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Major II: Sleep Rules
Sleep or die
Sleep time is like a slush fund we tap into to spend more time working or watching Netflix. At least that’s how most of us treat it.
Not the Highlander.
Sleep is both an obvious, critical necessity to a healthy life. Sufficient sleep promotes memory function, improves cognitive function, improves physical function, helps reduce blood pressure, increases testosterone function, reduces anxiety, and helps avoid obesity and diabetes. Sleep is also a primary tool in avoiding Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Sleep is like a super drug that only requires a prescription of time. That makes it similar to exercise, the other super drug in the Highlander’s arsenal. Both cost precious time that the Highlander must consistently invest per rule one.
The greatest challenge with sleep is taking it seriously. It’s easy to relegate sleep as an afterthought behind exercise and nutrition, but we’d die far sooner from not sleeping than not exercising or even eating.
The Highlander must treat sleep as the serious tool that it is.
The Highlander’s goals for serious sleep should be:
At least 7.5 hours of sleep per night
90% of time in bed asleep — aka sleep efficiency
An hour or more of deep sleep
1.5 hours or more of REM sleep
If you want a daily program for longevity that includes a sleep prescription, subscribe!
The Basics for Serious Sleep
The bad news is there are no special tricks to better sleep.
The most important thing you can do to improve sleep is to take sleep seriously. Many of us, especially type A personalities, treat sleep as a necessary evil rather than as the performance enhancing tool that it is.
Taking sleep seriously requires many behavioral adjustments that optimize our ability to enjoy good sleep that you’ve probably before:
Go to bed at a consistent time every night.
No caffeine or other stimulants after 12pm.
No alcohol. If you must, no more than one drink.
Try to eat your last meal at least two hours before going to bed. If you can’t, minimize the amount of carbs in the meal to blunt the spike in glucose.
Make the room cold, ideally below 67 degrees.
Use dark curtains in your bedroom.
Remove the TV from your bedroom.
If you have trouble sleeping, don’t nap during the day.
Charge your phone in the bathroom or a different room from your bedroom. If you use your phone as an alarm, get an alarm.
Advanced Sleep Tools
Heat Before Bed
Exposing your body to heat prior to bed can help you sleep better. This happens not because warmth helps you sleep but rather being warm induces your body’s internal cooling mechanisms. A warm bath or sauna an hour before bed can create the optimal physical state for sleep.
Sauna exposure has shown to improve longevity, and I believe part of the benefit is likely related to sleep.
Binaural beats are a sound-based tool that changes brain activity. You play a soundtrack that consists of two different frequencies, one in each ear. Different frequencies can have different effects on brain state from improving creativity, memory formation, or sleep.
You can find binaural beats programs on YouTube or on apps.
The body naturally releases melatonin during nighttime to induce sleep. If you have trouble sleeping at night, you can try temporary use of melatonin to encourage a sleepy state. Matthew Walker recommends not taking more than 3mg of melatonin, nor using it on a regular basis to not disrupt the body’s natural production.
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