Hack #1:The Healthy Trinity: Grounding, sun gazing & deep breathing.
I cannot stress how important these three simple protocols are for your wellbeing. When practiced together they have a compounding impact not just on your physical but on your more important mental and emotional balance. They are healing at a deep level and they complement your 4 morning rituals beautifully to give you the best start and finish to the day. And they only take 1-2 minutes to perform!
(If you are new to growing community, this article is in a series on the 4 rituals, 5 habits and 6 hacks. All our content is free and curated with genuine love, care and respect.
Ground, Gaze, Breathe (GGB)
This life hack should be practiced together, preferably within 45 minutes of sunrise and 45 minutes of sunset. I do them religiously wherever I may be in the world. In fact, I am writing this from NYC and I just returned from Central Park where I performed these trio just before my jog and meditation. It got rid of my jetlag almost instantly. The protocol provides the ultimate detox, the best antioxidant and the best elixir for your gut health.
Step 1: Go Barefoot on Grass
Step 2: Gaze at the Sun
Step 3: Breath Deeply
Breathe deeply in and out through the mouth for 45 seconds whilst you look towards the sun. Don’t look directly at the sun. Take in the whole picture without focusing on anything in particular. The sun early and late in the day will not hurt your eyes, especially for only 45 seconds. Have a break of 15 seconds and then repeat 2-3 times. I also suggest you do eye exercises during the 15 second break. Simply look left, right, up, down, diagonal then round to the left and right. Don’t forget to breath normally while you are doing these eye exercises.
The combination of deep breathing, sun gazing and grounding literally drains all the negative energy and replaces it with the earth’s healing energy. This is not pseudoscience. There is a lot of research showing that:
· Grounding or “earthing” replaces positively charged ions (bad for you) with negatively charged ions. It has a dramatic antioxidant effect.
· Breathing deeply oxygenates your cells and detox’s the body much more than any herbal detox program. Remember that 70% of our detox is done by the lungs through the breath.
· Bathing your eyes with sunshine boosts your energy, mood and provides a direct neuropathway through the pineal gland to your gut, where it regulates the diversity of your gut bacteria. This will boost not just the happy hormone serotonin but the all-important melatonin, which is responsible in so many functions including energy production and sleep promotion. Sleep is the ultimate superfood for body and mind.
For more detailed information on all three protocols of this healthy trinity please visit our faculty expert and health researcher Mark Bunn resources. Mark will be presenting at Upgrade Your Life 2020.
Excuse My Rant
This Hack #1 in our series is much more effective than probiotics, prebiotic, juice fasts, herbal supplements and the like. And it is free! Something the ‘wellness industry’ will not tell you because they don’t make money from the sun, earth and breath. As Australian heart surgeon, Dr Nikki Stamp recently said beautifully:
“The Wellness industry does not care about you or your health. The only thing they want from us is our money and adoration which they take with glee. Each time we like an Instagram post….read their books or juice some vegetable, we’re lining their pockets and making very little impact on our own health.”
The wellness industry is big business…$4.2 trillion compared to a paltry $938.4 billion by big pharma. Take control of your own health and use the earths healing power to make you well. You will notice that the 4 rituals, 5 habits and the hacks I am sharing with you costs NO money. Do not outsource your health to anyone
I really dislike this cliché “This will change your life” but, in this case, sleep will literally do so. What happens to us during sleep is truly remarkable. It is the ultimate detox for the mind and body. It is a reset button. A reboot.
In fact if there was a magic elixir or superfood that could help you live not just a longer life but a beautiful one, make you look young, boost your brain power, boost your performance, improve your relationship, make you fun and attractive to friends and family, energetic, enthusiastic…etc, you would mortgage your house for it. You would travel miles to get it.
Humans are wired to value scarcity. So, we go in search of elusive superfoods or medicinal herbs that grow in unique parts of the world. But we ignore the most potent health protocol that is available to us for free every night. SLEEP!
This article is not just about giving the usual list of tips for sleeping better. That is secondary and found all over the internet. I write this article with my lawyer hat on to convince you intellectually of the importance of sleep. Only then will you start to respect sleep. In my experience of coaching myself and clients, behavioural change will never happen unless you have complete clarity of why you are doing something. So, I will be sharing the science of sleep and how it impacts every part of your life. When you really understand what goes on at a cellular level, this will have a profound emotional impact on you and motivate you to take sleep more seriously and make the lifestyle changes I will be recommending later.
