My 10 Personal “Secrets” To Being In Great Shape

My 10 Personal “Secrets” To Being In Great Shape

MRI machine

A few years ago I had a full-day, all-body medical test at Gaien Higashi Clinic in Tokyo. Specifically, I did the “cancer” course as my family has a history of cancer, and the best way to treat cancer is to catch it in it’s early stages.

1 hour in the MRI machine (pictured) was a bit scary, especially when they strap you in so that you can’t move at all. Claustrophobics need not apply! The rest was pretty easy though – Ultrasound, CT scans, X-rays after a big ol’ cup of Barium, plus urine, fecal and blood tests.

The clinic was extremely clean and organised, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that they offer some pretty sophisticated technology for the everyday person. Oh, and they also served me a nice obento with Japanese tea after I was done.

And the results? Pretty impressive!

The head doctor walked me through each scan and set of information on a large screen. Seeing all the blood vessels in my brain rotating in 3D colour was definitely a highlight. Rolling down the inside of my body from head to toe, slice by slice thanks to the MRI scans was also intriguing.

I was shown and told that my brain, circulatory system, internal organs and bones were in great shape, and that I had “absolutely nothing of concern”.

Given that I don’t mind a drink, I kind of expected some dark patches on my liver scans, but my liver was clean and healthy. I was also pleased to see that the past few years of chiropractic adjustment had made a dramatic improvement to the neck issue I went back to Australia to have fixed in 2007. Looks pretty good now!

So, here are my 10 personal “secrets” to being in great shape at around the half-century mark :

Healthy Robert Millar1. 30+ years of continuous training in the martial arts (quality exercise)
2. a diet of mostly whole & organic foods combined with high-quality supplements (quality nutrition)
3. continuous hydration via a proper reverse osmosis water purifier (quality water)
4. attention to sleep environment and measurement of sleep itself (quality rest)

I would say that these 4 are the bare minimum you should have to be truly well.

5. good relationships with immediate family and close friends (love, baby, love!)
6. regular breathing exercises and, for me, regular meditation (stress management)

I would say that if you can get these top 6 right, you pretty much have health and well-being mastered.

7. weekly fasting and, for me, colonic irrigation every year or so (quality detoxification)
8. regular Chiropractic adjustment (quality structure)
9. entrepreneurship (development of creativity and contribution)
10. continuous self-education on pretty much everything to do with health, well-being and personal growth (see the previous 9 points!)

So how about you? How many of the points above do you subscribe to?

Simple Guidelines for Eating Healthy

Simple Guidelines for Eating Healthy

Super healthy sandwich

I read a lot of nutritional advice, most of which is rarely supported by science and some of which is unfortunately flat out wrong. But in my role as a health coach (currently studying online at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in New York) I try to give my clients, friends and family solid guidelines for healthful eating which are backed by science and which, of course, I follow myself.

Before I list those guidelines here, I need to make it clear that none of them are “laws”, and in fact are not based on proper randomised control trials. Most dietary advice unfortunately isn’t. Equally important, none of these guidelines are “mine”. There are plenty of articles out there expounding the same principles. But I still strongly recommend these guidelines because of the tremendous personal health benefits I’ve received from them and because of their basis in science and not in fad.

Ok then, let’s dive in!

1. Eat a wide variety of completely unprocessed foods to get most of your nutrition. This means eating fruits, vegetables, meats, etc., that haven’t been cooked or otherwise changed from their original form. For instance, it is better to eat sugar from 2 apples rather than drink the same amount of sugar in a glass of processed apple juice.

2. Eat lightly processed foods less often. Obviously lightly processed foods like pasta, flour, and olive oil are normally bought pre-prepared instead of prepared at home from raw ingredients (try making your own pasta at home from raw flour!) These foods, however, should be eaten along with plenty of unprocessed foods, and they shouldn’t be eaten too often.

