So this whole time I thought I was “good” at sleep. Turns out, not so much. When I finally got my Oura ring, I learned that my sleep is not as restful as it could be. Despite other sleep-enhancing habits- bedtime routine, no screens, red light, blue-light blocking glasses, last meal hours before bed, etc.- I still could not remain asleep through the night. After some research, the lowest hanging fruit of possible solutions seemed to be mouth breathing.
Mouth breathing is, well, exactly that. When you breathe through your mouth instead of your nose, all kinds of problems can occur. These problems are worse when they occur during sleep.
“During mouth breathing, air is forced through the airway at a larger volume than when you breathe through your nose. And when you breathe in air at such a high volume, the collapsible airway tends to collapse.”
There are other problems associated with mouth breathing, such as allergies, asthma, snoring, dental health, and more. But my target was improving my sleep. So I came upon mouth taping. Read a few articles (linked below) and decided to give it a shot. I ordered surgical tape, but didn’t want to wait for it to arrive, so I used regular ol’ scotch tape. I taped vertically, and left the tiniest gaps on the outer edges of my mouth. My goal was to keep my mouth closed, not necessarily to seal it closed.
The results: according to oura, my best night of sleep so far. I’ve had my oura ring for a little over a month, and my first night with my mouth taped resulted in my highest sleep score to date. I can also state that I felt more rested and woke up before my alarm clock. So, if you are having difficulty sleeping, or even if you’re sleeping well (or think you are) I would give mouth taping a shot.
Cupping, the practice of using suction on the surface of the skin with cups, is quite an interesting topic. While the practice is quite old, it was unknown to most people until Michael Phelps was seen in his last Olympic games, with the telltale cupping marks on his back and shoulders.
What is Cupping?
The process of cupping is this:
- With heating and cooling, or with a mechanical pump, suction is created at the surface of the skin
- Using suction, the skin is drawn into a cup (or bell), creating a vacuum
- The suctions is held for anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes
Alleged Benefits and Safety
The term alleged is used here because there is little to no evidence showing the efficacy of cupping. So the benefits claimed by proponents of cupping could be due to a placebo of sorts or perhaps there are real benefits not yet observed in research. The “benefits” of cupping are:
- Pain relief
- Release of muscle knots
- Decrease in swelling
- Break up of scar tissue
Whether or not cupping does anything at all, it’s important to know if it’s even safe to try. Generally, if done by a trained professional on relatively healthy people, cupping is safe. Depending on the type of cupping you could be at an increased risk of burns, more on that later.
Types of Cupping
- Dry Cupping: The air inside the cup or the cup itself is heated, creating an area of low pressure above the skin to create the suction
- Fire Cupping: A cotton ball or something similar, is soaked in alcohol and lit. The cotton ball is briefly placed inside the cup and then removed. The cup is quickly placed on the skin. This type of cupping has a higher rate of burns and related accidents
- Wet Cupping: Cupping meets bleeding. A small amount of blood is drawn into the cups from the surface of the skin
Evidence of Efficacy
The evidence in support of cupping is very scarce. Very little quality research has been done on cupping and the results are not in support of cupping. There are are some studies, possibly subjective, that show cupping may provide some actual pain relief. Some randomized controlled trials seem to lean towards pain relief, but no “gold standard” studies have been done to date. Many of the reported benefits could be due to cupping being similar in some ways to deep tissue massage/myofascial release.
Researchers have identified the distinct roles and locations in the brain of a protein called AKT believed to be instrumental in memory formation and synaptic plasticity.
Source: What are memories made of? New study sheds light on key protein — ScienceDaily
In my bag I have some key pieces of equipment to ensure I have a good workout. Depending on what I’m doing that day it won’t all be used, but I like to be as prepared as possible as often as possible.
Multiple studies have demonstrated that listening to music increases performance in the gym. Both lifts and sprints are improved by listening to music. So set up a good playlist, or follow some on Spotify and crank it up on the way to the gym, don’t wait until you get there. You want to be in workout mode and focused before you even step into the gym. I personally use JBL bluetooth earbuds, I like being wireless.
As I mentioned in my squat post, the knees are very important and can be easily injured. Even if you have great form during squats, your knees still take a lot of strain. When I’m squatting heavy (70% or more of my 1RM) I like to wrap my knees. I prefer actual wraps as opposed to sleeves. Wraps won’t get loose over time, I can change the tightness of them depending on whether I’m doing squats, leg press, hack squat, etc. Even how I feel that workout will play into how tight I wrap. My go to wraps are Meister. Simple, affordable, and get the job done.
Wrist wraps and/or straps are not always required even if you’re doing exercises that you’d benefit from them. While I’m a big supporter of grip work and having a strong a grip as possible, I also know that sometimes the weakest link in the chain is grip. If using straps let’s me get more work done, it seems worth it. I like to use Versa grips, they’re tough, grip well, and are pretty good as wrist wraps too.
You’ve found the hub for all things NFS -Nutrition, Fitness, and Strength- related. Over the coming weeks and months I will be adding as much content and features as time permits.