Getting Stronger: Discussion Forum

Discussion Topics => Hormesis => Topic started by: thomas_seay on May 02, 2011, 11:19:51 AM

Title: How to apply Hormesis to Sleep
Post by: thomas_seay on May 02, 2011, 11:19:51 AM
Sleep has been my "Achilles' heel" throughout my adult life.  Usually "sleep hygiene" is recommended.  You know.  Drink caffeine early in the day, if at all.  Sleep in a cool room, in COMPLETE darkness.  Go to bed at a regular time and get up at the same time, even on weekends.  However, it would appear that our ancestors did not sleep under such pristine conditions.  Check out this interesting article http://www.sciencenews.org/sn_arc99/9_25_99/bob2.htm (http://thescientificdebateforum.aimoo.com/)

"Adult sleepers in traditional societies recline on skins, mats, wooden platforms, the ground, or just about anything except a thick, springy mattress. Pillows or head supports are rare, and people doze in whatever they happen to be wearing. Virtually no one, including children, keeps a regular bedtime. "

Do you think it is possible to apply hormesis towards sleeping better?  Or do you think that as adults our habits are too solidified and that any experiments in this direction would only harm sleep?  Is pitch black truly optimal or should we only eliminate blue light?  As children we were all a little afraid of being in complete darkness.  Usually we were comforted by some light in the room...also a little noise was welcome.  Maybe sleeping outside on the ground now and then would be a good idea.  One could wear "blue-blocking" sunglasses (the kind used by people with macular degeneration) to keep out street light.  
Title: Re: How to apply Hormesis to Sleep
Post by: shadowfoot on May 03, 2011, 05:13:26 AM
I like your idea of trying to become better at sleeping. It appears as though we truly are quite bad at it -- we need darkness, silence, etc and still don't sleep well. However, I'm not sure if hormesis can really work for this. Hormesis is basically adaptation to moderate stress. I know from my personal experience that being stressed in any way is the worst way to try to sleep.

I have two alternative proposals for you. First, I know that I sleep best when I am either really tired or sleep deprived. However, that does not seem sustainable in the long term and definably also not something that traditional societies did. The other angle, which makes the most sense to me, is body state. I haven't really done much research in this area, so maybe someone else can add in specifics, but certain hormone imbalances of catacolamines, cortisol, seratonin, etc would certainly lead to trouble sleeping and getting those back in their proper amounts would solve any issues.

Another angle is light. I know that traditional societies often woke in the night and slept in the day, but possibly maintaining a natural rhythm of light and dark (not using many electric lights) can help the body "reset."

In regards to sleeping on less than comfortable surfaces, I have done that quite a few times in the past and it really just takes a little bit of adaptation. After a few nights you don't really notice any more.

Title: Re: How to apply Hormesis to Sleep
Post by: aelephant on May 06, 2011, 04:11:54 AM
What problems do you have sleeping?
Title: Re: How to apply Hormesis to Sleep
Post by: thomas_seay on May 06, 2011, 03:28:32 PM
What problems do you have sleeping?

I usually have no problems falling asleep. However, I do wake up in the middle of the night and find it difficult to fall back to sleep.  This leaves me tired and foggy-headed the following day. 
Title: Re: How to apply Hormesis to Sleep
Post by: shadowfoot on May 08, 2011, 04:23:31 AM
There is evidence that traditional societies, i.e. those without electricity, commonly slept in two phases during the night with an hour or two of wakefulness in between. Check out this article http://www.livescience.com/12891-natural-sleep.html. I hope it helps.
Title: Re: How to apply Hormesis to Sleep
Post by: thomas_seay on May 09, 2011, 06:03:26 AM
Shadow, I am aware of that type of bi-phasic sleep.  In fact, I commonly get up for an hour or so each night and just "hang out".  My "first sleep" is good, but my "second sleep" is not.  I wake up very often feeling unrested.
Title: Re: How to apply Hormesis to Sleep
Post by: aelephant on May 09, 2011, 06:31:30 AM
I would try not to force it and see what happens.

Do you have work or a hobby you could work on in the morning hours so that they aren't "wasted"? I'd try just getting up after the first sleep and acting as if you were done for the night. If you get tired later on, you sleep. If not, you stay up until it is time to get up. The worst thing that happens to me when I'm sleep deprived is that I sleep better the next day. Might be worth a shot.
Title: Re: How to apply Hormesis to Sleep
Post by: thomas_seay on May 10, 2011, 08:18:22 AM
Aelephant, your suggestion may be worth a shot.  I get up after my first sleep with the intention of going back to bed.  Even though I try not to get anxious about going back to sleep, I probably am on some level.  So maybe if I just got up and did something interesting (rather than focusing on getting back to sleep), I would eventually get really tired and fall back to sleep.

