Let the Sleep Challenge Begin!!
I Hope You'll Join Me.
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Dr. Eric Topol
"Sleep is much more important than we realize. We're so wired to our wirless devices that we're not getting enough sleep--and that of course engenders a higher incidence of obesity, diabetes, depression, & all sorts of things."
Dr. Eric Topol, a renowned cardiologist & digital medical tech guru at the Scripps Institute, ran his own clinical trial with MyZeo, a home sleep monitoring device, & discovered several mistakes he was making that compromised his quality of sleep.
By changing his behavior he was able to promote better sleep--a better quality sleep, & improve the most important phase three deep sleep & the phase four REM sleep.
1. Power down the technology an hour before sleep. No email or searching the web.
2. Become more rigid & consistent about going to sleep earlier & at the same time.
3. Why do we need to get to sleep earlier? The best sleep--the deepest sleep--occurs in the first third of the night. If you go to sleep later, you are losing out--going against your own body's clock.
These simple changes made a tremendous difference to the quality of Topol's sleep--but, he stresses that every individual may need to change different factors to improve their own sleep.
Eric Topol, MD, is the Chief Academic Officer at Scripps Health and the director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute. Dr. Topol is the author of The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care.
My Back Story
I slept like a baby while on vacation.
What was I doing differently? No computer. No iPhone. No TV. I went to sleep around 10 o'lock, & I was able to get 8 hours of sleep. I felt amazing.
The first week back to work, I reverted to my old habits. Stayed up too late. Was on the computer in the evening, right before I went to bed. I got up at 5:30 or 6:00 am, so I only got around 6 hours of sleep, at best.
On Wednesday night after a long day at work, I willpowered myself to take a walk when I got home, even though it was late, 7:20 pm.
I brought along my iPhone & serendipitously selected a People's Pharmacy podcast from last December: Dr. Kelly McGonigal, on "The WIllpower Instinct".
McGonigal is a treasure trove of research & evidence on how to change habits, and she motivated me to try to improve my sleep time. I need my 8 hours of sleep a night and I wasn't getting it!
What's McGonigal's advice on changing a habit--and improving your willpower to do it?
Start small. Don't try to do too much at once. Pick something, & be consistent.
My simple sleep improvement plan:
1. Turn off my computer & iPhone at 9:00 pm
2. Up to bed at 9:30. Read until I'm sleepy. Lights out at 10:00 pm
Here's what I posted on Facebook yesterday:
I've got the diet & exercise habits pretty well mastered.
Here's my next habit to use my willpower on: Going to Sleep no later than 10:00 pm so I can get 7 1/2 or 8 hours of sleep. Nothing feels better than being well-rested.
I often stay up later than I should--& before I know it, it's 11:30. Big mistake.
Everything goes better with sleep! That's my new motto. Anyone care to join me working on this habit? (lots of you said, "Yes!")
Here's what I posted this morning, after my first night:
Sleep Challenge--Night 1: My goal--get 7.5-8 hours good quality sleep.
The Plan (at least on Sunday through Thurs.)
1. Computer/iPhone is OFF at 9:00 pm.
2. Lights dimmed if I watch any TV before going to bed.
3. Up to bed to read at 9:30 pm.
4. Lights out at 10:00 pm.
Honestly, this NEVER would have happened if I didn't go public about trying this. Glad I did.
What happened? Success. I followed the plan. By 10 I was ready for lights out. Fell right to sleep. Woke up at 3 & 5 (normal for me) & went right back to sleep. I feel so well rested & raring to go. Ah, sweet sleep! 8 hours of it.How did you do? I'm determined to keep this up.
Hope you join me.
The research on sleep is unequivocal. We need more than we think. Turning off the computer early matters! Going to bed early (if you have a day job) makes a difference!
What Our Body Clock is Trying to Tell Us
Here's an excerpt from one of my all-time-oldie-but-goodie posts:
- 8-10 pm: Time to wind down & relax. Melatonin rises quickly at this time. 80% of our serotonin, our "perky hormone", comes from the sun. So when the sun fades, so do we. Suddenly we go from awake to drowsy. We're like Cinderellas approaching midnight. That's why you always feel better when you get home early from work, instead of fighting the "hormone flow" & working late or attending evening meetings. We need this time to wind down. It's true for me. Now is the time to slow down and not feel guilty about it. The brain is tired. It's time for a "mindless" activity like TV or a relaxing activity like knitting. Stay away from the computer or brain stimulating games or books. It will mess with your sleep! I guess if I'm going to flop down on the couch, I better stick to a novel, the newspaper or magazines. Tip #1: Dim the lights a little to insure that you keep your melatonin high. Tip #2: Beware of alcohol this late in the day. It will disturb your sleep.
