Written by Christopher Kelly
Sept. 3, 2018
Christopher: Hello and welcome to the Nourish Balance Thrive podcast. My name is Christopher Kelly. Today, I'm delighted to be joined by not one, not two, but three very special guests. They are my colleagues and coaches over at Nourish Balance Thrive. They are Clay Higgins. Say hi, Clay.
Clay: Hi, Clay.
Christopher: Trying to get to see if you recognize the voices here, Zach Moore, our Head of Strength and Conditioning.
Zach: Hello, everyone.
Christopher: And Megan Roberts.
Megan: Hi, great to be here.
Christopher: Today we are going to be talking about something very special, something that is capable of improving your athletic performance, improving your mood, improving your testosterone levels, improving your blood glucose regulation, fatigue, productivity, stress tolerance and gut health. Can you think of one thing that would do all of that? What would it be? Nicotinamide riboside? The Paleo Diet? Maybe. It's sleep and circadian rhythm.
We've written -- I say we, like the royal we. Megan has written a fantastic article that we published on the blog a few weeks ago. I will, of course, link to that in the show notes that you can find over at nourishbalancethrive.com/podcast, but today we thought we'd talk about about the article from a practical concern.
All of the guys that I have with me now have been working, one-on-one, with clients of our Elite Performance Program. So rather than this being a theoretical discussion of the factors that lead to good or bad sleep, it's going to be more of a practical discussion of the things that we've seen working with clients, one-on-one, so I hope that's helpful.
Let's get stuck into it. The idea of a circadian rhythm was well-described in a recent podcast with Tommy and Greg Potter. I know you guys listened to that podcast. It was a really fantastic episode. I really enjoyed -- I really enjoy Greg, and I obviously really enjoy Tommy.
Do you think we need to revisit that and discuss what circadian rhythm is? I think it might, just for the sake of completeness, I think it may be nice to just talk about what circadian rhythm is. Megan, do you want to talk about what circadian rhythm is?
Megan: Sure, sure. So, in a very general sense, circadian rhythm refers to our bodies' biological clocks. We have a master clock in our brain and then each of our organs have their own circadian clocks. Each of those clocks, as a whole, tell us when it's time to sleep, when it's time to be awake, so that's the basis of a circadian rhythm. Now that's a little bit different from drive which tells us how much sleep we want and how much sleep that we desire, so those are the differences between the two.
Christopher: Yeah, I thought the discussion about just the definition of the word is interesting; circa, which I think most people will recognize as meaning, about, and then dian, a day. Why is it only about a day, not exactly a day? All right, this leads to the discussion of things that would entrain the circadian rhythm so that we all run on the same 24-hour clock, [0:03:00] [Indiscernible].
Before we go into maybe some of those details, can you talk about why sleep is so important? Let me ask you that, Zach, actually. Your focus primarily, working with clients, is body composition and strength and conditioning. How have you seen that be transformative? What an incredibly loaded question this is.
Zach: I'm going to say, thanks for asking me first.
Christopher: I'll just stop talking now.
Zach: Yeah. So in my realm, sleep is super important, just, one, for recovery. To be at your best, to perform at your best, you need recovery, and sleep is obviously a huge component of that. So some of the athletes we work with, if they are feeling tired, fatigued, something like that, I always want to know that because I will immediately decrease the volume that they're performing in their athletics or suggest certain changes in their program because I know they're not going to be at their best.
Christopher: Right. Can you give .a specific example of somebody that came to you with a body composition goal and it seems like they're doing everything right, in terms of their diet, but they weren't hitting their goals because they weren't getting enough sleep? Have you ever seen that in practice?
Zach: Oh, yeah, definitely, definitely. I've seen clients who -- for one, when you're trying to lose weight or improve body composition, sometimes hunger can become an issue and when you are sleep-deprived then -- I mean, what the research shows is, hunger is definitely even stronger when you are sleep-deprived.
I've had clients who, when they are not sleeping well, they feel overly hungry more so than usual and then that makes losing fat more challenging, or improving body composition. When they get their sleep in line then they don't have the cravings as often, they can go in between meals and not feel as cranky and things like that, it just helps with cravings, so it's a definitely super important variable that makes those things easier.
Christopher: Mm-hmm, and I can cite some references in the show notes, the sleep deprivation affects hunger and satiety hormones. It also affects glucose tolerance. I know, Clay, that you spend a lot of time looking at your own glucose tolerance and that of other clients. Is that something you've seen in practice? Again, a very leading question because I know the answer, but talk about, have you seen that where someone just can't figure out why their blood glucose is all wonky and then they're like, "Oh, it's almost as if what I put in my mouth has no effect," and then it's really about the sleep deprivation. Is that something you see?
Clay: Absolutely, because with exercise and food, those are two big drivers and people want to focus on that a lot. Whereas, if you could get people to focus on one thing and one thing only, it would be sleep. I see it as the top of the pyramid. I mean, evolutionarily, you can't cheat that. Everyone feels the effects of even one night of bad sleep and so it's a big win for people when they can get their sleep in line. A lot of times, that does take a while, but if you can begin to set a proper bedtime and work towards it and have things that help you rest better, the insulin, to me, from what I've seen, not follows, but it gets it in line a little better.
Megan: Just to pop in there on the glucose tolerance, what I've seen is sometimes it's a food timing thing, so just simply front-loading your calories and not having a larger dinner one hour before you go to sleep can make a whole lot of difference. The other thing is carbohydrate timing as well. More front-loading your carbs, you are more insulin-sensitive, and this is one thing that Tommy and Greg talked about.
Christopher: Yeah, so you buy Carb Back-Loading by Kiefer and then you just do the opposite of everything he says in the book. It's a fantastic book, you just need to invert it.
Christopher: Actually you reminded me of a woman I worked with for a while. We seemed like we exhausted every opportunity to make her blood glucose tolerance better. We had done all the tests, all the things, eventually that's what it is. She said, "All I needed to do was eat dinner at 3:00 in the afternoon, and my fasting blood glucose is 79," or something, where previously she looked like pre-diabetic, quite extraordinary. It was not to do with the food choices. It was just to do with the timing which is unbelievable.
There's an unbelievable list of things here I can link to in this article; athletic performance, insulin resistance, glucose tolerance, obesity, hunger and satiety hormones, I already mentioned, the gut microbiota, cognitive-emotive performance, general hormonal balance, male and female reproductive hormones, cortisol, cardiovascular dysfunction and disease risk, perceptions of attractiveness -- that's an interesting one, I didn't notice that in the article when I read it for the first time. Tell us about what you learned when you put that in the article.
Megan: It has been a while since I read the study, but there was a study that looked at -- they showed participants different pictures when they were sleep-deprived versus when they were not sleep-deprived. These were pictures of people's faces. They perceived attractiveness in a different way.
Christopher: Oh, wow, that's absolutely amazing. We've also got mood, cancer, immune function, Alzheimer's disease, neurogenesis, aging and associated diseases. That's quite a long list of things to care about sleep for.
The next question is, how do I know if I'm getting enough quality sleep? How do you go about that, Megan, assessing whether someone is getting enough quality sleep?
Megan: Two things that's going to lead to into this discussion; one is, some people come to us and they're obviously not getting enough, they're having the symptoms, and they know it. Other people are coming to us and like, oh, yeah, I can function just fine off of five and a half hours of sleep. We have to have this conversation of, well, is that really true? Have you tried to lengthen the time of your sleeping to see if some of these problems that you're having, resolve?