3. Eat heavily processed foods even less often. Foods that’ve been greatly altered from their original form should be eaten even less often than lightly processed foods. Such foods are high in calories and include bread, chips, cookies and breakfast cereals. Studies on health and disease have also linked heavily processed meats with bad health outcomes, nevertheless you should be slightly skeptical when referencing these studies. As I mentioned before, they don’t have high-quality evidence available (i.e. there simply isn’t enough funding available for large-scale independent trials) and most times don’t follow recognised standards for experimentation.

4. Eat as much home-cooked food as possible. This allows for more control over the ingredients and the quality of the food you consume. Eating at home also allows for control of portion sizes and the flavors you prefer. Just remember guideline number 1 above when you’re thinking home-cooked food (i.e. eat unprocessed foods.)

5. Season your food with salt and fats, including butter and oil, as needed. Salt and fat aren’t the enemy, so use these ingredients in moderation since they are often what makes food tasty.

6. When you go out to eat, look for restaurants that follow these guidelines. For instance, find nice restaurants that serve completely, or at least minimally, processed foods. This is so easy to do here in Japan.

7. Drink mostly water. There are conflicting studies out there that state the same food item as being either good or bad for your health (like red wine, for example.) But the bulk of the evidence seems to suggest that, unless you have a strongly adverse reaction, most things in moderation are fine, including beverages like alcohol and coffee (Full disclosure on that last one: I own and run an Internet cafe that serves awesome, high-quality coffee every day!)

8. Drink beverages with calories just as you would drink alcohol. Keep all drinks with calories in them, including milk, to a minimum. You shouldn’t consume them as if you need them.

9. Eat with other people, especially the ones you love, as often as possible. Eating with others makes you more likely to cook, more likely to eat more slowly and, of course, also makes you happy. 🙂

Completely avoiding certain food groups doesn’t seem to work. This is why the guidelines above don’t tell you to avoid this food group or that food group entirely. While some experts swear by completely avoiding certain foods, I haven’t found enough peer reviewed scientific evidence to support that stance. The goal of my guidelines above is simply to make you think more about what you put into your own body. Nowadays, it’s so easy to become distracted from the signals our bodies send us about what we’re eating. But it’s important to listen to those signals and to respond to our individual needs because everyone is different. It’s called bio-individuality.

In the same way, it’s important to try not to criticise what other people are eating, unless they are clearly damaging themselves. Some people may avoid carbohydrates, others may avoid eating meat. Clearly, everyone is different and has different needs. What one person thrives on, another may suffer from due to allergies, taste, or other reasons.

For example, I used to drink a liter of milk every day, because I was told for decades that it’d make me strong. Then I stopped drinking it, lost 15 kilograms, and cleared up a decades-long skin irritation. And I’m stronger than ever!

Finding what works for you like I have is key, but it does requires some experimentation. The guidelines above allow for that experimentation across the many wonderful foods available for feeling and staying healthy. Give it a try!


Reference Material :
1. Dietry Guidelines For The Brazilian Population – http://189.28.128.100/dab/docs/portaldab/publicacoes/guia_alimentar_populacao_ingles.pdf
2. Calorie counter: fruit vs. fruit juice – http://healthland.time.com/2009/08/07/calorie-counter-fruit-vs-fruit-juice
3. Red Meat and Processed Meat Consumption and All-Cause Mortality: A Meta-Analysis – http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/179/3/282.long
4. Urinary Sodium and Potassium Excretion, Mortality, and Cardiovascular Events – http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1311889
5. The cardiometabolic consequences of replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates or Ω-6 polyunsaturated fats: Do the dietary guidelines have it wrong? – http://openheart.bmj.com/content/1/1/e000032.full
6. Is everything we eat associated with cancer? A systematic cookbook review – http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/97/1/127.long

The 21-Day No-Complaint Challenge

The 21-Day No-Complaint Challenge

21-Day No-Complaint Experiment
Real Mind Control: The 21-Day No-Complaint Experiment

Well, today I passed the 21-Day No-Complaint challenge, again, just like I did in October last year. And now I can take off the little purple wrist band which you’re supposed to switch to the other wrist each time you complain verbally. You can see Tim Ferriss wearing one in the linked photo on this page.

