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Last Updated on September 18, 2019

How to Get the Best Deep Sleep (And Why It’s Important)

How to Get the Best Deep Sleep (And Why It’s Important)

Do you want to know the secret to health and wellness?

Sure you do, everyone does. Everyone is looking for the miracle supplement, workout or tip that can change their lives seemingly overnight. Well such a thing does exist, is available to you anytime, and will cost you nothing.

It’s sleep — specifically deep sleep.

The Importance of Sleep

If you’re like the majority of the population, you are probably depriving yourself of it on a nightly basis.

Sleep has been called the “force multiplier” in that it has the ability to enhance, or worsen, whatever state that you’re in.

If you are eating well, controlling stress, and exercising often, then getting good sleep on top of all that will help enhance the benefits of all those healthy things that you’re doing.

On the other hand, if you are eating poorly, not exercising, are constantly stressed, and overdoing it with medications or other substances, a lack of sleep is going to compound and multiply everything.

It’s like being kicked while you’re down

And when you are chronically sleep deprived, it really does a number on you. A lack of sleep can keep your body in a constant state of stress and over time this can get pretty ugly. Elevated stress hormones can be involved in creating a bunch of pretty nasty conditions including the following[1]:

  • Anxiety
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Weight gain
  • Depression
  • Stroke
  • Hypertension
  • Digestive disorders
  • Immune system dysfunction
  • Irritability

Now that you know what may happen when you’re sleep deprived, you must be wondering how to get the deep sleep you need. And this is what I will talk about in the next section.

How to Get the Best Deep Sleep

Deep sleep is so important for not only your body, but your mind. Here are 10 ways to get the best deep sleep possible:

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1. Start Going to Bed Earlier

You’re going to bed too late each night. I get it though, there are too many distractions that can keep you up late.

First among all those is entertainment. The amount of programming through cable and streaming services could sink a battleship. It’s like there isn’t enough hours in the day to consume it all.

And let me tell you, there isn’t. When you combine this with the distraction of social media, you can find yourself still scrolling at 2 am.

You would be doing yourself a favor by putting off all those shows for another time and allow yourself to get to bed earlier. Trust me, those shows aren’t going anywhere and we’ve become content consumers, thinking it’s like an assignment to finish that next series on Netflix.

There is no assignment, those things are there for your enjoyment. So enjoy them on your on terms and don’t let them interfere with getting deep, consistent sleep.

2. Create a Wind Down Routine

This is key in getting deep sleep. Your body craves routine and responds favorably to it.

You want to create a wind down routine that you start at the same time each night and follow the order of. This wind down routine will allow your body to know that sleep is coming. This is going to allow you to fall asleep sooner and get that valuable deep sleep.

It doesn’t matter really what type of routine it is, but find out what works best for you and stick with it. It may be taking a shower and then reading or it may be some yoga and then listening to music. The key thing is that it’s important to create some structure for your body to help unwind with to eventually get that deep sleep.

You can take reference of this routine: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide: Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

3. Turn down the Light

Remember all that entertainment all around you? It may be seriously degrading your ability to get deep sleep.

We live in a 24/7 artificially lit world. As the sun sets, the opposite happens and your house springs into action. Lights are blaring, T.V’s are on, screens are being fully used. All this artificial light is disrupting your circadian rhythms and throwing off your ability to get deep sleep. The blue light emitted from electronics has the ability to prevent melatonin release from the brain which is crucial in your sleep cycles.[2]

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So turn off those electronics 1 to 2 hours beforehand and you’ll be surprised at the positive impact this can have.

4. If You Really Have to Use Those Electronics, Make Use of These Tools

There are going to be times when being on your laptop is required or you do have to use your phone. Fortunately, along with your modern technology, comes some ways to make them have a less harsh impact.

The first one is a tool for if you need to be on your lap top doing work. It’s called F.lux. This takes away that blue light from your lap top screen and gives it a more natural warm and orange glow. It can replicate the brightness all the way down to candle light and embers from a fire. Reducing the blue light is going to help you avoid the sleep disruption it causes.

I’m actually using it right now as I write this.

If you use an iPhone, you can switch on the night shift mode which also takes away from some of that harsh blue light. If you have to be up watching T.V, at least switch it into “movie” mode on your picture settings. Most T.V’s have “standard”, “dynamic”, and “movie” mode. Movie mode will give it a bit of warmer glow and cause less of that blue light disruption.

5. Keep Your Room Dark

This goes along with all this melatonin/blue light we’ve been talking about.

