Sleep better: Do better

Sleep better: Do better

Focus, mood, energy, metabolism, gut health, recovery, immune function, hormone regulation, memory retention, waste removal, problem solving…

Sleep is absolutely necessary for all of these critical functions. Without good sleep, you are compromised. See below for simple steps to improve your sleep.

10 Tips for Rest, Recovery and Rejuvenation

10 Tips for Rest, Recovery and Rejuvenation

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The Season for Stillness

We tumble to the end of another warp-speed year. We spin through our tasks and grasp at floods of information.

We press too hard, too fast and for too long. Reservoirs are sucked dry. Self-awareness fades. Self-regulation is impaired. Your health and your relationships are at risk.

It is time to slow down, repair, rejuvenate and reconnect with what matters.

In a world of optimisation, ambition, pride and duty, we push hard on multiple fronts. The rest, recovery and rejuvenation cycle is squeezed out between ever shorter bursts of dopamine. We are child-like in our impulsive tapping, swiping, checking, buying, rushing, feeding… compelled to chase the next hit.

As I come to the end of 2019, I feel battered. My mind is a little flat. Attention is fragile. Relationships are edgy. I know I need a good break. I am struggling to disconnect, calm my hypervigilance, and allow the natural cycle of recovery. I sense it in our family, friends and colleagues.

Rest, recovery and rejuvenation (R3) is the next competitive edge. Ironic!

My end of year message it to give rest, recovery and rejuvenation your full attention.

At a cellular level, the R3 cycle is vital to repair and rejuvenation. It is the key to longevity and sits at the biochemical core of fasting, sleep quality, intense activity, meditation, and cold water baths. It is a promising solution that supports this process of slowing, cleaning and repairing hard working cells.

The R3 cycle is key to musculoskeletal strength and physical wellbeing. Intimacy, touch and dreaming (REM) sleep stimulate the R3 cycle for emotional wellbeing. The default network is the R3 cycle for cognition allowing us to focus, engage and refresh our minds.

Our end-of-year pause is an opportunity to capture the R3 cycle for life and family. Please make an effort to allow for adequate rest, recovery and rejuvenation as your year comes to an end. Engage your family in this process so that you may reconnect in more intimate ways.

Share what works well for you.

Bright Blue: Dawn and your resilience

Bright Blue: Dawn and your resilience

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Why dawn is so good for you? Why missing it is dangerous?

Waking up with the blue light of dawn is a delight for the soul. It is also a very simple, powerful discipline to save, enrich and empower your life. Over the past weeks, a surprising number of resilience participants have shared that they did not understand the concept.

For those who just want a simple, well supported practice to action now:

Wake up every morning before dawn and be outside for 30 minutes before sunrise.

For those who want a more comprehensive understanding here is my best explanation – given that much is still to be learned:

  1. Evolution has designed humans and almost all primates as diurnal creatures. We function best during the hours of daylight. At night we are easy prey and relatively disabled in body, emotion and mind. During the day we are safe, well and effective. Our blood pressure, brain functions, hormones, mood, metabolism and physical competence are all synchronised by the circadian clock.
  1. For at least 30 million years primates have woken with the dawn light. As a consequence our circadian cycle is roughly 24 hours and is paced by the effect of blue light at dawn (we call this a zeitgeber). When blue light hits the back of your eyes, you release melanopsin, which resets the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). This synchronises your biology to the day, making sure you are prepared for movement, alert and engaged. Temperature, social activity, exercise and consumption are also zeitgebers.
  1. Securing enough sleep (between 7 and 9 hours) is important. Timing of your sleep may be more important. During the day we accumulate fatigue, sometimes measured by adenosine in the brain. This peaks as light fades, temperature drops and we become less active. Our body prepares to “flop” into sleep. This feeling of sleep pressure peaks every 90 minutes (ultradian cycle). If we drop into bed quiet, calm, cool and dark we will drop into the two important cycles of deep or NREM sleep. This is between the hours of 10pm and 2am.
  1. After 5 ultradian cycles (~2 deep and 3 dreaming), which equals 7.5hours, our body is ready to “flip” into wakefulness. If we have slept well – time and quality – we should wake up with a positive bias for movement and action. It is at this time that blue light is critical and the best source is at least 20 minutes for pre-dawn blue light along with movement.
  1. When we miss blue light we desynchronise the circadian clock. This happens in three specific situations, all of which have potential danger. The first is jetlag and the best way to reset your clock is to travel west when you can or to use melatonin at about 1mg an hour before sleep. We know that shift workers incur increased risk of cardiovascular, metabolic and cancer diseases.
  1. The second is weekend sleep-ins. Because most adults accumulate an hour of sleep debt per day, many try to “catch up” by sleeping in on Saturday and Sunday. This is a dangerous and foolish trap. If you miss the dawn zeitgeber over the weekend your clock with free-run for two ultradian cycles leaving your clock desynchronised. Monday mornings show a peak of heart attacks, motor vehicles accidents and suicides. See picture above.

