No sleep, no gains. Here's how to get better sleep and maximize recovery.
Light Is Wrecking Your Sleep and Recovery
Light, especially the blue-light from electronic devices, disrupts sleep. Anyone who's experienced jetlag understands that human beings have an internal circadian clock that determines everything from energy and hunger to glucose tolerance and muscle building. Even without light or darkness, our body knows when it should be awake and when it should be asleep.
The eyes are the master of this clock because of their ability to sense light. When there are low levels of light, special nerve cells communicate to our brain that it's time to get ready for bed. The brain then releases chemicals to help us wind down and the pineal gland releases a hormone called melatonin. Melatonin is the yin to the yang pumped out by the adrenal glands.
Since light determines whether or not we get the message to secrete melatonin, it's easy to see how staring at an electronic screen, or simply being in a brightly-lit house in the evening, can be problematic. Your brain knows it's time for bed, but it's still waiting for darkness so it can cue the pineal gland to secrete melatonin and start down-regulating stress.
Blue light, from electronics in particular, disrupts melatonin production, which means we'll continue to suffer from poor sleep and a disrupted circadian cycle if smart phones, TVs, tablets, and computers continue to be our main source of entertainment in the evening. Unfortunately, white light from a light bulb or overhead fluorescent appears to be nearly as problematic as blue light as research reveals that short durations (1-2 hours) cause near-daytime melatonin levels after minimal exposure (500-1000lux).
How to Fix It
- Set your life to the sun. Expose yourself to lots of light in the morning and during the day, then turn it off in the evening and night. This includes blue light, which isn't a problem when melatonin levels are supposed to be low (during the day), and may in fact improve alertness and performance.
- Fight the light. Consider using orange or amber-tinted glasses to block out the blue light emitted from electronic devices and prevent the melatonin suppression and poor sleep quality that occurs as a result. Furthermore, dimming the screen on your gadgets, or installing the free app f.lux, can also help reduce the blue light emitted from your devices in the evening.
- Don't forget white light, though. Blocking it, or sticking to reddish light (fire, candle), almost doubles melatonin levels.
- Use sleep-aid supplementation. Besides melatonin, also consider using a natural supplement like Z-12™ which contains L-theanine, 5-HTP, and phenibut. The main workhorse in it is PhGABA, which interrupts the flow of stimulatory neurotransmitters that keep you restless and awake. Its other sleep-inducing mechanisms include increased production of the sleepy-time hormone serotonin and brain alpha-wave production, which promotes a relaxed mental state.
Some people even use one capsule of Z-12™ (instead of 2-3, the normal dosage before bed) for daily stress reduction.