Find the Time of Day That is Most Productive for You – And Take Advantage of it [By Ben Greenfield]

Do you pride yourself on hard work?

Do you want to get as much as possible done with each day of your life?

And finally, if you are going to work your butt off, would you:

A)  prefer to be working hard during the time of day when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt you’re most productive?

8118677620_af96936be6_z

Or

B)  opt to waste your valuable time with a daily crapshoot of random hours that, fingers crossed, you guess might be your most productive times of day?

I’m not sure about you, but I’d choose the former.

Here’s exactly how, in 4 easy steps to getting more done during your peak time of the day, and how to find out which time of day is most productive for you:

Step 1. Determine Your Morningness-Eveningness Score

There’s a questionnaire that you can take for free called the “Morning-Eveningness Questionnaire” (MEQ). It’s been around since the 1970’s, and is designed to determine what your peak productivity time of day is. It’s actually been proven to correlate with your body temperature – meaning that if you’re less sleepy and more alert in the morning, you tend to have higher peak temperatures (and improved muscular force and nervous system activity) in the morning, and vice versa for the evening.

Once you’ve taken the MEQ, you’ll know your peak time of day.

Step 2. Do Your Most Attention Demanding Tasks During Your Peak Time

Once you’ve taken the MEQ, things are quite as simple as merely working during your most alert time of day and avoiding work during your non-alert times.

Instead, you should pay attention to the recommendations from a recent study, which researched night owls vs. early risers, and found that no matter who you are, you should opt to do challenging and attention-demanding tasks during your peak time of day. These are the type of activities that require more focused and linear thinking or simply more motivation. So during your peak time of day, you should choose activities like:

-Business meetings that involve planning or scheduling

-Billing or accounting work or conversations requiring math

-Writing articles that contain technical expertise

-Mechanical work (e.g. fixing something broken in your office)

During your optimal, peak time of day, you’ll be better at focusing in on a task and eliminating distractions (and yes, this means that when possible, you should do any exercise sessions during your peak time of day).

Step 3.  Do Creative Tasks During Your NON-Peak Time

The same study mentioned above showed that when you’re less alert (outside your peak time of day), you’re actually MORE creative. So during your NON-peak time of day, you should choose activities that require outside-the-box thinking or creative problem-solving, like:

-Meetings that engage brainstorming or mindmapping

-Conversations that require unique problem-solving approaches

-Writing articles that involve “blue-sky” thinking, fiction or humor

-Artistic work (e.g. re-arranging your office)

Interestingly, when it comes to play, this also means you’re going to be more likely to enjoy creative activities during your most non-analytical, non-peak time of day. So if you find out you’re an evening person, and you have the option for flexible work hours, then save “analytical, thinking” work for later in the day, and watch that funny TV show or entertaining book you’ve been wanting to read in the morning.

Step 4. Hack Your Peak Time

Obviously, despite your morning vs. evening preference, we live in a society where we mostly follow an early riser’s schedule, and we also frequently communicate with people who may not share our “peak times”.

If you are someone who has to conform to another person’s work schedule or peak time, then you’ll want to do some things to help shift your sleep patterns or keep you more alert even when you’re outside your peak time.

Some tricks you can use to hack your peak time include:

-Light Boxing. Light boxes emit bright light from the blue light wave spectrum, which causes a cortisol release and increased alertness. If you’re an evening person trying to be a morning person, using one of these for 10-15 minutes in the morning can help. If you’re a morning person trying to be an evening person, I don’t recommend, as it can disrupt your sleep for a few hours after you use it. You can find these on Amazon, Google, etc. – for example, the one you can use on your desk is “NatureBright Sun Touch”. For waking up naturally, I also own this “natural sunlight” alarm clock by BioBrite.

-Exercise. When you do exercise (especially aerobic exercise such as a 20 minute brisk treadmill walk), you produce Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which is a protein that acts on neurons in your central nervous system and peripheral nervous system to help your existing neurons survive and also to encourage growth of new neurons and neuronal connections. Whether you’re a morning or evening person, this can be a great reason to squeeze in a quick 20-45 minute run, bike ride or bout of cardio before any non-peak time of day activity during which you anticipate having high intellectual demands.

