Want Better Sleep? Here’s 2 Easy ways to get it.
by Joe DiStefano, co-founder of Spartan Coaches

Sleep is everything when it comes to mental focus and physical preparedness. In fact, living with the mindset “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” may get you there quite a bit faster! According to one study that studied over 10,000 participants, there was noted a two fold increase in death from all causes in participants sleeping 5 hours per night or less compared to those sleeping 7-8 [1]. This may be correlated to the fact that sleep deprivation increases insulin sensitivity which increases risk for weight gain, diabetes and heart disease – some of our most prevalent modern day killers. Furthermore, even just subtle degrees of sleep deprivation overtime can be correlated with immune suppression, cognitive decline, and mental health problems, increasing the instance of seemingly unrelated problems ranging from the common cold, to car accidents and depression.

Again. The mindset “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” may get you there quite a bit faster!

Thankfully, to ensure the best possible night sleep there are a two really easy things we can do that are going to have an immediate impact on your sleep quality and exercise recovery. First, avoid all caffeine after 3pm. Yes, yes even you “Mr. Caffeine-Does-Not-Effect-My-Sleep” because it does. Caffeine is a stimulant that stays in your system for over 6 hours! Regardless if you aren’t feeling jittery or full of energy, caffeine is still going to activate the sympathetic nervous system, also known as our “Flight or Fight” response [3]. Being in “Flight or Fight” is associated with increased glucose mobilization, increased blood pressure, and increased vigilance and alertness. All things you do not want if the goal is to sleep restfully.

Being unconscious and sleeping restfully are two different things.

Number two is to avoid using laptops, iPads, and cell phones for at least an hour or two (or three) before bedtime.[2] This may come as a surprise, because nearly all of us are guilty of it, but the intense blue light many of today’s most popular gadgets shine directly into your eyeballs confuses the brain, suppresses melatonin production, and disrupts the circadian rhythm we developed over hundreds of thousands of years of rising and falling with the sun.

A 2013 study, published in the Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology, concluded that male drivers exposed to bright light and given 200mg of caffeine at 1:00am showed reduced instances of lane drifting and improved reaction time at 6am! Even when compared to the same subject under placebo conditions, or given just one or the other [4].

Avoiding both of these things will allow you to immeidately improve any symptoms you may be feeling related to poor sleep, whether you are aware your sleep is to blame or not. You’ll be amazed how much these easy things slow down your thoughts, allow you to forget about work, money, family, or relationships, and allow you to get what may be your best night’s sleep of the year.

References:

Ferrie JE; Shipley MJ; Cappuccio FP; Brunner E; Miller MA; Kumari M; Marmot MG. A prospective study of change in sleep duration; associations with mortality in the whitehall II cohort. SLEEP 2007;30(12):1659-1666.

Figueiro MG, Wood B, Plitnick B, Rea MS. The impact of light from computer monitors on melatonin levels in college students. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2011;32(2):158-63. PubMed PMID: 21552190.

Nehlig, A; Daval, JL; Debry, G. “Caffeine and the central nervous system: Mechanisms of action, biochemical, metabolic, and psychostimulant effects”. Brain Res Rev. May-August 1992. 17 (2): 139-70. – See more at:http://www.jyi.org/issue/caffeine-understanding-the-worlds-most-popular-psychoactive-drug/#sthash.NBe3CYAg.dpuf

Hartley SL, Barbot F, Machou M, Lejaille M, Moreau B, Vaugier I, Lofaso F, Quera-Salva MA. Combined caffeine and bright light reduces dangerous driving in sleep-deprived healthy volunteers: A Pilot Cross-Over Randomised Controlled Trial. Neurophysiol Clin. 2013 Jun;43(3):161-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neucli.2013.04.001. Epub 2013 Apr 26. PubMed PMID: 23856172.

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11 Responses

  1. avatar

    LOL, not only am I old now I must be half dead too. No wonder I feel like crap after my first Spartan. I rarely get more than 5 hr. of sleep, except when I used to have Sat to myself, that hasn’t happened in a long time.

  2. avatar

    So what’s your recommendation for those of us who are working the nightshift? I don’t have a set schedule at work given I’m a nurse
    Who works 12hr shifts. Some days I’m awake with the sun, and some days I’m going to sleep when the rest of the world is starting their day.

    • avatar

      Dana –

      Night shifts are hard on the body. Best thing you can do is when you do sleep, always sleep in total darkness- no matter what time it is.

      Laptops, etc of course are bad but also cover up all windows, toss a shirt over digital clocks,

      The darker the better.

      Di

  3. avatar

    I seldom sleep more than 4.5 hrs a night. I’ve been like this for my whole life, I’m 65 now, just getting ready to run in my third Spartan race. I’ll give the above a try. I would like to sleep 6 hours straight through. Ken

    • avatar

      Interesting.

      Maybe try to frontload most of your carbohydrate intake into your earlier meals.

      I’ve seen this work with some people quite well…I remember one guy I coached with sleep issues that had 60 days of food journalling where every single day he had even a lick of sugar post-2pm he couldn’t sleep.

      Every single day across two months where all that was after 2pm was lean proteins and non-starchy veggies, like salmon & kale for example, he slept like a baby.

      People have different sensitivities, and we are all very different. So much of the time we rule things out or do not even consider them when the simplest thing could be the golden ticket.

      Good luck! keep us posted-

      joe di

  4. avatar

    Does that also mean avoiding watching TV before bedtime? Does it produce the same light? If so, I’d find this almost impossible to do.

  5. avatar

    I’m screwed! I just read this on my I pad in bed while finishing my second glass of tea. I guess I’ll start tomorrow night. Not kidding lol. Thanks for the great information .

  6. avatar

    I read somewhere that sleeping 6.5 – 7 hrs a night was perfect, which actually works best for me since I get home at close to 10p every night and have to be up by 5:30a (so I’m kinda already losing on the 8 hour sleep idea). Is 6.5 – 7 hrs enough?

  7. avatar

    hey Lali,

    There’s some conflicting research on the topic but there’s typically a bell curve between 5 and 10 hours of sleep where 8 is the magic number at the peak of the curve, under 7 hours wouldn’t be ideal nor would over 9 hours.

    With that being said, many experts will argue that the most important part of sleep is consistency and quality. 6.5 hours between 10 and 5:30 day in and day out in a pitch black room may be better than 8 hours that bounce between random time blocks or that involve an ipad being heavily used in the hour before bed.

    Best,

    Joe

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