Sleep: we do it for a third of our lifetimes but it is still a mystery to many. In this special edition of our Movement Mailbag, Katy answers the questions that have been keeping you up at night as you search for some serious shut-eye.
DANI: How are you gonna go to bed tonight? Oh no!
KATY: Welcome to the Katy Says podcast where Dani Hemmat and Katy Bowman talk about movement: the tiny details, the larger issues and why movement matters. I’m Katy Bowman I’m Katy Bowman, biomechanist and author of Move Your DNA.
DANI: And I’m Dani Hemmat, a chronically curious movement geek. Today’s episode is a movement mailbag with a theme. We’ve never done this. That’s right! I spent all morning digging through that mail room where the stacks of mail tower dangerously over my aligned head and spine. And I endangered myself so that we could come up with a theme.
KATY: Put yourself at risk.
DANI: I put myself at risk for a theme.
DANI: And …the questions I rustled up for today are sleep questions. So we’re gonna do a sleep-themed movement mailbag.
KATY: Yeah. That’s cool.
DANI: I’m psyched.
KATY: So you’ve got some questions for me…so this is basically a sleep episode. Is that what you’re saying?
DANI: It’s a sleep episode.
KATY: It’s a question driven sleep episode of Katy Says.
DANI: Right. With listener questions.
KATY: I like that.
KATY: I like that because they kind of build on each other a little bit.
DANI: It’s true. We’ve got some good ones too. I can’t wait to hear all the answers and wade through all this. All right. Are you ready to go?
DANI: Our first one is from Brittany and she writes: “As a pregnant lady everyone and everything is telling me to sleep on your left side. Usually, I’m an all over the place sleeper. I go from stomach, side, back, side. I’m comfortable in any and all positions and I never did sleep with a pillow. So now I’ve been sleeping on just my left side, and while it’s comforting to know that it’s best for the baby it seems kind of wrong. Like one side of my body is overworked and the other side is overlooked. I read your article about sleep positions and value that you recommend variety but is pregnancy time the exception. Should I really sleep only on my side?”
KATY: You know you sent me some of these questions ahead of time and I had never heard of sleep only on your left side but certainly when I was talking about it with a few other people they were like, “Oh yeah, I heard it was a thing only I heard it was your right side.” And so, I kind of did an online search. I mean I always start with a database search and there’s no literature on it, like a research on it. There’s plenty of articles about saying that you should do it as well as I’ve seen articles as it being not only during pregnancy time. That you should only sleep in one position. And the whole thing feels very, like, ergonomics-y. Like an ergonomics perspective. Which means, just to fill people in, when I mean like the ergonomics perspective means that given all of our other sedentary movement habits, here is the best way to be positioned for a long period of time. And so, I mean, my ultimate answer is I don’t know. My Katy answer is that doesn’t feel right to me, this idea that there would be this thing that you would need to do but like wouldn’t be feeling the need to do naturally. I mean I certainly slept every way that I could when I was pregnant.
KATY: Which didn’t really include…. I mean obviously I didn’t sleep on my stomach… and I wasn’t able to sleep on my back but I certainly woke up in the middle of the night on my back and I figured if I was supposed to get off my back, me waking up in the middle of the night was my “get off your back side…”
DANI: Right right.
KATY: Rather than have a book to go, “This is how I’m supposed to sleep.”
DANI: Did you freak out that first time because I remember I read, “You can’t sleep on your back after so many months.” And then I’d wake up too on my back and the first time I thought, Oh my gosh, I just, you know, I killed the baby. Oh no. But yeah it was just my body waking me up.
KATY: No. My overall reaction with recommendations like it always like, “Um, oh, it’s interesting. I’m gonna see how I feel about it first always.”
DANI: Well speaking of recommendations, when you went through, when you kind of looked this up and found a lot of the left side thing was there any one thread in there that like, why is this recommended to us?
KATY: No. You know it all seems like a lot of times when I find a multiple of websites saying the same thing over and over again, it’s usually if I just keep digging for the source, it just keeps, it’s like a cut and paste of always the same few sentences that are often found like in a handbook at one time that was maybe the ultimate authority on that and it kind of stems through. I mean it could be that we’re all supposed to sleep on our left side all the time. I don’t know. But it wouldn’t make sense to me. Which is fine. Me, making sense to me isn’t a requirement for being right or wrong but just, in general, it doesn’t make sense to me. A cool paper that I did pull, there’s actually not really anything on sleeping and positions in this larger perspective of movement and sleep outside of, you know, a twelve-inch bed with a pillow inside a house with a 60-degree thermostat. Like, right, that’s always the perspective.