-Boost Brain Waves. There are a number of devices that can help push your brain into a state of alert, alpha-brain wave production. These include Pulsed Electromagnetic Frequency (PEMF), such as the Earthpulse, which is a device you can simply place a few feet from your body and leave running for up to an hour; Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CEP), which emits lights and sounds via a device you wear on your head (like the MindAlive CES Light Therapy Device); or even audio tracks or sounds you can play in your home or office (such as the AlphaMind phone app or Alpha Wave CD’s).

Summary

So those are the 4 steps to getting more done during your peak time of the day:

Simply 1) find your peak time; 2&3) split up your tasks accordingly 4) then use tricks to shift your peak time when necessary. You’ll find yourself becoming much more efficient compared to simply guessing when you get the most done and squandering your hours working like a madman during that time.

Is an All-Nighter Healthy? [by ben greenfield]

I recently came across this “Anatomy Of An All Nighter” infographic. Whether you’re a student, a busy parent, or have an important work project that keep you up, this is valuable information to know.

Check it out, and then be sure read my tips below to learn what you can do to limit the damage from lack of sleep.

The Anatomy of an All-Nighter
Via: Online Colleges Guide

OK, so now that you’re scared senseless of all nighters, what can you do about the potential damage?

Here are three tips for you:

1) Nap.

About halfway down the infographic, you see a suggestion to nap during your all nighter. This is a great suggestion, but I’ve personally found it leaves me groggy and very unmotivated to wake back up when the alarm goes off.

Instead, you may want to instead use the strategy of “polyphasic sleep”, (I talk about this more in Podcast #110)

So, you could technically sleep from about 4am to 7am, for example, and then try to get a 20 minute nap at noon, and a quick nap in the afternoon, and another right before dinner. Or, for example, you could sleep from 6:00-7:30am, and just get in a few extra naps.

Awkward?

Yes.

Worth a try for getting you through finals week or a tough series of sleepless nights.

Absolutely.

2) Eat Right.

When you sleep, your brain releases neurotransmitters and hormones that can help you control your appetite or be more satisfied by meals.

Basically, around bed time, you experience a natural drop in excitatory neurotransmitter levels like epinephrine, norepinephrine and histamines, and a rise in inhibitory neurotransmitter levels, such as serotonin and GABA. This cascade signals the production of melatonin, which makes you sleepy.

Then, during the night, those decreased levels of excitatory transmitters and increased levels of inhibitory transmitters and melatonin are what your body uses for deep, restful sleep: which is when you repair and recover.

Unfortunately, lack of sleep throws this all out of whack, and sugar and caffeine (i.e. a Red Bull) can further aggravate the neurotransmitter and hormone imbalance.

So when you’re pulling an all-nighter, try to limit sugar and caffeine intake, and instead rely on lean proteins like turkey, chicken, hummus or egg whites (fats can make you sleepy) andslow carb foods. This will stabilize you later in the day and keep you from getting overly sleep and experiencing cravings.

You should also read: 12 Dietary Supplements That Can Massively Control Your Most Intense Carbohydrate Cravings. Any of the supplements listed in that post can significantly help limit the damage from an all nighter.

3) Protect Yourself.

As you probably saw towards the end of the infographic, lack of sleep depresses your immune system. In 2009, the Archives of Internal Medicine did an interesting study in which they quarantined people and gave them nasal drops containing rhinovirus (the common cold), comparing those who got adequate sleep with those who did not.

28 days after exposure to the virus, they took blood samples to see which subjects had developed antibodies to fight infection, and sure enough, the less an individual slept, the more likely they were to develop a cold.

This increased propensity to get sick from lack of sleep is basically because your immune-boosting  T-cells go down if you are sleep deprived, and inflammatory compounds called cytokines go up.

