Health

Sleep Facts & Sleep Hacks

 
Sleep Facts & Sleep Hacks.jpg

It’s no secret that sleep plays a vital role in your overall physical health. It facilitates the healing of your heart and blood vessels, muscle growth, tissue repair, hormone synthesisation, and so on. Recent studies even show that a night of poor sleep could lead to overeating on the following day (1). Not only is sleep vitally important, but lack of sleep is dangerous and damaging. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and stroke (2).

For the sake of brevity, I’ve outlined my 3 favourite sleep hacks that have made big a difference in my life. Heads up: 1 and 2 are caffeine-related, so feel free to skip ahead if you aren't a coffee or tea drinker like myself.

Facts & Hacks:

1. Fact: Caffeine has a half life of ~6-8 hours (the time it takes your body to eliminate one-half of the caffeine you put into it). Many people don't realize this, because their caffeine “buzz” has long worn off by the 8 hour mark; however, the amount of caffeine left in your system prior to bedtime directly impacts your quality of sleep (3).

Hack: Do not consume caffeinated beverages 6-8 hours before bedtime as there will still be a significant amount of caffeine in your system. Sounds obvious, but many restaurants, for example, encourage late caffeine consumption by offering coffee or tea after dinner. Just say no! Even better, give yourself a cut-off time and stick to it. Mine is no caffeine after 2pm.

P.s. In case you weren't aware, “decaf” coffee is not, as it's name implies, free of all caffeine. If you think you're in the clear by making your afternoon latte a decaf, think again. That tricky bastard...

2. Fact: Caffeine typically takes up to 48 hours to completely leave your system, meaning that unless we periodically take that time off from consuming caffeine we will start developing a tolerance (read: addiction), which can lead to requiring more and more caffeine in our system to get the desired effect. This then translates to even LESS quality sleep.

Hack: Try cycling your coffee intake. For example, have coffee during the week (Mon-Fri) and take the weekend off (Sat & Sun (48hrs)). The best part is, on Monday when you most need it, you’ll get that incredible productivity boost that coffee used to give you when you started drinking it in the first place! A truly incredible feeling.

* Note - The first time I did this I had a pretty bad headache that weekend! I didn’t realize how addicted I was, since my coffee intake had been rising due to the tolerance I built up over time. Now that I cycle regularly I no longer get any withdrawal symptoms and can enjoy a significant caffeine boost with just two cups per day.

3. Fact: Blue light emitted from electronic devices at night will throw the body's biological clock—the circadian rhythm—out of whack (4). Because of it’s similarity to to sunlight, our bodies do not biologically understand that the sun has set and that it’s time for us to start producing melatonin (a hormone required for restful sleep). Scientific research shows that every hour of blue light (CPU, LED or otherwise) exposed to the eyes before bed suppresses ~30 minutes of melatonin production. Meaning, if you are on your mobile device, watching a show before bed, or even worse falling asleep to the television and being exposed to blue light right before bedtime, you are majorly suppressing melatonin production. You may fall asleep, but you won’t be getting quality sleep.

Hack: Use Night Shift Mode (the built-in blue light filter) on your iPhone or similar programs for your Android. There’s a reason Apple forced it upon us during an upgrade... personally, I believe that it may even be a liability issue because of the horrific effects of chronic sleep deprivation. If you are falling asleep to a video or working late on your laptop, download flux; it’s free and will sync to your time zone to simulate sunrise and sunset, thus gradually reducing and replacing blue light with red light (the spectrum that most resembles fire, the only light that we would have had at night thousands of years ago).

Those are my personal top 3 tips out of a myriad of techniques and studies that help you get a full night’s sleep. I’m curious to hear yours! Let me know in the comments section below.

As always—Live Better, Longer!

 

- Tom Hodgins


  1. "Well|Sleep Poorly? You May Eat Too Much the Next Day." 2 Nov. 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/02/well/eat/sleep-poorly-you-may-eat-too-much-the-next-day.html
  2. "Why Is Sleep Important? - NHLBI, NIH." 22 Feb. 2012, https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/why
  3. "Shawn Stevenson: "Sleep Smarter" | Talks at Google - YouTube." 22 Dec. 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fu6lbDBEnlY
  4. Blue light has a dark side - Harvard Health." 2 Sep. 2015, http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side

 

 

5 Must-Read Books For Every Health Enthusiast

Photo Taken @ MedX Library - Come On By And Borrow A Book!

Photo Taken @ MedX Library - Come On By And Borrow A Book!

Regulars at MedX can attest to the fact that I am constantly talking to people about this book, and that study, and how I always try to find a way to connect the message of the book to the MedX Method. I try to take practical knowledge-bombs and piece them into the puzzle that is your day, to help you maximize your output wherever you may need it. Whether it’s at the gym, at work, at home, while you sleep, or while you play, there are always places we can apply these principles that we may not always see or acknowledge.