It is also demonstrated that those who sleep in over the weekend are at much higher risk of cardio-metabolic disease – obesity, diabetes, heart disease and inflammation. The following changes when you sleep in over the weekend (Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, November, 2015):

  • Lower HDL (know as the protective cholesterol)
  • Higher Triglycerides (linked to metabolic disease)
  • Higher fasting insulin and insulin resistance (diabetes and aging risk)
  • Greater body mass and larger waist circumference (fat)
  1. The third is the desynchronisation caused by the introduction of daylight savings (DST) in spring. It is well established that there is a 10 to 24% increase in heart attacks on the Monday after DST is introduced. This is similar to the weekend sleep-in effect. The clock ‘rolls back” on us like Monday morning.
  1. Practical changes that deliver benefits to our clients include:
    1. Regular wake up time and exposure to dawn light
    2. Cutting the blue light from all screens for at least an hour before bed
    3. A cool, dark and quiet room or ear plugs and masks as needed
    4. Exercise earlier in the day and lighter evening meals
    5. A relaxation practice with slow, long exhalations before sleep

Bright Blue call to Action

Obesity is pandemic. Diabetes is epidemic. Heart disease, inflammation, health care costs, and childhood attention and learning disorders are testing our societies. Might we consider being a little biologically smarter about regular wake up with blue light and generally respecting our biological clocks? The actions are simple and free and evidence is accumulating on the positive effects for prevention, management and cure – let alone those who want to excel in life. As a parent, employer, athlete or leader this is important to test for your situation. Remember, we are all slightly different (larks and owls) so experimentation is usually necessary.

Social Jetlag and Metabolic Risk

Social Jetlag and Metabolic Risk

A November study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism shows in a study of 447 adults that when we free run our biological clock over weekends (non work days), we suffer from lower HDL, higher triglyceride, greater BMI (body mass index) and larger waists. In short we develop metabolic syndrome, which is known to lead to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and inflammation.

What this study shows is that 84% of adults will sleep in on the weekend when free of work obligations. This is called social jetlag (SLJ) – the weekend sleep-in. Unfortunately, those who sleep in over the weekend are triggering a cascade of metabolic problems that will have both short and long term effects on our health.

I have been reviewing literature on the biological clock all year and have come to a very clear conclusion. The genetically controlled circadian clock has to be aligned with the light-dark cycle of your location for optimal health and performance.

The way to align your inner clock with your environment is through smart use of light signals (zeitgebers). Yes, we do need about 7.5 hours of sleep AND it is essential to time, enter and exit sleep in the right way.

Avoid all screens for at least an hour before bed. Strong blue light that comes from TV, computers, tablets and phones will reset your clock by 12 hours. Essentially you are simulating sunrise as you prepare for bed. It causes sleep disruption, resets your circadian clock and compromises your hormone levels. Darker rooms, cooler temperatures and yellow light facilitates the “flop” into sleep at the right time for your body. At least 69% fail on this count.

Ideally, we want to wake up at about the same time each day and in time to experience directly the blue light of down (before sunrise). This is a great time to do your stretches, relaxation and take a walk outside and “flip” to alertness. Some bright light during the middle of the day might also be good.

Again, don’t sleep in this weekend. It increases your risk of being fat, diabetic, ineffective and dead.