In that article Tim defines “complaining” as describing an event or person negatively without indicating next steps to fix the problem, plus the usual 4-letter words and other common profanity. The avoidance of all this forces us to reword, which in turn forces more awareness and more precise thinking. It’s a very cool way to re-wire the brain for more positivity and less negativity, and we all want that, right?

Last year I said on Facebook “I can honestly say that my behavior has been permanently modified by this experiment”, and now I have proof. Because last year it took me over 2 months to rack up a full, uninterrupted 21 days of not complaining (it took Tim over 2 months too, by the way) but this time it only took me about a month. In fact, after the usual initial frustration (e.g. I accidentally yanked the front bumper off my car and swore like a sailor for about 5 minutes, causing me to switch my purple wrist band from right wrist to left and resetting me back to Day 1…) followed by about 10 days of carefully not complaining, I pretty much sailed through the remaining 11 days.

Damaged BMW Ci 840
Smashed complaint causer…

To keep track, I did a self-assessment every day, marking it on my calendar. Last year I did it with a couple of close friends and we kept each other accountable, and this year I did it with 2 of my business consulting clients, again focusing on accountability. Very worthwhile.

Once again, I find that I’m now catching myself before letting out a complaint, and then simply deciding not to. Like Tim, I also find that I’m thinking much more in terms of solutions and much less in terms of being negative about things, which of course is awesome. The most interesting thing I’ve discovered is that I complain much more in Japanese than I do in English. Fascinating…

Ok, who wants my purple wrist band? 🙂

Supplementing for Enhanced Health

Supplementing for Enhanced Health

Easy

Recently I’ve been getting more and more people asking me about dietary supplements. I used to co-own a company that sold high-quality supplements online, so I do know a thing or two about them.

My top tip for supplements – Know what you are supplementing for and buy accordingly. For recovery from sports training? For protection from illness? To make up for some deficiency? To lose weight? To enhance performance? There’s a different answer for each one.

1. Now, having said that, the closest thing to a does-it-all, magic bullet is a high-quality multivitamin & mineral supp. Because we eat nutrient-poor processed food, live in a polluted world, drink water that contains metal from the pipes it runs through, consume alcohol, stress, exercise, make love, etc. it’s pretty much impossible to get all the vitamins & minerals that we really need from the food that we can get, so a good multivitamin & mineral supp can cover the gaps well. Here’s the one I take. Note that it’s iron free because too much iron can have negative consequences for men : https://www.swansonvitamins.com/swanson-premium-high-potency-softgel-multi-iron-free-240-sgels
He’s the womens version, which contains the iron that they need : https://www.swansonvitamins.com/swanson-premium-high-potency-softgel-multi-240-sgels

2. Next up is Vitamin C. I take tons of it because it can’t be stored in the body and gets passed out quickly. We need vitamin C for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of our bodies. It helps the body make collagen, an important protein used to make skin, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant, pulling nasty free radicals out of our bodies, and is also needed for healing wounds and for repairing and maintaining bones and teeth. But the main thing for me is that it makes me smarter! In the 80s I read an interview with the Nobel prize winner for chemistry at the time who said flatly that the secret of his success was the cognitive ability and clarity of thought that high doses of vitamin C gave him. I’ve taken a vitamin C supplement ever since. Here’s the one I use : https://www.swansonvitamins.com/swanson-premium-timed-release-vitamin-c-rose-hips-1000-mg-500-tabs

