System 1: Sleep Hygiene
As mentioned in my previous post, 'longevity is a goal, not a system', uninterrupted sleep is arguably the most important element of any healthy lifestyle. Sleep, diet, exercise, and play, will inevitably spill into and influence one other in a variety of different ways, mostly relating to the timing, frequency, and quality of all each.
But sleep is the great actualizer, meaning IT is the thing which manifests all of the healing and proper hormonal/physiological function.
COMPONENTS OF A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE
That being said, the system I developed for myself may not work for everybody, but I do think it's ideal if you have the freedom to control your schedule, and especially if your partner understands what you're trying to do. Each step is coordinated to a summer light-dark schedule, but it can probably be adapted as a template for anybody.
Step 1: Dinner at 6pm. Without delving into my food choices, eating dinner a bit earlier enables two things. First, it allows your metabolism to slow down and your body temperature to decrease as you approach sleep time. Eating large meals late at night ramps everything up and increases your body temperature, making it harder to fall asleep. Eating a bit earlier also helps optimize your hunger hormones which can help - but not guarantee - that you optimize body composition.
Second, it enables you to fast a little bit longer every night. If dinner is over at 6:30 pm, and breakfast is at 6:30 or 7 am, that gives you a 12 hr mini-fast overnight which has been demonstrated to have many health benefits. I won't get into it here, but if you're curious about some of the benefits of IF, here's an overview to peak your interest.
Step 2: Nothing whatsoever work related after 7:30 pm. My work isn't at all stressful, but running a business can be at times. The point of avoiding work related activities after 7:30 pm is to flip the switch over to leisure and cool down so you're not rushing to draft an email or message a client when you should be relaxing and allowing yourself to decompress after a long day.
If you allow your brain the courtesy of slowing down, you'll sleep better and be that much better off the next morning. Rumination can be incredibly harmful to our sleep patterns and psychological well-being.
Step 3: Blue Blocker sunglasses after dark. Artificial light is everywhere in our modern lives. From T.V.'s to tablets and phones, we're constantly bombarded by blue light emitting devices. Blue light has been demonstrated to suppress the secretion of melatonin, and shifts or resets the circadian rhythm to think that it is morning, thus preventing you from falling asleep.
Many devices now have either night-shift or f.lux settings to ease the strain on your eyes and reduce the amount of blue-light being emitted. That being said, I still use blue blockers after dark whenever I feel my exposure to artificial light has been particularly high during the day, or especially during the winter when sunlight is hard to come by and sleep rhythms are commonly disrupted.
Step 4: Contrast shower @ 9:15 - 9:30 pm. Optional but particularly useful to help lower your body temperature just before bed if you don't happen to have an air-conditioned house. My preference here is to start off warm for 1-2 minutes before I shunt it to cool water for 30-60 seconds. I then return to warm for another 1-2 mins and end with 30-60 seconds of the coldest water I can handle.
Step 5: Bed @ 9:30 - 9:45 pm. The bedroom should ideally be clear of all electronics and blue light emitting devices. Using a phone for an alarm is fine but make sure all lights are either covered or off and you have complete darkness. Black out shades have probably been the smartest purchase I've ever made.
Don't forget, the bed is for sex and sleep, nothing else. No phones, no surfing the web, and especially no television. The primary reason for this is that you want to prime your brain for the expectation that falling into bed automatically = SLEEP.
If you follow these steps, or at least use them as a template, you'll be setting yourself up for proper circadian entrainment, as well well as optimal immune, autonomic, and hormonal function. Doing so will also lay the foundations we require to pursue an improved body composition, and point us square in the sights of our desired outcome - longevity.
Best of luck!