Just as blue light prevents your brain from secreting melatonin, darkness helps to produce it. When it gets dark, your body realizes the cycle of the day is ending and your sleep cycles should match up with that. Your sleep cycle involves this melatonin secretion so you want to help encourage it by keeping your room as dark as possible.

This can be tough in our modern world but your best friend in this situation are black out curtains. These are available most everywhere from Walmart to Amazon. They help to eliminate all that outside light to keep your environment as dark as possible. These are what hotels use and you may have noticed how dark those rooms can be compared to the amount of light that is usually prevalent outside.

6. Keep Your Room Cooler

Again, our modern environments create overly bright, overly warm living situations. This warmth is great but is not the most conducive to sleep.

Sure, warmth may make you drowsy but doesn’t promote that deep sleep you’re looking for. You want things to be a touch on the cool side to promote better sleep.

When you’re asleep, your body temperature actually drops and by creating a cool environment you can actually speed up the process of getting to sleep. Your body senses the coolness and can transition easier into sleep while also engaging in deeper sleep.

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If you can control your room temperature, the sweet spot seems to be at around 5-10 degrees cooler than your average daytime temperature. At the very least, your sheets should feel cool to the touch, then you’ll know you’re in the right range.

You can check out a few more things you can do to improve your room in this article too: Are You Sure Your Bedroom is The Best Setting for Your Sleep?

7. Don’t Eat Too Much Before Bed

It’s hard to go to bed hungry and a little snack can be o.k, but you want to avoid heavy meals later in the night. This keeps your body up digesting and doesn’t allow you to naturally wind down and get that deep sleep.

Also, just the discomfort and bloating makes it tough to get settled. At the same time, your body can think it’s in the middle of the day as the focus appears to be on digestion and absorption as opposed to sleep. This can cause some more havoc with your body clock which hasn’t been allowed to naturally do it’s thing.

If you’re up all night eating and exposed to bright lights from screens, in your bodies mind, is like being outside in the middle of a bright sunny day. Sleep is the furthest thing from its mind in this situation and it doesn’t know the difference between it being noon or three in the morning.

Scenarios like this make the ability to fall asleep, and stay in deep sleep, extremely difficult. On the other hand though, here’s some things you do what to drink and eat to promote better sleep: This is How You Can Eat and Drink Your Way To A Good Night Sleep

8. Check out What You’re Sleeping On

There’s a bit of a science to your bed and mattress and getting it just right is pretty crucial.

If you think about the majority of purchases in your life; house, car, schooling, etc your mattress needs to be right up there. Seems kind of ridiculous but it’s where you spend 1/3 of your life – or 1/2 of it if you have teenagers – so it should be considered a significant purchase.

The usual idea is going for the softest mattress possible. There are a lot of options for that now with memory foam mattresses and super soft mattress toppers. To get the best deep sleep possible, you’re going to want to go for more of a medium-firm one. The same way I like my steaks…

If you like the softer pillow top mattresses at least go for a firm mattress underneath for better support. A firmer support will give more support and cushioning to your spine and this is important for helping you sleep.

When things are too soft there is a lack of support for you spine and body and even slight movements can be disruptive to your sleep.

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Here’re some guides for you to pick the right mattress and pillow:

9. Watch out for the Caffeine

No surprise here that caffeine can keep you up but you might not know how long it can cause this to happen.

Caffeine can kick in around 10 to 20 minutes on average, and the noticeable effects can last for 2 to 3 hours in your body. If you over consume caffeine, it can take more and more of it to feel its effects to the point you’re injecting espresso.

It would seem to make sense that you want to cut caffeine out 2 to 3 hours before bed but this probably won’t do the trick. Caffeine has what’s called a “half-life” meaning its existence, and effects in the blood stream, can last longer. This half life can last around 5-6 hours,[3] so you might have to do some new math as to when it will be best to have your last coffee of the day.

10. Easy on the Alcohol

It seems like I’m taking all the fun away but caffeine and alcohol can really disrupt your sleeping patterns.

Alcohol may knock you out quick but it prevents you from getting that deep quality of sleep you are looking for. We’re looking at that body clock getting screwed up again with alcohol.

Alcohol turns on a brain pattern called “alpha activity”. This type of brain pattern doesn’t usually happen when you’re asleep but when you’re awake and alert. This now disrupts your circadian rhythms and in turn can block your REM sleep.[4]

Add this all up and you may pass out after all those Jager bombs but your body is not going to get any benefit or deep sleep from it. All you’ll have to show for it is the inevitable hangover the next day.

Final Thoughts

In society today, many people seem to wear their lack of sleep like a badge of honor. There’s this sense of “sleep being for the weak” and the desire to burn the candle at both ends.

