Optimizing Sleep Quality: My Bedtime Habits

Optimizing Sleep Quality: My Bedtime Habits

The interventions I put in place to help improve the quality of my sleep, given that sleep plays a pivotal role in optimizing both immediate and long-term health outcomes, as well as influencing day-to-day functionality.

I use both my Fitbit and Oura Ring to track the duration of my sleep, my sleep efficiency (how much of my time in bed is spent sleeping), and the key components of sleep (light, deep, REM and awake times). Each person is unique and using the global average values isn't the best way to determine what is right for you, so I decided to first benchmark what my personal average values were for these parameters over a month. Once I had that in place, I then experimented with four specific lifestyle habits to see which of them impacted these parameters, and to what extent.

They were (i) the amount of time between finishing dinner and getting into bed, (ii) how many grams of carbs and added sugars I consumed in my dinner, (iii) how many minutes of walking I did after my dinner and (iv) the impact of artificial light before I went to bed. There are many more factors I tried over the years (the role of alcohol, how much time after eating should one walk, impact of water, how it differs for people who are more hypoglycemic vs. hyperglycemic, etc.), but I am highlighting a few of the factors that were each statistically significant. I cover a lot more of the details about all the things I have tested for in the seminars I do for members in our program, and why they work, but I am going to summarize a few of the key takeaways for those that are interested in the bottom line.

I found that I had the best quality of sleep when I kept a 3 hour time lag between finishing my dinner and getting into bed, tried to keep my carb and added sugars low at dinner (and had more of it for lunch), walked for 15 minutes after my meal (while listening to a podcast so the walk isn’t boring), and for the last 1 hour before sleeping, turned off the lights in the bedroom and avoided my mobile phone screen. It has gotten so consistent that I can almost perfectly guess what my sleep score (that the Fitbit provides) is going to be the next morning even before I go to bed, based on how much I was able to follow the aforementioned habits that day. Try it out and see if you find it as effective.
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Nishant Pandey: Thanks Nickhil Jakatdar! As usual, very useful and informative. I have a habit (for many years) of going for longish walks (45-60 minutes) between dinner and bedtime, usually closer to the bedtime than dinner. What has been your observation of the duration of night walks and what’s the right time for it after dinner? As in, how much time after dinner a walk is good for induction msg better sleep? Thanks

Nickhil Jakatdar: Nishant thank you. The recommended time during which one should walk is from 30 minutes post the meal to within 2 hours of the meal. Anything after 2 hours isn’t as helpful from a movement of the blood glucose into the muscle aspect. For duration, 10-30 minutes is good; more maybe fine but the key is to not get the intensity too much beyond the zone 2 heart rate range (about 60% of your max heart rate). Hope that helps. Let me know how it goes.

Nishant Pandey: Nickhil Jakatdar thanks a lot!

Nishant Pandey

Sarita Biswas: Sharing this with family.

Nickhil Jakatdar: Keen to hear how practical they find it and whether they find it helpful.

Sarita Biswas

Himani Thakar: Interested to learn about hormonal effects on sleep. 3 am cortisol ( stress related usually) wake ups and unable to go back to sleep only to be tired the rest of the day. Food intake affects hormones in addition to other factors like stress and aging. sleep meds are used to tackle the symptom without diving deep to find the root cause. Different for different people, I’m finding this area exciting . Saw an uptick of sleep med usage and was curious as to why we’re not sleeping 😊 Great write up. Always insightful and inspirational 👏🏻

Nickhil Jakatdar: Himani thank you! You bring up lots of good points. Stress-related cortisol uptick is a highly underappreciated issue. It leads to those very early morning glucose spikes amongst other issues. The big one is the point about prescription sleep medications: the latest research by Prof Matt Walker and his team show the really bad effects of these sleep medications. His view is to avoid them like the plague, and if you really really have to take them, do it for a day or so. I would love to pick your brain one of these days when you are free to get your perspective on where you see consumer/patient trends in these areas.

Himani Thakar: Nickhil Jakatdar I don’t believe there’s anything in my brain that you already haven’t researched or know 🙈. I vehemently agree with the data of effects of sleep medication, I’ve seen the effects of usage unfold before me daily, dependency leading to near fatal breathing problems! Trying to educate patients at my point of contact about trying alternatives and looking deeper has always been my go to, quick fixes should be temporary but unfortunately, in today’s high-stress society people have no time or freedom to really work on themselves and get hooked to them. I’m so excited to learn from your research and implement it for myself.

Nickhil Jakatdar: Himani love what you are trying to do. let me know this weekend when you guys are free to catch up

Himani Thakar

Kuntal Malia: Thanks for sharing Nickhil Jakatdar ! For years I’ve undermined the value of sleep in my health routine and it’s only now that I’ve started focusing on it. I hope more and more people start acknowledging this aspect in living well.

Nickhil Jakatdar: Good to hear from you Kuntal! And thanks for sharing your perspective. It’s one of the most undervalued aspects of a healthy lifestyle. Hope you are doing well!

Kuntal Malia: Yes I am – thank you ! Exciting to see what you are building.

Kuntal Malia

Raja Jamalamadaka: what was the role of stress in this? What steps did you take to destress yourself (on a particularly stressful day) to ensure a quality sleep?

Nickhil Jakatdar: Raja stress is definitely a factor and I cannot claim to have figured this out as well as I would like but I find that as I get older, I am less concerned that any issue is truly going to be the end of the world; rather I have this belief that I will figure out a solution when I wake up the next morning. Maybe it is my way of putting my mind at ease so I can sleep better!

Raja Jamalamadaka

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