If you are getting enough, you don't fall asleep the moment your head hits the pillow but you also don't lie in bed for an hour waiting to fall asleep. You also don't wake up multiple times during the night. Sometimes waking up periodically is normal but you don't want to be waking up multiple times having to go to the bathroom and whatnot. You also wake up feeling refreshed. Men, your testosterone meter would point north, and your energy level is typically consistent throughout the day.
One thing I will say is sometimes I get people coming to me and they're saying, "Well, I get really, really tired after dinner." I go, well, that's typically when the sun goes down. You're supposed to be getting more tired in the evening. Your energy level should decline during the second half of the day when you're supposed to be sleeping. But during the time of day when you're awake, doing your everyday functions and activities then you should have a relatively consistent level of energy.
Christopher: Can I ask you, is there a female equivalent of the testosterone meter? I honestly don't know the answer to that question. It's the first question I've asked where I really don't know the answer.
Megan: It would be libido or it would be missing periods, nothing that you can really --not as obvious but it does --
Christopher: What should people do then? Let's start with falling asleep. You put your head on the pillow. Clay, I know you've got some thoughts about this. Your mind is racing and maybe either you're ruminating over the day's events or maybe you're thinking forward to what might be happening tomorrow. Have you got any tips that people might use so they can shut down the monkey mind and get to sleep?
Clay: Having the routine, the bedtime routine, it can be simple cues such as making tea or things of that nature, but the big ones are not exposing yourself to blue light.
Christopher: Right, and we'll get into that, we'll get into that.
Clay: Okay, and the routine is really big because -- and it actually starts the minute you wake up, but if you can build in that time, whether it's an hour or two hours, that does calm the monkey mind down. Breathing techniques help with that as well.
Christopher: What type of breathing techniques have you been using?
Clay: Maybe like a boxed breathing.
Christopher: Can you describe that? I'm not…
Clay: Yeah, so think of the four sides of the box. Some people do where it's a one-to-one ratio, one-to-one-to-one-to-one ratio of four in, four hold, four exhalation. I prefer a really long exhalation, as a matter of fact, as long as you want. That just really gets in the parasympathetic and that's actually good for stress at any time, but it's the old counting sheep. It's counting the same four sheep.
It's really good because I have personally had success with that. I don't have monkey mind a lot because I have that routine that comes into that. It's odd. I've always had the -- when it's time to go to sleep, it's time go to sleep because that's gold. So, if it's not being solved right now, it's not going to get solved by ruminating, but I understand that's a tough -- something for --
Christopher: Right. I find that writing things down is sometimes very helpful. I think I first got this tip from Dr. Kirk Parsley that was on the podcast many moons ago, and I can link to that on the show notes. So, I've got tons of things I've been thinking about and things I might want to get done first thing in the morning. It's just so simple. You just write them down.
There's some part of your subconscious mind is worried about forgetting something so that's almost giving rise to the rumination. You just realize you're having the same thought, over and over again. Oh, I've been here before, 30 seconds ago. Just write it down and then suddenly, it's almost like some part of your brain gives you permission just to stop thinking about it.
Zach, I know that you've got an 18-month-old baby. It is 18 months, isn't it?
Zach: Yes, he just turned 18 months.
Christopher: I know that can be, from personal experience, that can be very challenging. Can you talk about some of the difficulties that you face, getting to bed, when you've got a kid of that age with you?
Zach: Yeah. We've actually been really lucky. He sleeps really well now. In the first few months, it was pretty challenging, getting up and things like that. One thing that we'll probably touch on a little later is blue-blocking glasses, so in the middle of the night, when he wakes up, I would --
Christopher: Oh, you will do the same thing for him.
Zach: No, no, for myself, I put on blue-blockers to get him -- for him --
Christopher: Oh, so if you've got to get up, I get it.
Zach: Yeah, until I get help or my wife would breastfeed and things like that. Sometimes I would want to support her, get the diaper or something like that, so I would get --
Christopher: Oh, you're way better than me. I snore, sawing logs.
Zach: Yeah, sorry, guys, if your wives are listening. Yeah, I would do that, but the big thing was exactly what Clay touched on, getting your child in a routine, if you have one, trying to have a similar wind-down routine each night so they get used to that, they get sleepy at that same time, getting up around the same -- I mean, obviously, you have a baby, you can't force that at all, but you can get those same routines down.
For myself, personally, like I said, the blue blockers, the same strategies we'll probably touch on, but getting light first thing in the morning just to set my circadian rhythm, trying to avoid dark light at night, but you do the best you can when you have a baby. Like I said, you're not going to be fully in control of that.
That's what I would say too, this is with any habit that you're trying to take on, is focus only on what's in your control because some things may be out of your control. You just can't do anything. Shift work, for example, maybe you can't do anything about that, yeah, it can be hard with a kid, but there are things you can do to just get as much sleep as you can.
Christopher: I've been very lucky with that as well, and I wonder whether some of it -- I know you spent some time hanging out with Paul Jaminet who has also been on the podcast. I remember one of the things he talked about was nap time. Yeah, let them have their naps but don't try and confuse them by having them sleep in a darkened room. The temptation is to draw all the curtains. I don't do that. Ivy and Bower, both nap in a light room and then they just wake up naturally.
Zach: That's exactly what we do.
Christopher: That's exactly what you do, interesting.
Zach: Yeah, that's exactly what we do as well and --
Christopher: Of course you have no idea whether it's working or not.
Zach: Yeah, yeah, no, but --
Christopher: This seems to make sense, doesn't it?
Zach: Yes, because, again, dark signals to us that it's time to sleep. Especially for a kid that doesn't know what time of day it is, if they get used to taking a nap when it's dark in your room, they're not going to know really when it's night. There may be two different nights to them. So, letting them sleep when the light is coming in the window or something like that, I think that's a really, just powerful signal to them. Just like us, they have that same cycle. Yeah, I didn't really think about that. That's true.
Christopher: Yeah, I find it really helpful just for all of us to go to bed at the same time. My parents did that thing where we had to go to bed really early and then they did whatever they did after we went to bed. I guess some parents, maybe if you're working, you don't get home at 7:00 or something then you want that alone time or you want any time, but I don't know. I really value the sleep so much, based on all the things we've already talked about.
Zach: Well, I want to suggest --
Christopher: I value those more than anything.
Zach: Yeah, and that's the temptation, is, like you said, you have a few hours before bed to just relax with your spouse or by yourself or whatever it is, but those hours are usually not very productive, especially if you're sleep-deprived. So, over time, not getting to bed, you are only saving yourself these hours that are going to be not productive. Whereas if you went to bed then you could get up, be more productive in your time, so it really creates more time in the long run if you just get to bed.
Christopher: Right, and you make it up the next day with increased productivity.
Christopher: I find that super helpful. We go to bed at 8:30 at night or whenever it gets dark is when we go to bed.
Zach: We had an issue at first where my son, he thought night was 6 pm, so we were going to bed super early. Luckily, we slowly pushed him back, over time, but we stuck to that schedule because to him, that was night, and we wanted that 24-hour cycle or roughly 24-hour cycle. Over time, the light really helped reset that. He was born in January so it's dark out more often anyway. That made it more challenging. It would get dark at 6 pm.
Christopher: Right. We're definitely going to be earlier in the winter, following more of that natural cycle. Yeah, Ivy goes to bed immediately. She falls asleep really quickly and then when I lift her out the bed -- she goes to sleep in my bed and then I lift her out into her little toddler bed that's next to our bed -- she's like a corpse. It's like literally lifting a dead body to move into the thing, so she's really, really sleeping hard.
I know that older kids -- I know, Clay, you've got teenagers and that's a whole different ball of wax. I don't really know anything about that yet.
