Tag: sleep

I Can’t Sleep

I don’t know what to do. I’ve never really experienced insomnia before. I’ve always been an “early riser” and just accepted that was my circadian rhythm. I wake up early (typically 5-ish am) no matter what time I go to bed. Stay up too late and I’ll pay for it by being tired all the next day. It’s always been that way and I’ve just had to deal with it. But now I’ve been reading about sleep and am freaked out about how damaging lack of sleep can be. I have a Fitbit giving me nightly sleep scores. And lately… I’m waking up at 2:30-3:30 am every night and can’t get back to sleep.

I don’t know how to fix this. Mrs. Troutdog says not everyone needs eight hours of sleep. True, but you can’t function on an average of five hours a night. It’s what I’ve been doing for weeks now and I’m tired all the time. It’s hard to get through the day without a solid hour + nap. I try to read in the afternoon and my eyes won’t stay open. It’s frustrating.

I’ve stopped alcohol. No more caffeine in the afternoon. I exercise. I’m trying to keep the room cool and dark. I’ve started adding magnesium before bed. I have zero problem falling asleep. I’m out like clockwork within 5-10 minutes of going to bed. But at 3:00 am every morning… bing, eyes open up and it’s all over. Oh, I try to get back to sleep. I usually suffer through an hour-hour and half of tossing and turning. Hips will start to ache. Hot. I can’t get my arms comfortable. I’ll hyper focus on the slightest noise in the room. The thoughts in my head won’t shut off. I’ll lay there with my eyes closed for what seems like hours and then peek at the clock and five minutes went by. Somewhere around 4:00 am I give up and get out of bed.

It’s frustrating because I am tired. I don’t want to have to rely on a nap later to keep functioning. Mrs. Troutdog thinks I’m going to bed too early. My fear is that if I stay up later I’ll still wake up at the same time, just with fewer hours of sleep. At least a 9:00 pm bedtime gets me five-ish hours of sleep.

Am I not sleeping because I’m now hyper-focused on sleep, sleep research and the Fitbit sleep data? I don’t think I’m stressed. Nothing out of the ordinary has changed in my life. It’s a mystery why it’s gotten so bad lately.

Mrs. Troutdog has horrible sleep patterns and insomnia. Always has. She goes to bed in the wee hours of the night and then sleeps like the dead. She’d probably sleep until noon if daily life activities didn’t dictate getting up earlier. I’ve never had much sympathy for her late-night insomnia… until now.

So to all you insomniacs, do you just ride it out? Is it a phase that will pass? Do I start experimenting with different bedtimes? It’s so frustrating.

Or maybe I don’t need to do anything? Evidence shows that historically, humans often had biphasic sleep patterns. Also known as a “second sleep”. People went to bed early, then woke and performed chores, visited neighbors, etc… and then had their second sleep. For unclear reasons, this pattern began to disappear in the 17th-18th century. Maybe I just embrace it and plan on getting errands done at 4:00 am?

The other option is that I go the siesta route. I remember visiting Spain and being initially puzzled (in the smaller towns) why all the stores were closed for three hours in the afternoon. Everyone is busy taking a siesta after their midday meal. Rather than pretending to myself that I’m going to just “close my eyes for a few” most afternoons, maybe I just go all-in. Intentionally climb into bed and sleep a couple of hours.

I don’t know. I worry that anything I do is going to unintentionally reinforce a pattern. How do I fix this, or do I even need to try?

So… if you start seeing a flurry of random daily blog posts with topics all over the map in the next few weeks, it’s because I’m wandering around at 3:00 in the morning trying to figure out what to do with myself.

A Record High Score

As mentioned in a previous post, I purchased a Fitbit almost a month ago. I only wanted a cheap way to see heartrate but discovered the sleep tracking feature and have been obsessed ever since. I thought I was a good sleeper. I tend to go to bed fairly early and always fall asleep within 5-10 minutes. I wake up pretty early, but figured that was ok since I go to bed early. Turns out the data shows that I’m a horrible sleeper.

I have yet to sleep eight hours. With a sleep scale from 0-100, I rarely crack the 70 mark, which is only considered “fair”. Most nights I’m sleeping 5.5 to 6.5 hours. My REM and deep sleep cycles average 45 minutes to an hour. That’s pitiful. It also partially helps explain why I constantly need a nap and always feel low energy.