So if you know you’re sleep deprived, make every effort possible (although it’s very hard in many cases) to avoid situations that vastly increase your germ exposure, including:

-Large groups of people

-Sneezing, coughing kids

-Buses, airplanes and carpools

-The gym

Instead, as much as possible, try to keep to yourself. If you simply must be in large groups of people or around kids, I’d recommend you take 4-5 sublingual drops of my favorite airborne pathogen protectant: oil of oregano.

So there you have it…

…all nighters are tough on your body, but you can limit the damage by throwing in strategically timed naps, eating and supplementing wisely, and protecting yourself from germ exposure.

Ben Greenfield is YoungTri’s official coach and nutritionist

What’s Your Swim Type? Swim Faster by Finding Out [by Ben Greenfield]

The Problem With “One-Size-Fits-All” Swimming

swim-types-280x450No matter what their level or experience, most swimmers and triathletes have trained or been coached to conform to an ‘ideal’ irrespective of their sex, build characteristics, previous swimming experience and personality. This approach is very much “one-size-fits-all”, and it is severely flawed approach to both learning swimming and becoming a better, faster swimmer.

If you study swimmers of all abilities, initially it appears that everyone swims completely differently to each other with their own unique style. Strictly speaking, everyone’s stroke is unique. However when you study a lot of swimmers you easily see that stroke characteristics can be clumped together into just six basic styles of swimming

The Six Different Swim Types

‘Swim Typing’ is based on six fundamental styles – or types – of stroke. Each type is distinct with different underlying stroke issues.

Swim Type 1: Arnie / Arnette

The Arnie is often male, of strong build and commonly with a background in team sports such as football and rugby. The female ‘Arnette’ is less overtly muscular but otherwise has very similar attributes. Their lean muscle mass and limited upper-body flexibility gives them very sinky legs when swimming. This means that one of their primary areas of focus needs to be improving their body position.

Swim Type 2: Bambino

The Bambino is often but by no means always female, of small to light build with limited swimming experience. Co-ordination in the water is a key concern and learning to improve their rhythm, timing and catch will really aid this. In terms of limited experience, the Bambino is equivalent to The Arnie but with a distinctly different temperament and much lower power.

Swim Type 3: Kicktastic

The Kicktastic is often but not always female with some swimming experience, often from earlier childhood. Their stroke is characterised by a very dominant and propulsive leg kick but lacks catch and feel for the water with their arm stroke. As kicking is a relatively inefficient method of propulsion, and uses very large muscle groups, this swimmer is often short of breath. For sprint freestyle a strong kick is expected but over longer distances the very high oxygen demand makes it far from ideal. It is better to divert that energy into the arm stroke for greater propulsive efficiency. Kicktastics vary hugely in speed depending on the propulsion level from their kick and their level of feel for the water with their arm stroke.

Swim Type 4: Overglider

The Overglider can be male or female but with one common trait – a very conscientious approach towards developing their swimming technique! Their stroke is typically long but contains too much glide and has a distinct dead-spot within its timing.

Swim Type 5: Swinger

The Swinger nearly always has good swimming experience over a long period of time and feels confident in the water. The key characteristic of the swinger compared to the Smooth type is that they have less body roll, meaning their arms tend to swing round the side of the body rather than travel over the top. Over the years some bad habits may have crept in and their stroke is often in need of a tune up.

Swim Type 6: Smooth

The Smooth can be male or female and has an excellent swimming background. They appear to be perfect in the water and to exert very little effort whilst cruising past their opponents. Their stroke may require just a few adaptations to perform at their potential in open water.

How Does This Make For A Better Swimming Technique?

Let’s learn how Swim Typing can make you a better swimming by using a clear example:

kicktasticTake Lucy, who we can say is a classic Bambino. She’s quite short, has a light build and has only been swimming for three months. Like all Bambinos, she lacks a little confidence in the water.

Lucy has joined a swimming group and like many swimmers we know has been told by the coach that unless she can swim 40 strokes per 50m she may as well give up! This is equivalent to about 18 strokes per length in a 25m pool – taking account of the push off. Lucy tries to swim with a longer stroke, reaching out and gliding but with her limited feel for the water and short arm length finds this nearly impossible.