KATY: So the one paper that I have referenced a few times just because it’s the only one is called if you want to look it up, “Instinctive Sleeping and Resting Postures and Anthropological and Zoological Approach to Treatment of Low Back and Joint Pain.” So, their premises are essentially that forest dwellers, this is their terminology, forest dweller and nomads are suffering fewer musculoskeletal lesions than civilized, quote civilized people. Again, that’s pulled from the text. I wouldn’t… those aren’t Katy Bowman words. And lesions not meaning cuts or abrasions but I would say just issues in the tissues. And then that there seems to be, when you are actually dealing more with in my words, “varied surfaces” or “surfaces of different pressures”, they term it a little bit differently but it’s essentially the same thing. They’re always referring to the forest floor as the foundation but not everyone is sleeping on the forest floor, you know, in these nomadic or even
KATY: forest dweller populations are sleeping on all sorts of cool bedding. I mean, someone who was here training with us brought from South Africa a particular sage and it’s a sleeping sage meaning it’s this very soft plant that people will gather to make the foundation of their bedding.
KATY: So, I think humans are seeking soft comfortable places, like you’re not going to plop down on the gravel out of reference.
KATY: And when we went camping a few weeks ago, we stayed on a pretty primitive island and we just, we don’t bring bedrolls with us. You know, we’ll use a bedroom for camping for temperature if it’s winter camping but not necessarily for comfort because we’ve transitioned away from needing the comfort. But this was really hard. I mean there were like rocks. It was just hard ground with rocks that we couldn’t get out so we slept on that first night and then the next morning as we were shaking off the effects of doing that, we gathered a ton of eucalyptus.
KATY: From the trees. And I have a picture of it. If you remind me I can pull of the picture and I can put that in the show notes. And we made an entire bed out of eucalyptus and then put our tent on top of that. So really kind of, it was like the most primitive way, the easiest way, without using, like the most low tech way is probably a better way, of just moving materials into one place to create bedding. And then we had kind of like bumpy, it wasn’t smooth, we don’t need smooth.
KATY: But it was softer. It decreased the pressure a little bit and it made us a lot warmer. That was 90 minutes of activity to do out in camping. It was like, “let’s make a bed.” So anyway, Brittany, sorry.
KATY: I would say, I would still say that varied, I’m always thinking more movement than less and certainly during pregnancy more movement, I think, you’re all healthy that more movement is always the better as far as the absolutes of sleeping, I have no idea. But I would have a hunch that you wouldn’t find many populations… I wonder if even in animals if they look at other apes, if they take sleep.
DANI: Yeah. Interesting.
KATY: I mean the anatomy is very similar. That would be the population I would go to and I don’t have access to that population so I don’t know. Another amazing answer!
DANI: Well, and it’s clear, Brittany, you kind of know what’s going on because you’re trusting your instincts.
DANI: and that this seems so… you gotta listen to yourself.
KATY: Yeah. I would say in pregnancy I think overall the recommendation is listen, you know, listen to your body. And just, like, if you feel like you’re forcing stillness because you’ve read that it’s better but it’s not… like listen to your body meaning also pay attention to how you feel in the morning compared to how before. Maybe try a week of letting yourself do it another way. I doubt there’s gonna be… I mean since they’re not coming and actually harnessing people on their left side, there’s certainly going to be some variability in sleeping and just see how you feel. Do some experiments on yourself.
DANI: Sounds good. Ok. This next one is pretty long and there’s a bunch of questions in there and only one of them, or two of them relate to sleep. You just wade through what you want and you answer what you want. This is from Dana and Dana has questions about low back pain, mobility, and aging related to sleeping too.
DANI: “I’m 44 years old and I have had low back pain since my late 30s. It’s been tolerable and I’ve managed it with ibuprofen, stretching when possible, and walking more. Unfortunately, I have a full-time desk job, a 60-mile commute to work, and like many working moms, struggle to find time to fit in movement outside of weekends and the occasional walk during the week. Thanks to you I get off the train or two before my regular stop as much as possible lately.” Yay, so she can walk more. Way to go.
KATY: Yeah that’s great!
DANI: “Lately, I’m finding that the first half hour of my day is getting more and more painful. When I get out of bed in the morning I am so stiff I can barely do any other movement involving my back except for slowly walk. If I drop a sock, for example, I have to hold onto something in order to squat down to get it. Forget about bending at the waist. Is this common in 40 somethings? Maybe it’s just part of aging. ”
KATY: Ok, let’s stop right there. I will just say “No.” Just to answer that question.
