Sleep is important. For many reasons, but the premise of the 10-3-2-1-0 Formula by Craig Ballantyne (author of The Perfect Day Formula, and others) is that a good day starts with quality sleep the night before. Lately I’ve found myself not getting as restful sleep. In reflecting back, I’ve strayed away from the 10-3-2-1-0 Formula a little bit.
Before we get into the Formula, let’s establish a few things:
- Sleep is meant to be restorative and regenerative. To avoid going down a rabbit-hole and nerding-out, let’s just say that body chemistry changes throughout the day; most significantly when the sun is up compared to when the sun is down.
- Restful, regenerative sleep is NOT the same thing as passing out. Whether it is passing out from alcohol or exhaustion (both of which I’ve done in the past!) it is not restful sleep.
- Sleep, just like any skill, is something that can be exercised and trained. Dogs are able to run around chasing a squirrel and fall asleep 10 minutes later on the couch. Humans aren’t meant to do that and need to prepare for sleep.
- Hormone supplements, such as melatonin, and sleep pills have a place and use – but for most people not daily use. If the body gets used to melatonin supplementation, it can cease the natural production of melatonin. This can be detrimental to long-term health because: a) the body may always require melatonin supplementation, b) other hormone and metabolic pathways will be effected if the body isn’t producing melatonin. [Note: this is meant to raise your awareness, not to be taken as medical advice. Do your own research and talk to multiple medical professionals – not just one doctor or type of doctor.]
So, let’s get back to Craig Ballantyne’s 10-3-2-1-0 Formula:
10 – Ten hours before bed, cease drinking coffee. Caffeine is a stimulant. Many people consume caffeine-heavy drinks in the morning as a way to wake up. But it also can keep you awake. Sometimes people who don’t sleep well at night and are tired consume caffeine throughout the day to get energy and stay awake. Unfortunately this disrupts their sleep the next night and starts a viscous cycle all over again. Caffeine takes a while to be metabolized by the body. The fancy term for this is “half-life” – meaning that six hours after you drank a cup of coffee, half of the caffeine is still in your body. Six hours later half of that is still present (or a quarter of the initial amount). So a simple way to avoid high levels of caffeine in your body when trying to obtain restful sleep is: don’t drink caffeine-containing coffee or soda after lunch. If you need a warm drink, try caffeine-free tea or just warm water. Decaffeinated coffee and caffeine-free soda aren’t endorsed (due to sugar and other components) but, from the perspective of caffeine and sleep, are still better alternatives to caffeine-containing coffee and soda.
3: Three hours before bed, cease consuming food or alcohol. This one is tough for me. There just aren’t that many hours after work before bed to make and eat dinner three hours before I want to go to sleep. But just try. Do the best you can. If it’s two hours, great. If it’s one hour, try to plan ahead for the next day to make it longer. The detrimental effects of alcohol are commonly recognized, so I won’t go into them here. But food in your stomach draws additional blood away from your brain to aid digestion. This results in your brain not getting as much blood and fluid to aid in regeneration and repair.
2: Two hours before bed, no more work. Work is stressful to many of us. Stress effects sleep. Getting your mind to calm down and prepare for sleep is important. As a child, we’d run around playing all day long working ourselves up into a frenzy. It was hard to go from that right to sleep. So my parents made sure we had time to “wind down”. They, and their friends, literally would use those words as a command in the evening. Adults are no different but for some reason we think we are different. Adults need time to wind down and prepare for sleep. This ties into a “sleep ritual”, which we can talk more about later or you can research on your own, but is basically the things you do every night (preferably in the same order and sequence) to prepare for sleep: run the dish washer, 5 minutes of meditation or belly breathing, brush your teeth, read 10 pages of a book, set your alarm and fall asleep (note: I didn’t say “check email” or “browse social media”. We’ll get into that another time!).
1: One hour before bed: no more screens. Beyond the deleterious mental health effects of looking at social media feeds (stress from news, drama with “friends”, etc.), The screen technology used in computers, tablets, smart phones, and TV screens contain light waves in the blue spectrum (eg. “blue light”). Blue light is prevalent during the day. As the sun sets, the red and orange hues cue hormonal changes in our bodies to prepare for sleep (this is why the Red Light District in Amsterdam has red lights: to promote relaxation and get you thinking about “nighttime activities”). Sending blue light from screens to your eyes signals to your brain that it is day time and that “day time stuff” should be happening. When going to sleep we want the opposite! Even small amounts of blue light waves can have detrimental effects upon sleep. So night-lights that have the “cool blue” hue or white/yellow light – throw them away! If your child needs a night-light make sure it is red or orange.
Bonus points for intentionally going outside while the sun is setting and looking at the colors in the sky (the opposite is true as well: the morning sun rise signals the body that it is day time). I find this to be a big one for me. In the evening before bed is when I have time to check social media and email. Most modern Smart Phone have a blue-light blocking feature (sometimes call “night shade”) which I keep on all the time, not just in the evenings. But in terms of restful sleep, other aspects of using electronics in bed are still detrimental.
0: Zero: the number of times you hit the snooze button on your alarm. Does this need much explanation? Once your alarm goes off, you aren’t getting restful sleep. It’s time to get up and start preparing to sleep well that night so the next day is better, not to squeeze in a little more sub-par “rest”.
As always, please reply with your questions or ask your BCI Coach for more information. If you are already doing some of these things – great! If this is new to you and you aren’t doing any of them, try one – don’t try to do all of them at first. Once you’ve got one of these habits down most of the nights, add a second one. Talk to your family and explain what you are doing. Don’t push it on them. But ask for their support. Once you’ve established these habits and can speak from experience, hopefully your family will buy in and try as well.