I figured this month’s blog post was as good a time as any to talk to you about some of these influential books that I am constantly referencing. I want to give you all a glimpse into some of the books that have influenced me the most.

Here are five books that will improve your day-to-day routine:

 

1. Body By Science

Written in 2008 by two exercise gurus, John Little, and Dr. Doug McGuff, BBS touts itself as being a ‘research-based program for strength training, bodybuilding, and complete fitness in 12 minutes a week.’ Disclaimer: for those of you who don’t know, my career was launched out of a cannon due to my mentorship with John Little, so I have a bit of a bias towards this wonderful book, as I both contributed (slightly) to it, and am mentioned in it (along with my dad, Dave Wilson). This book is a very concise and helpful dissection of the functional human anatomy, metabolic process, and logic behind an intense, brief, infrequent, safe, and sustainable workout regime, just like the one we practice here at MedX. Backed by rigorous research, and thoroughly cited, this is a must read for all MedX trainees!

 

2. The Exercise Myth

If you’re going to look at this list of recommended reads and have a crack at them; make sure you follow up Body By Science with this sucker. Published in 1984 by Dr. Henry Solomon, a cardiologist from New York, The Exercise Myth challenges the conventional thought process of more is better. Almost everything has a downside, and exercise isn’t an exception: chronic overtraining can lead to some pretty significant health issues.

Dr. Solomon is keen to point out these health risks; however, this book has been met with some heated criticism, which he has been able to very eloquently shut down with facts--facts that are still unravelling themselves today. Taking this information to the bestsellers list was one heck of an achievement, especially during the Kenneth Cooper cardio drive (he has since gone back on his running advocation - Google it!). Dr. Solomon points out that chronic cardio and aerobics will NOT make you live longer, and it will NOT make you healthier. He uses a combination of scientific facts and practical logic to drive his points home.

 

3. It Starts With Food

First published in 2014, this book quickly became my go-to recommendation for anyone with food questions, so they could very quickly and accurately grasp the foundations of nutritional knowledge. It Starts With Food is a witty, workable path towards a natural and healthy way of eating. It outlines how specific foods may be having negative effects on how you look, feel, and live—in ways that you’d never associate with your diet. More importantly, they outline their life-long strategy for eating Good Food in one clear and detailed action plan designed to help you create a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, calm systemic inflammation, and put an end to unhealthy cravings, habits, and relationships with food.

Typically, when you sit down to discuss nutrition, you will likely lose more friends than you will gain. With the information in this book, you can have a real, informed conversation with your loved ones about their relationship to food.

 

4. Willpower

Roy Baumeister and John Tierney join together on this one to revolutionize how we think about one of our most important virtues; self-control. From Amazon because I couldn’t say it better myself:

Drawing on research and the wisdom of real-life experts, this book shares lessons on how to focus our strength, resist temptation, and redirect our lives. It shows us how to be realistic when setting goals, monitor their progress, and how to stay the course when we falter. By blending practical wisdom with the best of recent research science, Willpower makes it clear that whatever we seek—from happiness to good health to financial security—we won’t reach our goals without first learning to harness self-control.

I’ve read this book twice, back to back. It was an eyeopener. Proclaiming that self-regulation is the greatest human strength is a pretty tall statement, but the sound logic and science in this book really do support the notion.

 

5. Better Than Before

My most recent read of the list, and probably the most thought provoking. Author, Gretchen Rubin in of The Happiness Project takes the willpower talk a bit further in Better Than Before with an in-depth discussion of how those among us with the strongest self-control maintain this power: they never have to use it! Through careful analysis and explanation, Reuben describes how willpower is great, but habits are the basis for not having to rely on our willpower to get us out of sticky situations. She discusses in great detail how different personality types react uniquely to various habit-forming scenarios, and offers great insight on how to identify what type of responder you are so you can better set yourself up to tackle those new challenges.

 

- Blair Wilson

Which Matters More: What You Eat or When You Eat?

 
Copyright © 2016 MedX Precision Fitness

Copyright © 2016 MedX Precision Fitness

Conventional wisdom says never skip breakfast because it is the most important meal of the day. While true, the idea of skipping breakfast is actually impossible.

Why? Separate the words found in breakfast, break and fast. A break is taking the time to relieve yourself of effort while fasting is a deliberate period of not eating.

This means your first meal is always breakfast, irrespective of the time. And when you think about it, “never skip breakfast” – never happens.

You can only delay breakfast and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The delay of eating, also known as fasting, can be a very healthy practice. In fact, everyone fasts when they go to sleep. It’s more a question of how long.

But how long is too long? How long until it becomes a detriment to your health, shown by a decrease or slowing down of your metabolism. The answer is longer than expected.

It can take up to 72 hours for the all-to-feared slowing down to occur. Your resting metabolic rate and rate of energy expenditure will not drop because of an extended fasting period.

Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day but what is most important is what you put into your body. Don’t fall victim to a typical, carbohydrate dense breakfast just for the sake of eating in the morning.

 

- Blair Wilson