- 10 pm or later: Get to bed! There's no way around this if you want to be sharp and in a good mood the next morning! Get your 7-9 hours without exception. This is not an option. Your brain needs the time to consolidate memories and learning. Your body needs the time to repair and rejuvenate. Lack of sleep will impair your mood, memory, logical reasoning, motor dexterity, attention, executive function, appetite, and immune system. Enough said. Nod off with a book. Keep your room dark or use eye shades (really!), to keep your melatonin high. For previous posts on sleep, click here and here!
My Zeo: Topol's Digital Sleep Coach Trial
Dr. Eric Topol tested this device out on himself, & it coached him to better quality sleep. Imagine having your very own EEG device, tied to an alarm clock & a head band that monitors your brain waves while you're sleeping?
It gave tech-geek Topol lots & lots of personal sleep data; charts, graphs & a Z-Q Score to let him know how well he slept. The higher the score, the better the quality of sleep. Starting out, he got a 67. By turning off his computer an hour before sleep, & getting to bed earlier, he boosted his score to 90.
It also showed him how he compared to other people in his age group.
Can't vouch for the device, but, the cost is fairly reasonable, starting at $99 on up.
Dr. Eric Topol's TED Tech Talk
The 2 minute segment on My Zeo starts at 8:35 minutes into the video
If you don't see the video on your screen, click here
Sleep: Without 7 or 8 Hours You Won't Be at the Top of Your Game
A repost from February 10, 2008--three weeks after starting Happy Healthy Long Life
Without enough sleep, we all become tall two-year-olds. ~JoJo Jensen, Dirt Farmer Wisdom, 2002
Dr. Eve Van Cauter, a sleep researcher and professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, says Americans have got it all wrong. We take pride in how little sleep we get, as if getting 8 hours of sleep was for slackers. Oh how wrong we are!
Only 10% of us can get by on 5 hours a night. That's for the Bill Clintons & Martha Stewarts of the world. But then Dr. Van Cauter reminds us that Clinton had heart surgery in his 50s with no obvious risk factors.
The plain truth is, we all need 7 hours at the minimum, and 8 to 9 hours to really shine. Sleep is necessary to restore our bodies, regulate our hormones, consolidate learning, keep our immune system functioning, and keep us emotionally stable. It is not an option! Dr. David Dinges of the University of Pennsylvania, says if he put you in his sleep lab, and deprived you of sleep, it would only take a few days until you showed some serious impairments. But the strange thing is, some people think they're just fine. It's like a Catch-22, Dr. Dinges explains:
People (who have been deprived of sleep) often say, oh I'm good to go. And it is the disconnect between your ability to introspect your alertness and impairment and how impaired you actually are cognitively is why we think a lot people believe that they're doing just fine when if fact they're not...
Dr. William Dement, chief of Stanford University's Division of Sleep, describes some of the devasting consequences of all the sleep-deprived people walking among us. Aside from all the innocent victims of fatal truck accidents caused by sleep-deprived truck drivers, he reminds us of all the serious mistakes made at the hands of sleep-deprived workers. A biggie was someone who forgot to convert inches to centimeters in the $6 billion mistake in the Mars mission!
So, what can we look forward to if we actually go to sleep early and get those 8 hours? Besides actually feeling rested, in a good mood, more apt to lose weight, better concentration, patience and getting fewer colds? Dr. Dement may convince you with this:
We've actually been studying this very closely in recent years, that if you take any individual and have them get extra sleep, their performance improves. It's always like here's my personal best. I'm at my personal - well, it gets better (with the extra sleep). And that's a big surprise.
Dr. Dement is concerned that people feel they have too much to do to take the time for a good 8 hours, but yet they aren't knowledgeable enough about sleep to know that if they compromise the hours they get each night, their abilities to do what they have to do are severely decreased.
We were studying basketball players recently, and as you know, they have a personal best. I can shoot 7 out 10 foul shots, and that's my absolute best. They get extra sleep, it becomes 8 out of 10... People need to know that!
(so here it is folks)...the choice is going through life losing an hour of sleep at night, going through life as a zombie, or - giving up that one hour of being a zombie, for being wide awake, alert and at your peronal best all day long. And I think the main thing is, a lot of people just haven't experienced that since they were kids.
And Dr. Dement's parting words, the take home message:
So when we actually do our sleep debt reduction maneuvers, people say, oh my God, I haven't felt this great in years! I didn't realize - and they are motivated to maintain it- and maintain the schedule.
