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Sleep experts panel Q&A

Former insomniac Dan, neuroscientist Louisa Nicola, and sleep activist Nancy Bosnoian answer all your sleep questions.

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February 26, 2021
5 min read


Louisa Nicola: Clinical Neuroscientist and Founder of Neuro Athletics. 

Nancy Bosnoian: Founder & CEO of End No Sleep, Inc. 

Dan Murray-Serter: Co-Founder of braincare company Heights, and host of our Braincare Podcast 

(Resources can be found at the bottom)

Hacks for Sleep Optimisation 

  • Make sure you’re sleeping and waking up at the same time every day. 

  • Try to stop eating 2 hours before bedtime. 

  • Limit alcohol consumption.

  • Don’t drink coffee past 2pm. 

  • Make sure you have a wind-down routine before going to bed. 

  • Don’t go on your phone before bed. 

  • Control the temperature of your bedroom- ideally, it should be aimed at 18-20°C. A dip in core body temperature induces better sleep quality and habits. 

  • Sleep in your own room...away from your partner! Studies have shown that co-sleeping is correlated with sleep disturbance.

Mechanisms for Staying Asleep

  • Set your circadian clock. You have a 24-hour clock that gets set at particular times depending on when you wake up and get natural sunlight, and when you fall asleep. 

  • Making sure you don’t have a GABA deficiency. GABA is the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter which inhibits neurons from firing in the brain, and settles down the nervous system. If you’re depleted in this neurotransmitter, you may realise you stay awake and experience racing thoughts. 

  • Try the 4-7-8 breathing technique. This involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding your breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds. This breathing technique is meant to reduce anxiety and get you to sleep. 

Hacking the Circadian Rhythm

  • Buy an SAD lamp (should be 10,000 Lux). Start light therapy in the early morning, as soon as possible after awakening.

  • Towards the evening, turn on blue light filters on all your screens- it makes a huge difference. 

  • Avoid checking your phone towards, and in the middle of the night. Light is a signal to the body that it’s daytime, so you should not be looking at any light from 11pm-4am.

  • Wear an eye mask in bed to block all light. 

  • Build a 90-120 minute decompression routine. You cannot go straight to bed after work, your brain needs time to relax. 

Is there a relationship between immunity and sleep?

  • PNAS study showed that a healthy group of adults were limited to 6 hours of sleep a day for 1 week- this is typically the average sleep typical adults get. 

  • A change in the activity of 711 genes occurred when compared to the subjects who got 8 hours of sleep. Half the genes were upregulated, and half were downregulated. 

  • Downregulated genes are associated with the immune system, and upregulated genes are associated with tumor production, long-term chronic inflammation, and cardiovascular disease. 

  • This demonstrates how powerful sleep is. Sleep is health insurance- you should invest in it. 

Sleeping Pills

  • First and foremost- do anything you can to avoid taking them. Studies link a higher risk of death and cancer with taking certain sleeping pills.

  • Sleeping pills enable you to start down a path toward consistent sleep- they are not meant for long-term use. 

  • There is an epidemic of sleeping pills being comfortably prescribed to people. To clarify- sleeping pills sedate you, so you’re not getting that deep sleep quality you need.

  • Negative side effects include sleep walking, sleep talking and long-term studies demonstrate links to dementia. 

  • Check out how our smart supplement can support your sleep here

Mental Health & Sleep 

  • There is a relationship between mental health (e.g. anxiety, depression, suicidality) and sleep. Insufficient sleep is the strongest predictor of suicidal ideation and attempts. 

  • Sleep is an emotional first-aid. REM sleep recalibrates emotional networks in the brain.

  • You need to be getting to REM sleep. This stage of sleep (normally reached 90 minutes  after you fall asleep) is important to a number of brain functions.  

Are sleep products/wearables legitimate?

  • How they work: they use a series of sensors to measure movement on the wrist, heart rate, and possibly pulse oximetry to determine your stage of sleep. The inherent issue with this is that the stages of sleep are determined by your brainwaves! 

  • Although they are generally good, a lot of products overestimate their precision. 

  • Measurement does not equal intervention, and more technology does not equal better sleep. 

What are your thoughts on melatonin supplements? 

  • Melatonin is a hormone that is secreted by the pineal gland in your brain. When cortisol levels start to drop towards the evening, melatonin kicks in naturally.  

  • If you do take exogenous melatonin, it should only be for the purpose of getting consistent sleep, and fixing your sleep cycle.

  • You generally want to supplement with 0.5mg and stop at 3mg. 

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