The COVID-19 pandemic has brought multiple health trends into the spotlight. Understandably, immunity, virus and workplace safety has been on everyone’s minds. But according to Larry Bodner, CEO of lifestyle nutrition brand Bulletproof, “Searches for immunity, stress release and sleep are off the charts.”
Clearly, in the era of COVID, self-care takes center stage.
Within the category of self-care, what if there was something you could do that was universally proven to increase your performance, grow muscles, repair your brain, strengthen your immune system and make you smarter and happier? You’d be all over it, along with every other consumer in the world. This “something” is freely available – but many don’t use it. There is a national (and even global) crisis occurring due to its decline.
What is this world-class performance enhancer and nootropic, you ask? It is sleep, and it is single most overlooked aspect of longevity and health. As a society and culture, we are ignoring the importance of sleep and the natural Rise – Go – Rest biorhythm that supports our optimum health. (See our recent blog post on the importance of circadian rhythms and chrono-nutrition.)
Instead we jack ourselves up on caffeine and energy supplements, and then drain our adrenals and increase our production of stress hormones. Is it any wonder we can’t sleep, and end up taking prescription pills, wake up groggy and start the process over again. This is no way to live.
Interestingly, research from the American Sleep Association shows that Adults need 7 to 10 hours of sleep per night, and younger athletes need even more, at 8 to 10 hours. Overall, the organization reported 35.3 million U.S. adults have a sleep disorder, with 37% of 20- to 39-year-olds and 40% of 40- to 59-year-olds suffering from sub-optimal sleep duration.
Our Lack of Sleep May Be Killing Us
At TED 2019, neuroscientist Matthew Walker asserted that the “sleep loss epidemic” is doing serious damage to our lives and our health. Walker is an expert on sleep at U.C. Berkeley and author of the book “Why We Sleep.”
In Walker’s talk he covered all the ways sleep deprivation hurts us: it makes us dumber, more forgetful, unable to learn new things, more vulnerable to dementia, more likely to die of a heart attack, less able to fend off sickness (due to a weakened immune system), more likely to get cancer, and it makes our bodies hurt more.
If that weren’t bad enough, lack of sleep distorts our genes and increases our risk of death. It disrupts the creation of sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone and leads to premature aging. We need proper sleep to be healthy and live longer – period.
The Role of Habits on Sleep
What are the answers? In the realm of habits, Walker has the following suggestions: Don’t drink excessive caffeine or alcohol. Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning (even on the weekends). Sleep in a cool room. If you are lying awake in bed, listening to the litany of worries your brain is churning through, get up, go into a different room, and do an activity, then return to bed when you’re ready.
Additionally, research shows that reducing exposure to the blue light of computer and smartphone screens has been shown to have a favorable influence on sleep.
As we’ve pointed out in our own prior articles, timing high intensity exercise for no later than 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. can contribute to restful sleep.
In the realm of nutrition, timing and moderating the use of caffeine and stimulants can allow the body’s natural circadian rhythms to achieve optimal function, as well as reduce the need for prescription or over-the-counter medication in the attempt to override the presence of stimulants and help to induce needed sleep. (There are non-caffeinated ways to boost energy and increase focus – which you can find in MANTRA's nootropic hydration formula in RISE. Additionally, if you are going to use caffeine, look for sources that are natural and synergistically combined with minerals such as the fermented tea leaf caffeine found in our performance boosting GO.)
Great News: Get Smarter While You Sleep
Two recent studies from Japan support the benefit of GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) in supporting a variety of cognitive functions including memory and special cognitive function. The GABA amino acid is present in a variety of foods, with certain fermented foods such as kimchi carrying especially high concentrations.
The twin studies examined quality of life for participants in the GABA groups versus participants using placebo alternatives. Physical functioning, vitality and mental health were stronger in the GABA groups for both studies. (You can find PharmaGABA along with other brain and sleep enhancing ingredients in our REST formula.)
Clearly, focusing on reducing anxiety and improving sleep will continue to be one of the most compelling areas of health and wellness for the remainder of 2020 and beyond.
 "Sleep, the Overlooked Performance and Recovery Tool,” by Steve Myers, Jan. 28, 2020, for NaturalProductsInsider.com.
 "You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep and it’s Killing You,” by Emily Dreyfuss, April 19, 2029, Wired.com
 "Two Trials Support GABA’s Cognitive Health Benefits for Healthy Adults,” by Stephen Daniells, August 10, 2020.