My first exposure to improving sleep was from the book the Four Hour Body by Tim Ferris. The author Tim Ferris is a wealthy investor and author of multiple self help books. In the Four Hour Body, Ferris experiments with body hacks. He has a chapter on the easiest way to lose weight; gain muscle; train for and run a marathon; build strength without gaining muscle; improve sleep and many other topics. Ferris comes off to me like a very intelligent rich kid with to much time on his hands. He takes body hacks and uses himself as the science experiment, to uphold or bust the myth. His chapter on sleep is one of his biggest experiments. Taking myths and running tests on himself, he said that he slept like he was hooked up to the Matrix.
Tim also explains that he suffers from onset insomnia and had always struggled with getting a good night sleep, maybe why he put so much effort into this chapter.
What is Good Sleep
First we need to understand that a good nights sleep is not as simple as quantity. You may have experienced this after having a 10 hour sleep and then needing a nap a few hours after waking. Another example, on the other side of the coin is, having a 6 hour sleep and waking up feeling amazing. Our body goes through stages of sleep and will cycle through them throughout the night. The stages can be simply explained as Deep Sleep where your brain stores information and recovers from the day before and then REM sleep where your body recovers.
Throughout a nights sleep our body goes through these waves of sleep and can cycle through these waves multiple times.
Stage 1 (non REM) is the change over period from being awake to going to sleep.
Stage 2 (non REM) is the period of light sleep as you first full to sleep, before entering deep sleep.
Stage 3 (Deep Sleep) Is where your body and muscles relax. Your breathing will slow to its lowest and it is hard for you to wake or be woken. This is where your brain stores information and recovers from the day before.
REM Sleep (Rapid Eye Movement) This is the sleep where your eyes dart around behind your eyelids….. creepy. Your breathing will increase, your brain waves increase closer to being awake, this is where most of your dreaming occurs.Your heart rate and blood pressure also increases, sending blood around the body and recovery and repairing muscles from the day before.
Causes of Bad Sleep?
Onset Insomnia – Trouble falling to sleep
Middle Insomnia – Waking during the night
Terminal Insomnia – Waking up to early and not being able to get back to sleep.
Tim Ferris Tips For Feeling Better After Sleep
1. Good Sleep (8-10 hours) is dependent on the Ratio of REM sleep to total sleep.
The higher the ratio of REM the better your sleep. It is not the quantity of REM but the ratio of REM to total sleep.
2. Increasing REM.
Ferris found that by waking him self up, 4 and half hours after falling asleep he could increase his REM sleep and feel better. Alternatively if you get more than 9 hours sleep, REM will increase.
3. Take 200 micrograms of huperzone A 30 before bed and increase total REM by 20-30%
(this had side effects and he done it only 3 days a week. I do not advise trying this)
4. The higher the percentage of deep wave sleep the higher your subsequant performance.
5. Drinking more than 2 glasses of red wine within four hours of sleep reduced Deep Wave sleep by 50%. Drinking Alcohol decreased Deep Wave sleep, but it was all dependent on the timing of the Alcohol. Tim found drinking more alcohol 6 hours before sleep, had no effect on his sleep.
6. Eating two teaspoons of almond butter before bed reduced “feel like crap morning“ by 50%
Tim puts this due to waking with low blood sugar. Having a snack right before bed means your blood sugar will not drop as low by the morning and you wake feeling better.
(I have been having peanut butter before bed)
Tim’s Tips to Get to Sleep Faster
- Set your bedroom temp between 19-21 degrees.
Our bodies internal clock is regulated by heart rate, hormone release, sunlight exposure and body temperature. When we try to sleep in a room temperature that is to hot or to cold our body does not reach its optimal temperature for sleep.
2. Eat a large fat and protein dominent meal 2 hours before bed.
Tim was experimenting with increasing testosterone production and found eating large protein and fat filled meals helped him fall asleep faster.
3. Use the Philips goLite.
Tim set this light up facing him and turned it on for 15mins as soon as he woke. It improves the time to fall asleep on the following night.
This has something to do with our eyes and the Hypothalamus in the brain. An easier way and more natural way is to get sun light as soon as you wake. I guess it is natures way of setting our sleep routine.
4. Iso lateral exercise.
It is commonly known that regular exercise improves sleep and more specific falling to sleep. What Tim found is, that exercise was to inconsistent. He could run 2 hours and then struggle to fall asleep or do short CrossFit workout and then be out like a light, but there was no consistency. The only consistency he found was doing Iso Lateral Movements. The more he implemented them the faster he fell asleep.
Iso Lateral could be Single Arm Over Head Lunges. This more Dumbbell work and single leg movements.
5.10 Minute Ice Baths before bed.
Tim would literally poor three bags of ice into a bathtub and hope right in. This went along with a few other experiments he was running at the same time, but it improved his fall asleep times.
Maybe you could try the Wim Hof Method cold shower techniques and see if you have any improvements in sleep. I have not been game enough to give it a try, as yet. When I lived in Darwin, I would have cold showers every night, but i’m sure you would agree, Darwin does not count.
6. Ultrasonic Humidifier
A humidifier can do lots of thing for your sleep. It can improve your breathing, it can reduce dry moth and throat and it can also help make the room temperature feel more comfortable. Tim used a small contraption that he could travel with, but Sleep Humidifiers are early sourced.
7. NightWave pulse light
NightWave projects a soft blue light into your darkened bedroom. the luminance of the light slowly rises and falls. Lie with your eyes open and synchronise your breathing with the blue light as its movements becomes slower and slower. After a short time the Light switches off and you go to sleep.
From my belief this is more to do with the breathing than the light, I have found breathing exercises the most effective way to fall asleep.
8. Use a half military crawl position for your sleeping position.
The idea of this position is that it stops you from rolling around and stops you from waking during the night. If you lie on your stomach, head turned to the right, your arm bent and right leg bent out to the side, this will stop you from moving around. This was Tims last resort way of getting a good night sleep.
Sleep is important for our recovery, memory, immune system and daily function. I challenge you to try some of these techniques and see if it improves your sleep. Since starting Daylesford CrossFit I have not struggled to fall asleep at night. I now struggle to stay awake long enough to make it to the bedroom. But when I worked for Corrections Victoria, falling to sleep at night was a big struggle. Switching off from the day was hard and I would have a lot on my mind. What helped me was Meditation breathing techniques. Slowing your breaths down and only focusing on the air moving in and out. It is hard to switch your mind off, but if you can focus on one thing, your breath, it becomes easier.