3. Last up (out of the MANY that I could talk about here) is fish oil. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil reduce inflammation in the body, which has been called the silent killer. Inflammation in the body results from an acidic condition due to toxins in our food, water & air, and has been said to be at least partly responsible for most of the major diseases that modern humans suffer – cancer, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, Alzheimer’s, Crohn’s and a bunch of others, as well as general fatigue and lack of energy. Here’s the one I use. It’s krill oil, as these little shrimp are at the bottom of the food chain and so don’t contain the mercury and other contaminants that the big fish often have : https://www.swansonvitamins.com/swanson-efas-pure-krill-oil-500-mg-60-sgels

And finally, water! Yes, water! We are 90% water, and constantly getting proper quantities of fresh water is absolutely essential, as is a proper reverse-osmosis water purifier to deliver it in it’s cleanest state. Japanese people say that the water supply in this country is safe to drink, and it is at it’s source. But delivery through pipes which are up to 100 years old brings heavy metals and other contaminants which can seriously damage us overtime. Here’s the purifier that I use in Japan, which also slightly alkalises the water it delivers to further protect me from inflammation : http://www.panasonic.com/tw/consumer/health/water/alkaline-water/tk-as43-zta.html

So there you have it – One supplement for building and thinking, one for cleaning and protecting, one to cover any gaps in what we need to be fit & healthy, and pure water to wash it all down. 🙂

I use the supplement manufacturer Swanson for my supps because before I launched my supplement reseller business years ago, my business partner and I did extensive research (because there’s some really low-quality junk out there) and Swanson outshone just about all the rest.

The Mt. Fuji Hill Climb Really Tested Me

The Mt. Fuji Hill Climb Really Tested Me

Mt. Fuji Hill Climb

Last Sunday I participated in the Mt. Fuji Hill Climb cycling race, which I completely underestimated. I do a 40 km or so ride with my cycling club, Tokyo Cranks, every weekend but this didn’t prepare me nearly enough for the pain of riding a 25 km race, which was entirely uphill!

Our houseOn Friday I, along with a bunch of cycling friends of various nationalities and levels of cycling prowess, rented a big house in the woods for the weekend so that we could prepare for the race in comfort, without distraction and with plenty of time. It was a lovely new place, complete with all sorts of special eco-friendly technology.

After a hearty barbecue in the woods near the house on Saturday night, and after getting slightly lost on the way from the house to the starting line on Sunday morning, my team and I began the race at 8 am in the crisp mountain air, along with over 8,000 other cyclists (Yes! Over 8,000!)

Well, at the 5 km mark I realised that it was going to be considerably tougher than I thought. My heart rate was already up to 145 beats per minute, and I was sweating quite freely in spite of the cool air. Fortunately, at the 10 km mark my heart rate settled to an average of 124 bpm, and I was breathing deeply but comfortably. This was good, because I wasn’t aiming to win the race or anything. I just wanted to finish it without getting off my bike and in a respectable time. As i mentioned earlier I do a 40 km or so ride every weekend, plus I lift weights about 3 times a week (including heavy deadlifts which are great for the legs and lower back) and I train in kung fu once a week. So I was I was in reasonably good shape for this race.

However, my hamstrings soon began burning like someone had put flame to them! I used my mindfulness skills to try to simply observe the pain without creating aversion to it, but it was relentless. I kept having to stand up off my saddle to stretch my hams out and get some minor relief, but this of course meant not pedaling, slowing down, and then having to pedal harder to maintain speed again. This went on for more than 2 hours…

At the 17 km mark, I actually started to think that maybe I wasn’t going to finish the race. I was passing many younger, fitter guys and girls than me who’d given up and were walking their bikes up the hill or sitting in the grass beside the road. But I really didn’t want to join them, so I pushed on.