DANI: Ok so there you go, checking that one off. “So I’m wondering the root cause. Aging,” No. “Not moving regularly throughout the day, my mattress. And what I can do to mitigate it. I know I need to move more but one must sleep. Can you provide some specific things I can do to prevent this morning pain?” Wanna answer that one?
KATY: Maybe just keep going. I gotta get the whole thing.
DANI: Got it. “I also notice the pain if I wake up in the middle of the night, which is often. I’ve read your post on giving up pillows and eventually conventional beds, but when I get down on the floor with the kids or the dogs for more than 20 minutes, my husband has to help me up. I get sore so quickly. I have all the DVDs but I haven’t done them all yet so maybe I need to start there.”
KATY: Oh my gosh. Dana.
DANI: I know, hold on a second.
KATY: There’s more. Go.
DANI: There’s more. “I know I should bring the half dome to work but I’d feel self-conscious being that everyone walks by my desk several times a day. Any specific things that I can focus on or begin with. Can I sleep standing up? LOL JK.” I don’t know if you can, by the way. I can answer that one.
KATY: If you’re a horse.
DANI: I think giraffes might do it too. “Thanks, Katy and Dani for all you do. Your podcast, books, and blog have been informative and now I just have to put it into practice.”
KATY: It’s that.
KATY: I feel like she knows exactly what to do.
DANI: She does.
KATY: The putting it into practice is the hardest part. So what was one question that … is it the lack of movement? Is it the type of bedding?
KATY: Yes. It is, I would say, and maybe lots of other things but in general, those are huge categories to be addressed. You know and again I would say, I mean if you’ve read Move Your DNA, that the mattress thing that we’re talking about is part of the “I’m not moving enough.” You know you’re reducing the amount of movement your body experiences simply by your bed set up. Do you just get on the floor? She’s a good example of, she was like, “How can I sleep on the floor? Getting on the floor right now hurts so bad.” So yeah, I mean of course, because there needs to be this long transition phase. So right off the top of the bat, the mobility exercises are key because what they’re doing is they are moving in a gentle way, many of your under-moved areas. So to carve out, you know, we all need to sleep, yes. Oh my gosh, there’s so many things here.
KATY: The first thing is we all need to sleep. For some reason, we understand that that sleep is supposed to be happening, like, in the daytime – that you need to sleep in longer. Meanwhile, you could be going to bed way earlier, going to bed earlier is sleeping in on the other side.
DANI: I love sleeping in on the other side.
KATY: As my dear friend Penelope said. Yes. Getting to bed sooner is key here. I would say because it sounds like you could use more movement, you need the sleep, you gotta go to work, but if you could, I mean, you already know that that gentle walk is what makes your back feel better. You know that you need to move more. So maybe going to bed earlier, step 1. There’s gonna be so many steps. Step 2, getting up a little bit earlier so that you can get in a 15-minute walk maybe before you even prepare for the day. Like throw on some old dirty clothes, some old shoes, a hat and walk out the door within five minutes of waking up, just to get 10-15 minutes of movement every day. You need to do some mobilizing exercises, it sounds like. If you can find 15 minutes to do them, I mean there’s abundant amount. Gosh, there’s a DVD of biomechanics for bad backs. I mean just pick any simple of those 5 exercise DVDs or you can do the Nutritious Movement multi-vitamin which is…
DANI: Mm-hmm. Flow, yeah.
KATY: 18 of them. But that’s a little bit longer. Yeah, there’s a good flow but there’s a morning one and an evening one. Or two separate ones, a standing one and a get on the floor one and start running through those. You know if you can do it every day, great, if you can’t if you can do it four times a week if not you just keep going down until you figure out what you can do and then do that. I would suggest that calf stretch at your office. Figuring out how to feel less self-conscious about it. Whether it’s asking the person next to you, “Does it bug you when I stretch my calves?” and let that person tell you no because it’s probably not bothering them.
DANI: They probably aren’t even noticing.
KATY: Be bolstered by the fact that they go, “I don’t care what you’re doing.” And then go “Ok.” If you feel the need to check in with everyone else to make sure it’s fine then go for it. But that’s key. You know, you already know the solution. The key is getting over how it’s making you feel and it’s likely what you perceive as how you’re gonna make other people feel is probably not even their bag. They’re probably like, “Whatever.”
