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Why All Sleep is Not Created Equal

Eleven days, that’s how long you can live without it. It’s one of the most overlooked aspects of wellness; we tend to get caught up in the importance of diet and exercise and neglect the thing that we spend one third of our life doing, sleeping.  Not only can sleep deprivation increase our chance for chronic illness and cancer, it can also shorten our lifespan. With just one night of poor sleep, the amount of killer cells, the cells that attack cancer in our body, drops by 70%. Still not sold? Sleep deprivation is so dangerous that the World Health Organization recently classified it as a class 2A carcinogen, up there with Glyphosate, a key ingredient in pesticides like Roundup. So how do we get the best sleep possible? Getting the right amount (7-8 hours) is the first step, but the biggest area we can improve is our sleep QUALITY.

Yes, sleep QUANTITY matters; we know that you won’t be able to live a healthy life if you operate on 5-6 hours of sleep per night. What we don’t realize is that the QUALITY of our sleep can easily be influenced by daily lifestyle choices. First, let’s dive into the main culprits that prevent us from getting the restful sleep we need.

  • Not understanding the value of sleep- Sleep fortifies your immune system, balances your hormones, boosts your metabolism, increases physical energy, and improves the function of your brain. Without the optimal QUANTITY and QUALITY of sleep, you can throw away your goals of having the body of your dreams.

  • Blue light exposure- This is the light that's emitted from phones, TVs, computers and the sun. It is the strongest spectrum of visible light and likely the biggest culprit preventing you from getting perfect sleep. Naturally, we get our daily dose of it from the sun and its a key component in balancing our circadian rhythm (our bodies natural clock). When our body detects blue light, it suppresses the production of important sleep hormones, like melatonin. By exposing ourselves to blue light before bed, we are inevitably throwing our biological clock out of whack. Each hour of blue light exposure suppresses melatonin production for 30 minutes (2 hours of blue light exposure = 1 hour of suppression and so on).

    • Rule of thumb: Limit late night exposure to blue light an hour before bedtime. It’s best to cut it out completely, but if that’s not possible there are several effective hacks for blocking it out (listed below).

  • Caffeine Curfew- Caffeine has a half life of up to 8 hours, meaning that 8 hours after you’ve had a cup of coffee, half of the caffeine is still circulating throughout your body. Put simply, caffeine suppresses the production of melatonin in your body, giving you that awake and alert feeling no matter how tired you are. Having coffee too late in the day will throw your sleep hormones out of wack and will undoubtedly hurt the quality of your sleep.

    • Rule of thumb: Don’t consume coffee after 2pm. Yes, you may still be able to fall asleep after having an afternoon coffee, but studies show that you will have significantly lower quality sleep.

  • Pump it up early: Working out can be one the best ways to release stress and prime your body for restful sleep.  There are several hormones that are released during exercise, and cortisol (your stress hormone) is one of them. High cortisol levels near bedtime will prevent your body from properly powering down for sleep, so the TIMING of your workouts has shown to play a big role in sleep.

    • Rule of thumb: Research shows that hitting the gym before 5pm is ideal for allowing your body to recover from exercise and follow its natural circadian rhythm.

  • Airplane it even when your'e not on a plane.  Devices like phones, computers and tablets emit EMFs (electromagnetic fields). Our bodies are naturally built to process EMFs, but the current load that we are exposed to a daily basis is far too big for us. At a glance, EMFs can cause a disruption in the way our cells communicate within our body which can lead to hormone imbalances and cancer if left unmonitored. To learn more about how EMFs impact us, read this article.

    • Rule of thumb: If sleep matters to you, leave your devices out of your room and powered off before bed. If you need to have your phone in your room, make sure it's on airplane mode and as far away from your body as possible.

For those of us who want to get the most restorative sleep of our lives and want to wake up feeling like the energizer bunny, here are my favorite sleep hacks.
  • Block the blue. Purchase blue light blocking glasses and put them on a few hours before bedtime. Also, use the color filter feature on your phone (directions below) and download the f.lux application (it's free) on your computer to naturally reduce your exposure throughout the day.

  • Black it out. Blackout curtains are proven to immediately improve your sleep quality. Having even the slightest light exposure (alarm clock light, street lights from outside) can have major implications on your sleep. Your skin has millions of receptors on the surface that can detect light, and once detected, they send signals to your brain that can interfere with your sleep.  The darker your room is, the better your sleep will be.

  • Supplement with Magnesium. Known for its anti-stress properties, magnesium helps optimize circulation and blood pressure, balance blood sugar, relax tense muscles, reduce pain, and calm the nervous system. You would think that with these benefits, everyone would be taking magnesium; the reality is, it’s the #1 mineral deficiency in people today. Research shows that taking a dose of 1000-2000mg of a high quality magnesium right before bed can significantly reduce our bodies stress load and drastically improve sleep quality. For more info on magnesium, be sure to check out this post by Mark Hyman.

  • Chill out. Our body uses thermoregulation to signal that it's time for sleep, naturally lowering our core body temperature. Just as our outside environment naturally cools at night, our indoor environment should do the same. Sleep experts believe the optimal room temperature to induce thermoregulation is 65- 68 degrees fahrenheit. Having an environment that is too warm can be a physiological stressor on your body, making your sleep less restful.

  • Become a creature of habit. Creating a bedtime schedule is key in reaping the countless benefits of restful sleep. Science shows that our body is designed to get the most rejuvenating sleep between the hours of 10pm and 2am, so the later you go to sleep, the more quality sleep you are missing out on. Being asleep during these hours can amplify the rejuvenating benefits of sleep and is a crucial factor in sleep quality.

  • Don’t confuse the booze. Don’t mistake alcohol as a sleep aid, it’s a sedative. Yes, it can knock you out and put you right to sleep but it blocks your REM dream sleep, which is an important stage of your sleep cycle, so avoid going to bed tipsy when you can.

What does your sleep routine look like? What can you do to level-up your sleep?

Color filter directions for iphone users:
  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.

  2. Tap General.

  3. Tap Accessibility.

  4. Tap Display Accommodations.

  5. Tap Color Filters.

  6. Tap the switch next to Color Filters to turn them on.

  7. Tap Color Tint.

  8. Tap and drag the Hue slider at the bottom until the tint is what you need.

Bonus tip to create a shortcut for this feature:
  1. Go to back to the Accessibility page

  2. Scroll down and tap Accessibility Shortcut

  3. Tap Color Filters to create shortcut

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