Maybe you’ve had this experience too in a group or squad – it’s dejecting isn’t it?

For Lucy, with her low swimming confidence, this experience is shattering.

For the tall, skilled Smooth Swim Type, 40 strokes per 50m is a realistic goal and could be an ideal stroke length for them. However, the pathway to improvement for a Bambino is a lot different:

Rather than slowing their stroke and trying to glide, a Bambino benefits greatly from adding a little punch and rhythm to their stroke. Lifting their stroke rate gives them a sense of stroke timing – and the faster movements create more pressure on their hands and limbs – letting them feel what’s going on. This builds their confidence and allows them to become attuned to their environment.

With her shorter arm length, Lucy is unlikely to ever swim at her optimum at 40 strokes per 50m but by improving her feel for the water and stroke rhythm, there’s no reason why she can’t become a very competent, fast swimmer.

This is just one example of how each swim type needs to approach their swimming in a significantly different way. Are you confident that the time, energy, drills and money that you have invested in your swimming is best suited to YOU and your individual body type and swim technique?

If not, you are in the right place now – finally!

The Swim Smooth ‘Swim Typing’ Program:

By clicking here to take the Swim Typing questionnaire on the Swim Smooth website, then downloading the  Swim Smooth’s Stroke Correction Guides that is based on your Swim Type, anybody, no matter what their swimming level or experience, can instantly begin to develop a better, more customized swim program without any coaching whatsoever!

Ben Greenfield is YoungTri’s official Coach and Nutritionist.

Is Hunger a Bad thing? [by ben greenfield]

A few days ago, I was spinning inside and  watching the 1993 replay of the Hawaii Ironman triathlon. A portion of the video was devoted to “Chuckie V“, the crazy 1990′s bad boy of triathlon who sported a mohawk and actually got banned from racing in Ironman Hawaii due to some controversial race antics.

As Chuckie is standing on the road stuffing his face post-workout, he jokes through mouthfuls, “The only thing that sucks about eating…is having to take the time to “breathe.”

How about you… Do you finish one meal and immediately begin thinking about or planning your next meal?

And is being hungry all the time like this bad or mean something is wrong with you or your physiology?

Is Hunger A Bad Thing?

Starting from the time when you were a baby, if you never got hungry, you’d have very little incentive to eat. No eating would mean no nutrients or calories, which severely limits your growth and survival.

But if there is no physiological need for hunger, and you have ample energy stores from food or own fat stores, then there’s probably something wrong if you’re constantly hungry, and here’s what I’d recommend you do:

Food cravings are normal... but there are ways to curb them

Food cravings are normal… but there are ways to curb them

1) Re-sensitize yourself to leptin (aka satiety signals). Try 4-8 weeks of completely changing your lifestyle and eating patterns that may be contributing to leptin resistance. Here are some top ways to do it:

-Avoid fructose sugars – they tend to be a real trigger for leptin resistance…

-Exercise in moderation (no stressful marathon workouts) – try this workout instead…

-Control stress and cortisol – I recommend a mix of Chinese adaptogenic herbs and a stress-relieving activity like regular nature walks or Yoga…

-Try cold exposure – check out this podcast episode to learn more about how cold exposure may help with leptin sensitivity, and read some practical cold exposure tips here.

2) Avoid Hunger Triggers. Certain eating patterns and foods have been proven to be correlated with higher amounts of hunger. Here are some tips for controlling those triggers:

-Keep sweets and snacks out of the house or hidden in opaque containers…

-When you’re eating, keep any extra food on the countertop, or put it away (i.e. into the fridge) before you begin your meal…

-Avoid higher carbohydrate or fast sugar release foods that spike the blood sugar and cause a hunger response very soon after a meal…

-Limit your options by having small amounts of simple, real, raw foods around the house – no big Costco variety packs or easy to grab cans and bags.

3) Know What You Ate. As mentioned earlier, food memory and knowledge of calories consumed is enormously helpful in controlling hunger. Try:

-Keeping a food log. I personally log all my food for my clients. The way I do it is I have a free, private blog on Posterous.com – then I just send a daily e-mail with what I ate, and it auto-posts to that blog.

