February 15, 2016
You've probably been living under a rock if you haven't noticed the myriad of “sleep-hacking” machines, sleep quantification apps and sleep supplements now hitting the market.
For example, in the podcast episode “The Man Behind The Advanced Sleep Hacking Tactics Used By The World’s Most Elite Athletes”, we discuss black polyethylene sheeting for windows, new-fangled wraparound sleep masks, portable travel humidifiers, dawn simulator alarm clock, lightweight portable HEPA air filters, nasal strips and a host of other new methods for enhancing sleep quality.
Then, in the podcast episode “A Navy SEAL Physician Reveals How Hard-Charging, High-Achievers Can Fall Asleep Fast“, you learn about shocking and scary things that happen to your body while you are sleeping if you take Ambien or Valium, and then we delve into potent sleep-enhancing nutrients such as Vitamin D, magnesium, fatty acids, GABA precursors, CBD.
And then there are actual machines, such as light and sound sleep machines, white noise machines and other forms of electrical stimulation. Most of these machine-based biohacks may produce signals that help you to sleep slightly better, but they have no actual cellular effects – meaning they are incapable of actually healing your cellular membranes, or mitigating free radicals or restoring your biology from jet lag, sleep deprivation, exposure to excessive electrical pollution, or other daily stressors.
However, there is one form of electrical stimulation that is actually capable of shifting your brain and body into deeper sleep, while simultaneously tuning your body’s cells for vastly improved ATP production and metabolic health. This form of electricity is far different than a Bluetooth or WiFi signal, and more like the natural electricity you would get exposed to if you were walking barefoot in the dirt outside (a practice known as “earthing” or “grounding”). The form of electricity I'm talking about is called pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF), and PEMF exposure during your sleep actually shifts your brain waves into deep sleep mode.
In this article, you're going to learn how PEMF works, the ways that I personally use it, and the type of devices out there that I recommend for PEMF use for everything from full nights of sleep, to napping to musculoskeletal injuries.
How I Quantify My Sleep Quality
Before jumping into an explanation of PEMF and the PEMF devices I personally use, I'm going to explain to you how I actually quantify sleep.
First, I avoid attaching a Bluetooth radiation emitting signal to my body or bed all night long while I sleep (for reasons I discuss here), and I also don't use the notoriously innacurate motion sensing devices in an iPhone or Android app to quantify sleep. Sure, these methods can be useful for very short periods of time to “check in” on your number of sleep hours, how long it's taking you to fall asleep, respiration rate during sleep, etc., but I've found that regular use of these sleep-tracking devices often isn't worth the trade-off, due to either:
1) exposure to dirty electricity during each night of sleep or (and this happens to me) and/or;
2) mild insomnia and an unhealthy obsession with the numbers that are showing on your phone when you wake. In other words, just like counting every calorie seems to make you excessively hyper-aware of food and potentially sucks the enjoyment right out of eating, shoving a phone under your pillow to track every night of sleep can sometimes leave you staring awake at the ceiling at night pondering your sleep latency, sleep hours, sleep phases, etc.
So what do I use instead?
As I've discussed in a plethora of previous podcasts and blog posts, I simply roll over each morning when I wake up, put on a heart rate chest strap, and conduct a very simple five minute measurement of my heart rate variability (HRV), which allows me to measure how well I've recovered, and the actual strength of my nervous system when I awake. This directly correlates to the quality of my sleep, and my physical and mental readiness for the day. To learn more about the NatureBeat app I use for that and how HRV works, click here.
For example, I recently posted the following to Facebook:
and also this:
The images and discussions above are perfect examples of why I use HRV when I wake: HRV is a good measurement of all the biological functions that should be getting optimized if your sleep cycles are optimized, including sympathetic nervous system strength, parasympathetic nervous system strength, nervous system recovery, and heart rate.
Why Delta Sleep Is Important (And How Sleep Stages Work)
You'll notice that in those Facebook posts, and in a couple recent podcasts, I mention a PEMF device I've been using for sleep. Before getting to that device, and how I'm using it to get into fast and deep delta brain waves states, it's important that you understand how delta sleep actually occurs.
