I’ve never liked bedtime. From a toddler to twenty-two, I’ve never been good at it. Falling asleep, staying asleep, quality, quantity, cat naps or long afternoon slumbers, the whole shebang is not my jam. Frankly, I’ve just adjusted to living on minimal rest and an arguably borderline unhealthy caffeine addiction.
It’s hard to deny that adequate sleep at night is the backbone of personal health: overall energy, exercise effectiveness, nutrition needs, cravings and efficiency, brain and cognitive function, the list goes on. When one area of your health lacks, it impacts the others and before you know it, one issue is the cause of several problems causing your quality of life to suffer.
While my primary interest of health has always been in nutrition specifically, it would be irresponsible to not acknowledge that all the pieces work together to supplement a healthy lifestyle. In thinking about what I can do to improve my personal health, I can no longer hide from the fact that sleep improvement is at the top of the priority list. Similarly, my mom has always said that if you have a question, chances are ten other people in the room have the same question. Therefore, I figure (and hope!) this information is helpful to at least one of you.
I’m grateful to know Chrissy Barron, Director of Operations at Nova 3 Labs. She lived in Arizona for a short time and I had the privilege of training with and being coach by her. She’s an exceptional athlete, hardworking entrepreneur, wizard of all things health, and an advocate for continuing education both personally and professionally. Early in our friendship from her frequent bursts of advice, I learned she has not only a background in but passion for all things sleep. I had a chance to catch up with her for this post, and although normally I prefer to write my pieces in my own words, her answers are so well-spoken (and expose her glowing personality) that I thought I would let Chrissy tell the story herself. It’s not a short read, but definitely worth it.
Preslie: Why do you feel quality and/or adequate sleep is important?
Chrissy: What if I could sell you a magic pill and the effects of the pill were: alertness, improvements with learning and attention, creativity, and better quality of life? You would give me all of your money for this right? Sounds like a new age Adderall, but I am not talking about a tangible item, I am talking about SLEEP!
Sleep quality is vital to your survival as a contributing human being to society! I know that can be a tad dramatic but in all honesty making sure you are getting enough quality sleep can help protect your mental health, quality of life and safety. Sleep studies show that a good night’s sleep can improve your learning, helps you pay attention, make decisions and be creative. Sleep helps with maintaining a healthy balance of hormones ghrelin (makes you feel hungry) and leptin, (makes you feel full) and also affects how your body reacts to insulin (the hormone that is in charge of your blood glucose levels).
Deep sleep promotes a healthy growth and development in teens and children, and also boosts muscle mass and helps repair cells and tissues in children, teens and adults (NHLBI, 2012), all things that are essential to success as an athlete! Lastly, but most important is your immune system; your immune systems relies on sleep to stay healthy. So you overwork yourself, under or over eat, and then under sleep and expect your body to get with it? Nu-uh! The immune system’s job is to defend your body against harmful substances, and when you have an ongoing sleep deficiency your immune system will change the way in which it responds which may result in your body having trouble fighting common infections!
This all seems a little far-fetched as I am sure most of you wake up each morning without feeling like superman, but why? Well I guess we should start with how do you measure sleep? According to the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) there are a couple different ways to measure sleep including using a Polysomnograph (you can go to a sleep lab and get this measured, insurance usually covers one sleep study a year, usually used for clinical sleep disorders). For those of us normal humans that do not want to stay the night with a bunch of wires attached to our heads you can always record a sleep diary. In this diary you will record what time you fall asleep and wake up, the type of sleep you had (did it feel deep, restful, restless). I personally like to use the app “pillow” which measures the time you said you would go to sleep, what time you fell asleep, woke up and it also records your audio while you are sleep and the level of sound (snoring). This app is hard to utilize when you sleep with a partner and or (AND) a lovely 80lb animal in the bed who chooses to snore loud and walk around.
P: When did you first discover the importance of sleep, and how?
C: This all started about two years ago when I accepted a job as a Medical Sales Territory Manager for the second largest sleep lab company in Southern California. Throughout my training I not only learned how to interpret, understand and explain sleep reports with a Polysomnography (PSG) as well as Electroencephalograms (EEG), but we also expanded our reach into seizures (adult and pediatric) where I learned to understand the EEG reports and was expected to provide insightful information to physicians and physicians’ offices regarding sleeping issues.
P: How has your life changed since you started sleeping better?
C: When I was introduced to Nova around a year and a half ago I had very minimal sleep quality, I was very stressed out from work, training and I was really run down internally. I had a consult with Mike Kesthely, CEO of Nova 3 Labs, where aside from the nutritional changes, and supplementation, he said if he could change anything at this moment that would help me exponentially it would be my sleep duration and quality. I was ordered to start working on that ASAP. Since focusing more on my sleep duration and quality, fixing my nutrition and taking the added supplements that my body needed, my overall energy has been higher, my workouts feel better (more energy going into them) and my focus has improved.
P: I remember you told me once you had to teach yourself and practice going to bed. Can you explain that?
C: I had to teach myself good sleep hygiene, what is sleep hygiene? Whenever I bring this up to people I assume they think I am asking if they showered before bed, which is not what I am looking for, but thanks for sharing Sleep Hygiene is different practices that are necessary to maintain normal, high quality sleep at nighttime and daytime alertness. The National Sleep Foundation provides some awesome examples of sleep hygiene, I will re-cap some below.
- Avoid napping during the day
- Avoid stimulants (caffeine) too close to bedtime (within 4-5 hours)
- Establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine
- Sleep in as dark of a room as possible (blackout curtains)
P: What is your bedtime ritual?
C: I take Max Sleep right before getting into bed, and get into bed 30-45 minutes prior to wanting to go to sleep, I relax by reading a book, (playing on your phone isn’t ideal due to the blue light, even with the new upgrade), and make sure the fan is on and the curtains are close, oh and that the pup is also under the covers, duh.
P: What kind of factors promote good sleep?
C: Good sleep hygiene will promote sleep, along with lack of caffeine 4-5 hours before bed, adequate nutrition and if needed the right supplementation (i.e Max Sleep, melatonin, GABA, etc.)
P: If you could give advice to someone who doesn’t sleep well now, what would you say?
C: Start small and hack away at your sleep issues. Go into your bedroom and make a mental checklist: Do you sleep in a light room? Do you play on your phone before bed? Do you drink alcohol or caffeine close to bedtime? Do you have a balanced meal at dinner? Start small and hack away at this list, changing one thing at a time and soon you will be a SLEEP MASTER!
Note: The “caffeine” link takes you to an article about what caffeine is and how it affects the body.
P: In your opinion, when is supplementation necessary to help someone sleep?
C: This is hard for me to answer because everyone is different. I would argue that if you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep you should first look at all of the non-supplementation factors you can change, along with sleep hygiene. If you are still having trouble with sleep onset or duration, then consider supplementation.
P: Are there any academic/trusted resources you look to for information on this topic, or health in general?
C: I refer to this site a lot, https://sleepfoundation.org, along with:http://www.gssiweb.org/en/home.