Straight up, I am not a sleep expert. But I research and retain information really well and I have studied this area for many years and read multiple papers and books by pioneering scientists, especially in the last 2 years, where there have been huge advancements. I have also tested the protocols personally and documented the impact it has had on my own health and performance (I do this with the help of my Oura Ring, which gives me all the data I need to track the results of every sleep protocol I implement. As an entrepreneur I often say that “data provides the clarity for business strategy”. That is no different in your personal life.
All my learnings have culminated in this article which is an excerpt of a chapter from my next book, Living Longer Looking Younger. It serves as a quick reference summary. It is perhaps the most important article you will read from me this year. It is a little long, but I make no apologies for that. I respect you too much to give you a cursory summary of what I think is the most important element to your wellbeing that impacts not only your physical but also your mental and emotional health.
Sleep happens in cycles typically of 90 mins duration. So over an optimal 8 hours sleep you will get 5 cycles. During this 90 min cycle you go into 4 levels of sleep. Level’s 3 & 4 being the deepest sleep where your brain goes into long ‘delta’ waves. Towards the end of the 90 min cycle you go back up to REM sleep (they call it Rapid Eye Movement because that is when you do your dreaming). As the night progresses and you go from cycle to cycle you have less delta sleep and more REM sleep, which is why you tend to dream more in the morning hours. Imagine it like going up and down a ladder 5 times per night. You will notice from the diagram below that most of your deep sleep happens early in the evening. Typically this peaks during the second cycle. And this is when you go into a state of autophagy (promotes longevity) and experience a surge of human growth hormones (promotes youth).
There are 4 layers to your health: Physical, Intellectual, Emotional and Spiritual. In this article we will discuss how sleep impacts the first ‘3 energies’.
The depth, duration, continuity and regularity is what defines high-quality sleep. And it is the combination of all 4 elements that increases your ability to activate ‘autophagy’ and HGH. Research shows that dysfunction in any one of these four factors negatively alters sleep and accelerates ageing and disease. Depth is how deep your sleep is. Duration is the length of sleep. Continuity is how long you sleep without waking (especially important in the first 4 cycles). Regularity is how often you experience quality sleep. Every day? 5 times per week?
How does sleep Impact Your PHYSICAL?
Long wave deep sleep is critical for activating a mechanism called ‘autophagy’. The mechanism was recently discovered in 2016 by Nobel prize winner, Yoshinori Ohsumi. It is a scientific term meaning your body goes into self-cleaning mode. It leads to the regeneration and repair of all your cells throughout the body via the lymphatic system, and the brain, via the glymphatic pathway while you sleep. Simply put, it destroys the old, damaged, and malfunctioning components of your cells – and rebuilds new and healthier ones. It’s like an overnight spring clean to replace old cells. So, autophagy is your body’s unique way of naturally rejuvenating and defending itself from disease.
Lack of good quality and quantity of sleep will cause a dysfunction with the mechanism of autophagy. The mind in particular will experience an abnormal build-up of B-Amyloid plaque on the very part of the brain which facilitates sleep – the pre-frontal cortex. Over time, this leads to even more sleep dysfunction which clogs up the brain even more, accelerates cognitive ageing, and contributes to the development of early onset dementia and Alzheimer’s. (Reference: Dr. David Rubinsztein, professor of molecular neurogenetics at the University of Cambridge).
When it comes to the body, poor quality sleep predictably leads to a multitude of physical ailments like auto-immune diseases from increased inflammation; poor thyroid function; increased insulin/glucose resistance (pre-diabetes); shortening of your telomeres (these keep you young); skin ageing; eyesight dysfunction; cardiovascular disease; and a dramatic increase in the risk of cancer. In relation to cancer, studies also show that shorter duration of sleep has been found to reduce the number of natural killer T cells by up to 30%. T cells are what fight cancer cells. Over time, chronic sleep deprivation of under 6 hours per night dramatically increases the risk of cancer, especially coupled with the lack of exposure to daylight and lack of vitamin D.
Interestingly, the research also shows that poor quality sleep tends to increase the amount of food you eat. It increases ghrelin cells which lead to an exaggerated hunger response. High quality sleep on the other hand increases leptin cells. These cells inhibit hunger and regulate energy balance, so the body does not trigger a hunger response when it does not need energy.
Additionally, poor quality sleep increases your cravings for the wrong foods. This is because the lack of sleep impact your gut health. Poor sleep leads to an overgrowth of bad bacteria that crave the wrong type of foods, typically, high in sugar, fat and salt. In fact science is now showing that good quality sleep from a healthy circadian rhythm is more important than pre-biotics and pro-biotics in the regulation of good gut health.
If this is not bad enough, research shows that people who get 6 or less hours of sleep per night are 4 times as likely to get ill after being exposed to the flu virus.
