Sleep Health Guide: Everybody Go Night Night
Episode 5 is here!
While not everybody suffers from sleep disorders, everybody should focus on how to improve their sleep because “everybody goes night night.” While the typical sleep podcast might focus on sleep disorders, this episode focuses on sleep health. When it comes to sleep, the EmPOWERment Couple suggests that you focus on just how good your sleep can get. The episode is sprinkled with facts, studies, laughter, and tuck-in-takeaways that will empower you to sleep well every night. Listen in here.
It is typical to address your sleep habits based on whether or not you can fall asleep and stay asleep, or not. As health care in the United States is commonly focused on treating symptoms and curing diseases, U.S. healthcare places a higher focus on sleep disorders, rather than sleep health. While not everybody suffers from sleep disorders, everybody should focus on how to improve their sleep health.
Kevin Hart has a great stand-up skit where he talks about fighting and he plays this character that says, “everybody go night night” which led to the naming of this podcast and blog. It’s true, everybody sleeps and obviously humans have not evolved out of sleeping so it must be necessary for our health.
If you need a laugh, and let’s face it, we all do. Watch this short video for reference here.
While wading through the research done on behalf of one of our most common experiences, sleep, we came across a paper regarding the topic of whether or not healthcare professionals should be focusing on sleep disorders, or sleep health. We instantly recalled a quote by Mother Theresa who stated, “I will never attend an anti-war rally; if you have a peace rally, invite me. So, when it comes to your prized sleep, do you want to focus on how bad it is, or how good it can get?
The EmPOWERment Couple says: When it comes to sleep, focus on how good it can get!
There’s a distinct difference between the definitions for sleep health and for sleep disorders. The 2011 National Institutes of Health Sleep Disorders Research Plan defines sleep deficiency as:
“A deficit in the quantity or quality of sleep obtained versus the amount needed for optimal health, performance, and well-being; sleep deficiency may result from prolonged wakefulness leading to sleep deprivation, insufficient sleep duration, sleep fragmentation, or a sleep disorder, such as in obstructive sleep apnea, that disrupts sleep and thereby renders sleep non-restorative.”
Although very detailed, not everyone will connect with this definition. The paper, written by Dr. Daniel Buysse goes on to provide a definition of sleep health:
Sleep health is a multidimensional pattern of sleep-wakefulness, adapted to individual, social, and environmental demands, that promotes physical and mental well-being. Good sleep health is characterized by subjective satisfaction, appropriate timing, adequate duration, high efficiency, and sustained alertness during waking hours.
What I find interesting about these two definitions, is that they are the inverse of the other, even to the point that when discussing sleep health, everyone is invited to the discussion. Who doesn’t want to get even better sleep? The paper went on to suggest a quick self-assessment tool called SATED, designed to be done quickly and to determine where you can make improvements on your sleep health.
For the following questions, answer with a 0=rarely/never, a 1=sometimes, or a 2=usually always
- Satisfaction – Are you satisfied with your sleep?
- Alertness – Do you stay awake all day without dozing?
- Timing – Are you asleep (or trying to sleep) between 2-4 am?
- Efficiency – Do you spend less than 30 minutes awake at night to include the time it takes to fall asleep and awakenings from sleeping
- Duration –Do you sleep between 6-8 hours per day?
Add together your numbers and place yourself on the scale from 0 (poor) to 10 (great). Leave us a comment or email us your number if you’d like to share.
Based on this self-assessment tool, what can we do to improve our sleep health?
The first question on the SATED assessment is based on satisfaction. Are you satisfied with your sleep and do you look forward to sleeping? If not, it may be time to upgrade how you sleep. Do you have good sleep habits or poor sleep habits? Here are some habits we recommend.
“Tea Light Tea Time” is what we call our habit of drinking tea just before bed with either a tea light or a dimmed salt lamp. Our tea picks for good sleep would be: organic chamomile, organic nighty night tea from traditional medicinals, there’s an herbalist out of California that you can order teas from called Ema’s Herbs that are organic. She has one called Insomnia tea and another that helps me called Pituitary tea. Organic tea is a must when using this ritual because tea leaves are not washed and therefore you’re drinking a toxic chemical cocktail rather than tea just ahead of sleep. So, always buy organic.
