Bedtime Matters?

7am view, black-out curtains drawn

Eliminating all grains and conventional dairy in that fateful week in 2009 took my digestive and metabolic issues from critical to manageable within a span of a few days. Life went from feeling like it was only sorta worth living in the state I was in to feeling like I had been given a new lease on life. The road from manageable to happy has been about two years and 51-ish weeks of small progressive rounds of changes in the quality of food, activities and relationships.

Until two weeks ago, though, there haven’t been any dramatic, flipping of a switch-like changes I’ve experienced since that fateful week back in 2009. What did I do? I changed my bedtime. Not hours of sleep, but the time at which I fall asleep.

I have joked with close friends that, “You wouldn’t want to spend a day in my head.” (Hyper-analytic, self-critical, pragmatic, way too much understanding of facts, figures, world issues). Somehow after nine hours of sleep starting at 9 p.m. it’s a head I wouldn’t mind inviting others into.

  • No mood swings or afternoon fatigue
  • More positive, few negative thoughts
  • I don’t desire to stuff myself at every meal
  • I am more chatty, patient, decisive
  • No desire for cheat foods
  • Better daily follow-through on personal goals

The further past 9:30 p.m. I fall asleep (the later I get sucked into the computer usually) the grumpier, more analytic, the harder it is to find the ‘flow’ the next day. The idea of having to adhere to a schedule irks me regardless of the intellectual comfort in how primal the prehistoric reenactment of going to sleep with the sun is.

Wistful memories of musically-enhanced evenings writing or working as a former night-owl sing their siren song. Thankfully I have the antidote now: knowing what it feels like to go to bed at 9 p.m. and sleep until I wake up.

The last two weeks have been great, but we’ll see whether this improves any of the tangible issues going on in the long run. I am seriously enjoying getting a taste of what it’s like to be one of those chipper, optimistic people with energy. It’s worth moving dinner time and shutting off the screens earlier.

I’m sure in a few years when we have kids I’ll look back on this post and laugh (or burst into sleep-deprived tears). There must be innovative parents out there that have figured sleep out though. The same parents that train their infants to notify them before pooping, or the amazing people in the unschooling world who raise dynamic, intelligent kids in innovative ways.

Sleep-inspired creativity

I had read many (poorly supported) claims on a variety of blogs, including ancestral health-bent blogs about the importance of the time by which you fall asleep, but it wasn’t until I was recently pushed into a figurative corner that I decided to try it out. That figurative corner was the popping up of some health issues over the last year starting with infrequent periods, then a few months later fatigue, more hair falling out than normal, old digestive problems coming back, and a few months ago a blood test showing low thyroid. Outside of a consistently nutrient-dense diet and at least 8 hours of nightly sleep (starting between 10 and midnight), my life is anything but consistent (in a good way), so I couldn’t pin it on any one thing.

The early bedtime idea was in my cache of last-resort ideas behind a round of GAPS Intro diet (which I tried), a natural antibiotic/probiotic protocol for SIBO which is still on the table, quitting CrossFitting/high-intensity stuff which isn’t yet on the table, and thyroid medicine (pig thyroid) which my integrative medicine MD suggested. I’d tried forced bedtimes in the past with no success because I’d toss and turn. No Natural Calm, chamomile, serotonin supplements, Flux or Sleepmate app, nothing but mind-tricks helped me fall asleep (this one especially: I try hard to open my eyes while keeping them shut. It actually works within about 5 mins ~90% of the time).

What planted the seed of messing with bedtime? To be fair it was first the mention of light in Lights Out a couple years ago but I didn’t give it much thought again until I re-read a chapter in Full Moon Feast describing a small study where light was manipulated to affect ovulation dates as a method of birth control. Pretty nifty stuff worth researching more.

How does bed time vs. hours asleep affect you? What about darkness of the room? Falling asleep mind-tricks?

A sleep-inspired challenge to south bay LA's Open Sesame restaurant's fried cauliflower

  • Steam a head of cauliflower until it’s soft but not mushy
  • In a large bowl mash it into chunks ~1″
  • Heat lard or coconut oil (preferably expeller pressed) ~1cm deep in a fry pan on a med-high
  • Fry for 5-8mins, flipping once in the middle of that period
  • Remove it with a slotted spoon and place in a large bowl; depending on fry pan size you may need to do two batches
  • Toss with thyme, salt and cumin (equal parts ground up in a mortar)
  • The oil was still clean enough to use on a second batch or for eggs or other cooking

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