Not only is this not a sustainable way to live, you may be causing a lot of damage to yourself while you’re at it. The ability to get deep sleep on a continuous basis is critical for your body and mind to be at their best.

In this article, you’ve seen some things that you can start doing tonight to start getting better sleep. From making a more suitable environment, to watching out for the things that you consume, hopefully you have a better idea now of how your body responds to all these.

The best part is that most of these tips are easy and won’t cost you anything but are only going to enhance your health and wellness.

Featured photo credit: Rex Pickar via unsplash.com

Reference

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Jamie Logie

Jamie is a personal trainer and health coach with a degree in Kinesiology and Food and Nutrition.

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Last Updated on November 15, 2019

Expert Advice That Will Teach You How to Increase Your Metabolism

Expert Advice That Will Teach You How to Increase Your Metabolism

Wouldn’t you like to be able to eat twice as much as you do now without gaining weight? If so, I have good news for you because this is possible when you learn how to increase metabolism.

How Much Do You Know About Metabolism?

Before we get to the meat, let me say that metabolism is a term that describes all the chemical reactions in your body.[1] These chemical reactions keep your body alive and functioning, however, the word metabolism is often used interchangeably with the metabolic rate or the number of calories you burn.

The metabolic rate is a rough estimate of how much energy your body needs to simply stay alive and perform all its biochemical reactions. These reactions require energy, aka burn calories.

Imagine that your brain alone consumes nearly 20% of your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure at rest),[2] your digestion and the detoxifying system come second, repairing tissues third and so on.

Staying alive is expensive for your body and its two main currencies are fats and sugars.

When I am talking about improving your metabolic rate (metabolism), I mean improving the amount of energy, your body requires to (pretty much) lay down in bed and do nothing for 24 hours.

Extra physical activity, extra thinking or fighting illness are things that require a lot of energy (burn a lot of calories) but they don’t really increase metabolism… actually they can decrease it.

Can You Naturally Change the Speed of Your Basal Metabolism?

The answer to this question is yes and you can also achieve an increase in metabolism and a drop in body fat by eating more.

Shocked? Well, I was too.

The way I came across this phenomenon is quite funny. Over my 10 years as a coach, I helped many busy professionals to naturally increase their metabolism by getting them leaner, fitter and stronger but, at the beginning of my career, I actually had no idea whether they were losing weight because of an increase in metabolism or because we created a calorie deficit with diet and exercise.

When I was training my clients regularly, they would lose weight. Every time I would take a few weeks of vacation, I would come back to London and find out that most of them gained back a generous amount of weight despite the fact that they were following their diet and they swapped our weight training sessions with cardio.

On the contrary, when they were going on vacation, they would do zero exercises and binge like there was no tomorrow but come back either lighter or weighing the same (but looking more muscular).

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Observing this phenomenon happening over and over again, got me curious about the mechanics of our metabolism and the ways to hack it.

Was it really possible that by relaxing and eating more food, someone could actually maintain his/her current weight or even be losing fat?

Driven by the desire to answer this question, I spent a good amount of years researching and testing different food strategies until I finally cracked the code to an improved metabolism that allows you to eat like a king and look like a Greek God.

Does Eating More Increase Metabolism?

Before I explain why eating more increases your metabolism, let me dig into something that I see people doing much more often: “eating less and moving more.”

It is quite common to see people embarking their yearly weight loss journey (usually after Christmas or Easter) by following very restrictive diets and bombarding their body with several hours of exercise per day.

Despite the short-term effectiveness of this approach, in the long run, if the goal is to increase metabolism and lose a lot of fat over an extended period of time, this simply won’t work.

As I have mentioned before, eating fewer calories and exercising more are energy-consuming activities for your body. In the first case, your body needs to use its own energy reserves to top up the missing energy it needs to fully function; and in the second, it takes your body extra energy to contract your muscles.

In both cases, your TDEE (Total daily energy expenditure at rest) doesn’t vary much; therefore your metabolism stays unchanged.[3]

A different scenario happens when you eat less and move more for an extended period of time (weeks or months). In that case, your metabolism will slow down because your body is receiving a “we have little access to food and we need to run away from threats” signal.

Your metabolism is like your bank account.

To understand this concept, let’s imagine that you have $4,000 coming into your bank account each and every month. The money you spend on housing, transport, food and leisure are calibrated according to this monthly income.

Now, imagine that a rich uncle starts to send you $1,000 each day. What would you do? Probably, you would save that money for the first two or three days but, when you notice that $1,000 keep on coming every single day, you would likely start to spend more right?

