**Let me start this off by saying that I am talking about life strategies that take time and I know the pain of short sleep, it’s affect on mood, mental health and physical health but as you try to implement these things give yourself some grace. It took me years to get to where I am today and I still have moments where I struggle.
I am hoping I can cover this in just one but there are so many one off’s with caffeine and sleep that it could get hard, make sure to check out part 1 if you haven’t read it. So grab a cup of coffee, this is going to be rapid fire.
Sleep aides, probably the safest sleep aide is something like ZMA a combination of Zinc and Magnesium to help you relax. Melatonin is commonly used and abused but truthfully the main use for melatonin is for something like jet lag. Melatonin in your body simulates “darkness” to reset your circadian rhythm. You know what else simulates darkness each night, that’s right, lack of light. The other thing important to note is that more is not better with melatonin, there are people dosing 5mg each night because the assumption is that more is better. That’s about 10 times the recommended dosage for most people.
If you are on something like Ambien you might be affecting sleep but you aren’t addressing the purpose of sleep. Like I said in my last article deep sleep helps your body recover, REM sleep helps your brain. Ambien doesn’t allow for REM sleep.
Same can be said for alcohol or marijuana, here is the thing though, REM sleep cycles are so important that your body WILL get them at some future point. It won’t be enough to fully recover your brain but it will address the short term problem. Dose always matters but let’s be real, two of the most common sleep aids are marijuana and alcohol and if they are over used you might not be addressing the mental healing that REM sleep provides.
The importance of a regular bedtime
This one can not be over stated. A 930 bedtime changed my life. For years I had what I thought was insomnia type symptoms, turned out I just had really bad habits. Here is what I do, putting pressure on my self to sleep always worked against my goal so I get ready and I am in bed at 930. I don’t plan to fall asleep so what I do it set a podcast to end in 15 minutes, I would say 5 times out of 10 that’s all I need. The rest of the times are a mixed bag and often a result of what I did before 930. I picked 930 so I could AVERAGE around 10pm each night and I am pretty serious about it. My family knows I am serious and so does virtually everyone I know.
For a lot of people the problem isn’t the time they get to sleep because they are wiped out by the time they hit the pillow but they wake up at all kinds of weird times. The culprit is almost always cortisol, cortisol is your fight or flight hormone but it also wakes you up each day. Here is an interesting thing about cortisol that almost no one knows (unless you are an Eat To Performer), cortisol and insulin are antagonists. Meaning that one way to keep cortisol low is to eat carbohydrates in a balanced way. The easiest way to solve this problem is to simply have a bowl of oatmeal before going to bed. For others when they think about the “stress” hormone (cortisol) they think “yeah, I am stressed” that’s not typically the thing waking you up. The two biggest stress factors for most people are lack of sleep and lack of food. If someone is sleeping four hours a night the best thing they can do for sleep is to up their calories as the first thing to test.
Bi-phasic sleeping or poly-phasic sleeping
You know that big mid-day crash that you have always attributed to a big lunch. Turns out you are supposed to be sleeping at that time. If every country in the world would make napping mandatory the effect on world health would be astonishing.
About four months ago I started napping, similar to my bedtime routine I don’t put a lot of pressure on it, I just put on a 10 minute podcast and usually I am out, sometimes it’s short, other times it’s a bit longer (short being 15 minutes, long being 45 minutes). Poly phasic is like when you have a young child waking you up and you nap when they are asleep. I was the primary care giver in my house and my daughters learned to sleep pretty early on but I had to fight through some crying and sleepless nights first.
Here is an interesting piece of this solution. Napping made my sleep longer. Note that above I mentioned cortisol, with no nap I would hit the pillow exhausted but often wake up much earlier. Naps evened out my sleep and I went from 6.5-7 to 8-8.5 regularly.
I look forward to my nap time each day but like I mentioned in my last article I stop drinking coffee at 9am (so 9:01 starts my time of sadness). I don’t drink decaf at that time because decaf does have some caffeine and it’s not an insignificant amount. If you are pounding decafs all morning you can get to the equivalent of one cup of coffee fast. Same rule would apply for energy drinks if that’s your drink of choice.
Lastly let me talk about pre-workout. This is a judgement free zone, there are way too many people like me that are playing the judgement game and frankly I don’t think it’s helping. Pre-workout often has up to 7 times the amount of caffeine of a cup of coffee. That’s a lot of caffeine to get out of your system and unless you workout at 5am its going to be a problem. I talk to a lot of people that say they have a tolerance built up for caffeine, that is very rare because what they are essentially saying is that their adenosine receptors (sleep pressure) work just fine even with the presence of caffeine and on a physiological level that’s close to impossible. Usually this manifests itself by staying awake or waking up early but caffeine is a known performance enhancer. To give you an example exactly how much when I was using it my deadlift would often be 30-40 pounds higher compared to when I didn’t use it. That becomes addictive.
My point with these articles was not to say don’t use caffeine but let’s be real, of the two articles at least a few things most people don’t know.
Lastly let me say this, this is what I started this series with:
I consider sleep to be more important than food as it relates to achieving both optimal health and a good aesthetic AND I RUN A NUTRITION BUSINESS. If the person helping you is letting you sleep four hours a night that’s like using a nuclear bomb to kill a cockroach and in the end the cockroach lives and you have a bad relationship with food, can’t sleep and your hair and nails are brittle. If this is truly about health you can’t do it right and ignore your sleep.