-Using photos. DietSnaps is a great app for taking food photos and recording what you ate, if writing isn’t your thing.

-Not snacking too frequently. It’s almost impossible to keep track of food and calories if you’re snacking 5-10 times a day (as many  nutritionists sadly suggest). Instead, just eat 2-3 square meals, and then, if you have a workout, only eat either before or after the workout.

-Making your own food. The less you eat out at restaurants, have other people prepare your food, or eat out of packages and containers, the easier it will be to keep track of and know what you ate.

Summary:

Being hungry is not a bad thing if it is because you have a biological need for more calories or nutrients. But if not, it usually indicates a hormonal imbalance or psychological trigger that may need to be addressed.

Additional resources:

5 Powerful Calorie Control Tricks To Help You Eat Less Food (article/video)

12 Dietary Supplements That Can Massively Control Your Most Intense Carbohydrate Cravings (article)

How To Stop Carbohydrate Cravings In Their Tracks (audio)

5 Ways To Suppress Your Appetite Without Taking Any Special Pills or Capsules (video)

Faster Freestyle: 10 Quick Steps For a Drastically Better Stroke [By Ben Greenfield]

On a recent trip to Hawaii, I had the opportunity to take a clinic on swimming faster freestyle, taught by Karlyn Pipes-Nielsen. She was recently voted one of the top ten master’s swimmers of all time by Swimming World Magazine. Besides this, she has set over 200 Masters World records, she’s in the International Masters Swimming Hall of Fame, and she holds numerous course records in California and the all over the Island of Hawaii.

She also mentioned to me that her 77 year old mother who she lives with also swims, and can do a Half Ironman swim in around 30 minutes.

So this lady knows what she’s talking about!

WaikikiroughwaterswimSmall2Her information on swimming faster freestyle included some stuff I’ve personally never heard before, and after the clinic, I went down to Dig Me Beach and swam the entire Ironman Hawaii swim course more comfortably than I ever have.

So what exactly did I learn during Karlyn’s clinic?

1) Breathing: Hum or sing your air out when your head is in the water. Nice relaxed open mouth. No “breath holding”.

2) Head & Body Position: Look just slightly forward, but don’t strain your neck and definitely don’t bury your head and tuck your chin.

3) Shoulder Rotation: Imagine you’re paddling a surfboard. You don’t actually need much rotation, and most shoulders try to rotate shoulders too much so that their “hips turn”.

4) Hand Entry: Put your hands flat (no “pinky up” or “thumb up” angle) exactly at the width you would put them at if you were doing a pull-up at the gym. That’s your power position.

5) Take A Break: After your arm enters the water, reach forward and take a very slight break, that you barely even think about as a “break” or “pause”. This gives you a quick, powerful glide.

6) Pull: Don’t think about an S Pattern. Instead, just pull like you would if you were paddling a boat, or a surfer paddling a board. Hand just goes straight back through the water.

7) Catch The Water: Use a high elbow catch, which means your fingertips point towards the bottom of the pool as you pull. I’m a huge fan of the Catch Masterclass DVD for learning proper catch.

8) Power or “Umph” at the Front: Your power phase occurs early in the front of your stroke, not in the end at your hips. Press hard in the beginning, then quickly let go and get your arm into reach for the next stroke. Think: reach big, pull short.

9) Release & Recover: After the “umph” phase, let go of the water and get your arm into recovery before your hand gets back to your hip. Straight, round, or bent elbow in recovery doesn’t matter – just do what feels natural for you!

10) Kick: Think about turning your toes inward and keep your kick small and quick. Your big toes can be tapping against one another as you kick.

For those of you who want to see exactly what these concepts look like when put into practice, check out this video of Karlyn swimming:

Here’s to faster freestyle!

10 Ways to Save Time & Tri Better – By Ben Greenfield

There are a ton of triathlon training schedules.

Some are good, some are bad, and some are nice to look at when you need to fall asleep quickly and don’t have any sleeping pills nearby.