But wait, there is more. Poor quality sleep reduces testosterone levels, which is critical for your libido (and relationship), fat metabolism, muscle strength and bone density.
Still need more evidence of the importance of sleep? Let’s move to the impact on your mental and emotional health.
How does Sleep Impact Your INTELLECTUAL?
Poor quality sleep (especially influencing depth and duration) impacts your cognitive and work performance in a profound way. As we enter this age of automation and artificial intelligence, the key skills of creativity, imagination and strategising will become super important to your success. Sleep impacts all of these 3 key skills in a profound way. In a recent study performed by the team at Berkeley University led by Professor Matthew Walker, they stunningly found that even one night’s sleep deprivation impacted cognitive performance by 40%. This is a huge impact.
They found that you need sleep to prime the brain before learning and processing new information, and you need sleep after learning to retain or store that same information you learned. So, sleep before, stores information in the short-term memory (the hippocampus part of the brain) and deep sleep after allows you to transfer that same information into your long-term memory (the cortex). This allows you to reset your short-term memory for use the next day. So, if you do not get enough deep sleep, your short-term memory does not reset efficiently and therefore impairs your ability to learn and process new information the next day, because that part of the brain has a limited storage capacity (approx. 16 hours). Think of it like a USB stick. Therefore, a good sleep of depth and duration will have the benefit of clearing your short-term memory reservoir for use the next day.
How does Sleep impact Your EMOTIONAL?
There is a strong correlation between a high EQ and personal performance. Poor quality and quantity sleep impact your emotional stability. It increases activity in the emotional part of the brain (the amygdala), which becomes 60% more reactive due to the dampening down of your rational brain (the pre-frontal cortex). This is an immediate trigger for anxiety which in turn negatively impacts your ability to sleep. This leads to a vicious cycle of sleeping less and experiencing higher anxiety.
Dr Walkers research lab shows that this negative loop eventually leads to social isolation because people who are sleep deprived show a strong tendency to distance themselves from social interaction. Moreover, it showed that the issue was compounded because they were in turn shunned by others; which caused more social isolation and inevitably depression. This is what the “R U Ok” movement is essentially trying to avoid.
Depression causes your hippocampus to shrink, which then impacts your short-term memory, which as I outlined earlier, is critical for your creativity and strategic thinking, and therefore your performance at work and in business.
Poor sleep also amplifies the stress response in a unique way. Your tolerance level drops, your irritability rises, and you are quick to anger. Hardly good qualities for optimal work performance. In fact, the negative emotions of anger, fear, anxiety and depression (even general unhappiness) will drain your physical energy and this dramatically reduces your effectiveness in all areas of life.
The Definitive Guide to Sleeping Longer and Deeper
In Part 2 of this article due out next week, I will discuss the four elements to good quality sleep. They are duration, depth, continuity and regularity. I will list the major factors that negatively impact these 4 elements. Knowing this will help you fix the root cause of poor sleep. And when you do this, you will find that sleep becomes as innate and natural as breathing and drinking water. More specifically I will outline the following:
Depth: The two MAJOR lifestyle changes that will increase the depth of your sleep and activate autophagy and trigger HGH. These protocols will work almost immediately.
Duration: The two MAJOR causes for a reduction in the duration of your sleep. And how to prevent them with two simple techniques. I will also share with you 7 techniques that will induce sleepiness so you can get to sleep on time every night.
Continuity: The three MAJOR reasons why you are having interrupted sleep and how to sleep through the 3 sleep cycles of the night where you are most prone to waking. Refer to the diagram above.
Regularity: How sleeping according to your chronotype can increase regularity, especially during travel and work commitments. I will share the exact best time to sleep and wake according to your chronotype.
The Definitive Guide to Sleeping Longer and Deeper
In Part 1 of this article on sleep I outlined the latest stunning research which shows that sleep is more important than any other health protocol and impacts not just the body but cognitive performance and emotional wellbeing in a profound way. If you have not read Part 1, here is the link: Is Sleep the Fountain of Youth?
In an age where artificial intelligence and technology is taking over jobs, it is very clear that creativity, imagination, strategic thinking and the ability to connect with others will be the most prized qualities for any person on the planet. SLEEP is your super power in promoting all of these qualities.
In this Part 2 I will outline the scientifically proven factors that impact good quality sleep, as they relate to the four elements: duration, depth, continuity and regularity. Dysfunction in any one of these elements will compromise sleep. Knowing this will help you fix the cause. Later I will list some tips that induce sleep, but without fixing the root cause, those tips are useless.