It’s no secret that you need a good nights sleep. But we are also bombarded with sayings like “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” and seeing Jocko’s daily 4:30 am Instagram post, shaming you to get up and work out. So just how important is a good nights sleep? Well, I just finished Dr Peter Attia’s book on longevity titled “Outlive”. I highly recommend it. He considers sleep the number two item to combat chronic disease (exercise is number one). He goes through great detail about why the REM and deep sleep cycles are so important. I’m sold. I am now fully convinced that I need to teach myself how to get a good nights sleep.

At my age can I really teach an old dog new tricks? I’m not sure. But… last night I scored my highest ever sleep score. I scored an 87 with 7 hours and 40 minutes of sleep. I was in REM for two hours and 10 minutes, deep sleep for an hour and 27 minutes. I don’t know what voodoo Fitbit does to figure this out, but the studies I quickly looked up show it’s reasonably close to an EEG test. Good enough for government work I figure.

I’ve noticed another few data points that are interesting. Specific to sleep there are two measurements it tracks – heart rate variability (HRV) and temperature. You want as high a variability as possible. Mine is pitifully low and probably reflects a poor overall level of fitness. Temperature shows how much your body temp drops from it’s baseline when you sleep (dropping is good). Here’s the interesting thing… when I drink alcohol, my HRV gets worse, and my body temperature rises instead of dropping. I knew that alcohol is not good for sleep – but I’d never seen it so dramatically illustrated. Not specific to sleep, but after a night of a handful of drinks, my resting heart rate goes up for much of the next day. Crazy how impactful it is.

I’m not sure how to improve my sleep score further. In my part of the world, it’ll soon be light until 10:30pm and light again at 7am. Starting at 2-3am every night the dog gets restless and starts going in and out of the room. A sleep mask would be too claustrophobic and runs the risk of being suprise attacked by zombies in the middle of the night. Ditto earplugs. It’s a challenge.

It’s a challenge I accept however. Among my many other goals this summer, I want to get to the point where I am regularly hitting the 8-hour mark for sleep and averaging high 80’s for a sleep score. My HRV needs to improve drastically, and my resting HR can stand to drop another 10 points.

It would be nice to not feel like I had to take a nap every day. It would be wonderful to pop out of bed and feel refreshed. It would be fantastic to not end up with dementia my last decade of life (poor sleep is one of the associated factors). Good goals to have.

A Slave To The Numbers

I said I was going to wait, but I couldn’t help myself. I bought a Fitbit. I went with just the basic wrist one. The only thing I’m interested in is the heart rate monitor. We’re on day three of wearing it full-time and I’m getting obsessed with checking on my heart rate.

Overall, I’m pleased with my resting heart rate. Averaging 55 bpm. Higher than it was when I was running, but I’m ok with that for now. The purpose of the monitor was so that I can ensure that I’m in zone 2 when walking/running to maximize building an aerobic base. Today was the first chance I had to see what happens while out on my power walk. Turns out, I can’t get into zone 2!

While walking (on flat ground) as fast as I can go without breaking into a jog, my heart rate hovered around 110-115. Based upon the various calculators I found, zone 2 for me should be 120-130 bpm. As soon as I started an extremely slow jog… my heart rate went to 135-140. It didn’t make any difference what I did – I couldn’t get to that 120-130 zone. I was always below or above.

Has anyone else experienced this? I’m not sure what to do. Would I be better off continuing with the fast power walk that’s below, or the extremely slow jog that’s too high? I consulted Dr. Google, but no luck. We’ll see what the heart rate trend is over the next few days.

While the original purpose of the Fitbit was so that I can monitor my heart rate, it has a bunch of other features that I had no interest in. That is, until I discovered the sleep tracking. I’ve had two nights with it now, and I’m amazed at how accurate it is. Both nights it pegged the time I went to bed and woke within +/- 5 minutes or so. How in the world does it know? Technology is amazing.

But now, I have a whole new set of numbers and stats to obsess over. My sleep scores are terrible. Heart rate and Sp02 are fine, but everything else is awful. I thought I was a good sleeper, but apparently not. I was not aware of something called the heart rate variability score. This is supposed to be an indicator of fitness. You want a larger (greater) variability in your heart rate. Meaning, while keeping the same total number of beats per minute, the time between each beat should vary. Mine the last two nights has been low. As in, bottom percentile for my age low. I guess I’m basically a metronome. I was perfectly happy with my sleep habits before, but now I’m going to worry each night about what the metrics are going to show in the morning.

It is now officially my mission to improve that number. I have no idea how, but I’m going to do it. I can see it already… six months from now I’ll be sleeping in a separate room that is specially climate controlled, sound deadened, and has all the electrical circuits shut off to remove any EMF messing with my circadian rhythm.

Maybe I shouldn’t have bought that Fitbit after all…