Sleep and Mood – An Update

What’s for dinner?

After enjoying a quality of sleep comparable to a Parkinson’s sufferer trying to snooze whilst lying on top of a pneumatic drill in the middle of an earthquake whilst living at my former residence, I now sleep through the night with nary a twitch, awaking refreshed and in good spirits almost every day.

What’s changed? Practically everything, but here’s a summary of the main points I’ve learned:

  • Environment – this really has to be the main one for me. My new room is just so much warmer and cozier, my new bed is more comfortable. If you have been sleeping badly in a room for a period of time, your brain will actually come to associate the environment with sleeping badly, and a self-fulfilling prophecy is born. The good news however, is that it is relatively easy to disrupt this association. Simple things such as moving your bed to a different part of the room, or changing your mattress, pillows or bedding can cause things to feel sufficiently different that you can start sleeping better again
  • Quality of sleeping paraphernalia – this one comes a close second. You simply cannot underestimate the importance of a top quality mattress, duvet and pillows. I’d seriously consider investing up to £1,000 on a mattress – I spend 1/3 of my life on the bloody thing, so why would I compromise with some lumpy piece of shit that only cost £100? At my last place, I had a relatively cheap, memory foam topped mattress from IKEA. My new mattress is a thick, fully sprung king sized affair. I’ve learned that I fucking detest foam of any kind on a mattress – the level of support that it provides it simply not comparable to some good quality springs. I also invested in a 500 thread count Egyptian cotton bedding set – again, I cannot recommend this highly enough. It’s so incredibly smooth and comfortable against the skin, it’s actually extremely difficult to get out of bed in the morning! New pillows have also helped.
  • Silence – coming in a near third. I can fall asleep very quickly, and for the first half of the night I’m golden, but once it gets past about 4am, my sleep becomes very light, and I get disturbed by the slightest sound. I’d tried sleeping with ear plugs in, but invariably always woke up after a couple of hours with pain in my ears, due to them not fitting. The solution? Custom made ear plugs. Soft, cold putty is injected into your ear canal (which feels surprisingly nice) to form a perfect, unique impression of your ears, to which specification ear plugs are then made. The result is a perfectly fitting, completely comfortable ear plug which you can sleep with all night. No more getting woken up by birds tweeting, or my housemate going for a slash. They’re relatively reasonably priced too, coming in at £65. I got mine from Ultimate Ear
  • Darkness – this hasn’t been much of an issue during winter, since the nights remain dark until about 7am, although as we now head into the spring this will become more of a problem. This one is relatively easy to solve with a sleep mask, or blackout curtains.
  • Supplementation – ZMA capsules literally double the depth of my sleep. So much so that I am actually a little groggy some mornings, but on balance it is so worth it. They’re relatively cheap (I got mine from MyProtein), and require merely taking 3 about 30 mins before bed time. The increased depth of sleep is also a boon if you weight train a lot, as muscle is repaired a lot more effectively during the deepest of sleep. I also find that I can concentrate more effectively all of the following day. There’s no danger of becoming reliant on them – sleep still comes easily on the nights where I don’t take them.
  • Temperature – your body has to drop several degrees in temperature in order for you to be able to sleep effectively. A room that is too warm, or a duvet that is too thick will inhibit this function. I leave the window wide open for 30 mins before bed time to completely cool my room down, and make sure the heating is not set to come on all night. I also invested in the lowest tog duvet I can get away with. I’d rather have to put a t-shirt on before I get into bed to keep warm than wake up 20 times in the night drenched in sweat

So there you have it, a number of steps which worked effectively towards restoring my sleep to its normal condition. As mentioned previously, this is already assuming you’re doing the obvious stuff like cutting out the caffeine in the hours leading up to bed time, gradually winding down (no working 5 mins before bed time!), doing plenty of exercise etc.

Let me know if any of your effectively manage to implement these.

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11 thoughts on “Sleep and Mood – An Update

  1. staying busy generally helps me, once I started going to the gym that pretty much solved any sleep problems I had. There’s a local radio station that often play minimal/electro/dub/bass type stuff that usually chills me out. I find myself falling asleep about 4 songs in, the presenters voice seems to calm me down too.

    • Ah yes, I forgot background noise, good point. I like to put the TV on a sleep timer at a volume where I can’t quite discern what is being said, always sends me off.

  2. This is late but where did you get your bedding from?

    I’m in the UK, have a good, quiet, dark and cool environment, a nice fully sprung £800 mattress that feels incredible compared to an all foam mattress I had a year ago, but I’m still using cheap low thread count sets from ASDA or Argos.

    I can see sets on Argos and Amazon and so forth, but is there any truth in the advert speak regarding ‘one true single yarn count’ or is it advert speak alone and only the thread count matters?

    • Frankly, I’ve got no idea over and above the fact that I ordered a set of 500 thread count Egyptian cotton bedding from Amazon, and it is extremely soft and smooth. Let me know if you want, and I can probably dig up a link for it somewhere

  3. i have been experimenting with napping lately, and found out that closing then squeezing eyes few times seems to induce rapid eye movement (REM). not fully sure what the science is behind it, but i have had some killer 15-minute naps ever since. i also tried this out on nights when i could not get to bed – drank glass of water, quick deep breathing, then induced REM, and i am out cold and well rested the next morning.

    • You mean just squeezing your eyes with the force of your eyelids when they’re already shut? How bizarre, I’ve never heard of this before! I know that if I press my eyes when they’re shut, I can induce weird shifting light patterns, but you reckon it actually makes you fall asleep?

      • Precisely. It has helped me get better rest from power naps (15-30 minutes early evening), and seems to induce deeper relaxation when sleeping. Eye shade with this method also seems to amplify the effect. It has been about 6 months with this method, and I can say it has been one of the most helpful in terms of better sleep.

        On the subject, another method that induces deep relaxation is the 20-minute angled upright back massage (like those at airports). Seems to extend my alertness by 3-4 hours (or simulate the same amount of sleep recovery). I get this about once a week for about $25 a pop.

      • Well, you’ve certainly piqued my curiosity with this. I’m going to give it a go tonight. Interestingly, I did see some other few scattered reports on Google of people inducing REM through various eye-squeezing techniques. Cheers

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