Over the last couple years I have turned into a sleep junkie – or rather a sleep quality junkie. The more I look at various health conditions, sleep has a contributory impact.
The quality part doesn’t come just from time in bed. The amount of time in different sleep stages is what I have been trying to hack, with some success.
Measured by brain wave activity, they track how much time in a variety of stages one spends in each throughout the night. Here is a visual:
Deep sleep is the focus of this post, and it has been the trickiest for me to nail down. It is so sensitive to a host of environmental and lifestyle factors that you really have to make it a priority. You miss on one simple contributor and your deep sleep can plummet from normal to fractional instantly. Normal is somewhere between 45-90 minutes.
We concentrate deep sleep most in the first half of our sleep (as shown above in orange), which is why it is so susceptible to lifestyle inputs.
For this post, I will highlight two of deep sleep’s critical areas. Moving memories from working memory (where this text is as you read it) to long-term storage and detoxifying the brain. Again, there are others such as immune function (including cancer ramifications) and blood sugar metabolism, but this won’t be a deep dive with numerous citations. I plan on adding a sleep entry to our growing collection of whitepapers soon.
Deep Sleep Killers
I have been using an Oura ring for 1 1/2 years now and have a few friends who also have them. Yes, I am that guy, who will discuss sleep stats at social events!
This technology provides the sleep staging data, which helps immensely on tying lifestyle with sleep outcomes.
The biggest deep sleep killers I have noticed are:
- Too much light at night (particularly blue light – TVs, devices, LED/CFL bulbs) and not enough bright light during the day. This circadian component is a part of our free metrics tracking tool.
- Eating too close to bed, 2-4 hours is ideal from last bite/drink to sheets.
- Alcohol, both too close to bed and over 2 drinks
- Temperature, cool is superior. Increased temps from clothing, bedding, or thermostat influences all disrupt deep sleep.
- Working out too late in the evening.
The other factor that can work against deep sleep is age:
The decline of deep, slow wave sleep begins much earlier in life than most people would expect, with losses occurring as early as the late 20s. By the time a person reaches 50, they’ve lost roughly half of their deep sleep, and by the time they’re 80, deep sleep brain waves are almost undetectable, according to Dr. Walker.
That sounds bad, and it is. However, as I have detailed before, you can impact your cellular age. While you can not change the birthday rate, there are lots of opportunities to keep your cells acting years younger. With a
Deep Sleep Deprivation Consequences (in our two areas of focus)
As described above, deep sleep moves the memory into long-term storage. It is REM sleep (dreaming stage) that later indexes the information relating it to other items on file – like a relational database in the computer world. Shorting deep sleep degrades long term memory formation. I hope you get good deep sleep tonight so reading this stays on file!
One substance removed via this process is
One place beta amyloid accumulates is the pre-frontal cortex, guess what the center of that region is responsible for? Generating the electrical deep brain waves of deep sleep.
So, decreased deep sleep allows
This last part was new information I learned on a podcast where Dr. Rhonda Patrick interviewed Matthew Walker last month. He is the author of Why We Sleep, which I reviewed here, please have a look for more fascinating information on sleep – he is one of the world’s leading sleep researches.
The first 6 months of my Oura ring data showed about 49 minutes of deep sleep. I worked to implement as many hacks as possible to bring this number up. Prioritizing early meals (with a 2-3 hour window before bed of nothing but water), dimming lights early, using blue light reduction on devices, using True Dark glasses to further optimize light exposure, cool room temperature (sometimes assisted by cold showers), and a few supplements here and there.
I have increased my average deep sleep over the last 6 months to 1 hr 13 min, almost a 50% increase. Good, but I will continue to search for what moves the needle higher.
Enter my wife (not pictured above…)
So, living with me means exposure to lots of new things to try on the health front, including sleep hacks (to which the response would be best summed up with an eye roll emoji).
She has not had the success I have on improving deep sleep, despite implementing most of the same tactics above. Her 2018 average was 47 minutes – not terrible, but not optimal.
Then, a couple weeks ago she began using a new product from Island Drug’s compounding lab called Synapsin. The last 11 days her deep sleep has doubled to an average of 95 minutes. WOW. We made no other changes, just this new product.
Her deep sleep went from an average for 47.6 minutes for 2018 to an average of 95.5 minutes in the last 11 days. DOUBLED!
We have other patients without an Oura ring also reporting more restful sleep. A few more with Oura rings plan to use Synapsin and we will keep tabs on that data.
Below is an excerpt from a recent email update to Island Drug customers:
3 New Products | Excellent Reported Outcomes
Synapsin is an innovative, patent-pending powder blend of ginsenoside Rg3 and nicotinamide riboside along with components to aid in solubilization and dispersion. It is an ingredient designed to be used in dietary supplement formulations for the support of neurological health and cognitive health.
- NUTRIENT SUPPORT SUMMARY OF SYNAPSIN
- Supports neuronal health
- Supports NAD+ production in the central and peripheral nervous system, and supports health sirtuin expression
- Supports healthy mitochondrial function
- Supports the attenuation of microglial activation4
Jim LaVelle (a pharmacist!) is the developer of Synapsin; this is a listing of conditions referenced for this product on his website:
- Traumatic Brain injuries (and impaired cognitive function) can be seen in many types of people:
- NFL players with concussions
- Navy Seals after being in combat zones
- Motor Vehicle Accident
- Electric shock
- Violence injury
- Alzheimer’s (Dementia)
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- ADHD Autoimmune Disorders
- ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease)
- Lyme Disease
- Chronic Stress Situations
- Executive Burnout
- Lifestyle Stress
- Overloaded mom with the Jello brain feeling5
We have seen particularly good experiences in the overloaded mom category, executive burnout, and sleep improvement.
Mechanism of Action for Deep Sleep
In the studying of
With deep sleep, my theory is chronic neuroinflammation contributes to a decreased capacity to sustain proper sleep, in part due to the energetic deficit. Sleep is NOT a passive low activity state – there are lots of processes going on during shuteye.
This intervention was powerful. Doubling deep sleep has enormous benefits in the short and long terms. I have seen over the last 18 months how finicky it can be to enter deep sleep, and for this one product to deliver such a substantial impact is amazing. Yes, it is an n=1 study. However, it was very well controlled. The only change was adding Synapsin.
My takeaway here is that (1) Synapsin helped and (2) brain inflammation takes part and is under appreciated. As laid out in the Inflamed Brain Whitepaper, it can manifest in a variety of ways – brain fog, depression/anxiety, cognitive decline, and more. Here, she experienced the normal full-time job and mom lifestyle of running full speed. Likely, low grade brain inflammation had developed that the Synapsin helped knock down.
What kind of undetected brain inflammation levels might someone have with diagnosed depression, anxiety, or dementia have? Would Synapsin + the other information in the whitepaper help?
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