Taiko drumsCheer leadersIt wasn’t all bad, though. People lined the road cheering us on here and there, and at one point there were even cheer leaders waving pom poms and calling out to us to “fight!” Then there were the taiko drummers. When I heard the loud booming which typical of Japanese drums, I got a surge of adrenaline! Surely they were saving the big drums for the finish line, right? Wrong… It was just a way point around the 18 km mark…

So on I pushed… And suddenly the road fattened and I passed a “1 km remaining” sign. Praise god, I’d done it! Not quite. The road was indeed flat for a short while, and my hamstrings stopped torturing me somewhat.

A tired thumbs upThe pain trainBut then, with the finish line in sight, the road through one last 500 meter long hill at us. Having dropped their guard on the flat part of the road, the final hill proved too much mentally for some who just got off their bikes and walked them up the hill. True to my promise to myself, I didn’t get off my bike and rolled over the finish line in 2 hours and 28 minutes while my faster mates cheered me on from the side of the road.

After zooming back down the mountain to the start line at about speeds of up to 58 kmph, I ate free udon noodles from one of the many outdoor stands, and contemplated the events of the day.

Finished!Tokyo CranksThis was an interesting and humbling experience for me. As a health coach and long term martial arts instructor it’s my job to get people properly prepared for whatever it is they are aiming for – weight loss, general fitness, fight preparation, etc. But my own preparation for this race fell short of what was required. Admittedly, cycling is my tertiary type of training, with kung fu being my primary type, and weight lifting being my secondary type, and I just turned 51 a couple of weeks ago. But that’s no excuse! I knew what was coming and I was not fully prepared for it. So I will practice what I preach, address that correctly with a different training strategy, and crack the 2 hour mark in 2017.

See you next year, Fuji-san.

Free udon

 

Climb Japan

I joined The Healthy Virtual Community

I joined The Healthy Virtual Community

Healthful Robert Millar

So, I joined The Healthy Virtual Community recently!

What is that, you ask? It’s a small, closed group of VAs (Virtual Assistants) and freelancers whose admirable mission is “to support health and wellness businesses to grow and thrive” by hiring out their various skillsets – graphic design, web development, bookkeeping, business advice, etc.

You can see the public facing site (with my face on it!) at the link here. The private, paying-members-only site is inaccessible to the public, but holds a really nice toolbox of templates, resources and advice on the essential requirements for a freelancing business. Membership also gives access to a private Facebook Group, and members get featured in an online VA directory.

So why am I interested in this group? For two reasons :
1) Since April this year I’ve been billing on an hourly basis as a business consultant, mostly in the web services area, and it’s been great fun so far! I get to share my skills and experience with small businesses and entrepreneurs, and get paid for it. Super happy with that. And,
2) As a Healthy Virtual Community member I get access to health practitioners in need of business assistance, which is a niche area that I’ve already excelled in.

Joanna Mitchell, who founded The Healthy VA to “provide the health & wellness industry with the virtual support they need to efficiently manage their business and elevate their success”, really intrigues me. She graduated from the Health Coaching course at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition that I’m currently enrolled in, but instead of simply becoming a Health Coach after her graduation, she positioned herself as a support leader for Health Coaches, and for anyone else in the health & wellness industry – chiropractors, physiotherapists, nutritionists, naturopaths, etc. I really respect Joanna’s decision to support busy health practitioners, which is no small feat as I sure as hell know, but also her efforts to become the leader in her niche. I can’t begin to imagine that hard work and dedication it must have taken her to arrive where she is now, leading a team of Healthy VAs which it’s my great pleasure to now be a part of, in such a short time.

So, somewhat to my surprise, this is where my passion now lies.

While I’ll continue to support any small business or entrepreneur who wishes to leverage my skills and experience in order to better and faster achieve their goals, I’m most excited about the health practitioners who need help and who Joanna posts job requests for in The Healthy Virtual Community. I’m already in dialogue with several of these referrals, and look forward to taking on their most challenging web and social media projects so that they can do what they really want to do, which is to help more people to be well. Right now I can’t imagine anything more worthwhile than this.

