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  • Writer's pictureGary Lougher

Reinvention, Not Resolutions, Day 16: Sleep: The Foundation of Well-Being

So, what does sleep have to do with reinvention or hitting goals? Well, it turns out that the quality of our sleep impacts every aspect of Deep Health.

Starting tomorrow, we'll be taking a deeper dive into this and here's a brief summary.

  1. Physical: Sleep is foundational for maintaining physical health, playing a vital role in recovery, muscle growth, and metabolic balance.

  2. Mental: Adequate sleep contributes to cognitive functions like memory, learning, and concentration.

  3. Emotional: Good sleep patterns can enhance emotional stability and resilience.

  4. Existential: Quality sleep supports a sense of purpose and personal growth.

  5. Environmental: Sleep impacts how individuals interact with and perceive their environment.

  6. Relational: Sleep affects social interactions and the ability to maintain healthy relationships.

Andrew Huberman and Matthew Walker, both neuroscientists with expertise in sleep research, have extensively discussed the impacts of poor sleep on health and well-being. Here are some key points they've highlighted:

  1. Cognitive Impairment: Both Huberman and Walker emphasize that poor quality sleep can lead to cognitive impairments. This includes reduced concentration, memory problems, and impaired decision-making abilities. Walker, in particular, has highlighted how sleep deprivation can affect learning and memory consolidation.

  2. Emotional and Mental Health Issues: Poor sleep can significantly affect mental health. Walker has discussed how lack of sleep is linked to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. Huberman also notes the impact on emotional regulation, leading to increased irritability and stress.

  3. Physical Health Consequences: Chronic poor sleep can have serious physical health consequences. Huberman and Walker both mention increased risks for heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and stroke. They also point out the impairment of the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections.

  4. Hormonal Imbalances: Both researchers have talked about how sleep affects hormonal balance. Walker notes that sleep deprivation can lead to increased levels of stress hormones like cortisol, while Huberman mentions its impact on hormones that regulate appetite, which can lead to weight gain.

  5. Reduced Brain Health: Huberman has discussed how sleep is crucial for maintaining brain health. During sleep, the brain removes toxins that accumulate during the day. Walker also emphasizes this point, noting that chronic sleep deprivation is linked to a higher risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.

  6. Impact on Physical Performance: Huberman has talked about how poor sleep can negatively impact physical performance, reducing strength, endurance, and motor skills. Walker also notes that athletes who don't get enough sleep are more prone to injuries.

Here are ten things you can do to enhance your sleep, as suggested by Huberma nd Walker:

  1. Consistent Sleep Schedule: Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends. This regularity reinforces your body's sleep-wake cycle.

  2. Control Light Exposure: Manage your exposure to light. Get plenty of natural light during the day, and reduce blue light exposure (from screens) in the evening. Darkness signals to your body that it's time to sleep.

  3. Optimize Your Sleep Environment: Create a restful environment. This means a cool, quiet, and dark room. Consider using blackout curtains, earplugs, or white noise machines if needed.

  4. Limit Caffeine and Alcohol: Avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime. Both can disrupt the quality of your sleep.

  5. Regular Exercise: Engage in regular physical activity, but not too close to bedtime. Exercise can improve the quality and duration of sleep.

  6. Mind Your Diet: Don't go to bed either hungry or stuffed. Particularly avoid heavy or large meals within a couple of hours of bedtime.

  7. Pre-Sleep Routine: Establish a relaxing pre-sleep routine. Activities like reading, warm baths, or meditative practices can help signal to your body that it's time to wind down.

  8. Nap Wisely: If you nap, do it wisely. Short naps early in the afternoon can be beneficial, but long or late naps can interfere with your nighttime sleep.

  9. Manage Stress and Worries: Resolve your worries or concerns before bedtime. Jotting down what's on your mind and then setting it aside for tomorrow can be helpful.

  10. Evaluate Your Room and Bedding: Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows. Make sure your bedding is comfortable and suitable for the season.

So, how do you know if you're getting good sleep? Best not to assume so just because you're feeling okay.

It could be that the effects of poor sleep are your "normal," and you are unable to recognize the effects of sleep deprivation. For many, it's been years since we got good sleep.

It is also common for people to believe they don't need the recommended 7-8 hrs. The folks who legitimately do not genetically require 7 - 8 hrs are called "short sleepers". Experts estimate that around 1% or less of the population are short-sleepers.

Most health experts say if you could fix one thing, it would be your sleep, as it affects most aspects of our well-being.

To test it out, you can try to implement a few of the things referenced above. If you choose to do so, please give it time. It will take time to get used to them and it will take some time for your body to respond. For me, keeping a set sleep and wake time, not eating before bed, and shutting off ALL screens 2 hours before bed paid the biggest dividends. Also, if I exercise at night, I'm a wreck the next day.

You could also consider getting a sleep tracker. I recommend the Oura ring

Here's a great podcast from Andrew Huberman,

And here's a link to the best book on sleep I know of.

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