- An inexpensive way to supercharge your sleep and relax your body is to take a bath using Epsom salt which contains magnesium also known as the relaxing mineral.
- Practice a P.M. yoga sequence that focuses on forward folds, deep stretches and restorative based inversions such as child’s pose. Use our Insomnia Cure sequence here. The key is keeping your head below your heart.
- Reciting sleep mantras or meditating for 5-10 minutes prepares the mind for more restorative sleep. You can use the body scan meditation to deepen your relaxation here.
- Create a sleep cave by investing in some blackout curtains. Turn off all lights to include a night light, unless it’s a dimmed salt lamp. The less light in your room enables your body to produce more melatonin.
- Organic mattresses and bedding are absolutely the keys to a healthy night’s rest. Conventional beds and bedding contain harmful contaminants like chemical flame retardants, heavy metals, formaldehyde, chloroform, phthalates, mercury, and lead, to name a few. You may also have heard of the term Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which is a term for hazardous materials – solids or liquids – that easily become vapors. These toxins get absorbed through contact with your skin, which is your largest organ. When looking for a mattress you’re going to see the following labels- Eco-Friendly, Organic Cotton, GreenGuard Gold Certified, MADE SAFE Certified, GOLS Certified, Climate Neutral Certified.
We sleep on a Plush Bed but here are the green or organic mattresses we would recommend below.
- Plush Beds
- Avocado Mattress
- Loom & Leaf by Saatva
- My Green mattress
- LOOP Organic
- Savvy Rest
- Nest Bedding
Most of these companies have sheets, pillows, and blankets, but, picking out a pillow or mattress is just like picking out shoes, you have to find what fits your body. It’s not a one size fits all.
Clean With Clean Ingredients:
Clean your room and bedding with non-toxic cleaners. You’re going to be snuggling up on your pillows, sheets, and blankets so you don’t want those nice items to be washed in toxic cleaners with perfumes that disrupt your hormones.
We like to use Branch Basics and you can get a discount on starter kits using this link and code Zuri will get you 10% off. We only clean with those products because there’s plenty of data that shows harsh indoor chemicals are damaging our immune system.
Here are some other sleep tools:
- Use sleep sounds to buffer loud noises such as nearby traffic and loud neighbors that scream in the middle of the night. Pick something soothing like the sound of trickling water or nocturnal insects.
- Try an aromatherapy diffuser. Scents like roman chamomile and lavender encourage a restful night of sleep.
- The combination of sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste programs the senses to know that sleep is coming.
- Remove all EMFs, turn on airplane mode, and place the phone in another room such as the bathroom. If it is next to you, your mind will find a reason to pick it up. Give your brain the gift of good sleep.
- Remove VOC emissions that pollute the air you breathe with an air purifier, especially in your bedroom. This is why in our previous episode, “Tickle Me Healthy”, and in our blog, we suggest an air purifier and our top pick is Intellipure. It’s the only air purifier using DFS technology trapping all three air pollutants. We’ve come up with eight science-backed reasons everyone needs an air purifier along with our top pick, including the benefits that we’re experiencing after a three-month test. We provided you with a discount link and code (Zuri) making it easier for you to make your home a safe place to sit back relax and take a deep breath! Click here if you’re ready to purchase or click here to read the blog.
The second question focuses on Alertness: do you stay awake all day without dozing? For those who rely on a sleeping aid to fall asleep and stay asleep, you may be improving the quantity of sleep at the cost of quality.
Sleeping pills, alcohol, and pot, they work, but come with a major cost, aside from the possibility of becoming addicted. Although pills, pot, and pinot will certainly allow you to fall asleep and even stay asleep, they are weighing down your liver.
The liver is known as the silent organ and can experience trauma without obvious signs. Insomnia isn’t an obvious sign of liver stress, but it is a sign. The liver is the primary site for the clearance of circulating melatonin (a hormone responsible for regulating the sleep-waking cycles). Studies show that poor liver health may decrease the melatonin clearance rate which means that throughout the day, instead of burning the supercharged serotonin, you are still burning melatonin leftover from the night before.
