What is Stopping You from Sleeping? 5 Key Factors
This article is a transcribed edited summary of a video Bob and Brad recorded in May of 2020. For the original video go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uz-deCH192E
Bob: The topic today, what is stopping you from sleeping, we are going to talk about 5 key factors. This is based upon the work of “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker. Again, I’ve said this many times, this book will scare the heck out of ya. That’s because of how damaging it can be to all portions of your life if you’re not getting enough sleep. Right now, we are going to go over the 5, let’s start off: #1 –The advent of electronic light, that changed everything. What happens normally to humans, when there’s a lack of light, it causes the brain to produce a hormone called Melatonin. And melatonin signals your brain that it’s time to sleep. So now with electronic light, before you go to bed if you are exposing yourself to too much light, the melatonin doesn’t get produced and you don’t want to go to sleep. I mean, your body doesn’t think it’s time to go to sleep.
Brad: So, electronic, you mean, LED light.
Bob: All light to some extent, BUT, the LED, the blue light, that’s worse.
Brad: From the computer screen.
Bob: Yes, by far. So, the recommendations are as follows: even when you’re watching your TV at night, I never thought about this, you should start dimming your lights around you.
Brad: Watch in the dark like a theatre?
Bob: Yep. Yep. Actually, it starts preparing your body for sleep. But the other thing is, if you have a blue LED light which is basically one like the electronic readers or your iPad or a computer, that has way more light, that signifies or signals to your body not to produce melatonin.
Brad: Therefore, not so sleepy.
Bob: Yeah, they actually did a study, printed book versus E-tablet, and there was 50% less melatonin produced when you would read the E-tablet versus the printed book.
Brad: The old, hard copied books have some benefits.
Bob: Yeah, they do! There’s a blue light filter that you can put on almost all your electronics.
So, that’s the easy thing to do. The other thing when you sleep at night, it’s helpful to block out the light in your bedroom as much as possible. But I have trouble with that because I get up and go to the bathroom once a night, and I don’t want to hurt myself.
Brad: Is #2 if your wife snores?
Bob: Nooo, #2 is caffeine. We all know that. We all know caffeine can keep you awake. But I don’t think you realize how long it stays in your system. So, caffeine has a half-life of 5-7 hours, which means, 5-7 hours later, half of it is still in your system. You know, that means that if you had coffee with supper or dinner, it could still be well into your system at 1:00am.
Bob: So you really want to be careful with that. There’s caffeine in energy drinks, dark chocolate, ice cream, you remember you used to eat your ice cream all the time. Weight loss pills, pain relievers, so it’s in a lot of things we don’t even realize, so it can be sneaky.
Brad: Yeah, look at what you’re eating. Look at the ingredients.
Bob: Did you know that decaffeinated coffee is not uncaffeinated. There is some caffeine in it. It’s got like 30-40% yet, I mean it’s 40-30% of what a caffeine would have. So if you drink 3 cups of decaffeinated coffee, that’s like drinking one cup of caffeinated coffee.
Brad: Oh, wow. It should say less caffeinated.
Bob: Yeah, #3 there’s no other species that artificially prematurely terminates sleep. Did you know that? I mean, no one else uses an alarm clock. We’re the only ones, all other animals will sleep until they’re ready to get up.
Bob: We terminate sleep. So, do you know what the alarm clock does to you? It increases your blood pressure, it goes up. And it shocks your heart rate, accelerates it so your heart rate goes flying up. So, what they’re saying is, especially if you hit the snooze alarm, you’re doing this to your body over and over again. And over time, this can actually harm your heart and your nervous system.
Brad: Yeah, I think this guys’ pushing that a little bit though.
Bob: I don’t know, Brad.
Brad: Well, I imagine there are certain effects to it though.
Bob: So what do we do about this, Brad?
Brad: You get older, and you don’t need an alarm.
Bob: That’s exactly right. If you stay on schedule it’s helpful. I often wake up before my alarm. But, if I’m not getting enough sleep, I’m shocked by the alarm when it goes off, like I needed another hour.
Brad: Well you might be getting up before the alarm because your body knows. It’s like, “I don’t want to experience this shock, I’m going to get up before, and it’s that self-timer thing that people talk about.
Bob: Right. There are so many times that I think that I’m not really sleeping, I think I’m awake, and all of a sudden, the alarm goes off and I’m like “oooh” (throws arms up in the air) and all of a sudden, I realize I was sleeping.
Brad: Well, in the olden days, they had those alarms that would go “BEEP, BEEP, BEEP” Holy cow, that’s a shocker. That will take some time off your life.
Bob: There’s some now that will actually, like slowly create light to ease the transition. So, #4 if your room is too warm, your core temperature needs to decrease by 2- 3 degrees. It’s easier to sleep in a room that’s actually too cold then a room that’s too warm. So if you want to error, you want to error on that side. 65 degrees is kind of the average recommendation. There’s some variation between that. It actually helps to warm your feet and hands when you’re sleeping because that shunts blood from your core. Did you know that?
Brad: I’ve been wearing socks. I've got sleeping socks. They’re warm and fuzzy.
Bob: Yeah, that makes a big difference. #5 No alcohol. You and I both don’t like to do this. I like to have my one drink a night. I don’t know that one will do anything, but enough alcohol, it will fragment your sleep. It will not be continuous sleep. You may think you’re sleeping well, but it affects REM sleep and your dreaming. Dreaming is when you integrate your memories and association, so actually your memory becomes better. They did actual studies on this and students that even drank one night out of three, couldn’t remember as well as the student that didn’t drink anything those three nights.
Brad: Drink what? One beer or a six pack?
Bob: No, they had like three shots. Which is quite a bit.
Brad: Well, not if you’re from Wisconsin.
Bob: Yeah, really, that’s an average afternoon.
Bob: So, I forgot to mention one thing about light. Not only do you want to NOT have light at night, sometimes you DO want to have light during the day. It actually sets your circadian rhythms. They have special lights now if you have seasonal affective disorder. They actually help you. They make the ones that you put on your desk.
Brad: If you live way up north, like, you know, Alaska, Sweden or Norway for example. My cousin, he actually has a special light in the winter time.
Bob: In each room, you said.
Brad: Right. It’s better now with these new LED lights because they can get more specific on the frequency of the spectrum.
Bob: Alright everybody, thanks for watching.
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