Some of the worst disasters in human history are attributable to sleep deprivation: the 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, the 1986 nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl, the 1989 devastating Exxon Valdez oil spill, and two recent railroad disasters.1 Sleep loss is a menace to public safety because drowsiness slows reaction time just as much as driving drunk.2 Yet, dying a horrible death in a horrific accident or causing an ecological disaster is not the main reason I think we need to get more sleep. Rather, getting enough sleep is absolutely critical so we may live longer, healthier, happier lives, and perhaps most importantly, lengthen our telomeres.
Artificial lighting is a relatively recent discovery in the history of mankind. For most of our existence, the sun was the primary source of light. As such, people generally spent their evenings in darkness before drifting off to sleep. Now artificial light gives us the option to stay up all night and be entertained by screens from our TVs, phones, and computers. We are, however, paying an insidious price for this luxury. Artificial light throws the body’s natural biological clock, the circadian rhythm, out of whack. Sleep suffers. Hormones don’t function as they were designed. Even worse, research shows that it may contribute to the causation of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.1
Sleep must be near the very top of the list of any age reversal strategy. If you’re going to adopt a single one of the lifestyle changes I am instituting in my quest to lengthen my telomeres, make it sleep. It is among the easiest methods to employ, it doesn’t cost anything, and will likely have the most profound effects. Of all the things I am currently doing to reverse my age (aromatherapy, yoga, cold training, hyperthermia training, meditation, high intensity interval training, keto, intermittent fasting, not drinking or smoking, cycling, running, stronglifts, and many more to come) sleep may be the most critical. You don’t have time? I say you don’t have time NOT to begin getting adequate, high quality sleep every single night. You can pay for it now or you can pay for it later, but you will pay for it one way or another. Making the investment now is the obvious decision with by far and away the greatest rate of return on investment. This is not controversial. Medical experts unanimously agree that sleep is a critical aspect of good health. Sleep is so important that the next two therapies I incorporate into my routine will be directly related to the subject. I am excited to share them with you.
How Much Sleep?
Collectively, we aren’t getting nearly enough sleep. Why? Artificial light. TV. Netflix. Unlimited viewing choices. Social media. The internet. Longer working days and weeks. Never feeling that we can get it all done. Whenever we feel pressed for time, it’s sleep that suffers. But wait! Isn’t all this technology supposed to free up time so that we can rest and do whatever we want and have tons of free time to do important things like sleep? Then why do we feel like we have less time than ever? I really don’t know. Regardless, we must make sleep a priority or it will indubitably catch up with us, likely resulting in serious illness. The effects of sleep deprivation are cumulative, so the sooner we start doing something about it, the better.
Many experts will say you need 8 hours of sleep a night. Others will say seven to nine hours is ideal. Yet others will say it depends upon how old you are. I say you need as much as you need. I also say it changes, sometimes dramatically, from day to day, month to month, and year to year. After completing a marathon, you will need a lot more sleep than you might on a typical day, possibly for the next several days. After such rigorous exercise, your body is damaged and needs significantly more sleep to repair itself. The same could be said for someone who taxes themselves mentally. Mental exhaustion can be as exhausting as physical exhaustion, and as such, may require even more rest to fully and properly recover.
I strongly suggest sleeping until you naturally wake up feeling refreshed, not just on weekends, but every day. We shouldn’t need alarm clocks to wake us up. It is unnatural. If you need 11 hours, you should sleep 11 hours. The problem is, most of us have jobs and need to be there at a specific time. My solution is to go to bed super early; two hours before you normally would. As a night person, it’s just hard for me to go to bed early. Nevertheless, I am forcing a change by learning to make the morning my personal time instead of the night.
I have begun going to bed by 10pm Monday through Thursday. My reasons for this, which you will soon discover, are manifold. My TV also doesn’t get turned on Monday through Thursday. In fact, I unplug it at bedtime Sunday night. When I use my computer or phone after dark I have an app on both that filters out the blue light. I even wear blue blocker glasses after 8 pm when exposed to artificial light at home.
