Sleeping Like an Alpha Male
When it comes to being all you can be and maintaining the psychological, physiological and social trappings that can distinguish you as an Alpha Male instead of a Beta or even Omega individual, the importance of sleep cannot be overstated
So what is different about the way that a large and in-charge Silverback gorilla takes his beauty sleep and the non-restful mess you have to deal with every night?
#1 Is your Sleep Position Slowly Killing You?
Sleeping Position is the base of our pyramid for effective sleep. If you are a modern western man you most likely spend 6-8 hours of every day of your life in a bad position. You have to start thinking of every moment of your life as physical training and as movement practice. How is 45 mins, 4 times a week going to fix and reset 8hrs of bad training daily? And most likely you also put in 5-8hrs more bad training by sitting at a desk, that's 12-16hrs of teaching your body bad habits. Treat your body the same way you would the mind of a young child that it is your task to mentor.
Our Ape cousins (and as it turns out a lot of our non-western human brothers) know that the correct sleeping position is to be on your side. This position allows a neutral spine, shoulder girdle and hip/lower back, all the while giving you nature's own chiropractic manipulation of the spine and ribcage - your breath. With every breath you take in this position you are rhythmically massaging your vertebrae.
The problem is that unless your movement practice and mobility has been worked on extensively (or if you have somehow avoided the pitfalls of modern life) you will be unable to maintain the correctly aligned recovery position without putting strain on those already exhausted tendons and muscles. In my case, attempts at using my arm as a neck rest fell woefully short due to my thrashed and non-mobile rotator cuff.
But never fear, our friend and previous guest Kelly Starrett comes to our rescue with some fantastic mobility science.
Ever since I gave a side sleeping another chance using the Mobility WOD pillow method I have reversed years of tightness and adhesion in my neck muscles which in turn fixed a dramatic loss of strength in my arms due to the pinching of nerves in that area.
#2 Are CO2 Levels Affecting Your Sleep?
The quality of the air in the space that you sleep is the second step in the pyramid of good sleep that sets us apart from our Ape cousins.
There is something magical and primal about sleeping under the stars but its not the romantic aspect that we are interested in. The percentage of CO2 in the air of a normal bedroom rises drastically overnight as you count your Zs. It rises high enough that you are effectively poisoning yourself and starving your brain.
So how do you know if this is happening to you? Well there are a variety of sensors that can help you. In my own case the alarm was sounded by my Withings Body Scale that alongside weight, body mass, and heart rate also measures the air quality in my room. As you can see from the graph, my CO2 levels were going sky high during the night.
As soon as I noticed this I made one very small adjustment, I slept with the window wide open. This allowed proper ventilation and maintained the CO2 levels at atmospheric values but, more importantly, it dramatically increased the quality of my sleep. The amount of Deep Sleep, REM sleep and mornings when I could successfully write "feeling well and awake" in my sleep journal increased dramatically.
#3 Do you allow daylight to reset your Pineal Gland?
We all know the mantra that sleeping in complete darkness makes for better sleep and it is very true; however complete darkness has a very drastic drawback that can prevent you from achieving Silverback-like Alpha Male sleep quality.
Our pineal gland, the 'thermostat' for the body and mind is an organ that is almost directly driven and reset by the circadian rhythm. This means that your levels of testosterone and energy are being regulated by detection of dawn via light levels.
Your own mind and body expect to be woken by the sun and have over millions of years of evolution based a lot of hormonal systems on this assumption. The removal of light sources that helps you sleep better during the night is also reducing your ability to wake up properly and quickly return to an alert and effective state.
So the key here is not darkness but in fact its the change from darkness to light. How best to achieve this? Attempt to remove all light sources as most common sleep advice informs you but, if possible, do not draw your curtains or shades. If street lighting or other sources of light are seeping through your window during night hours there is still hope and you can find an artificial way to simulate the dawn via a specially designed alarm clock all the whilst keeping your sleep area dark during the night.
So there you have it, 3 easy to take steps to improve your sleep and channel the quiet peaceful confidence of a well rested Silverback Gorilla.