Sleeping Like A Baby

Sleep is crucial for recovery from exercise, necessary for many bodily functions to remain optimal, and lack of it is the main cause of poor energy throughout the day as well as many health problems.

Cool Down

Studies have shown that a cooler environment, promotes better quality of sleep. The “magic temperature” seems to be about 70 degrees. Your internal temperature will drop when sleeping, so if your environment is warmer, energy is spent on trying to achieve equilibrium.

Stay away from the light!

No media at least 30 minutes before bed. This is two-fold. TV or checking social media will keep you from falling asleep and lower your quality. It will activate your brain and the blue light emitted from electronic devices signals your brain that it’s time to be awake (more on this in a future post). A total electronics-free period before bed is ideal, but if that doesn’t work with your life then look into blue-light blocking glasses; also apps for your phone and computer to filter out blue light.

Love and peace, man

Get your brain calmed and ready for sleep by reading some nonfiction. Also try journaling or some meditation. Try a “grateful log” or something similar. Five minutes or so of journaling is a great way to end and start the day (more on that in a future post).

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Other Random Bits

A study found that in young, healthy men reducing sleep to 5 hours a night resulted in up to a 15% drop in testosterone.

Prebiotics help sleep quality and reduce the effects of stress. REM sleep is improved as well as non-rem sleep after a stressful event. goo.gl/nMLpNL

Diet can help to promote better quality of sleep. Specifically, foods that produce or increase the availability of serotonin, melotonin, and tryptophan. goo.gl/mPSXY8

Longer sleep is associated with better body composition, specifically lower BMI. Shorter sleep periods are associated with “greater adiposity (body fat), lower HDL cholesterol and a tendency to impaired glucose metabolism.” goo.gl/mNMmLD

Higher levels of omega-3 is associated with higher quality of sleep. goo.gl/5QF3Rc

(I have a lot of positive things to say about omega-3, but that will be for another post.)

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Sulforaphane

Sulforaphane is a phytochemical found in several vegetables, that has anti-inflammatory, detoxifying, and even brain enhancing effects. While broccoli sprouts are one of the best sources of sulforaphane, it is also found in broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, and other green leafy veggies.

Sulforaphane has been shown to reduce obesity by facilitating the oxidation of fat and improving gut flora so that more efficient digestion and absorption is possible.

The many cognitive and neurological benefits to sulforaphane are the main reason to get down on some broccoli sprouts. Sulforaphane offers protection against Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, and even mood disorders such as depression. One study showed the NRF2 pathway has significant impacts on depression, suggesting that sulforaphane helps reduce symptoms. Aside from the neuroprotective benefits, sulforaphane also helps people to recover from traumatic brain injury (TBI). A study with mice immediately following a TBI showed memory enhancements with only sulforaphane.

Due to its antioxidant and immune boosting properties, sulforaphane is also beneficial for cancer reduction and prevention. Sulforaphane can reduce risk of prostate, colorectal, and a host of other cancer types. While it is more effective at reducing risk of cancer, it can help to reduce symptoms if the cancer has already formed.

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Supplement Focus: Vitamin D

Along with magnesium, most Americans are deficient in vitamin D. It is a common misconception that getting regular sunlight will provide adequate amounts of it. Even living somewhere where it’s always sunny, you will most likely not absorb enough vitamin D from just sunlight. This is where supplementation comes in.

Higher levels of serum vitamin D (the amount found in blood) are associated with a lower level of all-cause mortality. Higher levels of vitamin D are also associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer.

Aside from those health benefits, vitamin D is also beneficial for sleep, mood, and memory. A gold standard (double-blind, placebo controlled) research study found that the group given vitamin D supplementation had significant effects on sleep quality. “…improves sleep quality, reduces sleep latency, raises sleep duration and improves subjective sleep quality…”

Vitamin D and fish oils are great for mood enhancement through increasing serotonin. Vitamin D upregulates the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects “mood, decision-making, social behavior, impulsive behavior, and social decision-making.” There are also many neurological disorders, from autism spectrum disorder (ASD), ADHD, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, to depression, that are linked to low brain serotonin.

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Chew Your Food!

You’ve heard it before. Chew your food, don’t just swallow it whole. Chewing definitely affects digestion and absorption. But adequate chewing can also affect caloric intake, improve mood and focus, and improve gut hormones.

Digestion and absorption definitely benefit from chewing more. The more you chew food and break it down into smaller pieces the more easily it is broken down and absorbed. This also leads to feeling satiated (full) sooner and with less food. This can lead to a caloric reduction, or at the very least reduce overeating. Chewing more also allows you to taste more of your food which increases satiety and overall meal satisfaction.

A study on chewing found that an increased number of “chews per bite” resulted in an increase in beneficial gut hormones. The same study also found that the increased level of chewing reduced hunger for prolonged periods after a meal. Chewing is known to help with maintaining focus, as it’s often used in learning situations, driving long hours, to prevent sleepiness, etc. Study participants scored higher on intelligence and alertness tests with increased chewing. Stress was also reported to be lower in this study. While the mechanism is not totally understood, it is thought to be a combination of factors including “increases of cerebral blood flow and brain activity, cerebral blood flow, cardiovascular system, ascending reticular activating system, glucose delivery, and flavors.”

One simple way to chew more without even thinking about it is to eat away from screens. No tv, no phones. Eat with another person. Or looking outside or even at a piece of art you like. Having your meals away from screens will slow the pace of your meal and your chewing allowing for all of these benefits.

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Circadian Rhythm

Circadian rhythms are very important in mammals. There are many clocks in your brain and body, but they are all controlled by the master clock, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). Circadian rhythms and clocks, the SCN, and what affects them is only recently starting to be understood. The findings so far are fascinating.

 

Light plays a big role in regulating your circadian rhythms. Humans evolved with activity governed by nature, which means our exposure to light. The brain starts to boot up with its first exposure to bright light, and begins its shutdown sequence around 12 hours later, when the human body assumes is nighttime, and dark. Many other internal clocks are tied to this system and gene expression with them.

 

The timing of meals is another big factor in circadian rhythms. Again, looking at early humans explains why. At the end of the day the body will shift hormone production in preparation for sleep. Basically, the body will switch modes, from active to rest. Digestion will slow, metabolism slows, etc. At the same time, melatonin increases, which aids in sleep quality. So following a time-restricted eating (TRE) schedule will benefit your energy levels, fat loss, lean mass, sleep quality, and more.

 

It’s not all bad. There are things you can do to stay in rhythm, so to speak. As far as light goes, try to dim all lights, screens, etc. as you near bedtime. If you can get LED lights that can be set to specific colors: harsher, cooler (i.e. bright blues) colors in the beginning of the day, and warmer, dimmer (i.e. reds/oranges) as the day becomes night. As for timing your meals, TRE is relatively easy to do. TRE is not the same as intermittent fasting. With TRE, you basically follow the natural flow of the day. After waking up, once you have your first meal, about 12 hours later, should be your last meal. This should line up so that you’re eating an hour or two after waking and before going to bed.

 

This is a very dense topic, so this post barely skimmed the surface. Here are some good places to read more:

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