On a typical night, after returning from the gym from either a session of Stronglifts or Yoga, I try to make sure I am in an ice cold shower by 8pm. I emerge from showers feeling refreshed, albeit with bright red, numb skin. I finish my night with 15 minutes of meditation (more on that soon), followed by some writing or website work. Time permitting, I read before sleep. By 10pm I always expect myself to be in bed with the lights off. This continues to be a difficult transition for me.
What Type of Sleep Environment?
We should strive to keep our sleep environment clean, clutter free, quite cool, very quiet, and totally dark. If for some reason, you can’t make your bedroom very quiet, I suggest using either earplugs or white noise. There are a bunch of white noise and/or calming sounds free apps available for download. You can also purchase comfortable sleeping masks if you are unable to make your room totally dark. I, however, have eliminated ALL sources of light, beginning with the use of heavy blackout curtains. The total elimination of light includes various power lights on my printer, smoke detector lights, any lights on my phone as well as those from my air purifier and humidifier. I cover them with electrical tape. Those lights will indeed affect you. This is a fact. I know, you’re thinking, “So what if there’s a light in my room? I can’t see it because my eyes are closed.” Guess what? Even if you can’t see the light, it still affects you. How? Believe it or not, but your skin has sensors that absorb the light.
As discussed in a previous post, you should have a relatively high quality air purifier in your bedroom. If there’s one place you need it, it is where you sleep because you spend a full third of your life in your bedroom. I also use aromatherapy and a humidifier too. That’s not absolutely necessary, but each has beneficial aspects and has the potential to improve your overall sleep quality. I will be adding two more exciting supplementary methods to improve the benefits of sleep in the coming weeks.
This may sound extreme, but I encourage you to turn off your WiFi router and flip the breaker to your bedroom each night before you go to sleep to reduce electromagnetic radiation (yes, it really is radiation). Just like I think it is important to use an air purifier in a room you spend eight or more hours a night in, I also think it is worthwhile to reduce electrosmog as much as possible in a room you spend so much time in. There isn’t a lot of data on this, but the data that does exist, is not good. The fact is, WiFi, smart meters, and 4/5G haven’t been around long enough to adequately study, and definitively know, the long term effects these technologies have on the human body. I am betting that the effects will be universally negative, possibly even catastrophically negative. I suggest reducing your exposure as much as possible. Sleep is a good time to do that without making a massive sacrifice and feeling like a weirdo or outcast. While I do turn off WiFi before bed, I do not yet flip the breaker to my bedroom. This is because I need power for my humidifier, air purifier, cell phone, aromatherapy diffuser, and something else on which I will blog about in the coming weeks. I keep everything requiring power as far away from my body, especially my head, as possible. There will be future post/s exclusively about EMF and RF radiation.
Tracking – Why Bother?
I use a fitbit to track my sleep data. There are many, many alternative options. Some, like my fitbit, track several types of activities and will give you all kinds of data, while others are for sleep exclusively. The fitbit, while not the optimum sleep monitoring tool, is adequate for my purposes. Tracking your sleep is important because it will likely provide you with information that may not be so obvious otherwise. It will also easily enable to you to track trends and find associations.
It is a slow process, but I am figuring out a lot of things because of all the data I am accumulating. I will get better and better at refining age reversal techniques because I have so much data to look at. When I see my resting heart rate and/or heart rate variability take a dip or rise inexplicably, I can look at data charts and form conclusions based on associations. I often see correlations clearly. They are sometimes glaring, like length and quality of sleep’s association with length of time I can hold my breath, or HRV and overtraining, or alcohol consumption and resting heart rate and heart rate variability. This is especially important because I believe different people respond differently to different stimuli, supplements, hormones, stresses, and therapies. I am trying to optimize my responses. In the process, I believe I will be able to help you optimize yours. But if we have no data, we won’t really know much of anything. Everything would be a guess; mere conjecture. Without data, it may take months before we realize our guess might be wrong. The data gives us hard facts with which we can sink our teeth.