KATY: I just did an interview with a reporter who is going to transition to sleeping on the floor.
KATY: Because of they’re very into fitness and bodybuilding. But they’re waking up multiple times a night in pain.
KATY: And it’s like their body, and his wife had suggested, who is also a reporter, she’s like, “Well I’ve…” you know she’d worked with me on some other things, she’s like, “I think that you’re not moving. You’re kind of like hyper-moving your body in a particular way but you could actually use your sleeping as a more active recovery.” Athletes know what I’m talking about with active recovery. You can use your sleeping time as active recovery. It’s pressure. You’re introducing pressure which is you’re rolling on balls and foam rollers and getting body work often times to supplement the pressure all over of the parts that don’t get moved in our very, in our very over cushioned life.
KATY: But I don’t suggest that you go from sleeping in a bed to sleeping on the floor. So some of the steps that I gave this gentleman were: start sleeping on the other side of the bed. Start sleeping on a guest bed, if you have one in your house. Not every night but that you’re like cross training. So you’re thinking “this bed is my exercise program” so just changing equipment a little bit. Change equipment. So change first the side of the bed which is gonna be slightly different if you share a bed with anyone else it’s gonna be conformed slightly or kind of broken down to the person’s body who normally sleeps there, so you’re gonna switch so you’re exposed to a slightly unique terrain, sleeping terrain if you will. Then you’re gonna go to guest bed. You’re gonna start getting on the floor for 5 to 10 minutes and just lying there. Move your body around. That’s a dose of pressure. Kind of like the worst massage you ever got. It’s just one flat push on your body. But go through all your sleeping positions. Lie on one side. Lie on the other side. Lie on your stomach with your head one way. Lie on your stomach with your head the other way. Put one arm under your head. You know you’re going through all of the motions that you’d assume during sleeping time but you’re going to go through all of them in 10-15 minutes. That is mobility work. That is the lightest version of mobilizing pressure type work. Then you can get into it with more detail through the corrective exercises that we have. Through rolling out with various, like, myofascial balls or tools. You can, you know, go flossing in all of those areas. Look through all, go spelunking through all the nooks and crannies because usually, that’s what ends of being achy and sore. So alongside kind of that switching from your current position in your own bed to a different position, new bed, you’re doing this kind of gentle mobility work, you’re adding in a little bit more walking, a little bit more correctives, adding some in at work. And then you can start trying to sleep, you don’t go to the floor, you build up something extra cushioning on the floor. Lots of layers. Think princess and the pea. You’re coming down off your mattress but you’re not ready for what is underneath the bed…
KATY: So you go with, you know, three or four comforters. And then over time, you might notice that you have to get back in bed in the middle part of the night, you know, you’re doing different, lower dosages of floor sleeping if you will. And then that’s how you transition. And it can be over months. It could be over a year. It all depends on the current state of your body. That would be my recommendation. That’s a lot of stuff.
DANI: I can back that one up. Dana, my mornings were just like yours sound before I started doing this work. Just put all that into practice at your pace that you can and you will benefit from it. So now I jump out of bed like I’m a toddler.
KATY: Like three times a night?
DANI: No. Ha!
KATY: Asking for water? And a sliced apple.
DANI: Is that what they do? Wow. My toddlers never did that. They must have been scared to get out of bed. Ok. Well, that was good and I just love how almost everybody always knows their answer. They just, you know, need just a little bit of bolstering in that direction. We’re all so wise. Ok, this is actually not a question, this gal would just like an update from Katy. She writes to you: “A while ago you wrote a blog post about cleaning up your sleep. I’d love to hear a review and a sleep show, if you will, of what you’ve been doing for Katy’s sleep system.”
KATY: Yeah what have you done for my sleep system lately, Dani.
DANI: Ha ha! I make it so you can rest easy at night, don’t I. Just by being in the world?
KATY: Sometimes I just listen to our podcast. I just forward through my part just to hear you lull me to sleep.
KATY: What are the major updates? Ok, so I made one, I think that cleaning up my sleep, I had mold. We used to sleep directly on the floor. So I live in the Pacific Northwest and I live in an old house. And where my bedroom is tends to be in this low circulating area. So we were sleeping directly on the floor and after sleeping on the floor on maybe, I think it was a three-inch piece of foam that compressed down to an inch when we slept. Oh, and we have hardwood floors. When we lifted up the foam after a couple of months to our surprise there was mold growing. So we had warmed the floor and made it really moist with our body heat and we got mold there. So we’re like, “ok, we can’t sleep on the floor anymore.” And I think that was before I wrote: Cleaning up My Sleep. Yes. Because we had built platforms.