This will cause you to be mentally sluggish during the day requiring you to take naps or stimulants such as that extra cup of coffee. Then, you have entered a cycle where you nap or over-caffeinated during the day, and then take a sleep aid to fall asleep at night, and while the liver should be filtering out melatonin, it’s dealing with the toxins found in pot, pills, and pinot.
The third question is about timing. Are you asleep between 2-4 am? Pulling an all-nighter to finish a project, to celebrate a birthday or wedding, or “I’m finally on vacation so I can do whatever I want”, is great, but for those who make it a point to push your limits on a regular basis, not only are you cutting back on quantity, you are also significantly reducing quality.
Our bodies are based on a Circadian rhythm that is driven by the light of day and the dark of night. However, according to Dr. Michael Breus, also known as the sleep doctor, there are 4 chronotypes. These chronotypes are byproducts of our evolution and how we as a species have become who we are today. The 4 chronotypes are:
- Dolphin -typically awake from sleep untested, struggle with napping, and are often tired through the day with a spurt of energy in the early evening.
- Lion- get up early with plenty of energy, and are sharpest in the morning and are often organized leaders.
- Bear -tend to follow the typical day and night schedule and sleep well, though it may take them a little longer to get going in the morning
- Wolf- are essentially night owls and tend to be the most active and alert in the early evening hours and are somewhat out of sync with the rest of the world.
The importance of knowing your chronotype is so that you can shape your expectations and sleep schedule to fit your needs rather than to try to be a Lion when clearly you are a Wolf. You can purchase this book on audible or amazon here.
The fourth question on the SATED survey deals with efficiency. Do you spend less than 30-minutes awake to include the time it takes to fall asleep and awakenings during sleep? When counting sheep, is it a handful of sheep, or are you inventorying the whole flock? If you are struggling with falling asleep quickly look at your caffeine intake. Studies show that caffeine can stay in your system for up to 8 hours. So create a caffeine cut-off time based on when you normally go to bed.
Assess the food you eat before sleep. Any food that reduces inflammation or aids in the process of creating or absorbing magnesium and melatonin would be on the good food list.
Good Food List:
- Almonds – high in melatonin and magnesium
- Turkey – high in tryptophan which helps the body produce melatonin
- Tart cherry – high in melatonin
- Cashews – high in magnesium
Any foods that contain sugar, caffeine, or ingredients that you are allergic to would be on the bad foods list.
Bad Food List:
- Chocolate, because it contains small amounts of caffeine and high amounts of sugar.
- Caffeinated and non-caffeinated sodas
- Sugar-sweetened juices
- Ice cream
- Candy bars
- Most processed foods
We mentioned getting an allergy test during our prevention episode, if you haven’t listened to that show yet, you can do so here. If you suffer from poor sleep health, an allergy test will determine if what you are eating is one of the culprits.
Hydration plays a big role in the quality of sleep that you get so avoid those diuretics such as alcohol. Make sure that you are properly hydrated before you go to sleep so that your body has enough water to filter out the day’s toxins.
Out of the spectrum of light waves that our eyes can detect, blue light is the shortest. Most of the blue light radiating from the sun is deflected by the molecules in our atmosphere which is why the sky is blue. But as we upgraded our phones and TV’s with LED screens, which are lighter in weight, cooler to the touch, and have a more vibrant display, we increased the amount of blue light we take in.
“New research shows that we can strongly mitigate some of the negative effects of blue light exposure with blue-light-blocking glasses. A recent University of Houston study, performed in a wide range of ages, found that levels of melatonin skyrocketed by 58% when nighttime blue light was blocked with amber-colored glasses for 3 hours before bed. This increase was greater than what could be achieved by supplementing with melatonin. Study participants reported sleeping better, falling asleep faster, and even increased their sleep duration by 24 minutes a night.”
We’ve been using blue-blockers for a while and can confirm that we wake up feeling more refreshed when we use them before bed. We watch TV with them on, and we generally won’t look at my computer screen without them. We have a blue-blocking screen protector on my phone and there are also chrome extensions like Dark Reader, blue light filter guard. Conversely, when we expose ourselves to bright blue light in the hours before bed, we find that we wake up feeling groggy.
