Well rested on the subject?
Cute title but a pretty heavy subject. How well are we sleeping? How well rested are we? What compensations are we making due to lack of sleep, poor sleep quality, irregular routine, unfavourable conditions etc.
Here's a story that may sound familiar.
Over the years I've been training/working/living, there's always been a few less than ideal behaviours I chose to ignore in favour of training routines.
One pretty glaring behaviour I have suffered through for many years, has been my sleep behaviour. My relationship to sleeping, and what ignoring those behaviour patterns meant about what I was prioritising/sacrificing. And so, sleep is and has been somewhat fractured, supplemented with medication, broken, restless, loveless and in many ways frustrating. But from the conversations I've had with friends, family, and the global community, it seems I'm not alone in this. Hopefully my experience can help support more conversations and awareness, I can say I'm appreciative for what having a consistent physical training regime has provided me. It has meant showing up, trusting the process, and being continuously surprised along the way. There's always been hurdles (fatigue, boredom, injuries, repetitive periods, distractions) but it's remained a reliable support system for me. Now with a robust and fairly maintainable physical attributes and the wisdom of patience, I'm finally willing to examine the mountain of sleep debt I have likely incurred. This table sit down with myself is long overdue.
How this came about, was simply lack of awareness and education on sleep. Using my phone at night, playing video games until the early hours of the morning, sleeping in but not really sleeping well. Caffeine consumption with no forethought (pre-workout at night for workouts), and then that period of my life where late nights, alcohol and parties, fed into a lingering lethargy days after. Years, of compound conditioning. Knowing I didn't know any better, makes it easier to look back, and toward the future, kindly. That I believe, is critical.
Here is a broad overview of effective treatment options for improving sleep
exposure to morning and evening light frequencies, to improve circadian rhythms (10mins of early morning light, and evening light).
eliminating or reducing the amount of nocturnal light exposure we incur.
awareness around blue light stimulation (screen time) and how we can leverage this (so allowing blue light in the mornings, filtering in the evenings).
using high effort exercise to encourage fatigue, (think slow heavy lifting, perhaps avoiding High Intensity Interval Training if that causes/feels like an adrenaline rush).
closer to bedtime, using slower exercise alternatives (yin yoga, shaking & tension release, breathwork).
after any exercise, following a cooldown period (stretching, and rested intensity scaling; so after a long run, walking for 5-10minutes as a cooldown than the alternative of just stopping).
avoiding caffeine or stimulants closer to bedtime.
understanding that heavy meals closer to bedtime influence your metabolism, which works in opposition to the body initiating sleep processes.
how food types will influence sleep; food that takes longer to digest and are less nutritious, as well as which foods encourage sleep.
magnesium, melatonin, L-theanine.
relaxation aids; lavender, camomile, passionflower.
mushroom supplements; rishi, lions mane, cordyceps.
journaling, helping to untangle the thoughts of the day, and set free any repetitive thought conversations.
meditation, body scanning, breathwork and internal focusing helping still our thoughts and planning brain.
soft massage and warm showers, to encourage cooling down and relaxed muscles.
dark, avoiding light exposure, quiet, cool environment, but not cold or too hot.
a separate sleep area than that of living/eating/study/recreation area(s). even just adjusting furniture can have a psychological response.
suitable mattress, though more research is how too much of soft bedding cause influence poor sleep posture.
There is a lot of evidence available online if you're interested, and I'll link some articles and sources to help guide your own research.
However, I want to talk candidly about perspective shifting, regarding sleep and my internal expectations and pressures. With maturity and experience, you will gradually acquire perspective. As I mentioned above, I've really had/have trouble sleeping. Two things that I consider the most important in healing my relationship with sleep, has been; knowing when to get help, and understanding our expectations will influence our progress. A big step for me, was seeking professional advice, and medication in order to maintain a routine sleep structure. This for me is non-negotiable. I needed to be sleeping, and sleeping routinely. That was obvious. I had a lot of prejudice towards medication, thinking it was some kind of crutch, but it was liberating to be assisted with sleep medication. And my position was to always try alternatives to the strong medication, such as mentioned in the list above, however if I felt/feel uneasy as the window of a minimum 6 hour sleep period closes, I use medication. It is also very reassuring knowing I'll be able to sleep, regardless of how agitated or manic my state before bed. The second part of this journey of self-examination, is looking at how I treat / react to this behaviour of sleeplessness. There have been countless times, I've set myself up with the best conditions for a good nights sleep. No afternoon caffeine, a light workout session follow by a sauna session, healthy dinner without processed foods with a good digestion window, journaling, meditation, and camomile tea, before hopping into bed before 10:00PM.
And then, the sleepless hours crept past. Wide eyed, elevated heartbeat, and frustrated state, I peer to my phone. 1:30am.
This expectation that because I did everything right, therefore I will/should fall asleep, became quite harmful. So aiming to shift my perspective, I now know talk to myself, and soothe my expectations, acknowledging that I have a lengthy history of unideal sleep behaviours, and it will be a long process to heal this. That the activities done before bed, like journaling, meditation, early into bed, were still inherently valuable to my wellbeing. So hopefully there's been something to stimulate a conversation with yourself, in areas of sleep improvement.
See you in class,
A really helpful podcast is Andrew Huberman Ph.D., a Neuroscience Professor & Lab Director at Stanford University School of Medicine's podcast on Sleep.
https://hubermanlab.libsyn.com/master-your-sleep-be-more-alert-when-awake-episode-2 Other source material; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6751071/ https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-importance-of-your-sleep-environment-3014944 https://worldsleepday.org/environmental-sleep-factors https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sleep-aids#risks-and-precautions https://www.realmushrooms.com/mushrooms-supplements-for-sleep/ https://helloglow.co/medicinal-mushrooms/ https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/9-foods-to-help-you-sleep https://www.sleepfoundation.org/nutrition/food-and-drink-promote-good-nights-sleep https://chriskresser.com/sleep-eating-connection/