Proven Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Anyone read Darkness at Noon? The novel serves as a great reminder that the Soviets used sleep deprivation as a means of torture. If they kept you awake long enough, you’d soon be begging for death. The society we have created has resulted in us willingly doing this to ourselves, walking around half the time like zombies. And for what?
Lack of sleep has somehow erroneously became associated with hard work, discipline, strength, toughness, and virility. This is grossly inaccurate. We should work together to change that perspective so that lack of sleep becomes associated with, more accurately, stupidity, brain fog, lack of energy, lack of education, inability to perform sexually, low testosterone, cancer, and just generally looking awful. Chronic sleep loss puts you at risk for very serious health issues including heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and cancer.
WebMd states, “Sleep specialists say that sleep-deprived men and women report lower libidos and less interest in sex. Depleted energy, sleepiness, and increased tension may be largely to blame.”3 Remember ReversingMyAge.com guiding principle #4? It simply states “Everything matters.” A corollary to that principle should be that everything matters because everything is connected. I do mean EVERYTHING! What and when you eat, drink, how you exercise, and how often and at what intensity, what you think, and feel, and breathe, and hear, and see, and most pertinently, how much and when you sleep. It all matters and it’s all connected. You can’t sleep? You have anxiety? You are depressed? Of course you are! There’s a good chance it is because you aren’t getting enough sleep at the right time and it is causing your hormones to be totally imbalanced and out of whack. Sleep loss often aggravates the symptoms of depression, and depression can make it more difficult to fall asleep. In a 2007 study of 10,000 people, those with insomnia were five times as likely to develop depression as those without.4 On the positive side, treating sleep problems can help depression and its symptoms, and vice versa.
Circadian Rhythms and Hormones
I’ve spent a little time writing about hormones as they relate to aging. I’m coming to believe that most things are directly tied to one’s hormones: weight gain, weight loss, anxiety, depression, hunger, stress, libido, muscle mass, chronic disease, strength of immune system, speed of aging, etc. When do you think your body replenishes its hormones, most especially testosterone and human growth hormone. At night, when you are sleeping!
Most of us go to bed long after sundown, though mankind has been conditioned to go to sleep as darkness falls and rise with the sun for the last 15,000 years. We are bombarded by light sources of all types, most conspicuously, artificial home lighting, our TV, computer, and phone screens. This disrupts our natural circadian rhythms and has been shown to have disastrous consequences. If you are messing with your circadian rhythm, as I was, this is what you can expect: a loss of muscle mass, increased body fat, lethargy, incomplete recovery from exercise, overtraining, loss of performance, increased likelihood of infections, loss of libido/sexual performance, infertility, joint aches, gut problems, anxiety, cognitive problems, and more.5
When we wake up in the morning, light stimulates our eyes and skin sensors, sending messages to our brain that it is time to begin releasing cortisol. Cortisol, a stress hormone, makes us alert and ready for action. It is a vital hormone and necessary to produce it upon waking, but too much of it at the wrong time will wreak havoc on one’s body and accelerate the aging process. In addition to producing it upon waking, we also produce it when we are stressed, as we would if a hungry lion were chasing us. We absolutely need it the few times hungry lions may chase us in order to increase our chances for survival. We do not, however, want tons of cortisol constantly coursing through our veins because of the daily stresses of modern life. That will kill you as surely as that lion would if it managed to wrap its jaws around your neck. Lack of sleep has the same effect on cortisol levels.
As darkness falls, cortisol levels drop and the body begins to release melatonin. Ideally, melatonin causes the release of human growth hormone which in turn triggers the release of other growth hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen.6 Unfortunately, our light saturated society keeps our cortisol levels elevated when they should be dropping off. Furthermore, this artificial light inhibits the release of melatonin which inhibits the release of human growth hormone and testosterone. Are you beginning to see the big picture how everything is interconnected?
