Mental Health

Maximize Your Sleep – Understanding Melatonin, Blue Light, & Mid Day Napping

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I had a side conversation with one of my 5am Iron Crew Athletes one day and he asked me, “Danny, what time do you go to sleep?” I said, “Anywhere from 6pm to midnight. So yea, I have that pretty dialed in.”

It got me thinking that I hadn’t really been sleeping well. I was waking up every hour or two.  Either going to the bathroom, checking the time to see how much more sleep I could get, or just flat out worrying about that damn alarm clock going off!

Sound familiar? We’ve all been there. I went on a mission to find out how to get the best quality sleep I could.

I wake up at 3:40am every day and I have a family.  So getting 8-9 hours of sleep is not realistic for me.  What IS realistic is that I get good quality sleep when I can.  So I won’t be getting a full 8 hours, but I will get a damn good 6 hours every night.

So I did the research, changed some bad habits, and really dialed in my sleep.  I have been consistently working on 6 hours of SOLID sleep for the last 3 months and I couldn’t be more ecstatic about this.

Here are your keys to a GREAT nights sleep!

BLUE LIGHT BLOCKING GLASSES & MELATONIN

This has been the number 1 game changer for me.  If you take anything away from this article, take THIS.

Blue light comes naturally from the sun and is very valuable to humans.  When our eyes are exposed to it, it tells our brains to be alert, awake, and to be active.

When the sun goes down and our eyes aren’t absorbing blue light, our body releases melatonin into the blood stream.  Melatonin puts us in a state of relaxation, so that we fall asleep easier.

Here’s the problem with our modern society.  Blue light is found in almost all of the artificial lighting.  It’s coming directly at our eyes through the screen you are staring at to read this article.  It’s in our phone, tablet, computer, and TV.  It’s also in most of the lights in the house.

So the sun goes down and your body is beginning to shut down, but your eyes and brain are still exposed to blue light.  This blue light is tricking your eyes and brain to think that it is still daylight and you should be awake.

Ever been on your phone right before bed, dog tired, just to roll over to go to sleep and feel restless?  Hours pass before you actually fall asleep?

It’s because your mind is racing from all the blue light exposure.  This is where blue light blocking glasses come in.  Wear them around the house for 2 hours before you expect to go to bed and your body will start to naturally produce melatonin.  This will ease your mind, eyes, and body into a great night’s sleep.

These are my favorite.

MID DAY NAP & SLEEP CYCLES

This one is HUGE for me.  Since I wake up early, I tend to fatigue during the mid day.  I will take a 5-15 minute power nap and I feel a jolt of energy to get me through the rest of the day.

I will lay down on a surface that I know I won’t be able to sleep on for long (I’ll get into why I don’t want to sleep too long next).  I prefer a carpet floor or any hard surface, nothing to comfortable.  I will lay on my back, with my palms facing up.  This is called the corpse’s pose in yoga.

I relax my jaw, letting my body sink into the surface.  I will fall asleep for 5-15 minutes and am usually woken up by a relatively violent twitch.  I feel like a new person after this.  Not groggy at all, but revived with energy.  What gives?

Sleep research is clear on the sleep cycle of humans. We sleep in 90 minute cycles.  Roughly, the first 30 minutes is falling into a deep sleep, the second 30 minutes is the actual REM sleep (the deep sleep where we get FULL rejuvination), and the last 30 minutes where we are coming out of REM sleep.

Ever take a nap that lasts 45 minutes and feel worse?  You feel even MORE groggy than when you fell asleep?  It’s because you woke up in the deepest sleep you can be in (REM).

This is why I like to take the power nap.  It’s just enough to feel rejuvenated, and short enough to never enter REM sleep.  It’s also short enough for me that I can still be productive and not waste 90 minutes of my day.

Try this and you won’t be disappointed!  If you do want to take a longer nap, make sure you are sleeping in 90 minute intervals.

Understanding melatonin, blue light, and sleep cycles have been a huge game changer for me.  I haven’t slept this well in months and I hope it works for you too.

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