As you learn in the podcast with Dr. Kirk Parsley that I referenced earlier, sleep is a heightened anabolic state – a period when your body is producing new bone, muscular and nervous tissue – a period when heightened growth and repair occur. For many years, sleep was considered a passive activity, but in the mid 20th century, it was discovered that during sleep, your brains is highly active. In 1953, Nathaniel Kleitman and Eugene Aserinksy demonstrated by means of electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings from normal subjects that sleep is actually comprised of different stages that occur in a specifically programmed sequence.
A normal sleep pattern entails cycling through five stages. The first four stages are referred to as Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep. The fifth stage is known as Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. During a normal sleep cycle, people pass through all five stages. A complete sleep cycle typically lasts between 80 to 120 minutes then starts over.
In this stage you drift in and out of very light sleep and are easily awakened. Muscle activity declines and your eyes move very slowly. It’s during this stage that many people experience the sensation of falling and a sudden involuntary jerk.
As you move into Stage 2, your eyes stop moving and your brain waves slow down.
Stages 3 & 4 (your Delta Sleep stages):
During Stage 3, your brain produces extremely slow waves with occasional bursts of faster brain wave activity. As you enter Stage 4, your brain produces extremely slow waves almost exclusively. These stages are known as “Deep Sleep” or “Delta Sleep”. When you are in Delta Sleep, there is no eye movement and reduced muscle activity. It can actually be difficult to awake from Delta Sleep (which is why I don't like normal alarm clocks, since they can rip you out of this stage). It is during these stages that your bodies emit growth hormones and works on repairing physical damage done during the day.
Stage 5 (REM Sleep):
In Stage 5 of sleep, your brain wave patterns rise to levels similar to those when you are awake. Your heart rate increases and your blood pressure rises. Your breathing is irregular and shallow and becomes more rapid. Your limb muscles are temporarily paralyzed and your eyes jerk rapidly (hence the name REM, or rapid eye movement). It is during REM sleep that most dreams occur. During this period your brain is busy organizing the information gathered during the day. Information accrued is moved into areas of long term memory and areas of the brain used for learning and recall.
As you learn in my podcast episode with Nick Littlehales, if you're serious about your health, physical performance and mental performance, then during any 24 hour period, you should ideally attempt to achieve five ninety-minute cycles of each of these sleep stages. If this doesn't happen, sleep deprivation occurs, and can become a chronic sleep-restricted state that causes fatigue, daytime sleepiness, clumsiness and weight gain, and can adversely affect the brain and cognitive function long term.
Historically, pharmaceutical products are the most common modalities used for the treatment of sleep deprivation, with approximately $2.4 billion annually spent on hypnotics and sedatives. A major concern for those prescribing and using insomnia medications should be the high risk of dependency, withdrawal problems and rebound insomnia, along with memory loss, sleepwalking, gut issues and altered mood states like depression during the day. In other words, these products are like getting yourself addicted to hitting yourself on the head with a hammer to get yourself to go to sleep, and waking up with very subpar nervous system recovery.
Products containing antihistamines, like benadryl, don't work any better, and can cause daytime sleepiness, cognitive impairment, dizziness etc. The times I have personally used anti-histamines to help with sleep, my HRV has dropped down into the sixties, which is extremely low and indicate of completely beat-up nervous system.
And of course, to make the problem even worse, gone are the days when all a bedroom contained was a bed, clothes and a few personal items. Modern bedrooms are now filled with a range of technology and gadgets, which mean we have unfettered access to our TV’s, phones, tablets, games and more. But how does all this technology affect our sleeping patterns? By interrupting the natural process of the brain achieving a heightened anabolic state, they are all completely incompatible with allowing you to get deep, Delta sleep.
But let's say you know all this already.
Let's say you've sorted your sleep hygiene, you're using pre-bed sleep nutrients like magnesium or melatonin or cannabidiol or lemon balm or anything else I've discussed in the past, you're keeping light-emitting devices away from your body while sleeping, etc.
And let's say this stuff either doesn't seem to be working for you, or perhaps you're sleeping just fine but now your goal is to simply get into your deep sleep phases as quickly and effectively as possible, to 100% optimize your sleep and to achieve the kind of HRV scores I've personally been waking with.