Growth hormone is produced while we sleep. Its levels peak between 10 pm and 2 am. This is when our body repairs itself. If we aren’t sleeping during these hours, then we aren’t producing growth hormone. In order to effectively repair our bodies, growth hormone must be present at levels high enough to perform the necessary overhaul. No growth hormone = no bodily repairs. Inadequate levels of HGH = inadequate levels of bodily repair. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re not producing enough growth hormone to maintain your body and mind.
Cancer and Sleep
Lack of sleep and disrupted circadian rhythms are proven killers. Though it may be surprising or counterintuitive, it can even cause cancer. Seriously. That’s how important obtaining good quality sleep is during the appropriate hours. A study published in February of 2018 concluded,
“The reduction of melatonin secretion after exposure to blue light emitted from smartphone’s screen has been reported to be associated with the negative impact of smartphone use at night on sleep. We have shown that both the blue light and RF-EMFs generated by mobile phones are linked to the disruption of the circadian rhythm in people who use their phones at night. Therefore, if women with hereditary breast cancer predispositions use their smartphones, tablets and laptops at night, disrupted circadian rhythms (suppression of melatonin caused by exposure to blue light emitted from the digital screens), amplifies the risk of breast cancer. It can be concluded that women who carry mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2, or women with family history of breast cancer should avoid using their smartphones, tablets and laptops at night. Using sunglasses with amber lenses, or smartphone applications which decrease the users’ exposure to blue light before sleep, at least to some extent, can decrease the risk of circadian rhythm disruption and breast cancer.”7
Let’s forget reversing our age for a moment. Cancer is serious stuff and it can strike anyone at any age. You. A loved one. Male or female. Young or old. This is fact. I’m not exaggerating. Let’s reduce this risk by simply going to bed at a reasonable hour and getting enough sleep.
Sleep Like a Baby
Sleep is absolutely critical to good health and long telomeres. Get as much as you need. Make it a priority. Seriously. It might not be so obvious, but seemingly unrelated health problems like diabetes, anxiety, depression, low testosterone, low libido, chronic fatigue and heart disease could be caused by disrupted circadian rhythms and/or lack of good quality sleep. Make an effort to get to bed by 10pm most nights. Limit the use of artificial light and exposure to screens such as computers, phones, and televisions. If you must use them after dark, use a blue light filter. Let’s not forget that it’s not just about getting enough sleep, but getting it at the right time because of hormonal considerations. Sleep well. Your life depends upon it.
1 Impact of Sleep Loss. (n.d.). Retrieved March 02, 2018, from https://www.vitalsleep.com/impact-of-sleep-loss.html
2 Impact of Sleep Loss. (n.d.). Retrieved March 02, 2018, from https://www.vitalsleep.com/impact-of-sleep-loss.html
3 10 Things to Hate About Sleep Loss. (n.d.). Retrieved March 02, 2018, from https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/10-results-sleep-loss#1
4 Publishing, H. H. (n.d.). Blue light has a dark side. Retrieved March 02, 2018, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side
5 Brandon, L. (2016, February 09). You Just Can’t Cheat Nature! – Circadian Rhythms and Your Hormones. Retrieved March 02, 2018, from https://chekinstitute.com/blog/you-just-cant-cheat-nature-circadian-rhythms-and-your-hormones/
6 Brandon, L. (2016, February 09). You Just Can’t Cheat Nature! – Circadian Rhythms and Your Hormones. Retrieved March 02, 2018, from https://chekinstitute.com/blog/you-just-cant-cheat-nature-circadian-rhythms-and-your-hormones/
7 Mortazavi, S. A., & Mortazavi, S. M. (2018, February). Women with hereditary breast cancer predispositions should avoid using their smartphones, tablets, and laptops at night. Retrieved March 02, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29456806