It all began with my Fitbit. I became very curious about my sleep after retiring from the U.S. Navy SEAL teams. I was burned out and worse, I simply couldn’t get sleep! I kept thinking about the constant battle tempo of being an operator. How could I best prepare for my next mission? Now, I lay in bed wondering, “what now?”
The sleep measurements from the Fitbit seemed to be very accurate. I wasn’t falling asleep after I went to bed. Sometimes I would lay awake for hours – thinking about things – and the data reflected that. I felt like after I finally fell asleep, I would then have a hard time waking up. I kept staring at my Fitbit sleep data, wondering what am I missing? I decided to try other sleep measurement devices:
- Sleep Score – Doppler scanner
- Withings Sleep Mat – Ballistocardiogram
- Oura Ring – Pulse/Heart Rate Variability
- Muse S – Brain sensing Electroencephalogram
All of these devices pointed to the same thing: my sleep needs help! Some were more accurate, and I noted some errors. The wearables gave good measurements based on movement and heartrate. The passive sensors were better at detecting breathing. At the end of the day, I ended up with a whole lot of information and nothing to do about it. The more data I obtained – the more I stayed up at night (they call that orthosomnia).
I began reading about why I was having trouble sleeping. Many resources pointed toward Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) being the most effective at curing insomnia. I also read that drugs could make the problem worse. I couldn’t find a “CBT Expert” and I didn’t want to use drugs, and so I was left wondering, “what can I do at home.”
I continued my research. As it turns out there were several things I was doing wrong: drinking too much caffeine, using electronic devices at night (blue-light), too much noise pollution in my sleep space, and focusing on tasks that I hadn’t accomplished. I decided to make some changes:
- Limit my caffeine consumption to two cups per day and never after 2pm.
- I started using an amber light at nighttime (zero-blue).
- I bought a white-noise machine (my favorite is the thunderstorm). This rhythmic noise drowns out any other noise pollution in my space.
- The mind-racing; this was the hardest part. I had to learn how to me mindful and control my breathing. By doing guided-meditation, I was able to slow my thoughts and relax before bed.
Today, I sleep great. Some nights I still have challenges but overall, my new habits have made every aspect of my life better – just by improving my sleep. Now, I don’t need to measure my sleep; I know I am living my best life.