But regardless of which triathlon training schedule you use, there are 10 crucial time-saving elements you need to be looking for, if you don’t want to waste time training when you could be kissing up to your boss, wasting time on YouTube, or teaching your kids how to make offensive sounds with their armpits.

Don’t Let Your Triathlon Training Schedule Get You Underwater.

So in no particular order of importance (except that the first one is about food, which I find myself thinking about a lot as a self-admitted food junkie), here are your 10 triathlon training schedule time savers:

10. Eat Lunch Fast. Taking 5 minutes to eat your lunch will leave, in most cases, 55 extra minutes in your triathlon training schedule. So what takes a long time to eat? Salads, casseroles, dinner leftovers – and pretty much anything that requires cutlery. Choose these instead: wraps, sandwiches, smoothies and shakes. And yes, I am that guy riding my bicycle down the road as I finish up a turkey-avocado wrap that I’ve wrapped in aluminum foil and stuffed down my bike jersey.

9. Quality Over Quantity. Most triathletes, especially the Ironman ones, swim 140% too much, bike 200% too much and run 170% too much – mostly because there is too little hard fast training and too much long slow training. I personally use a ton of high intensity interval training workouts (HIIT), and that means I get to watch movies with my kids at night. So what’s an example of HIIT? Rather than going on a 45 minute run, I’ll do 10 treadmill 30-60 second sprints on the highest incline I can possibly manage, and then do my core workout between each sprint.

8. Indoor Training. It sounds a bit blah, but if you want to free up time in your triathlon training schedule, you can save many, many minutes by hopping on an indoor trainer or treadmill rather than getting dressed for weather conditions, going outside, and fighting stop signs, stop lights, traffic and Grandma’s on rollerblades with their 8 grandchildren and 2 schnozzle dogs. You’ll even find me sometimes skipping my swim to do an indoor workout like the one in this FIT10 Indoor Workout video.

7. Commute. Ride your bike to work (or find a fast way to school or class if you’re in high school or college). Put your clothes in a backpack, and pack babywipes orActionwipes to wipe yourself down. If you’re like me, you can even go so far as to wash your hair in the sink. If this doesn’t work for your triathlon training schedule you can also: A) run to the grocery store or to errands (I run hard there, and then easy back while I’m carrying stuff like bananas); B) do errands on your bike (not recommended for anything that involves your hair looking nice); or C) ride or run to social events, like parties, and then drive home with your friends or family.

6. Eat Right. If you’re eating calories that don’t have high nutritional value, a good part of your triathlon training schedule is going to be spent simply A) trying not to get fat and/or B) fighting against the recovery and fitness reducing effect that “empty calories” have on your body. Anything process, refined or packaged should comprise only a very small part of your diet, and everything else should come from whole, raw, real food. And yes, the local coffeeshop bakery case falls into the latter category, even the cookies with the pink frosting that say “Fat-Free”. I also recommend that just about everybody take the bare minimum supplementation protocol (for reasons I discuss in an nutrition supplements audio you can hear by clicking here ): Vitamin D, Magnesium, Fish Oil and Greens.

5. Train with Friends/Make the most of your situation. As soon as my wife and I found out we were pregnant with twins (actually she was, I just helped, which was the fun part), we equipped our garage with a double bike trailer and a double jogger. Some triathlon training schedule advice is to do “Invisible Training”, which is done early in the morning or late at night when your training is “invisible” to your family, but I encourage you, at least once a week, to set a good example and make family a part of your training. Now, in regards to younger athletes, this can apply in a different sense. Training with friends can help you catch up/bond while fitting in a workout at the same time. It can also provide and added sense of motivation.

4. Communication. You, your family, your friends, your classmates, teammater and/or your boss should be aware of your triathlon training schedule when you have a 5 hour bike ride planned for the weekend, or you decide to disappear to the gym for an extra hour on Wednesday morning. I’m also very open to friends and co-workers when I can’t hang out. Don’t be embarrassed to wear your triathlon training schedule on your sleeve – most people will respect you for being committed to fitness.

