t remember where or when I first met Mandy. I don’t remember if someone said, “you should interview Mandy.” “Who?” “Mandy, over there— here, I’ll introduce you.” …or maybe we first met training. I really don’t recall. But I do recall that after a conversation we were like, yeah, let’s do an interview. At some point. Somewhere. Somewhen.

Then a few more conversations. Then a few stories at Gerlev, and then we were at the 3rd Évry Move event and we were like, we better make time for an interview…

Aside: I promised snapshots and stories… not coherency.

So after dinner one evening, Tracy, Mandy and I kicked our feet up in a hotel room overlooking the fountain in front of the Évry Cathedral.

…and talked for more than two hours trying to decide what to talk about in her interview. Two terrific hours of great conversation. We kept looking out from the 4th floor, with the big window swung open wide to the warm night, and thinking, “This is Évry. We’re just casually chatting about communities and life and everything… in the middle of Évry.”

…and the huge water fountain in the plaze sounding like a waterfall.

…and we really should press record soon.

“…ok, so, we’ve now been talking for 2-and-a-half hours. We should maybe press record soon. Maybe.”

Finally, I was like, “fuck it. ready?” and I hit record… and then we talked for another two hours. We recorded this sleep-drunk sort of rambling conversation, and the whole time I’m thinking, “omg this is going to be so bad. No one will ever want to listen to this.”

Weeks later, I finally listened to it.

There’s a team of people behind the podcast and they always want to know how each interview went. I bet you’ve heard the phrase, “like pulling a rabbit out of your hat,” used when—with a touch of panache—you manage something akin to snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

rabbit. hat.

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Parkour floor

http://www.raptitude.com/2011/01/a-day-in-the-future/

We forget that what we have is more than what we need. Obscenely more. I know it may sound perverse, but here in the future people often feel like they need more than they have.

~ David Cain

There’s a sense of accomplishment in being prepared to sleep on the floor when traveling. There’s a sense of freedom in being able to carry a small backpack and live comfortably. I always knew this was at least partly due to knowing that I was prepared enough for important contingencies and free enough to roll with whatever comes up during the day.

But now I see that there’s a second dimension to why I enjoy it: The self-imposed hardship. Sometimes the floor is cold and drafty, sometimes there’s a cat (I’m allergic to cats), sometimes everyone stays up very late (I usually turn in around 9:30), sometimes I miss a meal, sometimes I don’t sleep much if there’s too much light, sometimes it’s noisy, … and so on. Still, I am invariably in a better mood than usual the morning after each of these choose-your-own-adventures-gone-bad. Cold, stiff, sneezy, tired … sure. But in a good mood. Well, that’s very interesting, now isn’t it?

I’m not making a call for you to take up Parkour-flooring. I’m only pointing out that when I occassionally reset my callibration by intentionally taking on some suffering, I’m invariably happier after.

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A doorway from hell into your bedroom

http://www.macdrifter.com/2018/12/fighting-the-insomnia-machine.html

If the devil were to create a doorway from hell straight into your bedroom, it would look a lot like an email app. While email is a valuable tool, it’s also a giant funnel into my consciousness. The single biggest change that helped me resist insomnia was to ignore work email when I get home.

~ Gabe Weatherhead

I banished the phone (and everything else) from the bedroom about a decade ago. If you have a television, your phone, your computer or anything else in the space where you sleep, I believe you are making a grave error.

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