1 April 2016

Improving your Sleep - Part Three - Evaluation

We are at the end of the sleep information but the beginning of your journey to improve it. Go back over part one and part two of this topic regularly to remind you of the process.

This article will cover what to record in your tracking journal so you can evaluate where you are and how you're improving. I'll break this into sections to make it easier to understand. Remember your goal in all of this is to improve your sleep quality and sleep less. The first part to tackle is getting quality sleep. If we simply reduce our time sleeping without improving the quality, we will be drowsy and may cause car accidents, increase the likelihood of getting sick and have no energy for our favourite activities such as BJJ.

Before we start, remember that the two biggest things to help here are increasing your light exposure and to exercise daily. Once that is achieved further tweaks can only be made by understanding raw
data that we will collect in our sleep journal.

Evaluate Body Temperature Rhythm
This section gives insight into your circadian rhythm by showing you where you are now so you can make adjustments. So in your journal record the following:
  1. What time do you wake up and do you feel drowsy? If so for how long?
  2. When in the afternoon do you feel pressure to nap i.e. when are you tired in the afternoon?
  3. When do you feel the most energetic during the day?
  4. When do you start to feel drowsy?
  5. When do you feel the most pressure to sleep at night?
This data will give you a guide to your current rhythm and knowledge of when your body temp starts to rise and fall. This is how you can interpret and utilise the data, the numbers below align with the previous list.

  1. If you are ripped from sleep by an alarm and you feel lethargic, your temperature is likely too low and hasn't starting rising. This generally means you need to change when you go to bed by up to 40 minutes. When you stop feeling tired your body temp has risen to normal levels.
  2. This is when your body temp drops and is the ideal time for a 10 to 45 minute nap.
  3. At this point your body temp is at its highest and is the best time for your high intensity exercise.
  4. This is when your body temp starts to drop and prepares you for sleep in an hour or two. As discussed previously this can be delayed by exercise and other techniques.
  5. When the pressure to sleep is at its highest you should head to bed. This is the point your body temp rapidly drops.
This chart is a good reference point for an average person's circadian rhythm.

Sunlight Evaluation
This section is to check how much light you are getting.
  1. How often did you use sunglasses?
  2. When you wake do you instantly get sunlight in your eyes?
  3. How much time did you spend outside: at sunrise? Between noon and 6pm? At sunset?
  4. How much time do you spend indoors?
This data may surprise you in the small amount of sunlight you actually get. Interpreting the data will help you see what needs to change.
  1. Sunglasses should not be used at sunrise and sunset. These times have the lowest UV radiation which is what sunglasses protect us from. Limit your usage as much as possible. The mid-afternoon has the highest UV radiation so sunglasses may be necessary if you are uncomfortable, or live on the equator.
  2. Hitting the snooze button or remaining in bed for a few minutes means this is a definite no. When you wake aim to immediately get up and look out the window for a minute.
  3. We break this up into these timing as sunrise and sunset have up to 10,000 luxes of light, whereas noon to sunset is between 50,000 and 100,000 luxes. If you are getting less than an hour of high intensity light per day you are light deprived. Plan to go outside more or at least get an artificial light box, especially in winter.
  4. Spending time indoors is equivalent to complete darkness for your eyes. The more darkness exposure during the day, the worse your sleep will be. This works hand-in-hand with the previous point but highlights just how much time we spend inside.
Exercise Evaluation
Rather than worrying about the type of exercise, we need to focus on when you do it and the intensity.
  1. What time do you generally exercise and for how long?
  2. How intense are the sessions eg do you sweat, does your heart rate and respiration increase?
This data will help you choose the perfect times to exercise and how intense you should be.
  1. Early morning exercise helps increase our body temperature quicker, so we become more alert. Late evening exercise will prevent our body temp from dropping low enough for a good sleep. The longer we exercise, the more impact it can have on changing our body temperature.
  2. High intensity exercise where we are close to our maximum heart rate and sweating a lake should be avoided in the late evening ie after 9pm-10pm. This will prevent our body temp to drop as low as required for deep sleep. Light exercise, where we go at a steady pace slightly above a warm-up, is OK in the late evening but not as beneficial in the early morning to increase temperature.
Evaluating Other Considerations
Most of these are concerning our habits and determines if they weaken our sleep systems. Other questions help highlight problem areas.
  1. Do you smoke?
  2. How often do you drink alcohol?
  3. Do you drink coffee, tea or other caffeinated beverages?
  4. Do you eat heavy meals 3 to 4 hours prior to sleep?
  5. How much water do you drink per day?
  6. Do you sleep on your stomach?
  7. Do you change your sleeping habits on the weekend?
  8. Do you take sleeping pills or stimulants?
  9. When do you currently go to sleep and wake up?
  10. How long does it take to fall asleep?
  11. Do you wake during the night and can't get back to sleep?
  12. Rate your sleep on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of quality.
  13. Rate your energy levels on a scale of 1 to 10 when you wake up.
  14. Are you stressed?
  15. Do you take daily naps and if so for how long?
  16. How long are you usually awake, remember to subtract any nap time?
  17. Do you use the bedroom as anything other than a place to sleep and have sex?
The majority of these speak for themselves if you have understood the previous two posts. taking note of them in your journal will highlight what you need to cut out. Items 12 and 13 are there as a gauge over time. If you do everything suggested then these numbers should increase.

Things to Remember
Ensure you understand what your body is telling you and don't misinterpret it. Watching TV for a few hours will make you more tired but doesn't necessarily mean you need to sleep. If could simply be from doing nothing.

Your body temp rises and falls as a result of your activities. Working in a job that demands high physical exertion will make you want to sleep when you get home. This is because body temp as been high all day and is now dropping to normal levels. As you should remember a drop in body temp is a signal to sleep. Resist the urge to sleep and wind down so when temp normalises you will become alert again.

If you don't do much exercise and work in an office you will likely feel tired all the time as your body temp drops more often. This means you need less sleep and to move around more.

Everyone needs a different amount of sleep. Age is a factor because melatonin production reduces as we get older.

Make changes gradually. Reducing your sleep by 2 hours will mess you around too much. Change sleep times by 20 to 40 minutes and keep adjusting it forward or backward. The above journal will help track what is working.

One other benefit of a journal is to track your dreams. Writing them down the moment you wake up serves several purposes but there are some main ones relevant to sleep. First you will need light to write anything down which we need as soon as we wake. Second, the longer we do this the more we will remember our dreams. This can be quite fun and you may find yourself wanting to sleep to see where your dreams will take you. This reduces the stress of sleeping so you can actually sleep sooner.

I hope this helped you understand the sleep process and control it to improve your energy, sleep less and improve your sleep quality.

Hit the comments for any questions and to share your experiences.

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