Tips For Better Sleep

Signs of insufficient sleep

Your mind is foggy.

You’re getting sick a lot.

Exercise feels too hard.

You’re unhappy.

You have problems with your weight.

You have trouble making the right decision.

During sleep

Keep the room you sleep in:

Cool: the ideal temperature is 17-19ºC (63-66ºF): open a window, set the thermostat.

Dark: even the smallest amounts of light disturbs sleep: use light-blocking curtains, blinders, a blindfold. This will beat the effect of waking up at first light from the sunrise. Remove all light-emitting devices: alarm clocks, TVs, DVD players, tablets and all other electric stuff.

Quiet: noise can wake you: use ear plugs, unplug devices, move to a quiet area.

Apart from biological qualities, this also helps to create a relaxing sleep area.

Daytime

Set you daily (circadian) rhythm: spend 15 to 30 minutes looking in the direction of the sunrise, the best time is the first hour from sunrise; preferably wake up when the sun rises: use an alarm if you must, best is when you wake up naturally. Get at least 30 minutes of daytime sun. This is necessary for important things like Vitamin D and a sun callous.

Block blue light: at least 2-3h before bed, use glasses to block blue light; best is to block blue light every time you are not under sunlight and there is artificial light present. Turn off all unnecessary lighting, and I do mean ALL, so no mood-lighting or any other frills and thrills. Switch to fire for light, such as candles. Stay away from display devices. Take your world offline.

Dinner: dinner should be small or non-existent.

Hydration: hydration should be minimal before bed; all necessary fluids should go in during the day, so you don’t wake up for bathroom breaks; alcohol and caffeine can interfere with deep sleep, 1-2 alcoholic drinks in the evening, caffeine in moderation and preferably before 2pm.

De-stress: take a bath or shower, read, meditate, listen to soft music, move lightly, journal.

Go to bed: get under the covers when your body tells you to, don’t force staying awake; waking times should be fixed (timed with sunrise); staying awake unnecessarily will then cut sleep hours and consequently recovery. Rise and go to bed early.

Tools

Blue blockers: Block blue light at sunset to mitigate melatonin interference. In fact, whenever you are not getting sunlight and are under artificial light (like with a display device such as a computer), it’s best to block blue light with one of these.

Iris: Mitigate blue light coming from your computer screen.

Candles, oil lamps, fire places.

Cold Adaptation

In 2004 I had the idea of adapting to the cold. Here’s how the thinking went. Let’s see if it is possible to go year-round with just wearing a T-shirt. I reasoned, the body is capable of adapting. How far can it go? I won’t want the step to be too big because adaptation won’t keep up and there will be more discomfort than need be. At the same time, the step has to be big enough to initiate a change. When is it cold? During winter. When is it hot? During summer. Let’s err on the side of comfort. Daily fluctuations should be manageable. After all, barring exceptional events, if an organism can’t handle the day-to-day environment then it’s not looking good for surviving and thriving. So, a commitment to a daily practice it is, and it has to start early enough. August is warm enough to wear just a T-shirt. September is getting trickier, especially late-September. This is where we’ll start. It is also perfect because school starts then as well and I’ll be outside every morning and evening biking to and from school.

Adaptation is phenomenal. Apart from a handful of days, it was just the T-shirt. On exceptionally cold days a light sweater was worn but sleeves remained pushed up over the elbows. Physiology is a remarkable thing. Let’s face it, other animals don’t have a home with central heating, or even the dexterity to create a fire. Wolves can survive a cold winter. How do they do it? Well, we’re not wolves, you say. I say, we weren’t always the humans we are today. In fact, we’re a long line of successful reproduction starting from the very first living organisms. Some species went through an ice age. If they didn’t have mechanisms to cope with the cold, how would they survive? And if they are capable of coping, do modern versions of that old species still carry that capability? Chances are good that the modern ones kept that ability. Think about the genome research. Humans have a lot of DNA in common with chimpanzees, but we also have quite a lot in common with plants. Does nature just throw out working DNA? I don’t think so. Maybe it never happens. After all, it is hard won, and the environment might change into something that came before. Then it will come in handy. Have you ever kept something old that you replaced with a newer version just in case you need it as a back-up? So here we are. The latest iterations in a long line of evolution. Let’s see what we are really capable of versus what convention is teaching us. Shoes because we need support. Stay out of a breeze because you’ll get cold. Put on sunscreen. The list is long.

Here are some things I’ve learned during that time of cycling in the cold:

  • Balancing comfort and boundaries. Start small, take small steps, big changes at the end.
  • Making a fist, with the thumb wrapped by the four fingers, is surprisingly helpful in conserving heat.
  • When walking and holding the arms downward versus when riding a bike and having the arms forward, makes a big difference. It is remarkably warmer when holding the arms down. The tunnel that is created by sleeves from a jacket or sweater can work for you or against you. The air inside insulates when you keep your arms down. When riding a bike it just captures cold air, constantly. Seal off the entrance. This can be done simply by grabbing the end with your fingers.
  • When adapting, start with ridding yourself of your hat and mittens first. Then move on to the arms and legs. And finally the torso.
  • You don’t get a cold from a breeze, nor from the wet-hair-breeze combination. You get a cold from catching the virus, which can happen any time, and at the same time having a compromised immune system, which is likely happening due to lack of sleep.
  • People think they are cold because they can’t handle the initial shock when the slightest breeze hits them. You’re not. It’s likely just the wind.
  • Morning chills wake you up. Cold is beneficial for your mood.