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What if, instead of a rich uncle sending you money, a poor uncle needed your financial help to pay for the treatments of his illness? You would probably try your best to adjust your spending according to your old $4,000 monthly budget.

That’s exactly how your body reasons:

More Resources Coming in = More Energy Released (Improved Metabolism)

Fewer Resources Coming in = Less Energy Released (Decreased Metabolism)

Note that activities like weight training[4] and high-intensity interval training (HIIT),[5] when combined with an increase in nutrient-rich foods, will also improve your metabolism.

For this reason, today, when I coach a new client, I always start by increasing their daily food intake and their physical activities. Usually, people are quite confused because they come to me to lose weight and I tell them to eat more but, without fail, the next weekly weight-check shows a lower number.

Be aware that not all foods are equal and only certain foods have the power to increase metabolism to a noticeable extent.

Foods That Increase Metabolism

Doubling up on Snickers bars won’t improve your metabolism and you know that. What you may not know is that certain foods that are marked as “healthy” doesn’t help you with increasing your metabolism. They also make you gain weight.

Before giving you a list of foods to eat or avoid, let me explain a simple principle of human biochemistry.

Your body uses energy from three (or four) main sources:

  • Sugars: whether you eat a Snickers bar or a banana, the carbohydrates contained in both get absorbed in the gut and become blood glucose (the basic form of sugar our body utilizes as a source of energy).[6]
    When blood glucose is present in the bloodstream (elevated levels), the body always uses it as its primary source of energy. When blood glucose levels drop (this phenomenon happens when you’re using these sugars to fuel a physical activity or when your pancreas produced a spike of insulin and stores that glucose into fat and muscles), your body starts to release fatty acids into the bloodstream to use as a source of energy.
  • Fatty acids: either from your own fat cells (adipocytes) or from whatever fat-containing foods you ate in the past 2-3 hours. Fatty acids are a slower and more consistent form of energy than sugars that your body can utilise.
  • Amino acids: Amino acids are the broken-down form of proteins. Proteins cannot be used by the body as a source of energy, not even in their broken-down form. Your body can transform amino acids into glucose with a process called gluconeogenesis.[7] This is a very inefficient process where a decent amount of energy gets wasted (and that’s a good thing for us but I’ll get to that later).
  • Ketones: when you don’t feed your body any source of carbs (or proteins in excess), your liver produces an alternative source of energy called Ketones. It can replace the need for glucose (most of it at least).[8]

Now that you know the four energy sources the body can use to fuel its metabolism, let’s get to the meat (quite literally).

To make this simple for you, I am going to divide foods into three categories:

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  1. Red Flags – Avoid the red foods because they slow your metabolism. They are usually extremely low in micronutrients and high in antinutrients (agents that are highly toxic). They are highly processed or spike your insulin levels (therefore stopping your fat burning process).
  2. Orange Foods – Limit your consumption of orange foods. The orange foods on the list are suboptimal choices but they don’t have a negative impact on your metabolism when consumed in moderation. In fact, they contain a decent amount of micronutrients and, if eaten in small amounts, they shouldn’t stop your fat burning process.
  3. Green Foods – These are foods to consume most. Green foods will improve your metabolism and should be the main bulk of your diet.

Next, I’ll get into details exactly what foods to eat and avoid:

Sugars and Carbs

Sugars do not directly improve metabolism because they stop the process of fat utilisation. There is an exception to this rule though. When you eat a diet extremely low in carbohydrates and sugars for an extended period of time (two to six days onwards), introducing carbohydrates and sugars can actually improve metabolism quite a bit.

Unfortunately, for most of us that love eating bread, pasta, fruit and yoghurt, unless we were on a low-carb diet for the past few days, these foods are not an optimal choice.

Sugars like fructose (found in fruit or commercial sugar) actually decrease metabolism and should be limited. Heavily processed sugars and carbohydrates should be also limited. Here is the colour list of sugars and carbs that affect metabolism:

Red Flag Sugary Foods You Should Avoid:
  • Dried fruit
  • Commercial and packaged corn
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • All sorts of candies and lookalike
  • Packaged fruit juices and purees
  • Sugary dairy products like flavoured yoghurt, condensed milk etc
Orange Sugary Foods You Should Limit:
  • Bread and flour-based products
  • Milk and also vegan milk alternatives that are sweetened
  • Most fruit (exceptions are in the green list below)
  • Potatoes and potato starch products
  • Oatmeals and other grains
Green Sugary and Carb-Containing Foods That Improve Metabolism
  • All berries except strawberries
  • Tubers like squash, carrots, parsnips etc
  • Sweet potatoes
  • White rice
  • All green vegetables

Fats

Fatty acids and fats, in general, can improve or decrease metabolism depending on their composition.

