by Chris Rich

What you need to know

  • Get 7-9 hours of sleep a night.
  • Pitch black, stub your toe on the dresser dark.
  • Electrical tape is your best friend, cover up all the little lights in your room.
  • Very quiet or white (steady) noise.
  • Avoid too much screen time, unless you follow some stuff listed below.
  • Avoid alcohol, it messes with your deep sleep cycles.

We need it. Most of us don’t get enough & many brag about not getting enough….. Here are some tools that can help you sleep early and often enough!

F.lux

Flux (or Twilight for android users). No, not the flux capacitor, but f.lux is a great way to change the way your body adapts to electronics before bedtime.

demonstration of difference in color on screen
Screen Color difference

The typical computer, smartphone, or tablet to emit a specific type of wavelength of light to allow you to see such a clear and crisp picture.  This light typically called “blue light”, actually sends a signal to your retina telling you to stay awake.  Our sky is blue during the day thanks to the sun.  Our bodies are hard-wired to wake up when the sun comes up and to shut down and restore its settings (hormones, mood) overnight.  If we constantly bombard our system with this type of blue light, we will not let our bodies and mind do what it needs to do prior to bedtime.

Comparison of Regular brightness vs. F.lux Brightness for sleep
Regular vs. F.lux iPhone Brightness and Color

Flux allows for a warmer (red, like the glow of the fire) light to be used behind the screen.  There are numerous downloads on the flux website that are free, so if you’re an evening computer, tablet, or phone user, then this is a must.  One catch is that if you have an iPhone or iPad, you have to jailbreak it. If you don’t want to do that, another option is a screen cover that will block out the blue light. SleepShield carries covers for Apple iPhone/iPad, MacBook, and Samsung Galaxy.

Sleep Shield

Blue Light Blocking Glasses

There are several different types of glasses on the market that will block specific wavelengths of light such as blue light and also types of glasses designed to decrease eyestrain and allow you to “relax” while doing work on the computer.

Viper Glasses
The blue light blocking glasses do just that, they block blue light.  These could come in very useful for people that choose not to get F.Lux on their electronic devices.  This would also be appropriate to use in the case of watching television that is known to be very high in emitting blue light.  They allow your body to get into a natural state of being tired compared to staying stimulated from the blue light.

These amber glasses are more for general purpose use but are very beneficial for absorbing the higher frequency of light such as blue and UV rays.  There are several different brands that do this type of work on light.  Each one offers a slightly different type of blocking activity.

Blue Light Blocking Bulbs

These bulbs emit a different frequency of light compared to the blue light emitting bulbs.  Looking back to how our body works in conjunction with sunlight (daytime sky is blue), our brain doesn’t respond well to blue light at night time.  Many of our current bulbs have a little blue light activity given the fact that it can be beneficial for people working in an office setting throughout a given day.

Image of an orange lightbulb
Orange Lightbulb

These red or orange bulbs emit a lower wavelength of light but do allow for our pineal gland to secrete the appropriate amount of melatonin before going to bed (blue light shuts this off).  This gives us a better shot at getting into a rhythm (think circadian) with our sleep pattern and our hormones.  And don’t forget, candlelight is just as good and less expensive in the long haul compared to a bulb that blocks blue light!

White Noise Machines

Noise blocking – white noise machines are also very popular for helping people sleep through the night, especially in urban environments or people that encounter random noises throughout their slumber.  These machines put a specific nondescript sound into the air that allow you to not “hear” different things throughout your sleep.  That noise becomes a normal, steady sound that is often times soothing to the person that has it hooked up.  Some of the caveats are that if you are in an environment that doesn’t have power or electricity, you might have a tougher time falling asleep.

Blackout Covers

A blackout cover is great for getting light out of the bedroom.  This allows for a completely dark environment to sleep in. If you’re one of those people that have a street light directly outside of your window and nothing to black out your room, you might not be getting as deep of sleep as you could if it were to be blacked out.