Here's a question.  Usually I sit in the dark in the interval between first and second sleep.  If I turn on lights to do something am I going to disrupt melatonin?  Maybe I should do it in candlelight.  What do you think?
Title: Re: How to apply Hormesis to Sleep
Post by: shadowfoot on May 10, 2011, 08:48:48 AM
Blue light could easily disrupt melatonin and cause your body to think that it is really morning. In that case, you will never get back to bed. So probably using only a weak light, or a candle, or installing f.lux on your computer (what I use) is the best bet.
Title: Re: How to apply Hormesis to Sleep
Post by: Soylent Red on May 10, 2011, 10:23:02 AM
I would argue that the lifestyle of people in these 'traditional' societies was radically different from our own. For example, the 8 hour working day - this is a luxury that people struggling to survive didn't have.

Looking back to when I was in the cadets, or more recently when I was at the gym training for 2 hours a day after a 10 hour working day.. I would sleep like a stone through the night. In contrast, back when I was just starting out at university and did very little all day, everyday - I experienced very disturbed sleep. I would say our ability to sleep in less than perfect situations is determined by how active we are in the day - unless you have a condition like insomnia..

Title: Re: How to apply Hormesis to Sleep
Post by: thomas_seay on May 10, 2011, 04:32:36 PM
Shadowfoot, I have a pair of those sunglasses that block out blue light (the same type that are worn by people suffering from macular degeneration).  I am not sure that F.lux blocks out all blue light.  In any case, these glasses have that covered.  Now I just need to come up with an activity.  Reading seems like it would just stir my mind up too much and would prevent me from sleeping.

Have you ever watched how babies get to sleep?  They usually throw a fit and start crying.  In other words, maybe instead of trying to calm myself down, I should work myself into a paroxysm.  That sounds like a properly hormetic approach!
Title: Re: How to apply Hormesis to Sleep
Post by: shadowfoot on May 10, 2011, 05:33:26 PM
Hahahaha! That sounds like a wonderful method.

You are correct in saying that f.lux doesn't block all blue light. The program I have on my computer allows me to change how much blue or red light I want. That way I can turn it down to almost completely red if I so desire. However, when I do that it means that my monitor can no longer displays color, just red and shades of red to black.

I suppose it depends on what you are reading. If its some thrilling novel, then that might be a problem. But if its some thick classic that seems to go on forever without anything actually happening, then maybe that might help.
Title: Re: How to apply Hormesis to Sleep
Post by: thomas_seay on May 11, 2011, 08:53:36 AM
I would argue that the lifestyle of people in these 'traditional' societies was radically different from our own. For example, the 8 hour working day - this is a luxury that people struggling to survive didn't have.

Explain.  Hunter-Gatherers actually work on average about 3 hours a day.  I guess when you use the word "traditional" you mean agricultural societies.


Title: Re: How to apply Hormesis to Sleep
Post by: Soylent Red on May 12, 2011, 06:51:14 AM
Explain.  Hunter-Gatherers actually work on average about 3 hours a day.  I guess when you use the word "traditional" you mean agricultural societies.

I guess my idea applies more to agricultural societies - but even for hunter gatherers.. Three hours? Really? Is that including all life sustaining activities? Such as building and maintaining shelter, for example. I mean - if something serious goes wrong with my accommodation I mostly just throw money at someone or something to make it go away. It doesn't represent any real application of physical effort. Whereas in their case..

It's an interesting question though.
Title: Re: How to apply Hormesis to Sleep
Post by: shadowfoot on May 12, 2011, 07:38:39 AM
Soylent,

I'm sure that they worked more some times and less others. If they were building or moving, then that would consist of more work. But if everything was all set, then there would be no more work than the effort involved in getting food. In an ecosystem which humans have not tempered with severely (where contemporary hunter-gatherers live), food tended to be easy to come by. Think about the plains bison. Various accounts before overfishing say that during migration catching fish was so easy you could do it with your hands. Tubers and fruits are both easy to come by when they are in season. Etc.
Title: Re: How to apply Hormesis to Sleep
Post by: Soylent Red on May 12, 2011, 07:42:58 AM
This is true - I suppose my point relates more to agricultural societies. Even more so in times of feudalism when so many struggled to survive and pay tax.

Soylent,

I'm sure that they worked more some times and less others. If they were building or moving, then that would consist of more work. But if everything was all set, then there would be no more work than the effort involved in getting food. In an ecosystem which humans have not tempered with severely (where contemporary hunter-gatherers live), food tended to be easy to come by. Think about the plains bison. Various accounts before overfishing say that during migration catching fish was so easy you could do it with your hands. Tubers and fruits are both easy to come by when they are in season. Etc.
Title: Re: How to apply Hormesis to Sleep
Post by: thomas_seay on May 12, 2011, 08:15:23 AM
Hunter-Gatherers were nomadic, no permanent housing.  I used to have this idea (probably subtly drilled into my head during elementary school) that the move to agriculture was highly advantageous.  I don't think that anymore.  Please read this short essay by Jared Diamond, http://www.ditext.com/diamond/mistake.html (http://www.ditext.com/diamond/mistake.html) about why agriculture was such a disaster for humans.
Title: Re: How to apply Hormesis to Sleep
Post by: Todd Becker on May 28, 2011, 10:06:01 PM
Do you think it is possible to apply hormesis towards sleeping better?

