Pillow Talk: Upgrade Sleep For Optimal Wellness

Pillow Talk: Upgrade Sleep For Optimal Wellness

By Stephen Brenna, Pn1

Pillow Talk: Upgrade Sleep For Optimal Wellness

Fans of 90s hip-hop may be familiar with the famous line, "I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of Death."  While the lyrical stylings of Nas have resulted in millions of albums sold, this particular line could not be further from the truth. In fact, extensive research suggests quite the opposite. There are few factors more detrimental to our health than sleep deprivation; yet according to CDC statistics, 35% of U.S. adults report sleeping less than the minimum recommended seven hours per night. 

The result? The National Library of Medicine estimates the economic impact of insufficient sleep at $411 billion in the U.S. alone, while the CDC attributes 6,000 fatal car accidents per year to drowsy driving. The causes? They include (but are not limited to) our modern 24/7 society, psychosocial stress, alcohol and tobacco use, lack of physical activity, and excessive use of electronic media. Poor sleep reduces alertness and productivity, and it can also have negative effects on mood, cardiovascular health, blood sugar levels, metabolism, and hormone health. Indeed, neglecting sleep can sabotage both weight loss and muscle building efforts.  

The solution to the widespread sleep deficiency issue is multi-faceted and could be discussed at length, but we've synthesized it into five key factors below: 

1. Keep a sleep schedule. Establishing a regular bedtime can have both physiological and psychological benefits when it comes to getting a good night's sleep. Research suggests the window between 10PM-2AM as the biologically ideal time to get to bed, as sleep-inducing hormone secretion and recovery factors are at their best during this period. Whatever time works best for you, try to stick to it as consistently as possible.  

2. Utilize sunlight. Light and dark cycles have a major effect on establishing our circadian rhythm. They directly influence the cortisol/melatonin balance that regulates when we are awake and alert, and when we are ready to rest. Aim to get sunlight exposure on the skin and into the eyes (without sunglasses) between 6AM-8:30AM to help establish your sleep/wake cycle.  

3. Create a sleep sanctuary. Simply entering your bedroom at night should be a mental cue that it's time for sleep. Ban TV, laptops, tablets, phones, and any type of screen from your bed. Avoid working, eating, or any activity besides sleep and intimacy from your place of rest.  

4. Keep it cool. Deep sleep is accompanied by a natural drop in core body temperature - - this increases melatonin secretion, slows metabolism, and reduces energy expenditure. In contrast, an elevated body temperature disrupts our circadian rhythm and increases the likelihood of waking throughout the night. Aim to keep your sleep sanctuary between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit if possible or utilize bedding which aids temperature control.  

5. Caffeine cut off. While multiple factors influence caffeine's half-life, on average it’s typically between five and seven hours. This means if someone consumes caffeine at 12pm, it may not be fully processed out of their system until 12AM. Caffeine functions not by providing us with "energy" out of thin air, but by blocking the adenosine receptors in our brains that signal fatigue. Ideally, create a caffeine cut off time 8-10 hours prior to bed to minimize sleep disruptions. 

This list is not exhaustive but may serve as a great jumping off point to upgrading your sleep. What can you expect from regular high-quality sleep? More energy is just the tip of the iceberg. Toss in improved cognition, better insulin sensitivity, increased weight loss, anti-aging effects, and positive mood, and you'll see how mastery between the sheets is a game changer.