How PEMF Affects Sleep
As described above, your brain naturally generates specific electromagnetic frequency patterns that reflect which stage of sleep you are in. The process of falling asleep, staying asleep, dreaming and awakening each generate their own specific pattern. If you expose your body to specific PEMF frequencies that simulate the frequencies your brain would normally be producing, you can get your body into whichever sleep stage you're targeting.
How does that phenomenon happen, exactly?
When presented with a rhythmic stimulus, your brain has the potential of responding to that stimulus by synchronizing the central nervous system’s electrical activity to the rhythm stimulus. If the rhythmic stimulus is a pulsed magnetic field, your brain can synchronize to the pulsed magnetic field. This synchronization is called “entrainment”. Entrainment has the greatest probability of occurring if the pulsed magnetic field is similar to the pulsed magnetic fields found in nature.
This is why, for the past three years, I've been using a PEMF device called the “EarthPulse PEMF Sleep Machine“. The way that that the Earthpulse works is that you place it under your mattress, and then, when you turn it on before you go to sleep at night, it begins to produce PEMF waves at a frequency of 10Hz. This frequency lulls you from wakefulness into your natural sleep stage progressions. You can also set the Earthpulse to generate a signal that, for example, helps produce wakeful, focused Alpha brain waves while you're working or prior to workouts.
You can learn more about the Earthpulse in this podcast I recorded with Paul Becker, the inventor of the device. As a matter of fact, next week, Paul is coming back to the podcast to discuss how to use the EarthPulse for more than just sleep, and how to use it post-workout to accelerate ATP production and how to place it over injuries such as stress fractures and swelling to accelerate healing.
Here's what the EarthPulse looks like:
Because the EarthPulse is so friggin' powerful, I've personally found it to be extremely efficacious for quickly healing cellular repair and eliminating jet lag after heavy travel, and also for using on injures such as stress fractures and soft tissue inflammation.
The Latest PEMF Device I've Been Using
But, lately, in my quest to achieve completely optimized sleep and to see how different PEMF devices compare, I've been experimenting with a new PEMF device.
This newer device is called the SomniResonance® SR1 DeltaSleeper, AKA the SR1. The SR1 is much smaller and lighter than the EarthPulse, it easily fits in your pocket, and it looks like this (the round thing is the disposable adhesive sticker that you use to stick it to your collarbone, a technique I'll clarify in just a moment):
The SomniResonance® is a small, non-invasive, ½ oz. lightweight, battery-powered device that delivers a weak (much weaker than the EarthPulse frequency, for reasons I'll describe below) pulsing electromagnetic signal to induce sleep.
When your head hits the pillow, or you're in an airplane or car trying to sleep, you push the little On button on the front of it, it turns on for 22 minutes and then automatically turn off. These 22 minutes are the length of time it takes for you to get into Delta sleep. If you wake up during the night, or something wakes you up, you can turn the SR1 on again by pressing the On button again. After 22 minutes it will automatically turn itself off again.
You place the SR1 over your mid-collarbone area, which is near your brachial plexus, as shown below (and no, as a side and stomach sleeper, I haven't found this to interfere with any of my positions).
Why the specific placement over the brachial plexus?
The brachial plexus is a somatic nerve plexus formed by the intercommunications between the ventral rami (roots) of your lower 4 cervical nerves (C5-C8) and the first thoracic nerve (T1). By placing the SR1 over either the left or right side brachial plexus, the network of nerves acts as a carrier, transmitting the signal from the device to the brain. The Delta wave frequencies then lull your brain into a deep natural sleep.
When you have difficulty falling or staying asleep, usually that means the normal frequency patterns of the brain are altered. By mimicking the normal frequency patterns of the brain in the process of falling asleep, the SR1 gently encourages your brain to fall asleep. The beauty of this technology is that there is no limit to the use of the device per sleep period. If your sleep is interrupted, you can simply reactivate the device and the process of falling asleep starts over again.
