How to get a good Night’s sleep:

What can we learn from Wine Rides about getting a good night’s sleep?

Exercise:

Exercise: is a great way to help you get a good night’s sleep. However: try not to do a vigorous work out after 7:30pm. This is because a major physiological part of sleep is a drop in core body temperature. If you leave it too long into the evening to do a hard workout, it will delay when your body temperature drops and the onset of quality sleep.

Interestingly Athletes, who are fitter, have a greater variation in core body temperature during sleep.

The best form of exercise to help you sleep is swimming. I have been told to do 20 lengths plus one for every year you have been alive. I don’t swim particularly well, so if I go swimming I drop those first 20 lengths.

Alcohol

Wine/Alcohol: This is a great way to help get to sleep. It is a powerful sedative. The only trouble is that just like using caffeine to get you up in the morning, using wine to get your head down, is a slippery slope. If you don’t deal with the root cause and try and drug your way to a good night’s sleep, eventually you will habituate to a dose and have to up it to have the same effect. Also, the problem with Alcohol is that it totally disrupts the cycle of REM and deep sleep and induces snoring. Alcohol induced sleep is pore quality.

The only healthy dose of wine is about one teaspoon. It is a medical dose. The best reason to drink is for pleasure and to understand that it comes at a cost to your health. Wine is a wonderful social lubricant and should be used as such. As a crisis method: a glass of wine is a great way to de-stress and get-off-to-sleep. As a long term stratagem for sleep it is totally inadequate.

Light: 

Light: cells in the eye: Intrinsically photosensitive Retinal Ganglion Cells, reset your biological clock every day. It works because the rising sun is so bright that it sends a signal to the brain and tells it when the day has started and you need to get up.

This system means we are diurnal animals: awake in the day and asleep at night. The issue you and I have is: we live in a world that seems “designed” to disrupt this system. When Tomas Edison created the first commercial electric light bulb in 1880, an all-out assault on our sleep began. Even worse is the artificial blue light of our TV’s, computers and phones. Most of us also make sure to stand in the brightest room in the house for 5 minutes just before bed: the bath room. We brush our teeth in front of a mirror under a bright light.

As ridiculous as this may sound, there are apps that can help with this: F.lux is a free program for PC’s that will make the screen more red after the sun has set in your location. Twilight is the free android smart phone equivalent.

In general: it is a good idea to avoid any bright direct lights and screens 40 minutes before bed. Reading fiction instead of watching TV is a good suggestion if sleep is a problem. The trouble with non-fiction or work related reading is it can get your head spinning.

Less Sleep

More can be less: Use your smart phone to wake you up at the right time. Down load an App that wake you up earlier, that you set your alarm but when you are in light REM sleep rather than deep sleep. This means it is easier to get up in the morning. There is no point allowing yourself back into deep sleep if it means you are left groggy as a result.

NB: Nature the world’s most eminent scientific journal is skeptical about these apps. I am skeptical about their skepticism. They make the fair point that the accelerometers in your phone aren’t good enough, to tell what stage of sleep you are in. I agree; they probably are not. However a bad measurement is better than no measurement at all. I use this app and find it helpful. It feels like I’ve pinched a bit of extra time in the morning.

But don’t take the graphs produced seriously at all. They aren’t measuring your “health”.

Blood

Blood Sugar: I use and abuse coffee. I drink a strong cup of fresh coffee every morning before my work out. Caffeine is actually a performance enhancing drug as it helps your muscles contract harder. I actually tend to sleep ok. The problem I have is that I am very bad in the mornings.

I love a lie in and find I am dragging myself out of bed. The one thing I have found that seems to work is to have a teaspoon of almond butter just before bed.

Apparently it is crashing blood sugar levels that leads to this groggy feeling. The almond butter acts as a blood sugar buffer and slowly releases sugar into your bloodstream well into the night. As a result you aren’t quite so low in the morning.  This has worked really well for me.

If none of the above helps, there are further suggestions by Tim Ferris in his book The Four Hour Body.