Red Flag Fatty Foods You Should Avoid:
  • Margarine and hydrogenated fat
  • Lard
  • Gmo oils
  • Most vegetable oils from seeds and peanut oil
Orange Fatty Foods You Should Limit:
  • Nuts
  • Meat fat
  • Nut oils (macadamia, almond, cashew etc..)
  • Seeds
Green Fatty Foods You Should Eat Daily
  • Extra virgin olive oil (non-heated)
  • Avocado
  • Coconut oil
  • Butter (organic)
  • Egg yolks (free-range)
  • Bone marrow

The fatty foods in the green section tend to be very effective in increasing metabolism, especially in the absence of carbohydrates because they stimulate the production of ketones (I’ll talk about this later).

Bear in mind that 1 gram of fat has 2.5 times the calories of a gram of protein or carbohydrates; therefore “eating more fats” to increase metabolism should be done very gradually to avoid weight gain.

Proteins

Eating food not only sends regulatory signals to your brain about abundance vs scarcity of resources, but it can also increase your metabolism for a few hours. This is called the thermic effect of food (TEF).[9] It’s caused by the extra calories required to digest, absorb and process the nutrients in your meal.

Protein causes the largest rise in TEF.[10] It increases your metabolic rate by 15-30%, compared to 5-10% for carbs and 0-3% for fats

Eating protein has also been shown to help you feel more full and prevent you from overeating, in fact, a study found that people were likely to eat around 441 fewer calories per day when protein made up 30% of their diet.[11]

Also, proteins help preserve muscle mass.[12] The more muscle mass we have, the higher our basal metabolism is.

For these reasons, the first nutritional advice I usually give to clients is to reduce sugars and increase proteins. This quick swap is often enough to kickstart their metabolism and commence the fat burning process.

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Red Protein Sources That Should Be Avoided
  • Cheap whey proteins
  • Soy proteins
  • GMO meat
  • GMO eggs
  • Packaged meat
Orange Protein Source to Be Limited
  • Canned tuna
  • Canned fish
  • Canned meat
  • Gluten-rich products like Seitan
  • Farmed fish
Green Protein Sources to Have Daily
  • Free-range meat
  • Free-range eggs
  • Wild meat and fish
  • Whey protein isolate
  • Collagen and beef protein hydrolyzed

Note that this is a general categorisation of the foods that, when added to your diet, have the power to increase or decrease metabolism. There are some specific foods and supplements worth mentioning because they have been proven to improve metabolism by increasing thyroid output or resting heart rate, they are as follows.

Other Foods and Supplements

Cold water

Drinking water may temporarily speed up your metabolism. Studies have shown that drinking 17 ounces (0.5 litres) of water increases resting metabolism by 10-30% for about an hour.[13]

This is not a surprise since our body is made up mainly by water and proper hydration is key to a fast metabolism. This calorie-burning effect may be even greater if you drink cold water, as your body uses energy to heat it up to body temperature.

MCT Oils or Powders

Medium-chain triglycerides or MCT have been shown to improve metabolism by stimulating Ketone production.[14] Coconut oil contains MCT fats and, when used as a replacement for cooking oil can help you improve metabolism.

You can buy the concentrated version of MCT oils and eat it separately to further enhance this effect. Either way, coconut oil or pure MCT oil can be a great addition to your diet if you’re following a ketogenic or intermittent fasting protocol.

Caffeine

Caffeine and coffee have been shown to improve metabolism by improving heart rate and, therefore improving calorie consumption.[15]

Green Tea

Green tea

is thought to increase energy expenditure and fat oxidation, and to reduce fat production and absorption.[16]

Bottom Line

In this article, I just covered the basics of food and metabolism but, there are many other non-food related things you can do to improve your metabolism, like improving your sleep quality and following certain exercise routines.

For now, just know that making small and gradual changes to your diet can increase your metabolism and improve your general health. Starting from changing one habit at a time is always the best strategy to accomplish any goal.

Once you improve your diet, your hydration and your supplementation you can think about testing more advanced “bio-hacks” or techniques like ice baths and fasted HIIT training.

And remember, having a higher metabolism doesn’t only help you lose weight and keep it off but it also give you more energy and a feeling of vibrancy. If you give it time, it really is worth the investment.

Featured photo credit: Fitsum Admasu via unsplash.com

Reference

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