I’ll still be working out of Ginza Hub in Tokyo, making great coffee and coaching my wonderful members and visitors in all aspects of entrepreneurship, as they may need it. But I feel new motivation now, and new focus, as an experienced business consultant, with a proven track record of building successful businesses, who is well on the way to Health Coach certification and who has been intimately involved in health & wellness for decades. 🙂

Stop Living in the Future

Stop Living in the Future

The futureI’ve been getting a lot of signals from the world lately that I’m living in the future, and that isn’t good. I mean, I am living in the here and now, but my mind keeps straying into the future, and this often creates an anxiety gap.

This is interesting, because I have no problem dealing with (or rather not dealing with) the past. There is no power in the past. It’s done. And I’m acutely aware that if we see and judge the present through the eyes of the past we get a totally distorted view of it, and that this is the cause of all sorts of misery and unhappiness, and even sickness. Years ago I read author and spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle say, “I have little use for the past and rarely think about it”, and realised that there was great power in this. It’s a daily battle, but I try hard not to simply be a product of my upbringing or my country of birth or my culture, but rather of my moment-to-moment choices. And most of the time I succeed – I no longer need the past to furnish me with an identity, like so many unfortunately seem to.

Both past and the future have no reality of their own. They are both illusory. Mind-made fiction. We have no power to act yesterday or tomorrow, and whenever we project beyond the present in either direction we make ourselves weak because we’re submitting to an illusion.

So much for setting goals then, right? Wrong. The purpose of goal setting isn’t to control the future, it’s actually to improve the quality of the present. If a goal doesn’t improve your present reality, then it’s probably pointless. But if a goal brings greater clarity, focus, and motivation to your life when you think about it, then it’s probably worth keeping. We should set goals for ourselves that make us feel powerful, motivated, and driven when we think about them, well before any final outcome is realised, and avoid setting goals that make us feel powerless, stressed out, or weak. Personal Development author Steve Pavlina says, “Whenever I focus on an inspiring goal, I feel extremely driven and motivated. Material goals always de-motivate me.” That’s interesting, isn’t it. So if you find yourself de-motivated, then you’re probably setting the wrong goals. We all need to set goals that are so inspiring that we can’t wait to get up in the morning and work on them!

But I digress… Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu famously said, “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.” I know this, and yet I feel anxious… I feel craving for fulfillment and completion in the future… So why is that?

Well, I think I figured it out. I was listening to one of the lectures in my Institute for Integrative Nutrition course, and the lecturer began extolling the virtues of single-pointed focus or, in other words, taking one day at a time. And then it dawned on me – Instead of taking one day at a time, I was spending a great deal of mental energy focusing on trying to control the future (a fruitless exercise, for sure.) I was shifting my focus away from my present reality, and into my imaginings of the future, and it was just as useless as if I’d been lamenting the past (another fruitless exercise, for sure.) I was giving up the beautiful clarity and power of the Now for things in the future that may or may not ever come to exist!

Screw that.

I’m now back to taking one day at a time, to being as present in the moment, every moment, as I can, and to letting the past fall behind me and the future unfold before me as they will. I’ve “re-set” goals that make me feel powerful, motivated, and driven when I think about them, I’m diving deeper into my daily mindfulness meditation, I’m allowing myself to get even better sleep quality, and my anxiety about the future feels like it never even existed. Wow.

So now I’d like to challenge everyone reading this post to join me in 3 areas :

  1. Re-read Lao Tzu’s quote above and ask yourself if you are living with any depression or any anxiety, and why that might be.
  2. Look at the goals you’ve set for yourself and ask if they are improving your present reality, then promptly get rid of any that aren’t.
  3. Try some mindfulness meditation, right now where you sit – Focus on your breath as it touches your nostrils going in and out, and note how wonderfully difficult it is to be anything but fully present in the moment when you do that. 🙂

 

 

Sleep Quality

Sleep Quality

Sleeping with my boysThe largest sleep study ever conducted, on 1.1 million people, shows that it’s quality of sleep and not quantity of sleep that really matters to our health and wellbeing. And most doctors, health experts, and especially athletes agree that quality sleep is critical.

