I used to sleep like I was the world champion of slumber. If I wanted 8 hours, I did so easily and without interruption. Every so often on a day off, maybe I’d get ten if I felt so inclined. And, every so often I’d get 4 or 6 hours, and still handle things just fine.
Those days are over.
For the past few years, I’ve battled to get a functional level of sleep, and I have tried seemingly everything to get back to the refreshment I used to experience every morning. Was I just getting older? New life circumstances? Mental stress? I had no idea, but it nearly broke me in the process of figuring it out. Sometimes I couldn’t get to sleep, other times I’d wake up and couldn’t fall back to sleep, tossing and turning all night. Other times I’d be up urinating multiple times, then lay there while frustration set in, further impairing my ability to sleep. So now, after battling this for several years and testing every conceivable variable under the sun, I’ve finally returned to an approximation of the sleep I used to get, so I thought I’d write this article in case anyone else needed help with their sleep patterns. I won’t be addressing mental issues such as depression or stress,(see other articles) so I’ll stick to mostly physical and environmental issues that can negatively impact sleep.
Here is the first thing you need to understand: Good sleep has multiple variables. It is unlikely that any one thing will outright fix the issues you’ve had, so there are many things that need to align in order to get you that restful sleep you desire. That’s why this article is called the Sleep Equation, sometimes it feels like tweaking an algorithm messing with one area of your sleep without messing .up in another. So without any further delay, here’s the list of all the things I’ve tried that finally helped me, and I hope helps you.
1. Temperature: My ability to fall asleep and stay comfortable improved dramatically once I started setting the thermostat from 66-69.
2. Snug factor: Coupled with the cooler temperature, I introduced heavier blankets, which I believe made a difference in my level of comfort. Feeling snug under piles of blankets helped a great deal.
3. Less meat at dinner: This one was a shocker. I normally eat massive quantities of meat in general, so I never considered that it might be a problem. One day I skimmed an article about vegan pro wrestler Tyler Bate. In it, he mentioned that once he went vegan, he slept considerably better. Now, I’m not going vegan, no way in hell, but I thought maybe reducing protein could help. Turns out, that was right on the money, and I found an article (which I can't find now) confirming just that. It seems the body can’t relax properly if it’s processing too much meat, at least in some cases. This is an example of “not every body is the same.” For me, once I dropped down to quarter portions, it made an immediate impact.
4. Cereal before bed: I used to do this all the time my good sleep days, but never associated it with being a reason I was sleeping so well. Turns out after some research that some level of simple carbs are good before bed to spike serotonin levels, making for more restful sleep. Which leads me to my next, and most significant one.
5. Low carb diets wrecked me: Everyone is different, and there are those for whom this diet worked wonders. For me however, this was a nightmare. I slept poorly, and never felt good in general. I will never try this diet again, or at least not at the near zero carb levels I was doing.
6. Supplements: I tried every supplement under the sun. GABA, various blends of Zinc, Magnesium, and Melatonin, none of which really got the job done consistently. I also took some over the counter testosterone products that contained stuff like tribulus, which produced far worse sleep as well. I never wanted to use actual sleep meds (such as Ambien), since I felt like that was only obscuring, rather than actually fixing the problem.
7. Comfort: Should be obvious in accordance with the Snug Principle mentioned above, but try to get a comfortable mattress, sheets, and pillow. This might take some doing, for me the pillow was the hardest one to find, and highly specific to the individual’s sleep patterns. The tricky part is not getting frustrated while you make incremental adjustments daily.
8. Citric Acid and Carbonation: It is impossible for me to overstate what a revelation this was. I used to urinate at insane levels, as there would be times I’d go 4 or 5 times in a hour. The culprit? Acidic and/or carbonated drinks. Worse still, nearly everything has one or the other. The little Mio flavorings I used were wrecking my bladder, and it took years to figure it out. I just always assumed that’s just how it was, that I urinated a lot. Turns out, citric acid is in all of the stuff I like to drink. What used to really nuke my bladder was Monster Energy Citrus. These drinks have a lot of adverse effects, so keep an eye on your consumption. These can have adverse effects on your bladder and consequently, ruin a good night of sleep.
9. Water Retention: I take a lot of supplements that cause excess water retention such as Creatine and Citrulline. Even if you drink nothing for half the day, you are likely to still urinate a lot in the middle of the night due to your body purging excess water. If you are retaining water, you are more likely to have to get up to urinate in the middle of the night.
10. Work out: I hope this is blatantly obvious, but if not, here it is. Even if all you do is walk, get some level of physical activity and motion.
So there you have it, years of trial and error boiled down into one article. Hopefully this helps, and if you know anyone with sleep issues, please share this and hopefully we can all sleep a little better at night.
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