Setting Up An Ice Bath At Home

Disclaimer: Bathing in ice water can lead to hypothermia or cold shock. Consult with your doctor before submerging in ice, especially if you take medication or if you have any pre-existing illness or condition.

Cold therapy has many benefits that can assist your fitness. It can be easily incorporated in your regular sports programming. Even if you don’t have a regular fitness routine, it is still of benefit to your overall health and can easily fit into your daily life.

You don’t need access to state of the art fitness facilities to experience cold therapy. Your local recreation center might have an outdoor pool that can be plenty cold, especially during winter. While the shower can be turned to cold, it is harder to get it cold enough and impossible to get a full body immersion compared to a bath. Below is a relatively inexpensive option for the home that can go plenty cold.

As part of recovery at Modern Samurai I use cold therapy. There are so many reasons to incorporate cold therapy as a recovery tool into your regular fitness regimen. It bestows many full body benefits:

  • Lower body fat
  • Fertility and reproductive fitness
  • Improve immune function
  • Sense of well being
  • Increase hormone levels
  • Reverse diabetes
  • Strengthen adrenal function
  • Deep sleep
  • Cut food cravings
  • Fix thyroid disorder
  • Pain management
  • Help with eating disorder

There are many ways to achieve this experience on your own. Ice baths, pools and jacuzzis are good places to start. What to do if you don’t have any of these facilities at home, your gym or a nearby recreation center? Complete submersion into ice often creates a challenge. Follow these steps to set up an ice bath at home, or dispense with the ice bath altogether and go for the option at the end.

1. Get a tub

We want something that is sturdy and large enough to hold yourself and all the water and ice.

Rain water barrel: The type of barrels that are used to capture rain water for use in the garden. These are large but impossible to move by hand when filled with water. For convenience, make sure it has a tap at the bottom to drain the water. For more convenience, get one that folds together, this saves space in storage.

Wheelie bin: The containers that are often used by municipalities as waste containers, notably garden waste. The wheels at the bottom will come in handy when you need to move the bin. The lack of a tap at the bottom will make emptying the bin more of a challenge.

Bathtubs: The classic container for humans when in need of a full body immersion in water. It comes with a drain, which is not to be underestimated.

Livestock tanks: These are designed to provide water or feed to livestock. They also come with a side drain. It could be cheaper to pick up than a bathtub.

2. Thermometer

Any one that can handle the water (waterproof) and the range of temperature will do.

3. Get ice

There are several options. Keep your goals and budget in mind. Also keep an ecological perspective. Once the ice melts, we’re loosing the water when draining our tub for cleaning or to add new ice. Perhaps you have access to reusable ice packs.

DIY ice packs: You can fill zip lock bags with water and then freeze them to get a makeshift ice ball. The problem is that once they go in the freezer again, they freeze to each other. This can cause rips and leaks. Either they have to be really dry when freezing again or you’ll have to take them out as one big ice cube and let them melt that way. Trying to break up the big ice cube will cause tears, even with thick plastic.

Reusable ice cubes: If you can manage the large volume of cubes you’ll need, look for the reusable ice cubes that are popular in drinks. They come in many colors and some have lights in them.

Store: No hassle with ice machines. It could be more expensive in the long haul compared to investing in an ice machine.

Commercial ice machine: This can get expensive. It comes in many shapes, sizes and output (how much ice is made within 24 hours). If you’re up for it, this is a great way to go to have ice at the ready every day. If you are local in Belgium, I recommend visiting Horeca Service (https://www.horeca-service.be/).

4. Chill

I like to keep it simple while still receiving the benefits, or at least the bulk of them. Let’s face it, we’re not Olympic athletes looking for every edge.

Put the tub in a spot that allows for easy draining. Put in about 30-40 pounds of ice. Fill up with enough water to get you submerged. Wait for the water to cool to 10-12.5°C (50-55°F).

Get in and submerge yourself all the way up to the neck. Sit in the water for 15 minutes. If you’re not used to this, start at higher temperatures and stay in for a shorter time. Check my site to find a protocol that habituates you to cold temperatures.

Get out. When ready to come out of the tub, remember to get out slowly and hold on to a solid support. If you have a friend with you, he can help you get out of the tub.

Alternative

Let’s face it, the ice can become a hassle in time. Basically we want cold water whenever we need it. With ice we have to produce it, wait for it to melt in the water, and then get rid of the excess water. What if we could keep the water cool constantly? This should use less energy versus cooling down tap water every day in an ice machine. Refreshing and cleaning the tub is the same in all cases, I’m afraid. Here’s an easy solution to the ice problem. Buy a used tub freezer. Make sure it is large enough for you to fit. Set to the right temperature. The freezer either has a display and handles a specific temperature automatically, or it has a dial that goes from low to high. If automatic, great, just set and forget. If with a dial, use a thermometer and fiddle with the dial until the inside stays within range. Also, get a little rubber mat, this way you don’t have to touch the cold walls of the freezer while sitting inside, or something similar that serves this purpose. Remember to still touch the cold water though.