I like your idea of trying to become better at sleeping.....However, I'm not sure if hormesis can really work for this. Hormesis is basically adaptation to moderate stress. I know from my personal experience that being stressed in any way is the worst way to try to sleep.

I have two alternative proposals for you. First, I know that I sleep best when I am either really tired or sleep deprived. However, that does not seem sustainable in the long term and definably also not something that traditional societies did.

This topic really interests me, Thomas and Shadowfoot.  Besides your raising it here, I've heard the same question from several others.

I've heard two suggestions from others that make a lot of sense.  They both relate to your suggestion, Shadowfoot of the stressors of being either really tired or sleep deprived.  But I think they utilize these "stressors" in a very specific and focused way that I think may be quite sustainable.

The first suggestion comes from Seth Roberts' experiments with standing.  He first found that the more time he spent standing, the better he slept.  But he found it impractical to stand for the length of time needed to be effective, so he developed a modified protocol of "standing on one leg".  At first, this sounds hilariously odd, but Seth found that only 8 minutes of standing on one is enough to improve his sleep!

http://quantifiedself.com/2011/03/effect-of-one-legged-standing-on-sleep/

The second suggestion comes from Derek Haswell and Ben Rubin.  Ben started a company named Zeo (http://www.myzeo.com/pages/4_why_zeo_.cfm), that makes a cool sleep monitor that I've been using for about a month. Derek works with Zeo as well.  I share with Ben and Derek an interest in hormesis and self-monitoring.  I met with both of them this week and Derek brought up what I thought was an ingenious application of hormesis to overcoming insomnia.  It's a technique called sleep restriction therapy:

http://www.sleepdex.org/restriction.htm
http://geronj.oxfordjournals.org/content/46/1/P1.short
http://www.smrv-journal.com/article/S1087-0792(01)90246-1/abstract

The therapy consists of initially restricting the hours of sleep to a very defined, late window of time.  So if your bedtime is normally, say 10 p.m. and you wake at 6 am. (after sleeping poorly, i.e. with delayed onset of sleep or frequent waking), you delay your bedtime a few hours, say until midnight, but still set your alarm and wake at  6 a.m. If that doesn't do the trick, you keep delaying your bedtime gradually and shortening your sleep until you finally get a good sleep.  If you are tired or drowsy during the day, you just cope with that.  But once you are able to sleep through the night, you gradually start going to bed again earlier until your sleep normalizes and you are also well rested during the day.

Studies suggest that sleep restriction therapy is quite effective.  And it is an almost perfect example of hormesis -- applying a stress or stimulus that is opposite in direction to the ultimate outcome you are seeking.  The body responds with an adaptation to the stimulus -- in this case normalized sleep.  And as with any good application of hormesis, drugs and artificial remedies are avoided, while the organism itself adapts to become more functional.

I also recommend the Zeo sleep monitor.  You wear a comfortable headband with a monitor that transmits your brainwaves to an "alarm clock" that records your sleep state (waking, light sleep, REM or deep sleep).  You can analyze your sleep patterns on a PC or iPhone and compare your sleep behavior over time or with norms for your age and gender.  Just like blood glucose monitoring, it is a great ajunct to self-experimentation.  I may blog about what I'm finding in the future once my thinking congeals a bit.

So trying standing on one leg or going to bed later!

Todd
 
Title: Re: How to apply Hormesis to Sleep
Post by: Todd Becker on June 26, 2011, 12:58:36 PM
To follow on my previous comments, I've added a post to my blog about Sleep Restriction Therapy (http://gettingstronger.org/2011/06/a-cure-for-insomnia/) to treat insomnia.  There is a YouTube video that chronicles one person's success -- those of you with sleep issues may find it to be of interest.
Title: Re: How to apply Hormesis to Sleep
Post by: shadowfoot on June 27, 2011, 05:15:09 AM
Todd,

I was a little bit skeptical when you first posited this theory, but I think it was simply that I did not fully understand the protocol. Your blog post does a very good job of explaining it. I like the video too. I will forward this to a friend I know who might benefit. Honestly Todd, you are way ahead of the curve bringing all this research together in an accessible format. Thank you.
Title: Re: How to apply Hormesis to Sleep
Post by: Patrea on June 29, 2011, 11:58:20 PM
Great post Todd and excellent information, including the video. It certainly works for me. I would only add that I have a cold shower immediately prior to bed as lowering body temperature seems to help the process.