3. Friday Night Fuddy-Duddy. Speaking of friends, I don’t recommend you engage in heavy drinking or late night social activities regularly on Friday night. Having said that, if you do decide to have a late night on Friday, be sure to compensate for it with heavier training on Sunday or Saturday afternoon so that you don’t sacrifice your training plan. I say this primarily because Saturday is such valuable time for getting in your triathlon training scheduled workouts. Save the tom-foolery for Saturday nights or Sunday afternoons, when you’ve gotten your high quality training out of the way.

2. Cross-Train. Lately, many of my social relationships are now formed from playing tennis with a group of guys. For me, that’s my social outlet that keeps me from being an isolated triathlon geek who has lost the skill to communicate with the general population and mostly just stares off into space and utters phrases like “Oily Cassette Blurby Blah-Blah”. You’re not “wasting time” when you cross-train in your triathlon training schedule – instead, there is often a very good training effect upon your triathlon fitness. While the social sports of golf, softball and baseball may not be the best cardiovascular cross-training activities, look into group activities like soccer, basketball, tennis, or if you are an international reader, cricket (I know nothing about cricket, but I threw that in there to make this a globally relevant article and to appease any Eastern hemisphere readers).

1. Non-Triathlon Post-Race Festivities. Turn your races into fun! If you’re at a race that requires staying at a hotel, engage your family and/or friends so they don’t regret going on the trip. Take some time to spend time with friends after the race if they’ve come to see you watch. Whatever it may be… a nearby amusement park, a bite to eat, a nearby beach… it could turn the experience into a lot of fun.

Ben Greenfield is YoungTri’s official coach and nutritionist.

Ben’s YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/bengreenfieldfitness 

Ben Greenfield Fitness:

Trouble Sleeping? How to Hack Your Sleep & Sleep Better – By Ben Greenfield

I don’t know about you, but I’ve certainly had times in my life when I simply couldn’t sleep.

zzzAnd it’s extremely disturbing when you can’t sleep. It can be especially frustrating when you know you have an important day of work or a workout the next day and you know you’re going to be too tired, or when you’re extremely sleepy, but you just can’t get your darn brain to shut down.

Sometimes this kind of insomnia happens because there’s too many thoughts going through your head from work or school…

…other times insomnia happens because you’re worried or anxious about a life or relationship situation…

…and sometimes insomnia can be purely biological, such as you being hungry, or having a neurotransmitter imbalance, or being over trained from too much exercise or not producing enough melatonin.

In today’s article, I’m going to tell you what you need to know about the important biology of sleep, give you a video that explains your circadian rhythm in detail, and then tell you how to hack your sleep, beat insomnia, and get into a deep sleep phase as fast as possible.

Why Lack Of Sleep Matters

A lack of sleep:

…weakens your immune system (and for athletes, getting sick = less training or poor training).

…leads to obesity. Recent studies have shown that even one night of poor sleep can result in changes in appetite and food intake. Sleep deprivation also impairs carbohydrate tolerance, insulin sensitivity, and glucose uptake. When glucose uptake is inhibited, you aren’t able to refuel before, during, and after your workouts.

…causes intellectual decline. Sleep deprivation negatively impacts short-term and working memory, long-term memory and the generation of nerve cells – all of which affects our ability to think clearly and function well.

…raises inflammation. Sleep deprivation causes chronic, low-grade inflammation. Inflammation is the root of all modern disease and severely inhibits the bodies’ ability to repair muscles, tissue, and tendon damage.

…increases risk of injury: When you don’t get enough sleep your motor responses are dulled, this leads to bad form, inefficient neuromuscular patterns and injury.

And I believe it was Paleo author Robb Wolf who I once heard sum up the importance of sleep like this:

“If you want to kill somebody fast, deprive them of sleep.”