Image of a Man sleeping with a mask
Sleep Mask

For all the aforementioned things to reduce blue light, any other type of light while sleeping is not going to benefit us in the long run.  Remove your phone from close to your bed, red lights that blink or flash, blue lights that blink or flash, or any other type of light.  This would also mean removing your night light if you’ve got such a thing!

Ear plugs or noise-canceling devices

Rocking a set of ear plugs might be beneficial if you’re a light sleeper, only if you’re comfortable in them. These would be like the white noise machine or even like a set of noise canceling earphones.

Image of Ear and Modern Earplugs for Improved Sleep
Ear Plugs

If you’re sleeping partner happens to snore and they wake you up (they might have a sleep apnea problem, record it and show them), a loud set of neighbors, if you live in apartments, or traffic that is inconsistent and noisy, could potentially all be warded off by a set of ear plugs.  Staying at a hotel? Get a set of ear plugs.  They can do the trick by blocking out a certain range of decibel to keep the loud obtrusive sounds somewhat muzzled.

ZMA

Zinc magnesium aspartate, commonly referred to as ZMA, is a supplement that can be very adept in helping with sleep (and a few other performance factors).  ZMA, especially the magnesium, has the ability to normalize and lengthen some of the deeper stages of sleep.

Image of ZMA for Sleep
Zinc Magnesium Aspartate

This deeper sleep allows for a rise in growth hormone (GH) levels, which tend to peak while we sleep. From one study that was done on collegiate football players, the ZMA supplemented athletes reported better sleep quality as well as larger gains in strength and power throughout the trial.  It’s hypothesized that they recovered better, getting better hormonal restoration overnight from the deeper sleep (see GH above).

Taking too much magnesium can be problematic, however.  Getting in more than 450mg a night can keep you awake for too long!  What about the zinc?

Zinc is an essential component of a large number (>300) of enzymes participating in the synthesis and degradation of carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids as well as in the metabolism of other micronutrients. Zinc stabilizes the molecular structure of cellular components and membranes and contributes in this way to the maintenance of cell and organ integrity.

Furthermore, zinc has an essential role in polynucleotide transcription and thus in the process of genetic expression. Its involvement in such fundamental activities probably accounts for the necessity of zinc for all life forms”(*FAO)  Also, when we exercise and sweat, we lose zinc at a much higher rate than at rest.

Other apps

Sleepcycle

The sleep cycle app can show you how you sleep throughout the night by setting your phone on the bed while the app is running.  This can give you an idea for how light or heavy you are sleeping based around how the phone reads the information.  This could give you a little info on why you don’t feel as though your sleep could be deep enough or not.

Smart Alarm Clock

This app records all disturbing factors that might keep you from getting the deepest sleep possible.  It can also monitor your sleep cycle and phases plus give you statistics on what your sleep looks like throughout the night.

(Image courtesy of: iheartcvda.com, teknobilim.net, d183r4hu5epjep.cloudfront.net, pcopticalengineering.com, sleep-aid-center.com, westcoastsc.com, store.bbcomcdn.com, cdn.xpisupplements.com, alpinehearingprotection.com)

Chris Rich – Director of CrossFit™ 870, a former professional and collegiate baseball player has been in the fitness industry for over 10 years.  He has trained and mentored thousands in the practices of strength and conditioning for sport, fitness, and general health practices.   He holds a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science, has been a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist since 06’, CrossFit™ L1, and is an OPEX Level 2 Associate Coach.  He’s also a husband and father to 4 wonderful daughters.

References: 

Hysing, Pallensen et al. (2015). Sleep and use of electronic devices in adolescence: results from a large population-based study, BMJ Open, Retrieved from http://m.bmjopen.bmj.com/content/5/1/e006748.short
*FAO: World Health Organization. (2002). Human Vitamin and Mineral Reequirements: Zinc, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/docrep/004/y2809e/y2809e0m.htm
Awais.(2014). Get F.lux-like Low Light Display Brightness without Jailbreak, Cupertino Times, Retrieved from cupertinotimes.com/get-flux-like-low-light-display-brightness-iphone-ipad-without-jailbreak/