5.22.2013

Sleep Optimization and Mindfulness

I've been having a hard time with sleep the last few weeks. It seems like even though I get 8 hours most of the time, I'm feeling groggy and tired in the mornings. This has led to a bunch of issues because not only do I feel less productive and alert, but I've also felt more worried and stressed because I haven't known how to solve this issue. It's even affected my mindfulness meditation because I've been feeling sleepy and drifting off while meditating! So my mindfulness practice, the thing I do to center myself in the present moment and help relieve stress, has become an added stressor! No good!

I've been doing a bunch of reading and I've narrowed down a list of possible causes for my fatigue:
  • I've built up a sleep debt, and haven't gotten the extra sleep I need to make up that debt.
  • I've been exercising more recently (Jiu Jitsu, running, and interval training) and my body may need more rest to recuperate from that activity.
  • My blood sugar could be low from my overnight fast.
  • I could be drinking caffeine too close to bed leading me to not get as restful sleep.
  • My exposure to artificial lights and screens within 2 hours of sleep could be affecting my body's natural sleep signals.
  • I recently changed pillows, and have been trying to get used to sleeping on my back.

...now that I look at this list, it seems like all of these things are playing some role. Now I can address them head on and see what things may be actually causing the problem. One of the issues here is that normally you would just say, "You're tired? Well then get more sleep!" but it's not quite as simple as that. It's clearly been shown that you can get more or less efficient sleep based on a number of factors and that the difference has to do with your brain wave patterns. You need to be getting the right amount of REM and the deep sleep brain wave patterns that are associated with real rest. Some good sources to look at for this kind of info are:

Dave Asprey's articles with awesome sources cited:

Chris Kresser's articles and podcast on improving sleep and the health effects of sleep deprivation:

Source: My Instagram, a Bulletproof Coffee mocha I made

The caffeine cycle:

One of the most troubling things about this I've been pushing my caffeine intake all the way out to 4 or 5 PM sometimes because I'm feeling so tired! This then becomes a negative cycle where that late afternoon caffeine makes my sleep that night less efficient and restful. I've been drinking Bulletproof Coffee for months, and haven't had any problems because I just had one cup in the morning. Now that I've gotten behind on sleep and started to have caffeine later in the day it's created this negative cycle. To me this shows that it's not the caffeine that's the problem, it's the way I use it. 

Goal: Get quality sleep


Quality sleep is a huge part of the health spectrum that needs equal attention with diet, exercise and stress management. If you aren't getting good, solid rest every night, you're not going to be performing your best, and I've really been noticing that in the last couple of weeks. Now that I've gotten some advice and seen some issues with my sleep habits I'm going to start making adjustments to optimize my sleep!

Have you found any habits that majorly improve your sleep?

4 comments:

  1. I am really enjoying your posts! Sleep is always my #1 priority :) I just recently read you need to go to bed at least 20 min before your "bedtime" so maybe that will help.

    I don't follow the paleo diet or anything ( if you look at my profile you will see I write about whole grain breads...) but I do agree with lots of the ideas about fat and grassfed meat etc...



    Keep up the good posts!

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  2. I know what you mean, it's so frustrating to get solid chunks of sleep and still not feel rested! I figure it must be hard to correct a sleep debt because they say it's so important to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day... so how are you ever supposed to catch up?! Gradually, I guess. *Must go to bed earlier.*

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  3. Getting used to sleeping on my back is so hard - I know that it is better for me - but I fall asleep so much easier when I sleep on my belly!

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  4. For me a few things really help.
    1. Consistent sleep schedule
    2. Listening to body scan exercise before I go to bed. -
    This on is nice and short - 10 Min Body Scan - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obYJRmgrqOU
    3. Waking up with a sleep tracking clock- which rouses me during the right sleep cycle.


    One other perspective is being aware of your Ayurvedic type. There are certain times of day that can lead to energy losses and gains. For example 2pm is a switch from a pitta - more energetic time of day to a spacey time of day Vatta. I notice I often get sleepy at 2pm if I eat a big lunch.


    Also if you stay up past 10pm you enter a pitta time of day again which lasts for hours so getting to bed before 10pm seems to help some people as well. Good luck and let us know how it goes.

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