Clay: It's just the opposite of what you're talking about, so it flips again. The newborns confuse day and night and then it goes back to that. But they still need their sleep, and I think, personally, from -- we always set that early bedtime, and they still -- teenagers will push it out -- but they still, if you develop that habit at a young age, it sticks with them.
Christopher: Right, and I was about to say that I was talking to a doctor here at AHS. We're in Bozeman, Montana, recording, and I've just been talking to a dentist there, Kevin Boyd, whom I'm hoping to have on the podcast. He said, "Oh, that regular routine you've got with your kids, do not change that. You need to stick to that schedule, and you'll really thank me for that advice in a long time. It's not so obvious now but in the future, it will be important."
Let's talk about some of the things that might disrupt circadian rhythm, the main one being light. Do you want to talk about how light might disrupt circadian rhythm?
Megan: Sure. Of all the things that are potentially going to disrupt circadian rhythm, too much blue light at night and then not enough bright outdoor light, natural light during the day are probably the two biggest things. Now blue light has a higher energy, shorter wavelength light than something like a red or an orange light, and studies have shown that the more outdoor, natural bright light we can get in the beginning half of our day, the more resilient we'll be to any blue light that sneaks in at night. Obviously, preferably, we don't have that blue light at night, but just the fact that getting outside first thing in the morning, which is something that I encourage a lot of people to do, helps with that resiliency in the evening, is certainly something to consider.
Christopher: I've talked a lot to people. At this point, they know about the light at night problem. They've installed f.lux, and they've got the special sunglasses and all the rest of that jazz, but what they're not really concentrating on is the fact, what you said just a moment ago before I cut you off, is that a great night of sleep starts first thing in the morning and getting that bright light first thing in the morning.
Maybe you need to alter your environment in some way such that you do have a trigger that pushes you outside. That could be as simple as, do you drink coffee, do you drink tea, well, can you drink that first cup of coffee or tea outside on the stoop in front of your house? That seems like a pretty simple thing. I like walking the dog, and I've talked about that on the podcast before. That's great, but I realize that's not for everyone.
Zach, what about you? Have you got any tips for getting people, first thing in the morning?
Zach: Well, one issue I see come up a lot is I see people who work in an office, and this isn't touching on the first thing in the morning but every little bit adds up, so if you can just get outside occasionally, take little mini breaks and just walk outside and maybe take a lunch break outside. It's a great --
Christopher: Take your work outside with you.
Zach: Yeah, that's what I meant. No, do not do that but, yeah, just walk around the building or maybe ask a coworker to go outside with you, just every little bit adds up. I don't think people, they don't think that's going to make a difference but, again, cumulatively, it will definitely add up, so I'd recommend that. Even if you're inside the office or if you have the ability to open your window a little bit if the weather is nice out, just any of that is going to be beneficial.
Christopher: We were listening to Ben Greenfield yesterday, talked about all his hacks. He was actually very good. He has all these gadgets that shines, lights up your nose and up your bum and all the rest of it. Then he did this interesting thing where he's like, "I've tried all these things and they do have the utility but you know what? You can just go outside." I'm like, hmm, yeah, I think I'll just take my laptop outside. That seems like a great solution.
It took me a while to realize this but even when you're indoors and it seems like a well-lit room, if you were to get a light meter, you would see that it's, in order of magnitude, dimmer in there, then if you go outside even on a dark day. Your pupils are going to adjust to the amount of available light. That's maybe part of what causes the confusion or people don't know that they need to spend more time outside.
Zach: That's right. Yeah, if it is very cloudy, it looks super dark, that's still much brighter than what you're experiencing indoors with a ton of light.
Christopher: Resist the temptation to say, what the heck, and not bother going outside just because it's a bit cloudy. That doesn't make sense. Let's talk about caffeine. What role does caffeine have to play in all of this, Megan?
Megan: Generally we know that caffeine too late in the day can certainly be detrimental for our sleep. General rule of thumb that I give our clients and people in general is to cut off caffeine intake at noon and see how that either makes you sleep better or no change at all. If you do find that makes you sleep better then slowly cut it off a couple of hours before noon and see if that dramatically increases your sleep even more than that.
Some people need to take a complete break from caffeine, and that's totally fine. It's also, the metabolism of caffeine depends on things like genetics and also individual tolerance and how much caffeine you usually drink. There's a lot playing into it but shifting caffeine intake throughout the day can be beneficial.
Christopher: Whereabouts does that lie in the order of things? Is that the first thing you try, the last thing you try, depends on the person?
Megan: It depends on the person. If they're having multiple cups of coffee in the afternoon then it's one of the first things, even if they say, "Oh, I can drink coffee at 3 pm and it doesn't affect my sleep."
Christopher: Zach, would you ever recommend to someone that they use caffeine as an ergogenic aid before they hit the gym?
Zach: If it's not too late in the day, possibly. Yeah, it has been shown to be helpful for performance if you're not already used to it or consuming a lot. You do adjust to it, and it doesn't really become helpful in that regard. If someone is training late in the day, I would absolutely not recommend it.
If you're not consistently using it then you're going to have a certain amount of performance which is going to be a stress on your body. Then if you have caffeine, maybe it provides a little bit of performance for a while. It's just not that super helpful in the long run.
So if someone has a game day or something they're really prepping for then maybe that's helpful in that regard, but I don't recommend it consistently over time unless it's just part of your morning routine. But like Megan said, sleep is definitely more important than that.
Christopher: This is another one of those things. I had a story where someone had exhausted all avenues of possibilities and then finding, they try changing their mealtime and they discover that was the thing with blood glucose. I definitely have the same thing with caffeine and sleep. Oh, yeah, we've fixed all these other things. I'm feeling much better but still not sleeping great. Then they come back and say, "You know what, it's caffeine." It's like, you'd think it would be the first tying you try, and it's not.
Tell us what you do, Clay, how about that, rather than telling us what we should do.
Clay: Personally, half-caff can work. Sometimes some people don't like that.
Christopher: Swiss decaf, we talked about that in the other podcast.
Christopher: Swiss Water process.
Clay: I'm big on the green teas, matcha, things of that nature.
Christopher: Do you find it has a different effect? I definitely find, even if I've been habitually drinking a lot of tea, there's still something special about coffee. I wouldn't like to say it's just caffeine. I don't have coffee at home. I just don't have it in the house so then I have it when I go out, and it's like a special thing then.
Clay: For me, I like to switch it off and just maybe almost have a coffee holiday, and sometimes that makes me, I don't know if it makes me like it even more, but it just gives me a break. I certainly enjoy the lift that I get from matcha. Or if I wanted something with lunch, it should be green tea, or just switching it up too because you never know. Again, it's one of those things. We're just asking that you try it, yeah, see how you feel.
Christopher: Yeah. If you're one of these people, I've got a real habit of drinking hot beverages even in the afternoon and even at night and so I'll just switch to something that doesn't have caffeine in it as long as it's relatively tasty. There are so many different great teas in the market we have access to now, so I want to try some of them. Rooibos is one of my favorites. It's part of Bryan's detox protocol, and I bought some for that. Wow, this is actually really good, and I've been drinking it quite regularly since then.
Let's talk about alcohol. Are you a boozy person, Megan? You don't really strike me as much of a boozer.
Megan: I'm not. Alcohol is not really my thing. It doesn't agree with me. In the context of sleep, a lot of people think that alcohol has [0:25:32] [Indiscernible] properties, and it does. It can help you fall asleep faster, but it actually causes more disruption in sleep during the second half of the night.
Christopher: Right. What do you mean when you say it doesn't agree with you? In what way?
Megan: Alcohol does cause intestinal permeability, and I found in particular that my gut doesn't like it.
Megan: The other thing that alcohol can do is suppress melatonin and also change our core body temperature, which we know, both of those, melatonin and a decrease in core body temperature, are important for sleep onset.