Our current definitions of sleep rely heavily on EEG recordings to reveal the patterns of electrical activity of the brain. The brain consists of many billions of neurons. Neurons process and transmit information as tiny electrical signals called nerve impulses or action potentials. Sleep scientists can use an EEG to record the patterns of electromagnetic activity that are created by signals generated from large populations of neurons. To create the SR1, the sleep scientists at SomniResonance® studied the brain's natural electromagnetic frequency patterns, voltages, currents, magnetic and electrical field strengths of sleep, then figured out how to simulate those same patterns by feeding information from the brachial plexus into the brain.
Science. Sleep. Two things I personally love.
There are no known side effects from the use of this device other than lucid dreams (which I've personally experience, and find to be a pretty cool side-effect), and while I don't personally have a sleep disorder, the device's website reports that users have experienced immediate relief of sleep disorders and other sleep deprivation symptoms. The website also has documented cases of nightly users of sleep aids for up to twelve years who experienced a med free full eight hours sleep with the device on the first use, with no negative side effects. And that's the other thing: there is no work up or acclimation required with the device – it simply starts working the first night or nap for which you use it.
In addition, the SR1, designed to deliver frequency specific pulsed magnetic fields that mimic the naturally occurring pulsed magnetic fields of the central nervous system during the sleep process, has cleared the stringent requirements of Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
So basically, the SR1 generates frequency specific pulsed magnetic fields that copy your sleeping brain’s naturally occurring pulsed magnetic fields. The SR1’s frequency specific pulsed magnetic fields entrains your brain to gently and effectively move through your normal sleep patterns.
How The SR1 Is Different
Other PEMF sleep devices on the market, including the EarthPulse, generate a pulsed magnetic field of 650 gauss. This magnetic field is about 10,000 times stronger than the 0.05 gauss field produced by the SR1. While these fields can often be extremely efficacious for enhancing sleep and, like I mentioned earlier, can also be used at specific settings to heal injuries faster or produce Alpha brain waves, some folks have found them to actually disrupt sleep when used regularly. They're just very, very big guns when it comes to PEMF.
To put this into context, the best quality headphones you can find generate what is called a “time varying magnetic field” of 1 to 2 gauss. To generate a magnetic field of the magnitude of 650 gauss requires a continuous power source. This is why most PEMF devices must be plugged into a 120V source (a wall outlet in your house or hotel room for example) during operation. Some argue that magnetic field strengths in the realms of other devices are not natural, and that the pulsed magnetic field of very strong devices may be out of the range of a low risk device. While I'm convinced that the EarthPulse is safe, it is something that must be placed under your mattress, and unless you're using it according to specific instructions on an injured body part, shouldn't be placed near your head, on your brachial plexus, etc.
Rather than using that 650 gauss PEMF power, the SR1 uses a magnetic field about 10,000 times less: 0.05 gauss. So it's small, you don't plug it in, and you can place it directly on your body for longer periods of time.
So besides being United Labs safety tested and approved, as well as reviewed, legally cleared and classified low risk by the FDA, there are several significant differences between the SR1 sleep device vs. other PEMF devices on the market, including:
- The SR1 is a stand alone technology that does not require charging ports, since it is powered by a tiny 3 volt watch type battery.
- It does not require external wires connecting it to another device, or any other external device applications to direct, operate or function. No WiFi. No Bluetooth. No plugging in.
- The SR1 is precisely designed to target sleep disorders, insomnia, and waking up in the middle of the night.
- Since you're wearing it on your body, it does not affect others in the bed.
- At 1/2 ounce and 1/8 the size of a smartphone, it is highly portable. You can literally slip it into your pocket, laptop case, bag or purse.
Like I mentioned in those Facebook posts above, I've been using the SR1 nearly every night for sleep and nearly every day for naps. Sure, when I'm jet-lagged or have an injury to address or have just finished a big race or I'm in any other situation for which I need to drag out the PEMF “big guns” for sleep, I still turn to my mighty EarthPulse. But this small, elegant, portable SR1 is my favorite new sleep biohack, it's game-changing sleep technology, and I'd highly recommend you give it a try. In an ideal scenario, to get the best of both worlds of PEMF, have a big, strong device like the EarthPulse, then a smaller, gentler device like the SR1. That's the way I'm rolling now.
