If you had asked me a year ago why I was so fatigued, sleep would not have been amongst my top 5 reasons for why my energy was low.
My family calls me the ‘Lazy Lion’ because I’m always napping. I nap on Saturday. I nap on Sunday. I nap after dinner on the sofa. I’ve even fallen asleep during a Metallica concert and a Jim Gaffigan show. Give me 15 minutes of shut eye, and I’ll be in La La Land.
When I took the sleep test from Michael Breus’s, The Power of When, I was actually was a ‘lion’, which is the healthiest of the animals in the sleep doctor’s opinion. However, if I’m being honest, the sleep history of my family isn’t the best. And there are probably some things that I could do to improve my own sleep.
First off, I can tell that my son, Jake, is not sleeping well. He tosses and turns a lot. He doesn’t like to sleep alone. If he wakes up and realizes that whomever he fell asleep with is gone, he will search the house until he finds somebody to sleep with. Even at 10 years old, he is not comfortable sleeping alone. (And I think I was around his age when I began to sleep walk. He hasn’t begun doing this yet but I would not be surprised if he does soon.)
My father’s sleeping patterns aren’t that healthy either. As I have mentioned before, he sleeps almost 20 hours a day. He also has sleep apnea, which is a sign of unhealthy breathing. He has to lie in bed with a CPAP mask strapped to his face, which looks (and sounds) terribly uncomfortable.
Lastly, my father, Jake, and I are all allergic to dust mites which usually live in beds and cause stuffiness during the night. We have tried a number of different methodologies to combat this, but my son and I are often congested for at least a short period of time upon awaking. This is worth investigating and experimenting with further.
How does sleep affect our energy?
For my research on sleep, I started with Dr. Matthew Walker’s, Why We Sleep (full book review here).
One of the more fascinating points for me was the actual reasons why we sleep – the science behind why we sleep – hence the title. We apparently did not know why we had to sleep up until recently. (In fact when I called my doctor friend to ask him about sleep as a pillar for our energy. He said that we don’t know why we have to sleep; it’s still a mystery to science. But now we do know and it’s a rather recent discovery.)
At a high-level, sleep affects our energy in three ways:
- Our circadian rhythms establish a baseline of when we’re going to feel tired and when we’re going to feel energized. Your day will almost always have two dips in energy – one in the afternoon and one before bed. This is natural and on purpose. Naps are good for you! Yay!
- There is a ‘sleep pressure’ that builds within our body the longer we go without sleep. This sleep pressure is created by something called the suprachiasmatic nucleus and the sleep pressure builds up like a debt we owe and cannot be cleared without sleep. Again, this is natural and will affect our energy. (Also, caffeine blocks sleep pressure, for better and for worse.)
- Multiple rejuvenating functions occur during sleep which restore our cells to higher functioning abilities and clear our minds of certain thoughts, kind of like an old computer hard drive being reformatted. We cannot feel fully energized until our sleep debt has been repaid, our circadian rhythm has returned to its upswing, and our hard drive has been reformatted.
How can we improve our sleep and energy?
I will describe the latest tools and tips from the sleep experts
What sleep experiments did I try?
I will take the best tips and tricks from my research and test them out in real life.
What worked for me?
I will summarize my findings and results and make recommendations for the reader and for future research.