The Great Sleep Experiment: 21 days

If you read my last two posts about thyroid and adrenal health, you'll know that I LOVE Dr Bergman's YouTube channel right now. He's an amazing chiropractor with some fantastic videos available for free online.

The one he did on "Deep Sleep" is amazing and it's below if you want to watch the full thing. I would suggest that if you are currently using sleeping pills, I think you really should. 

I don't currently use any sleep aids, but I was surprised to learn some helpful stuff about my sleep patterns which may be causing my adrenals to work harder than than should be. Inadequate sleep affects hormone levels. But what is inadequate?

For example, how much sleep do you think the average person needs? Seven and a half to nine hours? That's the myth that we are all told, but the healthiest people actually only sleep five to six hours a day. Sickness and disease, even death rates increase for every extra hour of sleep you take. What???!!!

Less sleep is better?

Did you know that insomniacs, on average, live longer?

When I had ME I used to sleep LOADS. And I always needed more. I put this down to the fact that I was really sick, but I never got good sleep. I could spend all day in bed, but still not feel like I'd slept well. Tossing and turning all night. It was horrible.

I also went through a phase after starting GAPS where I was waking up really early and I felt great. I had so much more energy, despite sleeping less, but it was great.  I know it's anecdotal, but actually after a little more research it would seem that there was a good reason I felt so good.

Dr Bergman claims that you can cure insomnia with his sleep training program. I'm going to give it a shot, and so are a few of my friends. If you want to join us, that would be fun. Here are the rules:

1. You must sleep between 11pm and 1am.
This is the only time that your gall bladder secretes. It doesn't matter where you are in the world, what time zone you are in, your gall bladder will secrete between 11pm and 1am. I don't know the science behind it, but something to do with circadian rhythms. If someone wants to look that up and enlighten me, that would be great, but otherwise I'm happy to take it at face value.
This is important because you need the gall bladders enzymes to break down fats into fatty acids so that you can rebuild tissue. This is also when your gut will produce serotonin. Without serotonin you get depression and anxiety.
When you interrupt sleep, you interrupt the bodies cycle for repairing itself.
Make sure you plan to be asleep by 11pm. This probbaly means going to bed strictly at 10:30pm.

2. Restrict your sleep.
Seriously. The cure for insomnia is actually less sleep. If you restrict your sleep to six hours per night, your body very quickly learns to make the most of them instead of tossing and turning.

3. Routine
You're going to go to bed and wake up at the same time EVERY DAY for 21 days. No exceptions. This is sleep training and it takes 21 days to build the habit. In bed at 10:30pm, asleep at 11pm alarms set for 5am. No snoozing. No sleeping in "because it's Sunday".
Wake up, get up. If you are struggling with staying awake, get a really bright, full spectrum, daylight bulb for a lamp and sit in front of it whilst you brush your teeth.
Think about it, you are going to be super productive with those extra hours early in the morning before your kids wake up...

4. No sneaky naps
I don't care how tired you are. Suck it up. I don't care if you only got 20 minutes of sleep - you won't be going to sleep again until 10:30pm. When you do, your body will be grateful and will sleep straight away. This only happens if you don't let it sleep at other times.

5. Use the bed for sleep only
No reading in bed (you can read in the living room just fine) no craft projects laid out, no TV. Your body needs to associate bed with sleep.

sleep6. You sleep in the dark
Come on, you're a grown up. You can handle this. My kids cried about sleeping in the dark (after watching this video I took their night lights away) but guess what? They were asleep within 10 minutes of me doing it. Up until now they've been reading in the beds for hours or playing with teddies. After one night my son woke up and told me how much better he slept and how great he felt. My bedroom doesn't get pitch dark (we don't have blackout curtains and there are street lamps outside) so I bought a sleep mask. Best 85p you will ever spend. If you'd like a fancier one there are silk ones for £12. This also stops you staring at your clock.

7. Limit "screen time" before bed
Screens flicker. You can't detect it with your naked eye, but your brain does. It creates a beta wave hypnosis. No iPad, no TV, no computer before bed. You need a few hours break from the screen. That's okay though, because now you are getting up at five you don't need to work late at night anymore.

8. Journal or Brain Dump
You have to journal. It doesn't have to be important or spiritual, you don't need a fancy notebook (although I do love fancy stationary) it can just be a list of thoughts that pop into your head. When you write something down your brain decides it doesn't need to remember that for you any more and it releases stress on your subconscious. In those screen free hours before bed, try and spend 15 to 20 minutes writing.

9. No late night snacking
Particularly sugar or grains if you eat them. A snack before bed is a bad idea. We want your gut free for producing serotonin, not trying to digest.

10. No drinking for 2 hours before bed
I'm a massive advocate of getting enough water, but you need to stop drinking for two hours before bed. Otherwise your bladder is going to wake you up.

11. Exercise
About 3-5 hours before you go to bed, do some exercise. Doesn't have to be loads, just a 15 minute walk around the block is fine.

I'll let you know how it all goes in about a month. If you fancy joining me, let me know in the comments, on twitter or facebook. It's always easier with a little support. :-)


  1. Fascinating about adrenal health. I'm finding that when I'm either fighting illness or overtraining my sleep is impacted. Either night sweats or incredibly vivid dreams and waking several times per night.

    1. That would make sense. Both of those would impact how hard your adrenals are working and reduce thyroid function. As long as it's only temporary it's fine, just an intelligently designed body responding to the world.
      It only a problem when you are in a high adrenal state long term :-)

  2. Hi and welcome to Fitness Friday! This is all so interesting especially since I am totally fine with 6 hours of sleep even though pretty much everything I've read says I need 8 hours. I'm going to check out your other posts and the video.

    Thanks for linking up with Fitness Friday and have a wonderful weekend!

    1. I'm so glad you liked it. I love delving into little known tweaks that make us healthier and sharing that information with others with the same passion.
      I love your blog too x

  3. Wow this makes me want to take a nap right now just in case! Great information!

  4. Sounds really interesting. Can't wait to hear how it goes!



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