It is very important to note at the outset that sleep is an innate quality. It will happen automatically with the protocols I am about to share. So, this article will focus on returning you to your natural rhythm, where you will find sleep to be effortless. I know this from experience because I used to find sleep difficult and a waste of time because I had so much to do. Today my respect for sleep has been deepened by the fact that sleep has transformed my performance in all 8 areas of my life.
Depth is the most important element because, you will recall from Part 1 of this article that regeneration and repair of body and mind happens when you go into long-wave deep sleep. Depth activates the mechanism of autophagy and production of human growth hormones. The former helps you live longer, and the latter helps you look younger.
The depth of your sleep is impacted dramatically by the following 4 factors:
1. Not enough sunlight during the day – especially morning light. Exposure to natural light during the day is critical for the production of melatonin. This neurotransmitter gets produced naturally by the pineal gland. Melatonin has two main functions. By day, it plays an active role in energy production by your mitochondria because it is a powerful antioxidant. Secondly, it promotes deep sleep at night. The best way to get more melatonin naturally is to eat out in sunlight and get as much sun on your skin and eyes, especially in the first hour of the morning. I recommend you only wear sunglasses when absolutely necessary. I also recommend the ancient practice of sun-gazing. This is beautifully covered in the book Ancient Wisdom for Modern Health by Mark Bunn.
2. Too Much Artificial Light at Night – especially from screens and monitors. Research shows that we now spend 93% of our time inside surrounded by artificial light. We eat in front of TV’s. We work in front of computers. We play games on screens. We browse social media on phones. This is wrecking us. It is disrupting natural processes that heal and regenerate us. It is disturbing critical neuro pathways. Exposure to artificial blue and white light at night is suppressing the release of melatonin and therefore the depth of your sleep. It also impacts the duration of sleep – see below. Here are some tips:
a. Replace your LED’s with low lux lighting which can reduce blue/white light by up to 80%. b. Put dimmers on all your lights. c. Light candles instead. d. Eliminate screen time at least 1 hour before bed. Ideally 3 hours or as soon as the sun goes down. If you absolutely have to get on your devices for something urgent, then I suggest you use the Apps Flux or IRIS. Both Apps reduce blue and white light considerably, but I prefer IRIS because it also eliminates flicker on your laptop screen. This flicker has been shown to cause a stress response.
3. Body Temperature. Getting overheated at night stops you from getting into longwave ‘delta’ deep sleep levels 3 & 4. (refer to the diagram in Part 1 of this article). You need to ensure that your room temperature is between 17-19 degrees Celsius. The best way to achieve this is to put your bedrooms on different temperature settings than the rest of the house. Secondly do not over-dress for bed or have thick bed covers. Thirdly, roll away from your partner after the initial cuddle at night
4. EMF Interference. Electro-magnetic pollution from cordless phones, Wi-Fi routers, Bluetooth devices and all devices not in aeroplane mode will all impact your depth of sleep because these frequencies activate your sympathetic nervous system and stop you from going into long wave delta sleep. No ‘ifs or buts’, EMF is very bad for your sleep.
How do you know if you are going into deep sleep?
You can measure whether you are going into deep sleep through the use of biometric devices such as the Oura Ring but I strongly suggest you put it in aeroplane mode, especially at night, and only sync it with the App when you are not wearing it.
Duration is important because we all need 5 x 90 minute sleep cycles every night. This adds up to 7.5 hours. Every cycle serves a unique biological purpose. Duration is mainly impacted when you cannot get to sleep at the optimal time. So you end up going to bed late and reducing the duration of your sleep. It is imperative for your circadian rhythm and thyroid function to wake on or soon after sunrise. So sleeping in to make up the time only makes matters worse. (Your optimal time for sleeping and waking according to your chrono-type is discussed below under Continuity).
Here are the factors that impact your ability to get to sleep. Staying asleep is covered under continuity below.
1. Artificial light at night supresses the release of melatonin so it also affects duration. In fact for every 60 minutes of artificial light you get after sun down, you supress the release of melatonin by 30 minutes. This effectively delays the time for you to start feeling sleepy and ready for bed. You need to get Amish and eliminate all technology at night.
2. Not enough movement during the day makes you feel flat and stagnant. The body needs to get tired during the day for better sleep at night. Movement is also critical to neutralise the effects of work or life stress. TIP: If you cannot play sport or have the time to workout, try minimum effective dose exercise throughout the day. Do Tabata 3 x 4 minutes a day and go for a quick walk before lunch and dinner.
