• Daniel

The Deep Sleep Experiment – Week 3 | The Lab


Welcome back to the first ever You, Me & Anxiety Lab experiment and to week 3. I'd recommend going back and having a quick browse of the first and second weeks but to summarise quickly; over the last month I've been trying four different techniques each week to improve my deep sleep and documenting their effectiveness. Last week was no exercise after 6pm, this week is spending 20 minutes outside each morning.

MORNIN' SUNSHINE


I first came across the idea of spending 20 minutes outside each morning from Dr Rangan Chatterjee and his book, 'The 4 Pillar Plan: How to Relax, Eat, Move and Sleep Your Way to a Longer, Healthier Life' – I highly recommend giving it a read, definitely the best all round health book I've read this year.

So, why is it meant to improve your sleep? Well a very brief explanation is that by exposing yourself to morning sunlight, you kick start your circadian rhythm which allows your body to begin your natural body clock. Here's a 2 minute video explaining our circadian rhythm – Don't worry, it has cartoons in it.


I was intrigued by this method of improving sleep as I find the winter months quite difficult. The dark, drawn out evenings can get to me at times so I'm hoping by exposing myself to daylight each morning, they will have less of on an impact.

I do also own a 'seasonal affective disorder' (otherwise well named as SAD) lamp which I turn on each morning when I wake up to get some of that good ol' artificial sunshine in my eyes. Anywho, let's get experimenting!

Week 3 – Go Outdoors for 20 Minutes Each Morning

Monday:

Didn't hit the week with the best of form. Woke up later than I expected and had to shoot off for an all day first aid training course. Soooooo, I only got about 10 mins of outdoor time in.

In the evening I went to a friends and had an intense Fifa session till quite late (we keep a score tally, so EVERY game counts – nerds). Due to this it wasn't all that easy to wind down for beddy-byes, I have a sneaking suspicion my deep sleep score could be low tonight...

Tuesday:

Got up absolutely shattered today and wanted nothing more than to cocoon myself in blankets for the day.

However, apparently I got 15.5% deep sleep and hit all my other targets (bar REM sleep). So, for this day I'm taking a step back from the technology and declaring it got it wrong. Bold of me to take on the geniuses at Fitbit I know, @me.

Much to my displeasure, I put on my under armour top, a t-shirt, a jumper, a coat and the fluffiest socks at my disposal (not in that order) and ventured into the arctic 4°C outside. Picture Ranulph Fiennes in his prime.

I sat outside and listened to a podcast for 20 minutes. We have budgies and parakeets in our garden so it was nice to see them flutter about. I was happy to get back indoors but the cold air was surprisingly invigorating first thing.

Deep Sleep Score: 15.5%

Wednesday:

I woke up far more refreshed this morning. Not quite the hop, skip out of bed kind but... who on earth does that anyway!?

I happened to pick the week to spend 20 minutes outside each morning to coincide with the arrival of Storm Diana (for any non-Brits, by storm we mean above average rain fall and wind powerful enough to blow off our Royal Ascot hats).

So rather than sitting in a wet seat, I went for a 20 minute walk in the rain. It was as enjoyable as you'd imagine but it got me out and about.

I went to the gym at 7:30pm this evening, as I'm keen to see whether a late night workout will result in poor deep sleep in comparison to lasts week's 'no exercise after 6pm' experiment. Stay tuned, folks!

Deep Sleep Score: 13.1%

Thursday:

When I got into bed last night I had that wonderful sensation of being swallowed up by the mattress. I was physically kaput and it didn't take long to melt into sleep.

Much to my surprise and true to its enigmatic ways, my deep sleep came in at 19.7% and time awake only 8% – seemingly disproving my late night exercise = bad sleep theory from last week.

It seems I may have pissed off Storm Diana with my comments yesterday. She was a' roaring this morning and it was grim out there. So I have to admit I sheepishly stood just outside my front door for about 10 minutes this morning but did take a 10 minute walk during my lunch break. So that counts, RIGHT?????

Deep Sleep Score: 19.7% (Experiment PB)

Friday:

I was absolutely cream-crackered yesterday evening, ironic considering the amount of deep sleep I got the previous night.

Rather annoyingly, my Fitbit recorded by sleep in the basic format. It only measured 'times awake', 'restlessness' and 'minutes awake' so I don't have any concrete data on my deep sleep.

Luckily this morning it was a brighter day. So I took my morning smoothie and had a good chinwag with my pal 'Skinny Bob'. He refused to smile (he has this weird gaunt look about him, go figure) so I channelled his energy too.

Deep Sleep Score: N/A

Saturday:

Last night I had a visit from the stress dream fairy and woke up feeling pretty shit.

My REM sleep was recorded at 7.6% which is a tad odd as dreaming occurs during REM sleep, however it is also associated with balancing your mood [1], kinda like the place your mind goes to for therapy. So on that side of things, it does makes sense I woke up feeling a little bit rubbish.

Deep sleep came in at 14.7% so a little better than average.

Went outside late this morning (it's Saturday guys) and took the time to call some of my family for a chat. What can I say, I'm quite the multitasker.

Deep Sleep Score: 14.7%

Sunday:

Went to bed a little earlier last night in order to get up and head to the gym at a reasonable time. Still had some vivid ol' dreams but less stressful today.

So I woke up with a bit more moxie (yes, I did thesaurus 'energy' and yes, 'moxie' is now my favourite word).

This morning I was having a think about my overall levels of tiredness this week. They have definitely been higher and I think the weather has had an impact. Britain has been clouded in, well clouds, for 90% of this week and as I mentioned above, I find my mood is quite susceptible to whatever the sky is doing.

Deep Sleep Score: 14.1%

Another week, another experiment done (scientists have a well easy job).

So, the average deep sleep for this week is 15.4%, a 0.3% increase from last week and a 1.8% rise from two weeks ago.

If I'm being totally honest with ya'll, despite the small increase I felt way more fatigued and sluggish this week. A number of factors could have contributed to this; poor weather, illness in the house, general life stressors etc.

I'm not denouncing the benefits of spending time outside each morning but I reckon you need to do it longer than a week to see any concrete results. It was definitely the hardest part of the Deep Sleep Experiment so far, I'm sure in the summer it would be more enjoyable but in the winter? Not so much.

Next week I shall be trying out a hypnosis recording and seeing how that impacts maaa sleep!

Average Weekly Deep Sleep Score: 15.4%

References:

1 - National Sleep Foundation. (2010). REM sleep deprivation and migraines. URL: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/rem-sleep-deprivation-and-migraines

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