DANI: Yes it was.
KATY: So we built wood platforms that were, I don’t know, six inches, eight inches off the ground that we could put our futon on that we had bought these new wool … because the foam itself, that had some issues. Because there’s not only the mechanics…
KATY: …we’re also trying to get rid of all of the, I almost want to say anti-inflammatory, that’s funny, but the thing that keeps things from bursting into flames?
DANI: Oh yeah…
KATY: Flammable… it’s not inflammatory but what is it called…
KATY: Flame retardant.
DANI: Flame retardant yeah.
KATY: I keep thinking…
DANI: Anti-inflammatory sounded great to me.
KATY: Exactly. But the flame retardants that they spray, they’re kind of like they’re getting all pervasive as far as circulating within our bodies, so it’s on couches. It’s standard on any furniture at least in the United States. It’s sprayed with this stuff. I mean they’re finding it in breast milk. You can link, you can listen to a podcast. I think we talked all about this kind of stuff. But anyway, we got these mattresses. And you have, if you have a mattress, it has to, by law, come with flame retardant. The way around it is if you get a futon. Futons don’t have to have it. So there’s a couple of companies that make, they have wool, so they’re naturally flame retardant, versus synthetics. So anyway, we bought that. We put it on these wood platforms that we made and sealed ourselves. Which is in, I believe, the blog post she’s talking about. We moved them the other day and low and behold there is mold between the…
DANI: What the heck?
KATY: I know. Only on the slats where it was…
DANI: Well do you not flip the beds.
KATY: No I don’t flip the beds. How often are we supposed to flip the beds? So no. I’ve never flipped.
DANI: I well gosh ok. Well, i roll my futon up every day.
KATY: Yes well our futons, these are very heavy. They don’t bend, they don’t flex.
KATY: They’re, I mean, they’re, it’s a queen-sized and a double. They don’t have handles. It’s just wool. I mean they’re over 100 pounds. I mean they’re really heavy. Maybe even … and they’re awkward and flat. It’s like, if you took 12 bodies that were all passed out and not able to help you out at all and stitched them together, it’s like flipping that over.
DANI: Wow. That is an awesome image. Thank you!
KATY: Yeah, you’re welcome.
DANI: How you gonna go to bed tonight? Oh no!
KATY: That’s what it’s like. It’s like it doesn’t help you at all. So no, I don’t flip them regularly. I mean, we flipped them just after a few months use because we move them often and we move a lot of things in our house. Because we notice that changing things like furniture, switching rooms of things, has a profound impact on our kids in terms of how then engage. It’s like, if it’s the same environment over and over and over again it’s totally different than if we make some major household change like every quarter, like they just totally re-engage with their environment.
KATY: So it’s not like, it wasn’t, we don’t flip them up every day but yes, we are at the point now where we’re like, ok what can we sleep on that’s on the floor low that’s also simple to just pick up every day and so it might be wools, I mean we’ve got a couple wools that our kids will sleep on. They’ll just drag it next to where we are, just sleep on the floor with a blanket so we are about ready to clean up our sleep again because we’re coming, it’s at a quarter end for us, right, we’re going into, kind of the end of spring, or I guess we’re in the middle of spring. No need to rush it. But, um, it’s a seasonal change so we’ll switch our bedding. We’ll switch all of our rooms. We’ll switch kind of how we do major things right? You switch schooling and we’ll change our environment or our habitat as well. Getting closer to the ground and getting something that comes up, that’s the logistics of it. As far as how I feel? Fantastic. Except when I end up sleeping on a bed. So I’ve totally, like, it’s kind of like you transition away from a heeled shoe and then you put it back on and you’re like, “oh my back,” like you feel the effects. When I get, if I’m traveling and I’m sleeping in a hotel that has a big old squishy bed and for many reasons I don’t like to sleep on the floor of a hotel that often unless I have a lot of bedding I can put on the carpet.
KATY: Just because it’s so heavily traveled. You know. I will wake up with a headache or a stiff neck. So I was like maybe I need to practice sleeping on not only the floor, you know, a little bit because, again, the floor is not as varied as I would like it to be. Camping was a great… camping, we’re in the camping season which is good because we’ll be sleeping on all sorts of different shapes and textures for the next three or four months because we’ll do a lot of camping and so that will help. But kind of like, you know, you’re in the winter time. You’re barefoot walking goes down. You’re in shoes more. You lose all your callouses. We’re kind of with winter sleeping body which is sleeping for a lot longer; sleeping on the same surface over and over again. So that’s what I’m looking forward to is adding the texture and the terrain back to my sleep through the summer. That’s the update. Those are the only updates I have.