- Most smartphones and smart TV’s have night mode
- The blue blockers that I use are called Swannick Blue blockers. We link to this pair we both wear to assist you in using the glasses that actually work. We did try some cheapies we found and they didn’t do anything. We put on these swannies and we instantly feel our body prepares for sleep.
- Check what type of lights you use. Limit the use of LED lights in your bedroom or office because they will zap your energy.
Do you sleep between 6-8 hours a day? Do you know your magic number and if so are you consistently hitting that number.
Studies show that during deep sleep, the cortex — the part of the brain responsible for memory, perception, attention, awareness, consciousness, thought, language, problem-solving, advanced motor functions, and social abilities,- disengages from the senses and goes into recovery mode. Therefore, the more you use your brain during the day, the more it needs to recover at night.
The amount of sleep one needs varies from person to person based on body chemistry, your chronotype mentioned earlier and how you use your brain during the day. Overall, the optimal number of sleep one needs is between 6-8 hours.
We did find evidence that states that women need more sleep than men due to the fact that women have a greater ability to multitask. To be clear, I didn’t say this, the study said this. I will say, that I happen to agree with the study though.
Both men and women who hold complex jobs that require decision making and lateral thinking – which is a form of problem-solving that requires a great deal of creative thinking and imagination -also require more sleep. The amount of extra sleep is roughly 20 minutes. So if your job requires you to multitask, make multiple decisions while practicing lateral thinking, (Hint, Zuri), you need your sleep!
What happens when we don’t get enough sleep? Well, a lack of sleep robs your body of essential downtime necessary to rebuild vital organs and recharge your nervous system. Sleep deprivation clouds your thoughts, changes your personality, and ages you before your time. You can feel the effects of a poor night’s sleep throughout the day. But for those of us who learn to “normalize,” these effects and develop long-standing poor sleep habits
According to a study from 2016, it takes four days to fully recover from one hour of lost sleep. As little as a single night of sleep deprivation can result in a person having a phenomenon called “microsleeps,” the next day, Feinsilver said. A person begins to fall into mini-snooze sessions, which last up to 30 seconds. Some people’s eyes remain open during microsleeps, but the disturbing thing about microsleeps is that during sleep, the person is essentially blind, even if their eyes are open, Feinsilver said. They’re not processing information, he said.
Studies show that during microsleeps, the brain goes into a sleep state rapidly and uncontrollably, Dinges said. People can force themselves awake, but they will soon fall into another microsleep. I can attest to this while I was a college student. I would work a noc-shift at a children’s care center, then drive straight to a morning class at UCSB 50 minutes away and pull into the parking lot feeling like I had napped the whole way. Luckily, I didn’t get into an accident but sleeping while driving is just as dangerous as drinking while driving.
In closing, Every system in your body requires adequate sleep to maintain balance. So if you suffer from a digestive disorder, a nervous disorder, a heart disorder, a muscular disorder, or any disorder, check your sleep health. Quantity isn’t enough, you need consistent quality sleep to operate at your full potential. In addition to our product recommendations, there are some excellent books about sleep health and chronotypes that we will link you to. These can be the things you either listen to on audible or read just ahead of sleep.
It’s been said that when your brain understands the importance of something the body can better respond to your habits much like when you workout in the gym you need to focus on the muscle you’re working so that your body can best respond. So, now that your brain is focused on developing better sleep health, your body will follow suit by showing you what it needs to get those zees.
Disclaimer: As with all product recommendations most of them we are not affiliated with but when we are it means that we will usually have a discount code to give our community and we’ll get a small percentage if you purchase that product using our link. We also link to some Amazon products that we recommend and get a small percentage if you purchase using that link. There will never be an additional cost to you. Our affiliate relationships allow us to keep this website and our podcast ad-free. We will only recommend products that we actually use and love. The goal is to serve you as many resources as possible.
We hope you loved this episode and this deeper dive on sleep health. Please weigh in on the comments or share your sleep stories with us on social.