Christopher: What about you, Zach, is it an immediate red flag when you've got someone drinking, if they've got any kind of goal? It does seem like low-hanging fruit, doesn't it?
Zach: Yes, yes, and a lot of people, they'll use it to wind down. It helps them relax in the evening. They feel like that helps them sleep easier, but your quality of sleep is worse than what it would be if you hadn't drink. It may be that false sense of, I'm winding down, I'm relaxing, but it doesn't really help with your sleep, long-term.
So, again, I would definitely -- Clay, touched on this earlier, just shutting your mind off, finding other ways to relax and calm down before bed. That's what I usually work on with clients who do use alcohol as a way to de-stress, is you find other medians, whether that's going for a walk, doing maybe some light, general, stretching, just nothing that amps you up, maybe even taking a warm bath or just whatever, whatever that is to calm the person down.
Christopher: It's one of those things where it's probably easier said than done, right? If you're used to drinking half a bottle of red wine every night, it's not good of me to say, "Oh, just stop it and you'll sleep great, don't worry about it." There's a whole area of research trying to get people to stop doing that.
I have to say that we've seen at least a couple of examples I can think of where Dr. Simon Marshall who has been on the podcast a couple of times, has had really fantastic results, helping people who have already decided. He doesn't tell anyone to do anything. That's one of the hallmarks of Simon is you'll never get him to tell you to do anything, but he has helped people who have already decided that they want to stop drinking or cut back on their drinking.
He has some fantastic evidence-based techniques that he uses to do that I will resist the temptation to get into now, or I will recommend one thing, the Charles Duhigg book, I think, is very powerful, understanding how habits are formed, how they're triggered, how you go through a routine and then there's a reward.
Even from that book, you'll get some ideas about how you might be able to get to modify some routine. For example, by substituting the red wine or beer or whatever it is you're drinking, with perhaps something that has a similar mouth feel and then replacing the alcohol reward with some other type of reward, so that Charles Duhigg book, I'll link in the show notes.
Megan: One thing I just want to pop in here and say, there is certainly a time and a place to enjoy alcohol. You have to weigh the pros and the cons. If you're having a dinner party and you're with friends and you're socializing and you want to have a glass or two of wine, you have to weigh the pros of being social and that connection with other people, to potentially, maybe a night of not so great sleep.
Christopher: Yeah, you reminded me of the Malcolm Kendrick podcast where he talked about moderate alcohol consumption, whatever that is. Maybe there's a difference between people who are drinking scotch by themselves in a dark room versus a family in France having a small glass of red wine with dinner. It's a very different scenario and, yeah, it's difficult.
Zach: It gets into the deeper conversation of why.
Christopher: Yeah. So where do neurotransmitters come into this, Megan? Do you think there's a possibility that somebody might have a neurotransmitter imbalance that could be affecting their sleep?
Megan: Potentially, yeah, there are some evidence to suggest that stress, whether that's chronic stress from overexercising or stress from something else, can cause an imbalance in neurotransmitters which are, these little, tiny chemical messengers that help transmit signals throughout the nervous system, and neurotransmitters are precursors to melatonin.
Christopher: Clay, talk about your bedroom environment. How have you shaped your bedroom environment to make it more conducive towards quality sleep?
Clay: One of the first things that I did was change the light bulbs up.
Christopher: That's the important one, isn't it? That was one of the first things I did and I'm not particularly sensitive to caffeine but light is, yeah, huge.
Clay: Yeah, and I believe it's the Sylvania who makes them. There's a few on the market that you can find on Amazon. They're low blue, and you can still read. You're not going to stumble on taking the dog across the room. But getting the house right too and whether that's a chilly pad or the temperature in the house. I live in the South, it gets really hot, so you have to cool the house a lot and so that can be disturbing, so your environment. We're fortunate where we are. In Bozeman, you just pop open the windows, it's nice and chilly outside.
Christopher: It's the same in Northern California. We're so lucky. It gets very hot during the day, especially in the summer, but at night we need to do is open a certain window, and it's 55, 60 degrees every night and so it cools off really wonderfully.
Clay: Yeah, and if light pollution is an issue where you live --
Christopher: Yeah, blackout curtains.
Clay: -- taking steps for that or even the sleep mask. That's a big one. If your bed partner likes to read and there's light still going on, that helps as well. White noise can help.
Christopher: Yeah, I was going to say, we have a HEPA air filter that doubles as a white noise generator, but I had to get some duct tape. It had all these LED lights on the front of it, completely meaningless and unnecessary LED lights. I had to get duct tape to make it as dark as possible. That's almost the thing in hotel rooms, isn't it? They love to give you this radio alarm clock and all this other stuff with LEDs. It's like a little task that you go around the hotel room and get rid of all these lights.
Clay: Walk in the hotel room, turn the lights off, find them all, tape them off.
Christopher: What kind of mattress have you got, Zach? Is there anything important?
Zach: To be honest, I don't even know. I'm pretty frugal, so I have just a hand-me-down, but I'm definitely big on turning the temperature down. Like Clay said, it has to be cool enough for me to sleep well. We do have blackout curtains, and I'm a big fan of a night mask. Those are my three go-tos. I travel with a night mask everywhere. Just in a hotel room, if that's where you're staying, lights come through the blinds like crazy. It's impossible to filter out all the lights.
Christopher: God, I'm so lucky I live in Bonny Doon. We don't even have curtains because we don't need them.
Zach: We have street lights and stuff like that so blackout curtains are really helpful, again, especially for my son because I'm not going to put blackout mask on his eyes, so it makes him think it's still dark out.
Christopher: What are the biggest problems that you've had to solve working with clients, Megan?
Megan: In terms of bedroom environments?
Christopher: Yeah, exactly. Is there something, anything that pops out? It's one of those things that people have already thought about for the most part, isn't it, and they've usually gone to considerable effort to improve their bedroom environment.
Megan: Typically, yes, one thing that, it's actually a struggle in my house, is one partner likes it hot, one partner likes it cold, so figuring out a happy medium between those two.
Christopher: Oh, yeah, you've talked about that. You and your husband have a slight disagreement over the temperature of the bedroom.
Christopher: Okay, let's talk about obstructive sleep apnea. That's definitely something that we've seen for a number of our clients. I feel like I can spot it on a blood chemistry now because you see suspiciously elevated hemoglobin. Somebody does has all these health complaints doesn't normally have -- it's like almost the hallmark of chronic disease is low hemoglobin, and why is this person so high, especially the men? That's suspicious. Can you tell me what you know, what you've seen?
Megan: Yeah, so obstructive sleep apnea is where during some part of the night, the airways in your upper respiratory system become blocked and so you're not getting enough oxygen, and this can cause awakenings during the night and also poor sleep quality. There are specific risk factors for sleep apnea. These include alcohol consumption, smoking, overweight and obesity, but apart from that suspiciously high hemoglobin that we see on the blood chemistry calculator, you can also just get inexpensive pulse --
Christopher: Pulse oximeter.
Megan: -- pulse oximeter on Amazon and check those blood oxygen saturation levels.
Christopher: Right, and it's not practical to sleep all night. You probably don't need to. You just take a nap with this little finger trap device attached to your finger and then you get an idea of whether there are any apneas taking place. It can lead to a proper sleep study and a diagnosis in a CPAP machine which is not ideal, but if you're not sleeping right then you can't reasonably expect anything else to improve until you get that sorted then maybe hope --
So the dentist that I mentioned earlier, Kevin Boyd, presented wonderful data on the amazing shrinking face, and this may be part of it is that people's faces are actually getting smaller, the airway is becoming more constricted, and more people are having problems with mouth breathing during the night.
