How many people truly understand and get perfect sleep? The answer is far less than who than the number getting terrible sleep. Americans aren't sleeping anymore and this article is going to take some science and practical strategies to help improve the habit of sleep.
I am in the category of people who sleep at a sub par level, what some call a 'violent sleeper'. I thrash and tear apart the bed every night. It is almost as if I wrestle the entity of sleep. I have been like this for so long my family used to joke about it when I was in elementary school. Now I understand I have not slept well my entire life. 3 decades into life and every so often with the right amount of focus and energy exhaustion I can get a great night's sleep. All the strategies in this article are keen to helping you get a point where sleep is glorious and refreshing.
I believe one of the biggest impediments of sleep is the education of sleep. People do not understand the hormonal, neurotransmitter and macro nutrient balance of sleep. In fact, most dietary advice given in the US is 100% opposite of how humans were intended to eat.
THE FOOD CONNECTION
This is not the article to dive into foods. I have another article here which details out macro nutrient profiles and the reasoning. When we approach foods and how they effect our brain chemistry it completely changes our perception of what to eat and when. It also paints a vivid picture as to why we have an energy crisis in this country.
Carbohydrates stimulate Serotonin. Think of it this way, what do you eat when you are sad or depressed? Carbs like sugar, ice cream or pastries? Gravitation towards sweets provide the serotonin rush the brain is craving. Serotonin is your anti-depression molecule.
How does serotonin relate to sleep? That will come in time. First, we must learn about the hormonal/neurotransmitter sleep cycle.
HORMONAL/NEUROTRANSMITTER SLEEP CYCLE
Melatonin is generally thought of as our sleep hormone. I find this description to be very off putting and minimizing of Melatonin. Melatonin has a much more powerful job than sleeping. Also, why do you think Melatonin helps you sleep? What physiologic process does Melatonin provide? And, putting you to sleep is not a physiologic process.
Melatonin opposes cortisol. In a simplified sense, think of Newton's 3rd Law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. What is the equal and opposite reaction of cortisol?
This is a concept not many people talk about. In fact, I have never heard anyone talk about this in this context (I hope other smarter people than I begin the proper teaching of sleep). A lot of stress discussion is consumed with lowering cortisol. Why not approach this question differently and look to increase the equal and opposite action of cortisol?
Melatonin is that action. That is why it is so important. It neutralizes stress. Sleep happens when your cortisol can drop below a certain threshold. Melatonin levels allow this drop to happen.
The half life of Melatonin is fairly short and therefore we must maintain a minimum level to keep our cortisol below threshold all night long. This is where Serotonin comes in. Serotonin levels are what maintain levels of Melatonin throughout the night. The easiest way to think about his is in clinical terms.
If you have problems falling or staying asleep in the first 4 hours of the 8 hour sleep window, you have a Melatonin problem. Or being more specific you have a stress problem and are not buffering it well. The last four hours of sleep are controlled by your Serotonin system. If you wake up in the second half of sleep, you need so practice strategies to boost serotonin like taking 5-HTP in the evening or eating some carbs before bed. Sometimes all phases and strategies must take place to approach optimal sleep.
SLEEP AS A HOBBY
This has to be the best way of approaching sleep I have come across. And this didn't come from a scientist or doctor. It is such a beautiful way of thinking of sleep, how could it? We have so many strategies and products focused on waking up and maximizing energy. The equal and opposite side of this has a lot of strategies and products too, yet they pales in comparison. People talk about sleep, but never to the same zeal as waking and energizing.
I laid out a supplement strategy, all based on science that can help make sleep your hobby. Also, thinking of sleep in terms of something you thoroughly enjoy and actively put time into will change the dynamics of it. Sleep is an activity and it must be grown.