Written by Michael Mantz, M.D.
One of the biggest complaints I get from my clients is not having enough energy. Many of them feel depleted and rely on stimulants to boost their energy levels. This strategy may make them feel better in the short-term but at a long-term cost that robs them of consistent sustainable energy. In this 5-part article I will go over 5 tips that I have used for myself and my clients to help build durable healthy energy. Not the speedy, jittery energy that surges and then crashes – common when one uses coffee, nicotine, and other types of stimulants – but a stable enduring energy that fuels you throughout your day.
The National Sleep Foundation’s annual Sleep in America® poll finds that among U.S. adults with excellent sleep health, nearly 90% say they feel very effective at getting things done each day, compared to only 46% of those with poor sleep health. Despite this data, only 10% of Americans prioritize sleep over other aspects of daily living.
“The data are clear: Good sleepers realize the benefits of a good night’s sleep and see themselves as more effective at getting things done the following day. It’s therefore disappointing to see so few people actually prioritizing their sleep.”
Maurice Ohayon, MD, DSC, PhD, Director of the Stanford Sleep Epidemiology Research Center and Chair of the National Sleep Foundation’s Population Health and Methodology Council
A review of the neuroscientific literature demonstrates that low-quality sleep is associated with:
FACT: 90-95% of all mental disorders are preceded by disrupted sleep.
Over the past 9 years, I have made improving sleep quality one of my primary treatment targets for my patients. This treatment emphasis on sleep was a game changer in the positive results that my clients achieved.
The most recent scientific evidence points towards high-quality sleep as arguably the single most important Mind-Health behavior that you can master. I will have future articles dealing with improving high-quality sleep in more depth – including a wide variety of proven techniques and tools to help. Here is a quick overview of some of the fundamentals you can start practicing today.
Sleep is like digestion or genital sexual arousal – it’s a process that you can’t make happen through sheer will and effort. You can’t force your belly to improve your digestion and you can’t compel yourself to have an orgasm without causing more problems in the long-term. Trying to sleep is like trying to achieve an erection by force of will – it’s simply a process that is not within your conscious control. When you try to compel processes that are not under your conscious control, you put yourself into a double-bind that generally creates more problems and greater disturbances.
Instead of falling into the double-bind of trying to do something you can’t do – you redirect your efforts to setting up an optimal environment for your body and mind that is conducive to sleep and then let go of any effort to try to sleep. If you find yourself trying to sleep and getting restless after 10-20 minutes of lying in bed, get up and do some soothing body movements such as gentle stretching (if you know some yoga poses this would be an excellent time to use some of the gentle ones) and using smooth back and forth body movements.
Listening to some guided meditations or hypnosis tracks that you can get for free on apps or YouTube have been very helpful for my clients to redirect their attention away from their worries of not sleeping and increase their chances of falling asleep. I’ve found that when you learn to let go and simply listen to guided meditations (or soothing non-verbal music) while resting comfortably with your eyes closed – your brain is able to do many of the amazing things it does when your sleeping. The end result – you start feeling better and having more energy even if it seems like you’re not sleeping that much.
Think of the last time when you were sleeping well. What time were you going to bed? What time were you getting up in the morning? Use those times as your guides to create a consistent sleep schedule for yourself and stick to those times 4-5X a week to start off. Once you get better at sticking to those times you can increase it up to 6-7X a week.
In general, sleep consistency trumps sleep quantity. If you are sleeping 8 hours a day but one night you’re going to bed at 11pm, another night you’re going to bed at 1am, and then you fall asleep at 10:30pm the following night – what you’re doing is putting your body and mind into a state of perpetual jet-lag. This throws your body’s internal rhythms out of whack and makes you feel more tired and more irritable.
Note: If you are suffering with a major mood disorder once you achieve high quality sleep 6 to 7 days a week – it may take up to a month to realize the maximum benefits. Stick to those times as closely as you can and keep at it. The challenge of learning how to change your daily habits takes time, the willingness to make mistakes, and the willingness to examine and transform your mistakes into lessons. Over time, you will create a set of habits that are both durable and profoundly helpful to both your body and mind.
The most productive and successful people have daily rituals. Why? Because well-constructed rituals create behavioral pathways or algorithms that increase the probability to invoke a desired psychobiological state at a particular time. Therefore, rituals can give you a distinct advantage over those people who do not have daily rituals and whose mental states are at the mercy of the whims of any given day.
Start a winding down ritual 1-2 hours before bed. If your sleep challenges are more difficult then aim for 2 hours. Setting up a nighttime ritual will create a rhythm of helpful behaviors that when performed with consistency will sync up with your mind. Over time your mind learns to associate the ritual with sleeping. The end result – it gets easier and easier to fall asleep.
The goal of a nighttime ritual is to optimize soothing and calming your mind – preparing it for sleep. When you are creating a soothing ritual ask yourself – in what ways can I create an environment that would soothe my 5 senses so that my mind will be more receptive to sleep?
The most important sense to focus on is your sense of sight. I recommend that 2 hours before you go to bed that you lower all the lighting in your environment. If you’re going to use electronics turn on blue-light blocking software and use blue-light blocking glasses such as Biohacked.com’s Daywalkers or Twilight Elite glasses.
Stop watching all videos at least 1 hour before sleep. Make your sleep environment as dark as possible. Consider blackout curtains and using an eye mask. Finally get a night light for your bathroom and use it while you do your night time bathroom routine. 1 minute of typical bathroom light exposure can reduce your most important sleep hormone, melatonin, by up to 30%. My wife and I use a Himalayan salt night light that you can buy over the internet.
FACT: 1 minute of bright light exposure, typical for bathroom lighting, can reduce your melatonin levels by up to 30%.
Next move on to your other 4 senses:
When you create a ritual make sure it is something that you enjoy doing. Start off with simple easy steps before making it more complex. Developing a ritual takes time, experimentation, and practice before it becomes an easy habit for you. In return, your capacity for high-quality sleep will grow and you will be sleeping more soundly. The results for getting higher quality sleep will be more positive moods, better brain function, and more sustainable energy that will power you through your day.
Conclusion: If you want to radically change your energy levels. High-quality sleep is essential. Begin creating your nighttime ritual today and with time and practice you will unlock the key to a treasure trove of sustainable brain energy.
Coming soon: 5 Tips for Sustainable Brian Energy Part 2: The Vitality Shower – Give your energy factories a quick work out and take your energy to the next level.