Some of the benefits of good quality sleep include improved ability to learn new motor skills, greater ability to gain new insight into complex problems, better skin health and a youthful appearance,  increased testosterone levels (for men), more healthy cell division which helps prevent cancer, and increased athletic performance. Wow… The other side of that coin, of course, is that if you’re not sleeping well enough it’ll make you weak, fat, and kind of stupid…

Yet the vast majority of people have trouble sleeping. People in my circle of friends sometimes tell me that they get a solid 8 hours of sleep a night, yet still wake up feeling groggy and unrested. That’s no way to function in the state of high performance that we deserve. I think Vince Lombardi, perhaps the greatest sporting coach in the world, said it beautifully when he quipped, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”

Ok, so we need quality sleep to function optimally. So how, exactly, do we get that? Actually, it’s not that hard :

  1. Make your bedroom as dark as possible. That means turning of all appliances that have glowing lights (or covering those lights with tape), and blocking any cracks between curtains or blinds. I actually bought special blinds for my room that block out 100% of the sun for this very purpose.
  2. Make your bedroom as quiet as possible. Sounds pretty obvious, but it’s an important one. If you bedroom lets in the sound of traffic or other outdoor noise, try good quality ear plus. You can even have sound proofing and double glazed windows installed in your room for an ultra-quiet sleeping experience, like I have. (A bit extreme, I guess, but I really value my sleep.)
  3. Create an evening routine whereby you don’t exercise and you eliminate glowing screens about 2 hours before bed. If you can’t really avoid looking at your computer or mobile device before you sleep, install an application that dims the screen like f.lux for PC, Mac and iOS devices or Bluelight Filter for Android devices.
  4. Go to bed before 11 pm. It seems that after 11 pm, your body says “Oh, we need to stay up late, do we?” and then creates more of the hormone cortisol to keep you awake, and that’s not helpful.
  5. Stop drinking coffee after 2 pm, or at least 8 hours prior to bedtime. In spite of my deep love of coffee and all the good things it does for us, sadly caffeine is not a sleep aid…
  6. Track your sleep quality! Ok, I saved the best for last : Imagine this – You check off a list of “sleep notes” on your phone before you go to bed. Things like, stayed up late, drank alcohol, took supplements, had a stressful day. Then you put your phone in airplane mode and put it face down beside your pillow. Then the next morning, your phone not only shows you the quality of your sleep as a percentage (i.e. making sounds and tossing & turning means shallower sleep, as measured by your phone’s sensors) but it also shows you if the things you checked off the list before bed increased or decreased the quality of your sleep! SleepCycle is the name of the app that does this, and I highly recommend it. It’s free for iPhones and about a dollar for Android phones like mine. Check out the screen shots below of how the items in my own sleep notes effect my sleep quality. This data is was measured over 229 nights, which I believe makes it statistically significant. And note that drinking alcohol or coffee before bed had a negligible affect on my sleep, while doing an 18-hour fast resulted in an 8% increase in my sleep quality. How good is that! 🙂

Sleep Cycle 1

And note in this next screenshot that wearing my occlusal plate to stop my habit of grinding my teeth at night reduced my sleep quality by a whopping 18%. Hmmm…

Sleep Cycle 2

So, as you can see, sleep quality is something that we can measure and improve, and it’s well worth our while to do so. I highly recommend that everyone reading this post try at least one or two of the recommendations above, because the benefits can seriously outweigh the small time & energy investment required to achieve them.

Oh, and by the way, there is also some interesting research out there about taking supplements like Magnesium, Collagen and Krill Oil to increase sleep quality, but I haven’t found any significant benefits in doing so (see the screenshots again.) As always, though, your mileage may vary, so please test and comment back here if you find anything interesting.