Dr. Bill Bowerfind shared key insights about sleep during his presentation in the Hyatt Training lecture series last week. While I could never do justice to the vast amount of useful information that he shared, what you’ll find below are my key takeaways. More than anything, for me, it was a helpful look at all the little things (that I actually can have some impact over on most days) that go into good sleep.
Basic background about sleep
- Sleep helps to balance our hormones and physical changes occur in the brain during sleep. While we sleep there is a washing and detox of toxins in the brain that build up throughout the day.
- How much sleep do you need? Medically the range is from six – ten hours a night. The biggest gauge of how much you need and if you’re getting enough is how you feel during day without excessive caffeine.
- The scientific stages of sleep indicate we get deep sleep early in the night and REM sleep later towards morning.
- It should take 15-20 min to fall asleep at night. If you fall asleep faster than that you’re probably not getting enough sleep.
- Circadian rhythms are really strong. Because of them we’re most alert between 6 and 8 p.m. in an effort to fight off the evening. We feel a dip in energy at traditional at siesta time in the early afternoon.
The power of light
- Dim the lights when it’s time ot wind down for sleep.
- Turn on bright lights (such as a 10,000 Lux light box) when it’s time to wake up, or if you need a boost in energy. Sleep with it as dark as possible, and keep the lights as low as possible. Light signals us to be awake.
- Electronics omit blue light that is particularly stimulating to the brain and disrupts melatonin which is the hormone that keeps us asleep.
- Food, at least 2 hours before bed.
- Half life of caffeine – 180 MG in small starbucks. My takeaway that was depending on how much and when it is consumed, your system is likely still carrying caffeine when you go to sleep if you have more than a small cup a day.
- Alcohol – It might help you fall asleep sooner, but it really disrups sleep later in the night and leaves you unrestful. Finish drinking at least 2 hours before bedtime.
- Driving while tired impairs our senses just like consuming alcohol does. Dr. Bowerfind stressed the importance of not driving while overly tired. As an example, driving after being awake for 24 hours limits judgment on par with the legal limit.
- Same time every day for waking and going to sleep. Social jet lag. If you change the time of sleeping and waking on weekends, it can be just as strong as when you fly to the east coast and experience jet lag.
- Place same priority on sleep that you do other health activities. Allow for 7-9 hours / night. If you loose an hour of sleep a night for a week, you’ve lost the equivalent of a week’s worth of sleep!
- Avoid clock watching. If you can’t sleep in 40 minutes, get up and do something like read in chair untl you are drowsy.
- Avoid naps – 15-20 min if necessary, but any longer will leave you groggy. If you need a nap and start to fall asleep doing low key activities, you aren’t getting enough nighttime sleep.
- Give yourself an hour to wind down before bedtime. Turn down lights.
- You snooze you lose. Some of our most beneficial REM sleep occurs in the early morning hours. If you set your alarm and snooze, waking up every 5 minutes you are short changing yourself of this important sleep. Set your alarm for when you need to wake up.