What helps me:
Knowing that we actually sleep in two phases. It's a myth that we sleep 8 solid hours. There are 2 phases of 4 hours each, with a semi-wakeful state in the middle. This is supposed to happen. When you wake up at 3 in the morning, resist the urge to get up, or look at the clock, or start thinking too much. You will fall back to sleep. Give it some time.
Wishing you all sweet dreams! Do you notice a difference when you get a good night's sleep? Do you need 8 hours to be at your best?
Want More Sleep Tips? Dr. Mark Hyman's Sleep Rules
Excerpted from a January 12, 2010 HHLL Post
Dr. Hyman recommends these "rules" to get us back to our natural sleep rhythms. "It may take weeks or months, but using these tools in a coordinated way will eventually reset our biological rhythms."
Hyman learned the hard way that even doctors can't compromise on sleep.
1. Prioritize sleep, or suffer the consequences.
2. Wind down, dim the lights, reduce mental stimuli, get off the computer two hours before sleep! Do something more mentally relaxing. Take a little "holiday" before getting to bed in order to get your system physically and psychologically ready for sleep. I've found this practice makes a major difference in my sleep quality.
3. Practice the regular rhythms of sleep--go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Every single time I have to change my regular wake-up schedule in order to start work at 7:00 am, I have a terrible night's sleep!
4. Use your bed for sleep and romance only--not reading or television. (I disagree! Reading in bed makes me sleepy)
5. Create total darkness and quiet--consider using eye shades, earplugs, or a white noise machine.
6. Avoid caffeine--it may seem to help you stay awake but it actually makes your sleep worse.
7. Avoid alcohol--it helps you get to sleep but causes interruptions in sleep and poor-quality sleep.
8. Get regular exposure to daylight for at least 20 minutes daily--the light from the sun enters your eyes and triggers your brain to release specific chemicals and hormones like melatonin that are vital to healthy sleep, mood, and aging. Consider using a special light in the morning, like the Philips goLite BLU in the winter.
9. Eat no later than three hours before bed--eating a heavy meal prior to bed will lead to a bad night's sleep.
10. Don't exercise vigorously after dinner--it excites the body and makes it more difficult to get to sleep.
11. Write your worries down--one hour before bed, write down the things that are causing you anxiety and make plans for what you might have to do the next day to reduce your worry. It will free up your mind and energy to move into deep and restful sleep.
12. Take a hot salt/soda/aromatherapy bath--raising your body temperature before bed helps to induce sleep. A hot bath also relaxes your muscles and reduces tension physically and psychologically. By adding one-and-a-half to one cup of Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) and one-and-a-half to one cup of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to your bath, you will gain the benefits of magnesium absorbed through your skin and the alkaline-balancing effects of the baking soda, both of which help with sleep. This was something I remember both my parents used to do, and neither had sleeping problems.
13. Get a massage or stretch before bed--this helps relax the body making it easier to fall asleep.
14. Warm your middle--this raises your core temperature and helps trigger the proper chemistry for sleep. Either a hot water bottle, heating pad, or warm body can do the trick. My heated mattress pad works well for pre-heating my bed in the winter.
15. Avoid medications that interfere with sleep--these include sedatives (these are used to treat insomnia, but ultimately lead to dependence and disruption of normal sleep rhythms and architecture), antihistamines, stimulants, cold medication, steroids, and headache medication that contains caffeine (such as Fioricet).
16. Use herbal therapies--try passionflower, or 320 mg to 480 mg of valerian (valeriana officinalis) root extract standardized to 0.2 percent valerenic acid one hour before bed. On occasion I've tried the valerian/hops combo and lemon balm recommended by herbal expert Dr. Tieraona Low Dog and they worked well. Click here to read more.
17. Take 200 to 400 mg of magnesium citrate or glycinate before bed--this relaxes the nervous system and muscles. If you already take a magnesium supplement, just take it before bed, instead of in the morning.
18. Other supplements and herbs can be helpful in getting some shuteye--try calcium, theanine (an amino acid from green tea), GABA, 5-HTP, and magnolia.
19. Try one to three mg of melatonin at night--melatonin helps stabilize your sleep rhythms. I've taken melatonin on occasion, and it definitely helped me.
20. Get a relaxation, meditation or guided imagery CD--any of these may help you get to sleep.
A big thank-you to Betsy K. for the heads-up about Topol & sleep!
Are You In?
I Hope So.
Share How It's Going & What Works for You.