When I ask the Kwik Brain community about sleep, I usually get polarized answers—either people sleep great and wake up refreshed, or they really struggle with falling and staying asleep, and wake exhausted.
What effect does your sleep pattern have on your mental acuity? On your mental performance? Your memory? If you want to know how to get a good night’s sleep so you can rest and recover, then this episode is for you!
We have 3 experts on today’s show to share their top tips for improving your sleep. Don’t forget to check out the full Kwik Brain episodes with our experts via the links!
First up is Dr Michael Breus (@thesleepdoctor), sleep expert, best-selling author of The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan, Clinical Psychologist and Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
Then we have Shawn Stevenson, (@ShawnModel) bestselling author, strength coach, health expert and creator of The Model Health Show, featured as the #1 Health podcast on iTunes with millions of listener downloads each year.
Lastly, we’ll hear from Dr Greg Wells (@drgregwells), scientist, broadcaster, professor, author, coach and athlete who has dedicated his career to understanding human performance and how the human body responds to extreme conditions.
GUEST 1: DR MICHAEL BREUS
5 STEPS TO BETTER SLEEP
- Consistent schedule: our circadian rhythms love consistency. Your wake-up time is more important than your going to sleep time!
- Caffeine: small dosages only and stop by 2pm. Caffeine has a half-life of 6-8 hours
- Alcohol: be careful. One alcoholic beverage takes one hour to process, stop drinking 3 hours before bed
- Exercise: there’s nothing more effective than exercise to improve the quality of your sleep, even if it’s just 20 minutes. Do your exercise at least 4 hours before bed
- Sunlight: Get 15 minutes of sunlight when you wake up to reset your clock, inhibit melatonin production and get more energy
GUEST 2: SHAWN STEVENSON
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR SLEEP
- Appalachian State University study: the time we exercise can affect our sleep quality. The study split participants into groups doing exercises in the morning, afternoon and evening
- People who exercised in the morning tended to spend more time in deep sleep, have more efficient sleep cycles, and experienced a 25% greater drop in blood pressure at night
- You can still take advantage of this benefit by doing even just 4 minutes of exercise in the morning to get a cortisol boost—it should be higher in the morning and drop as the day goes on
EATING & SLEEP
- Melatonin and sleep: more melatonin is located in your gut than in your brain
- Vitamin C: important for regenerating tissues and regulating your sleep, individuals who are deficient in Vitamin C were more likely to have interrupted sleep
- Magnesium: responsible for 325 biochemical processes we’re aware of, many of them involving sleep and recovery. Ensure you have optimal magnesium in your diet
BRAIN TRAINING MEDITATION
- Equally effective as some of the best sleep medications
- It’s free and comes without some of the dangerous side effects
- Having a meditation practice each day can help your sleep, especially meditating each morning
GUEST 3: DR GREG WELLS
IMPROVE YOUR SLEEP
- Sleep is when you learn: your brain encodes information from the day in the first 4.5 hours of sleep
- When you eat healthy foods (organic, minimal sugars, no processed foods) your brain releases the neurotransmitters to improve concentration and focus
- Exercise (especially walking) activates creativity, assists you to improve problem-solving abilities, focus, and concentration
- One single bout of exercise improves mental function for 15 hours
WHERE TO START
- Four components: eat, sleep, move, think
- Sleep is the foundation for everything
- Defend your last hour before sleep: an hour to relax, get away from devices, meditate
- Meditation: Greg uses the Headspace app, helps to transition into different brain waves: beta down to alpha waves, then into delta waves for sleep
- Read: Greg reads fiction, doesn’t read anything that’s a learning opportunity
- Environment—sleep cave with blackout blinds, as any light filtering inactivates the photoreceptors on the body and stops the production of melatonin
- Set a bedtime alarm, not just a morning alarm, so your body knows when to fall asleep consistently
- Maintain your regular sleep schedule on weekends too
- People who say they are too busy to meditate are the people who need to meditate most
- Avoid screens for an hour before sleep: unless you’re a night owl you’re unlikely to be doing productive work anyway
- Analogy: athletes used to be focused on doing the most work and whoever didn’t get injured won, but today’s athletes are focused on rest and recovery and as a result are having multiple standout performances throughout their careers, living completely different lives
- We can adopt this in our everyday lives: if we want to win a marathon we have to work smart not hard
- “Nutrition is the foundation for human health and performance”
- Food can be used to treat chronic illnesses, mental illnesses—but the system is set up to feed us awful food so companies can make money
- Eat real food you recognize as food: avoid anything processed, anything ‘from a box’
- Invest in making food yourself if possible: Greg uses food prep nights to make mealtimes quick and easy (chopping vegetables, cooking protein, store it all in Tupperware)
- When you’re tired you don’t make good decisions—if it’s in your house someone will eventually eat it, so make your house a food sanctuary (idea from John Berardi at Precision Nutrition)