I'm actually one of those people. I have a nasal injury that I picked up in kickboxing a long time ago, and the Breathe Right strip was transformative to my sleep. It's this little sticky, we call them nose stickers. You put this thing on your nose, and it opens up the airways a bit. I feel like it has really helped me.
Clay, I know that you've tried the mouth taping thing. Can you tell us about that?
Christopher: Mixed results, really?
Clay: Yeah, yeah, it's one of those things I'm like, I've got to try that, and so I shoot Tommy a message. "Tommy, have you tried it?" We had a conversation about it, and I was like --
Christopher: Aren't we lucky? Isn't it awesome to have Tommy in your Slack?
Clay: Yeah, Tommy, what do you think?
Christopher: Sometimes we're on a client call, any one of us, somebody asked a question that we don't know the answer. I say, "I don't know the answer. I need to get back to you." Then you ask Tommy in Slack and then you get the answer before we even get off the call. It's the coolest thing.
Clay: It turned out we had both tried it around the same time. I was like, yeah, I tried it. I can't even explain it other than I slept deeper, I felt refreshed when I woke up. I don't know if it was just those few nights. I tried it for a little bit, but I can't --
Christopher: You're not doing it now.
Christopher: Tommy is not doing it now.
Clay: I did it last night.
Christopher: Oh, did you?
Clay: Yeah, and who knows.
Christopher: What are you using? Have you got this special…
Christopher: How I found out about this was through our mutual friend and previous podcast guest, Mike Mutzel, who does fantastic things over at High Intensity Health, and he has talked about mouth taping extensively. Did you buy the special thing that he talked about?
Clay: That's where I fell prey to advertising.
Christopher: Clay is your man. If you want to know the gadget, the thing, the replacement food, the best chocolate coffee, anything like that, Clay knows all the best things.
Zach: I have so many notes now from this trip that I'm going to contact Clay afterwards and be like, Clay, what was that product, what was that supplement?
Christopher: Yeah, he will be a great salesman.
Zach: He tried it all.
Christopher: You're like a salesman that's not actually selling. Have you seen this? He opens his coat, and he has got this big, extensive panel of things on the inside. Tell us about the drip coffee you're very excited about. What was it called again?
Clay: Dripkit, so if you're a fan of pour over before noon --
Clay: Obviously. So, they partnered with a few different coffee roasters to make a kit for travel and all you need is the hot water, or if you're camping or what have you and you just --
Christopher: Oh, yeah, that's great for camping.
Clay: Exactly, because there's really no messy clean-up, comes in a foil pack, it's a single-serve. You just put it over the cup, pour the hot water and --
Christopher: That's cool.
Clay: Yeah, that's really good. I always like to just try it and see if --
Christopher: You want to try and see -- you're a tinkerer. A tinkerer is the perfect word for you.
Clay: I am so.
Christopher: Let's talk about nocturia. This is a very interesting word that I may have just added an extra syllable to. I can explain -- everybody knows what it is. It's just getting up in the night to pee, and I used to be very, very good at this. I would get up multiple times in the night to pee. Eventually I figured out that it wasn't that I was being woken up by the urge to pee. It was that I was waking up and then you're like, oh, actually, I need to pee.
Megan, I know this question comes up a lot. It's another one of those things where people think that because it's common, it's normal or optimal or expected. We don't think that's true. Megan, you've done some research on this. Can you tell us about that?
Megan: As far as the research goes, I was looking at specific mechanisms that could potentially be causing this problem. The only thing to say is sometimes the answer isn't to directly go and try to solve it. The answer is to work on these other things that we're talking about and then this falls into place.
Christopher: Exactly, it's like the mercury in a thermometer, trying to push it back down into the bulb is not going to help solve the problem. Right?
Megan: Right. It's a symptom of a bigger problem. As far as mechanisms go, there's a hormone, aldosterone, that is supposed to be high at night, and it causes retention of sodium and water. Low aldosterone, which can be due to something like cortisol dysregulation, can potentially cause waking up in the middle of the night to have to use the bathroom. The catch 22 here is that sleep deprivation of self can lock the nighttime increase in cortisol that's supposed to happen making this a whole vicious cycle. Another potential mechanism is cortisol spike that can lead to an inhibition of a hormone called ACTH which can then decrease aldosterone and cause nocturia.
Christopher: Do you find the idea that maybe cortisol -- that was how I felt when I woke up in the middle of the night. It was like I was just woken up by somebody breaking into the house. It was that kind of feeling, and with it came hunger. So I always wondered whether that maybe a cortisol spike, that it's possible that my blood sugar was dropping and then maybe cortisol had kicked in to raise it. Or is that naive to --
Megan: No, I think that's very possible. Something like a continuous blood glucose monitor at night could potentially help diagnose that.
Christopher: That's an interesting idea, isn't it? Although we've talked about that on the podcast before. There may not be documented hypoglycemia. Tommy has some really interesting ideas on that. The brain is regulating that system so tightly, it's going to let anything bad happen. So, really, when you experience hypoglycemic symptoms, it's the rapid change that you notice.
My analogy is, imagine you're a pilot in a plane and the plane is nose diving towards the earth. You pull back on the stick and you feel that negative G force, whoa, and you never hit the ground, but you do feel the effects of the negative G force. What I'm trying to say is that you may not see hypoglycemia. If you're wanting to see 40 liters per deciliter on you're blood glucose monitor, you may never see it. It's the rapid transition from 140 to 80, maybe less of a change than that, but you'll notice.
Megan: One other thing here is the body should be producing less urine at night which is probably due to these hormones that we talked about. If you're not truly in a deep sleep then that could ultimately be part of the mechanism by which you're having to wake up and go to the bathroom due to a full bladder. Or you're waking up and then you notice your bladder is full.
Christopher: So it's really just a symptom.
Zach: That goes back to the whole circadian rhythm thing we were talking about. It's night. Your body needs to believe it's night. If you're eating at night or you're seeing blue light at night, all these things, your body is not going to get that signal that it's nighttime and then it may not follow that mechanism which it should.
Christopher: Maybe this is a good time to just summarize a little bit. So the things we talked about, avoid blue light at night. Everybody knows about that at this point, f.lux, your blue-blocking glasses. Go outside first thing in the morning, very important. It's much brighter outside than it is indoors. You've got to get outside.
Eating when the sun is up, we've not talked too much about this, so perhaps this is a good time to explore this a little bit more deeply. I'm a huge fan of the early time restricted eating, not just for its effects on my sleep which do seem to be noticeable, but I quite like eating dinner at 4:00 in the afternoon actually. I think all old people like eating dinner early, but they torture themselves by waiting until 6 or 7:00 at night. What we're saying here is you can just do what you want to do and have dinner at 4:00 in the afternoon. I think it's all good news.
One of the things I think about, Megan, talk about, what kind of resistance do you meet when you say to people, "Hey, so what I want you to do is to eat breakfast like a king, lunch like --
Megan: A prince.
Christopher: What's the middle one?
Christopher: Prince and then dinner like a pauper. What kind of resistance do you get when you suggest this to people?
Megan: Right, so a lot of it is lifestyle related. A lot of people find, if they want to do some intermittent fasting, that skipping breakfast is easier than skipping dinner, maybe that's because they're working late or because they just like having that family dynamic at dinner when they're home from work. That's typically the most resistance that I get.
The other thing is some people just say, "Well, I'm not hungry at breakfast." I usually counter that with, well if you ate an earlier dinner then you would probably be hungry at breakfast. You have to break that cycle at some point.