So if you struggle with waking up in the night, having a hard time falling asleep, insomnia, difficult taking naps…
…or you just want pursue 100% optimized sleep, this new device is well worth it. It comes with a full 30 day money-back guarantee, so it's definitely worth a try!
Do you have questions, comments or feedback about using PEMF for better sleep, the new DeltaSleeper PEMF device, or anything else from this article? Simply leave your thoughts below and I'll reply. If you want to try the SR1 for yourself, simply click here and use 5% discount code “Greenfit10”, and stay tuned for a podcast about the EarthPulse coming next week!
Update #1: Device Efficacy
For this, I would direct you to the PEMF Research and Sleep page of the DeltaSleeper website. It is extremely informative and covers several independent research publishings and peer reviews from the US National Library of Medicine. Here's an excerpt from one of several abstracts: “Slow oscillations underlie characteristic features of the sleep EEG, such as slow waves and spindles. Here we show that, in sleeping subjects, slow waves and spindles can be triggered non-invasively and reliably by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).”
While doing your due diligence on the SR1, keep in mind that the device has passed the stringent guidelines of Underwriters Laboratories, receiving a UL certification E464228. All claims made by the company have been reviewed and cleared by the Food and Drug Administration, which has classified the SR1 as low risk. The company has gone through the appropriate channels and measures to ensure the safety, validity and performance of the technology.
By utilizing the brachial plexus on your upper chest, the weak pulsing electromagnetic signal is communicated from the SR1 device via the peripheral nervous system to your central nervous system. As far back as 1992, the National Institute of Health (NIH) in a pivotal report stated:
“Electrical currents in the body can produce magnetic fields that extend outside the body. Those that extend outside the body can be influenced by external magnetic and electromagnetic (EM) fields and changes in the body’s natural fields may produce physical and behavioral changes.” NIH, Expanding Medical Horizons: A Report to the National Institutes of Health on Alternative Medical Systems and Practices in the United States. 1992, National Institutes of Health: Bethesda, MD.
I have received plenty of questions lately about the exact placement of the device.
Here's a creepy video from me that shows you exactly where to put it. More instructions below (this is important, because you only get the full benefit of it sending you straight into deep sleep if it really, truly is placed over your brachial plexus!).
Locate the brachial plexus by depicting a line between the lower throat, just above your sternum, directly across to the side of your arm. The landing point for the centerline of the device is slightly towards the outside arm, off center, 1-2 inches below the collar bone. If you are a side sleeper and feel the device is uncomfortable against the body, the device can also be applied vertically.
…if you are currently using a prescription sleep aid, you should not stop cold turkey. There is a vast difference in OTC meds that function off antihistamines (you CAN stop those stop cold turkey) vs. molecular manipulation from prescription medications. Even a product such as Ambien, which is considered a non-benzodiazepine, still binds to the Benzo1 receptor whereas the likes of Valium binds to all benzo receptors. So even though it is marketed and as a non-benzodiazepine, the system still becomes dependent on Ambien just like it becomes dependent on Valium.
In conjunction with the SR1, for folks who are dependent on prescription sleep medications, some physicians are also using acupuncture to rehabilitate the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, as the prescription meds get these systems way out of balance. It's recommended to step off sleep meds over a period of a few weeks. For example, if you are taking long-acting 12.5mg benzodiazepine, then get to 10 mg, and try that for 2 weeks. After that step down to the 5 mg for two weeks, then off altogether, all while using the SR1 device every night.
Some physicians are also treating patients with fibromyalgia and chronic pain using the SR1 device, including Dr. Elizabeth Solomon, who has found that the deep beneficial sleep prompted by the device allows the using patients to get a much more rejuvenating sleep that aids in the healing and recovery of her modalities.
Two important updates:
1. Due to extremely high demand for the DeltaSleeper, the adhesives used to place it on collarbone (or other areas of your body) are on backorder until early June. But fret not, we have found an alternative adhesive that is very budget-friendly and works just as well. You can cut these in 3 or 4 pieces and really stretch your adhesive budget.