3. Stress boosts cortisol and adrenalin and keep you in a state of fight or flight. This will lead to high blood pressure and a rapid heartbeat, which prevent you from getting to sleep. And even if you do get to sleep it will affect your continuity because chances are you will wake up around 3-4am with your heart beating out of your chest. Stress also raises your body temperature which a we discussed keeps you from going into deep sleep. The best way to neutralise stress is to slow down during the day and perform your tasks at a normal pace. Research shows that it is not the amount of work we do but the speed in which do the work that is the main cause of stress. So slow down. Read the tips by Carl Honore in his book, In Praise of Slow.
4. Too Many Thoughts. Sometimes it is not stress that keeps you up but thoughtsare that go around and around in your head of things to do for the next day. Getting things down in your diary, gets it out of your head. The 5-10 minutes it takes to do this will save you precious hours of lost sleep.
5. Feelings are bothering you. You will find it difficult to get to sleep if feelings bubbling under the surface are not acknowledged and processed. To healyou need to feel. We all experience rejections, failures, hurts, and disappointments. The best way to process them is to journal your feelings, using the Higher Branch techniques as espoused by our faculty member, Dr Guy Winch in his book, Emotional First Aid.
6. Eating too late and too much can stop you from getting to sleep and consequently reduce your duration. Especially foods high in fat. It is best to avoid food within 3 hours of going to bed.
7. Caffeine Consumption in the 12 hours before bedtime. Caffeine overrides the sleep-inducing effects of melatonin and keeps you awake for longer. Some people can go to sleep after drinking coffee but the research shows unequivocally that the caffeine stops them from going into deep sleep. Therefore, they never get the benefits of autophagy and HGH.
The Best Tips to Induce Sleep and Improve Duration:
· Have a bath, steam or sauna 1 hour before bed. This helps your body temperature to drop which prepares you for sleep.
· Sleeping meditation.
· Listening to comedy.
· Use an acupressure mat. I use the Shakti Mat. It is incredibly effective.
· Socialising by talking or playing board games or cards.
· Essential oils of lavender for stress or rose geranium for anxiety.
· Exercise during the day. Especially in morning.
· Do the 4, 7, 8, breathing technique. Breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 and exhale for 8. Do this at least 5 times before you go to sleep. Do this during the next technique…
· Ground yourself. Standing barefoot on green grass drains all the positive ions from your system and replaces them with the earths negative ions. The latter is healing and calming. It engages the parasympathetic nervous system.
It is natural to wake in the last sleep cycle of the night around the 6-hour mark. But if you are waking earlier in the first 4 sleep cycles, then you have a continuity problem. Some of the factors outlined in the section above on Duration will sometimes affect continuity. For example, if your stress is high then cortisol will surge at night and wake you. Thoughts and feelings that were bothering you during the day will creep in.
But what is it that makes you wake up to begin with and interrupt your continuity in the first 6 hours? Typically they are:
1. Drinking too much fluids before bed. 2. Eating too much before bed. 3. Consuming more than one drink of alcohol within 3 hours before bed. 4. Falling asleep in front of the TV.
If you do wake at night, the best thing to do is roll over and keep sleeping. Do not get up and out of bed to drink or go to the toilet, unless you indulged in the list of 4 things just mentioned.
What about sleeping tablets to help you sleep and stay asleep? Research shows that sleeping tablets grossly interfere with your REM sleep, which is critical for re-setting your short-term memory. This will make you foggy during the day and make you ineffective in performing your tasks, especially tasks requiring client connection and creativity.
Sleeping according to your chronotype can improve regularity, especially during travel and work commitments.
If you are a night person and you try to go to bed before 10:30pm, you will lay awake in bed thinking you have insomnia. If you are a morning person and go to bed too late, you will get over-tired and have trouble sleeping.
According to the research, morning people should go to bed around 9:30pm and wake at 5:30am. Night owls should go to bed around 11pm and wake at 7pm. If you are an ‘inbetweener’, then anytime between 9:30pm and 11pm for sleeping and 5:30am and 7am for waking. In all cases however it is imperative for all chronotypes to get plenty of sunlight within the hour after waking.
If there is any one factor that influences sleep and overall energy levels the most, it would be to practice light hygiene. Direct sunlight during the day will boost your energy; and elimination of artificial light at night will induce sleep. They both improve your gut health profoundly, where the majority of melatonin is produced during the daylight hours. Just think of it this way: good bacteria prefer sunshine. Bad bacteria thrive in darkness.
I wish you light and the softness of sleep.
This article is a paraphrased excerpt from my latest book, Living Longer, Looking Younger. An eBook version of this will soon be available as a free download.