Christopher: Another thing that I've run into, working with clients, is, I don't get home from work until 7:00 and by the time I get in the door and do some stuff and then the kids have to go to bed, tuck the kids to bed and then it's like 8 or 9:00 before we're ready to sit down for dinner. If I was in that position -- I feel lucky that I'm not in that position -- then I would not really eat a big dinner at that time. I would have the bulk of my calories earlier in the day and so the 9:00 thing, it really would be just a token gesture of food.
Megan: Yeah, I think that's really reasonable. The other thing here that's important is consistency, so not having a large dinner a couple of days of the week and then having a large breakfast a couple of days of the week, but training your body to be on some kind of routine or schedule with your meals.
Christopher: Right, consistency.
Christopher: Okay, so we talked about blue light at night, going outside in the morning, the sun is definitely your friend, eating when the sun is up, caffeine, we talked about. You've got to stop consuming caffeine after midday. The evening routine, we talked about.
What about alarm clocks? God, I haven't seen an alarm clock in a long time. I've never really had that problem, to be honest. I'm one of those people that wakes up whatever time the sun comes up. I've never needed an alarm clock. It actually works against me when I'm -- when you get one of those really early morning flights, that's a recipe for me to wake up at 3:00 in the morning. It's a real pain in the bum.
Do you see that much of people using alarm clocks?
Megan: Yes, and I think it's more of a manifestation of them being sleep-deprived and so they're having to wake themselves up with an alarm. The problem with alarms is that a lot of times they wake you up in the middle of a sleep cycle versus when you're supposed to naturally wake up.
Usually, if you do wake up in the middle of the night, one thing we say is to not look at a clock. Two things will usually happen. One, you'll say, "Oh, my gosh, it's 2 am, I'm still awake," and then you'll just lay there worrying about not sleeping. The other thing would be, "Oh, my gosh, it's almost 4 am, and I have to get up soon anyway," and then you'll just get up and miss out on another hour or two of sleep.
Christopher: Yeah, that was definitely a revelation for me that the worst thing you can do when you get up in the middle of the night to pee is to look at a clock. It just doesn't end well. Your brain is off to the races at that point.
Actually, one good tip that our neurologist friend, Josh Turknett, who is here on the same deck that we stood -- I feel a bit of a fraud or an impostor maybe is a better word. We've got a medical doctor, neurologist who is out on the deck, and we're the ones talking about sleep. It's fantastic.
Josh's tip, he uses a white noise machine. I think it was just an app on his phone that he was using, and he has it set up so that the white noise turns off at the time he wakes up. As soon as the white noise pops off then he wakes up. I can't say I've ever tried that, but that's a cool tip.
Megan: That is smart. I like that.
Christopher: Yeah. What else have we got? We've got bone broth and chamomile tea. You did some research on that. Oh, glycine, yeah, glycine is something I use all the time.
Megan: Chamomile tea has been shown to help with sleep quality in at least older adults. The glycine is important because it antagonizes glutamate which is an excitatory, so if you have the glycine, that's going to have a calming effect on the brain. Some people do find that there is a difference between supplementing with pure glycine versus supplementing with something like collagen powder which, it does have glycine but it also does have some glutamate in it, so there's a little bit of difference there.
Christopher: Yeah, your mileage definitely might vary. I feel like I've had really great results having two tablespoons of the Great Lakes Collagen Hydrosylate. Am I saying that correctly? Is that [0:45:44] [Indiscernible]?
Christopher: Yeah, what Zach said, and I feel like it has been working really well for me. Tommy said that he just wakes up in the middle of the night, starving hungry, and he has done it a number of times. It consistently makes him wake up in the middle of the night, starving hungry. So your mileage may vary there.
Zach, is collagen something that you try and get people to work into their diets in general? Forget about sleep.
Zach: Yeah, definitely, because -- I mean, I'm definitely a big fan of protein. We've talked on the podcast before about the benefits of protein but, just we don't consume a lot of, like Megan said, the amino acid, glycine, and so it really helps to balance all of that out. It has been shown to be beneficial for joint and tendon health and things like that. It's just hard to get with the typical protein foods we eat, so that's why I do usually recommend clients to try to add that on top of their normal protein intake.
Christopher: Have you got any sleep stack supplements, Clay? I'm sure it varies from week to week, doesn't it? Have you been using anything in particular? Sleep Remedy, I had a freaking fantastic night of sleep. We were away traveling, and that's always a challenging environment.
Clay: Yeah -- go ahead.
Christopher: I was going to say that Sleep Remedy -- I mean, I had a couple of nights of not great sleep. It's weird though. I'm so much calmer about it now than I used to be. That's an interesting thing, isn't it? The last thing you want to do is panic about it, but you can't really tell someone to not panic.
Clay: Right, the better sleep you get, the less you stress on it.
Christopher: Exactly. Except I'm not worried about it now. I'm just thinking, I'm going to have an awesome night's sleep the night after. It doesn't really worry me too much. Some of the best tips are the paradoxical intentions. Have you ever tried that? It's kind of a fancy term. It just means, okay, I want you to lie there. It's like that --
Clay: [0:47:19] [Indiscernible].
Christopher: Yeah, don't think about polar bears. For the next five minutes, I want you to not think about a polar bear. You can't do it. The same is true with sleep. I want you to lie there and concentrate on not going to sleep. It's the same thing as the boxed breathing really. That's a really good one.
Electromagnetic radiation, what do we know about that? I definitely turn my Wi-Fi off at night.
Megan: So do I, and it's a controversial topic. However there is some evidence that suggest that it can affect us in a negative way. The other thing is, weigh the pros and cons of unplugging your Wi-Fi and either turning on your phone on airplane mode. There are zero cons and many potential pros to that.
Christopher: Right, and Tommy went into detail on this with Dr. Mercola. I'll link to that episode in the show notes. Would you go as far as installing -- I've seen online these things. It looks like a mosquito net, but it's a --
Megan: A Faraday cage.
Christopher: -- a Faraday cage, yeah, and they work. You can see they work because you can see someone in a video put a hand-held meter inside and the reading goes to zero. Would you ever install a Faraday cage over your bed?
Megan: I would not. I would say it's a low-hanging fruit. We'll leave it at that.
Christopher: Okay, let's move on. What about tracking sleep? This is definitely a big one that I do with all the clients. I'm almost annoyed with the Oura ring people for releasing an algorithm that doesn't fucking work. If you want to know how much deep sleep you got last night and you're wearing an Oura ring, pop the Oura ring in the bin, send me an email, and I will send you a random number that would tell you how much deep sleep you got last night. That is how good the Oura ring algorithm is at the moment.
I can cite a study in the show notes where they independently validated the Oura ring, and they found that the deep sleep detection was no better than chance. It's literally no better than a coin toss. It detects when you're asleep very well but forget about the stages of sleep data. Actually, Josh has posted so many great studies or case reviews, I should say, in our Slack, this new thing that they're calling --
Christopher: -- orthosomnia .
Megan: Which is the perfectionist quest for ideal sleep in order to optimize daytime function.
Christopher: It's like happiness and orgasm, the more you concentrate on it, the further it gets away. Have you been seeing this, Zach? Have you been having people asking you to look at their sleep data and you're looking at it, going, "You just need to stop tracking your sleep, and you'll sleep great"?
Zach: Oh, yeah, there are more examples than just the sleep. Some data is definitely helpful to track but, again, they're chasing numbers as opposed to really focusing on how they feel in general. It's not really going to change what you should do. If you see that you had a great night of sleep, is that going to change what you do when you see that you had a poor night of sleep?
We know the habits that you should be doing, so I just think it just makes people overthink and, again, it's a stressor and it creates that vicious cycle, oh, shoot, I didn't sleep well, maybe I should relax a little more today, or I'm not going to perform as well today, so many things like that.