————————————————

My Top Recommendations For Getting A Better Night’s Sleep

Now that you understand how your circadian rhythm works, it’s time to get into a bit of “sleep hacking”. The following sleep recommendations, insomnia natural remedies, and sleep supplements are taken from my “Ben Recommends” page and explained in more detail below…

————————————————

Using Sounds for Better Sleep

– Buy this 99 cents album, which is a 2:00:00 track – “3 Hz Binaural Pure Sine Delta Wave And Rain For Deep Sleep”

After I used this, I put 4 of those tracks above (for a total of 8 hours) on an iTunes playlist which started with this free 20 minute relaxation podcast track I downloaded from iTunes:

“ZZZZZZ – Stin Meditation Station Fitness & Nutrition”

 

-use the PZizz iPhone app to create “binaural beats” (read about how those kind of beats work here). I’ve found this works really well for short naps, but not so well for long nights, and you need to use them about 5-10 times in a row before you brain gets “trained”.

-use a White Noise app for sleeping loud settings (if you’re sleeping where dogs are barking, kids are crying, trains, sirens, airplanes/airports, etc.).

-use something like the Dream Essentials contoured face mask with fitted ear plugs to block light and sound altogether.

-Get the “The Delta Effect” CD’s/mp3 downloads to play as relaxing background to lull you to sleep in your bedroom.

————————————————

Using Supplements for Better Sleep

There are a variety of supplements that can be used to enhance sleep. These require some degree of self-experimentation, because some work for some people and some don’t.

This is because insomnia, light sleep, or trouble getting to sleep can be so dependent on a variety of factors – such as neurotransmitter balance, mineral deficiencies, leptin insensitivity, melatonin secretion, etc. 

Here are some of my favorite insomnia natural remedies and sleep supplements:

-400-500mg potassium citrate combined with 400-500mg Natural Calm magnesium (use this 30-60 minutes prior to bed, and back off if you get loose stool!). If magnesium upsets your stomach, listen to this podcast about which magnesium is best.

-2-3 tablespoons MCT Oil or coconut oil 30-60 minutes prior to bed. This works well if appetite cravings keep you awake, but you don’t want an insulin spike from carbohydrates or protein.

MillenniumSports Somnidren GH (can be very effective, but you must use this on an empty stomach, 30-60 minutes prior to bed, and you have to cycle it as 5 days on, 2 days off so you stay sensitive to it).

-Hammer REM caps (use 15% referral code 80244 at http://www.HammerNutrition.com) – a source of valerian root and melatonin that can be especially effective when traveling. Take 60 minutes before bed because if the surge of melatonin hits your bloodstream while you’re sleeping it can wake you back up.

————————————————

Using Gear, Apps & Tools for Better Sleep

From enhancing your relaxing Delta brain wave production to decreasing the ability of artificial light to suppress melatonin release, the following sleep gear, tools and apps can help beat insomnia or give you deeper sleep:

-Install “Flux” app on computer so your screen dims blue light at night

-Wear blue light blocking glasses, especially for evening computer use. I recommend Gunnar glasses because they look cooler than most of the others.

-Install low blue light bulbs as a replacement for regular bulbs in your house, and put ablue light blocker screen on your computer or television.

-Use Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy for enhancing deep sleep cycles (I highly recommend the EarthPulse and swear by it for naps, long deep sleep and travel).

-Use a light box such as NatureBright Sun Touch for morning light therapy, and click here to learn about what time of day is best to use a light box.

-In the winter or season when it is dark in the morning, use a Sunrise Alarm Clock for waking and “rebooting” your circadian rhythm.

-If traveling, use a grounding mat or grounding bedspread (stand on for 20 minutes and use in bed at night after arriving at destination) or go outside barefoot in the morning whenever you are travelling outside your normal time zone).

————————————————

Tracking Your Sleep

To see if you’re actually sleeping as much as you think you might be (you’d be surprised at how little you might be sleeping, even if you’re lying in bed for 8 hours), or to see how the supplements or tools listed above affect your sleep, you can track your sleep cycle using the tools below:

Zeo Personal Sleep Coach system

Fitbit wireless tracking device

-Or a more affordable alternative to either of the methods listed above: SleepTime app by Azumio

What about you? Have you ever had insomnia? Have you found good insomnia natural remedies? Do you have questions about how to hack your sleep, beat insomnia and get into a deep sleep phase as fast as possible? Leave your thoughts below.

EarthPulse