Christopher: I need to be careful here not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, is Simon frequently likes to point out to me that self-monitoring is the cornerstone of behavior change. Good luck changing your behavior if you're not even monitoring what you're doing. So we have to be a bit careful here.
Megan: There are other things to monitor that are not directly sleep --
Christopher: Exactly. You just reminded me of another great point Dan Pardi pointed out on the podcast. I'm a huge fan of this advice, track the behaviors that lead to the thing you want but not the thing you want, so, set an alarm to go to bed. My thing is I turn -- actually Julie usually turns it on for me, the sauna to warm up and then once the sauna is up, I'm getting in the sauna. You're having the alarms to start the routine to get ready for bed are really helpful.
Someone did send me once, one of those -- I can't remember which one. It was like a Fitbit thing, one of those straps that went around my wrist and tracks your sleep. I think I wore it one night and the second night, I found myself lying awake, wondering what my sleep tracker was going to say the next day. It was in the sock drawer along with all the other gadgets, the night after, never to be seen again.
Clay: It's like on the iPhone, Bedtime, there's an alarm that goes off that says, it's time to go to bed.
Christopher: Yeah, that's a really good idea.
Clay: My kids are like, "What is that?" It's the reverse, but it's pretty awesome. If you plan on getting X number of hours, now is probably a good time to start doing that.
Christopher: You mentioned earlier, Zach, timing your workouts. When is the best time to train?
Zach: There are some studies on this, and it's a little bit confounded because for one, we don't want to train too late because that will impact sleep, but there are some studies showing that performance can be a little higher later in the day. Again, that can be confounded by the fact that you can get good whenever you train. The biggest thing is to be consistent when you train. That's what I would say, and just don't train too late so, yeah, just keep it simple.
Christopher: We've definitely seen some clients that through the DUTCH testing, have seen a disrupted circadian rhythm that they know was caused by training later in the day. I wouldn't do that at this point. I mash at 8:00 at CrossFit, which is nice.
Zach: Yeah, that's what I would say. That's really the only rule, just don't train too late. Outside of that, train when it's reasonable for you and be consistent with that because your body adjusts to when you train. If you're used to training late in the day, if you switch to the morning, expect your performance to drop a little bit initially but over time, you will adjust to that.
Christopher: Megan, talk about seasonality. This is interesting, isn't it? Russell hinted at it earlier that maybe my bedtime might vary according to the time of year. That's something, I think, might happen naturally, for someone who just thinks it just happens without you really thinking about it too much, but there is some evidence that's worth talking about.
Megan: Yes. We were at the Ancestral Health Symposium so [0:52:56] [Indiscernible].
Christopher: Let's talk Paleo.
Megan: Yeah, the idea is that in the wintertime when days are shorter and food, at least many, many years ago, was less abundant then we would be having a shorter eating window. We would be going to bed earlier because the sun is setting earlier. Versus in the summer when the days are longer, fruit and produce and more carbohydrates are in abundance, we are expanding our eating window, eating with the season and also maybe getting a little bit less sleep in the summertime. That's the idea there.
Christopher: You have some great tips for jet lag as well, somewhat related subject. Maybe you're moving across the planet and the day is altering. What can we do about jet lag?
Megan: In my opinion, the best thing is to get your body set a couple of days or try adjusting to the new time zone, a couple of days beforehand.
Christopher: Right, and doing that gradually.
Megan: Exactly, yeah, so that you don't get just this huge jump in time. The other thing is this might be a place for some smart melatonin supplementation when you get to your destination is to reset that melatonin onset.
Christopher: Okay, can you talk about the dose of melatonin? That's important, isn't it?
Megan: Many people go multiple milligrams to start with. We recommend starting with a very small amount so maybe 0.3 to 1.5 milligrams.
Christopher: I've heard lots of athletes talk about this, those who are doing European travel in particular, there's a huge advantage to start early and then just work your way back. You just work your whole day back. You're not just trying to go to bed at 3:00 in the afternoon. You eat earlier, you train earlier and just gradually step it back and the melatonin hack is useful too.
Clay: A lot of athletes will travel overseas several days beforehand just to adjust to that naturally, and that's why their body is used to that.
Christopher: Go camping, our favorite intervention, Tommy has written about this in our Highlights series as well, fantastic hack. It's, again, Ancestral Health Symposium, if you just want to get the right results and you don't care about the details, just think about what would have happened 10,000 years ago, and do that, but skip the death at childbirth and infectious disease stuff and maybe ending up with an ax in your head at some point.
Yeah, go camping, I think is a fantastic intervention, get away from everything we've talked about. You get away from light at night. You get away from light pollution from street lights, probably get away from Wi-Fi, the only light you have is hopefully a campfire, it gets dark and then you go to bed. I think that's a wonderful thing to try. If you're wondering how much our modern environments are impacting your sleep then just go camping. The only thing is maybe your sleep environment is less than ideal or if you're a bit of a princess when it comes to yourself mattress. Megan, can you tell us about that?
Megan: Well, I wouldn't say I'm a princess when it comes to it, but let's just say --
Christopher: I'm just messing with you.
Megan: -- you have to be able to get at least slightly comfortable when you're camping if you want to be able to sleep well.
Christopher: Okay, so camping, environment, we talked about. Avoiding sleeping pills, obviously we can't tell anyone ever to stop taking something that has been prescribed by a licensed physician nor will we try. I personally tried some prescription sleep drugs, and they didn't work. They didn't work at all for me.
Tell us what you know. You're not really sleeping, right, if you're under the assistance of some of those.
Megan: Right, it's very similar to alcohol in that you're...
Megan: Exactly, you're unconscious.
Christopher: You can't be woken. One of Kirk's definitions of sleep is -- I find a lot of things are, they require a Via Negativa. We have to define it in terms of what it's not. Can you wake the person up? If the answer is, "No," then you're not asleep, you're unconscious.
Megan: Yeah, so it provides that unconscious feeling, but it certainly doesn't provide the restful sleep in most cases. If we're working with somebody and trying to help them get off the sleeping pill that's pharmaceutical grade, there are some smart supplementation that we can implement as well.
Christopher: Right. I think it's important. 5-HTP has worked very well for me personally, and I've seen it work really well for a number of other people. We talked about that with Josh earlier and he didn't really have any objections to it but with anything like that, he doesn't really want to see you using it for prolonged periods of time. I think he was worried about, once you stop taking it, are you in a worse place than when you started six months ago?
Christopher: Again, you're always thinking in probabilities. Which is worse, the possible effects of long-term 5-HTP use or the sleep deprivation? Personally, I take the 5-HTP any day. It's really good. The monkey mind thing we talked about, writing things down to shut your brain down, I feel like 5-HTP does that for me. I don't know. What do you think, Clay? Have you ever tried it?
Clay: Yeah, absolutely. When you alluded to Doc Parsley's, I like Tommy's deconstructed version of that. It seems much simpler and you can implement bits and pieces of it, the 5-HTP or the low dose melatonin or just the tea or all three together. As Tommy once described, you don't want the sledgehammer to go to sleep. You need a gentle nudge.
Christopher: Do you mean to giveaway Tommy's alternative sleep remedy?
Clay: I think so.
Christopher: All right, I'll put Tommy's alternative sleep remedy in the show notes for this episode. That was one of the things that Kirk has talked about was he put that cocktail, as it was called at that time, together for elite war fighters who didn't want to go on a big shopping trip, and it was very convenient. It is very convenient.
I have the capsule form now, and a lot of people didn't really like the drink, including me. The capsules are great. It's very convenient. But, yeah, you can deconstruct it. If you don't want the phGABA, the phenibut, we're not too sure about that, so if you don't want that -- and it has got a really high dose of vitamin D in it and so if you're taking that on top of your multivitamin, that can end up to being -- we've seen people with a 25-hydroxy vitamin D up around 100 from long-term -- and Clay is laughing because he was one of those people.
So, yeah, there's a trade-off. You have all of these things in one package and it's very convenient but, oh, wait, this doesn't really suit me and so I need to deconstruct it and put together some different pieces. The schedule, we talked about. Gratitude and believing in a higher purpose, who wants to talk about that?
Megan: I will. This is really interesting. There is actually some decent science around it. Implementing some kind of gratitude practice is certainly beneficial for most everyone, but it can be particularly useful for people who are struggling with sleep. Also, having a higher level of meaning and purpose in life has been associated with better sleep quality.
This could be as simple as, before you're going to bed, if you're somebody who likes to journal, you can journal; if you're somebody who just likes to think about these things, you can think about these things; if you like to tell somebody about them, a loved one, you can tell somebody about them; but practicing gratitude and also believing in some kind of higher purpose or meaning in your life is important.
Clay: What about the AM version of that?
Megan: Yeah, I don't think it has to be right before you go to bed.
Clay: Just whenever --
Megan: Yeah, it's just in general.
Christopher: Let's talk about chronotype. Megan, what do you know about chronotype?
Megan: So, some people are just inherently night owls and some people are inherently morning people. Most people are somewhere in this moderate range. Most people aren't 4 am people or 1 am people, as far as going to bed and waking up. If you do feel like you need to adjust your day and your sleep habits around maybe going to bed a little bit later if you're a night owl or waking up a little bit earlier if you're a morning person, that's totally fine, just make sure that you're not doing that as a crutch for something else.
Christopher: Greg and Tommy went into some more detail in their episode so maybe we should just refer people to that, but I know all of these, it's so fixed mindset, isn't it? We draw to the solutions in Mindset by Carol Dweck. Sorry, what's the question? This is one of those things, like, really? Or is it that you failed to entrain your circadian rhythm appropriately? My suspicion, working with people, is that it's the latter. No, this is not your innate thing. It's just that you haven't entrained your circadian rhythm appropriately.
Zach, do you run into many people who are cutting short their sleep in order to train?
Zach: Yes, that does come up a lot. If that is really, truly the only time you have to train then we would ideally work on getting you to bed earlier or something like that. I also think many people are just doing too much. We talked about this on the podcast a lot, but a workout does not need to take that long.
There are always ways to -- I work with clients to help fit it in their schedule. For example, maybe splitting it up during the day, do a little bit in the morning, do a little bit at your lunch break, something like that. There are options but, again, I know for some people that is the absolute only time they have. I would not cut back. It’s, again, one of those sacrifice things. If you're only going to get four hours of sleep to get your workout in, I would rather you sleep. It is context-dependent, but there are usually ways to work around it.
Christopher: What about napping? Do you ever recommend that people take a nap?
Zach: I think it can be okay. I forget, it may have been the Potter podcast I was hearing this, but the idea -- I can't remember which podcast it was, but he was saying, if you do it consistently for a fairly short period of time, it can be okay.
Christopher: Tell me what you've seen. I know Greg and Tommy did talk about napping. What have you seen, as a coach, working with clients?
Zach: It hasn't actually come up for me that often with clients, so I don't have a lot of experience with it, but if it is something that's needed, if they are sleeping or not getting much sleep, I think it's okay. Actually, I haven't really had that conversation much often.
Christopher: Yeah, I used to love a good Kip underneath my desk at the hedge fund. You look into my office and no one's in there, but actually I was asleep underneath my desk. I couldn't imagine doing that now. It's kind of weird.
Megan: That's because your lifestyle wasn't as it is now, right?
Christopher: A lot of things have changed. I wouldn't like to -- actually this is a really good place to summarize, is that I think that's really the essence of NBT is we're not just one dimension. We love the low carb conferences and all of our favorite people are there. I enjoy hearing about all the fantastic results that people are getting, eating low carbohydrate diets, and I love hearing about the mechanisms and the exogenous ketones and all of that stuff, but eventually it becomes boring because it's just so one-dimensional.
There are all these other dimensions that are so important to health and of which sleep is just one. I think that's what the podcast has been, is this deep exploration of all the other things that might contribute to our health, super important. So maybe just another quick summary because this has been quite a long episode and maybe some people have forgotten about some of the things that we talked about at the start.
Let's just start. The circadian rhythm, let's talk about the cycle. First thing in the morning -- a great night's sleep starts first thing in the morning -- first thing we do is go outside, get some bright light. Caffeine use, if you're going to do it, make it early on.
Early time restricted eating, so eating breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper, moving our socialization maybe earlier into the day, working out earlier but not too early. You don't want to get up early to workout. As you said Zach, there is some evidence pointing that people might get better results in the early afternoon, would you say?
Zach: Yeah, performance is --
Christopher: What else have I missed? Can someone help me out here with things I might have missed?
Megan: The avoiding blue light at night.
Christopher: Avoiding blue light at night.
Megan: One thing I just want to say real quick on that is, it's great to wear the blue-blocking glasses and to install Iris or f.lux or whatever on your computer, but you also have to remember that if you're replying to emails five minutes before you go to bed, which --
Christopher: That's tough.
Megan: -- I have been guilty of this, you'll still be getting that stimulation from whatever you're doing on the computer or if you're watching TV with those blue-blocking glasses. You have to remember that, yes, there is the blue light, but there's also the stimulation of whatever you're looking at.
Zach: That brings up the importance of just having a wind-down routine, like we said. Relax a little bit, make sure you get to that calmed down state, optimize your bedroom environment, minimize lights, get the bedroom cool, whatever temperature you find beneficial, although erring on the side of a little bit cooler seems to be more beneficial.
Christopher: Yeah, of course, the bedroom environment, making sure that's all dialed. Okay, that's a great summary. What do you then, like, okay, Chris, I've tried all of that and some other things you didn't even talk about, and my sleep still sucks, I'm still getting up three nights in the night to pee.
Well then I think that's an appropriate time to start looking inside. I'm an engineer, and I do like to look inside of systems to see why they're not working properly. When did this go wrong? Were you always a crappy sleeper, or is this something that happened more recently? What changed? What went wrong?
The way that we do that investigation is through our Elite Performance Program, and we take a really deep dive. We use blood chemistry, we use urine and stool testing, we're going to look at your circadian rhythm using urinary hormones. If one of the things is drinking and you're ready to give up booze or caffeine or anything else that you're struggling to change your behavior with then we've got the fantastic Dr. Simon Marshall that can help you with that.
We've got Zach, we've got Megan, we've got Clay. Tommy is the architect of our program. I really think of us as the -- actually, Megan, you're more of an architect, builder role, and Zach, it's true, as well. Clay, we're the sausage-fingered builders that show up on site. We do all of our coaching remotely via Zoom, so it doesn't matter where you are in the world.
If you're interested in hearing a bit more about how we might work together, you can come to the front page of our website, nourishbalancethrive.com, and right there you'll find a button that you can press and you can book a free starter session where we can talk about some of your history and some of the challenges you're facing with your sleep and then maybe we can figure out a way that we could work together. Or maybe we can make a recommendation for something else you can try or someone else you could work with if maybe we're not such a great fit. At the time of recording, it's Megan and Clay who are doing those starter sessions.
I hope this was helpful. Let me know if it wasn't helpful. If there's something else we should consider or talk about, please let me know. You can come and leave a comment in the Comments section over at nourishbalancethrive.com/podcast. Thanks so much for your time, guys. It has been great.
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