DANI: Awesome. Well, good luck with that mold thing. That’s a…
KATY: Ugh. And the wifi. The wifi crept back on right? So we’ve got that timer that clicks off at 9 but it just kind of slowly crept back on because you’ll be working on something, “Turn it back on” so we had to bring back the hard fast, it goes off at 9. If it goes off at 9 and you’re working that was your signal that you should have changed the way you were working…
DANI: That’s your cue.
KATY: … right, so we’re back to, uh, just cleaning it up again. Right? You clean up…it’s never a one-time thing. I just keep getting back on the boat.
DANI: We’re always, yeah…
KATY: We’re catching the boat… so a season change transition is always a behavioral modification in the Bowman household.
DANI: That’s a good idea. I like that. All right. So this next question is from Mary. And Mary writes: “My question is about sleep. I would venture to guess most typical Americans do not get enough. I generally get between 8 to 10 hours a night, currently, as we homeschool so we don’t have to get up early as regularly school kids. But when I get less I often get groggy in the afternoons and have a strong desire to nap instead of go for a walk. Should I feel guilty for actually sleeping when I feel tired or should I be moving more to tell my body, “Now is not the time to sleep.” Does that make sense? It is not so much a question about how to sleep but is sleeping a behavior we should be engaging in as often as it calls?” Interesting. “And I mean actually sleeping, not lying in bed reading or watching tv.”
DANI: Mmm. I love this question.
KATY: Yeah it’s a great question.
DANI: From someone who has been taking a lot of naps lately.
KATY: Well and I think, what did she say, “How” … not not how to sleep, like what’s enough sleep, I think. You know we talk about what’s enough movement. The distribution of movement is something that we only are just now starting to think of because we thought that exercise was enough so distribution to us was three times a week or once every day. We weren’t thinking, because we were thinking exercise not it should be coming in waves throughout the day; sometimes for hours but sometimes in shorter bits for 10 or 20 minutes. And I bet you sleep is gonna end up looking something similar to that. Like we have this idea that sleep is something that’s supposed to come in one huge block.
KATY: But some of the research that they’ve done that when people are adequately rested, that they have two sleeps, right, they go to bed when the sun goes down maybe. You know these people that have been removed from stimulus or light. So they go to bed earlier and then they wake up in the middle of the night and they’re up for a few hours in the middle of the night and then go back and have a second sleep. There are many cultures that do that and also would have a nap, right? So we might be getting quote enough but maybe it’s not all supposed to come smashed together in one space. And maybe we’re not all supposed to sleep with the same amount and distribution.
DANI: Right. Well isn’t that kind of like when, you know, we don’t want to work out just for that one hour a day. You want to move throughout your day. So you could apply that same thing that your sleep should be allowed to have that leeway too.
KATY: Yeah. And seasonally, and I’ve noticed… I noticed for me with my menstrual cycle the night before I would start I would be unable to sleep. And for years and years you know I’d be in bed because it’s bedtime and I’m just thrashing and kicking over. I mean like clockwork, one night a month. Unable to sleep. It also happens on a full moon for me as well. And just like tossing and turning and finally, I was like oh, I’m going to get up now. And I would get up and I would have this whole middle of the night three-hour period to myself where I would just indulge myself and kind of, you know, make a warm beverage, get up and do some self-massage and maybe read a little bit if I wanted to or anything just for myself. I’d be all bundled up and cozy and you know, write, or whatever it is that I wanted to do and then I’d go back to bed. And I felt way more rested by getting up out of bed and tending to myself during this period and going back to bed than when I would just thrash and become mentally frustrated at the fact that I wasn’t sleeping during time that I was quote should be sleeping.
DANI: That’s interesting.
KATY: And also, going to bed really early, like, you know, you’d been outside all day long in the weather and moving around. You know I put my kids to bed and I’d just go to bed with them at, it was early, like 7 but I would have slept from 7 to 1 am and then I’m up. Then I’m up from 1 to 3 and then I go back and can sleep from 3 to 6 or 3 to 7. That sleep distribution distributed throughout the month. Right? Like it’s not always like that every single night. My sleeping needs vary on a cycle.
KATY: And so, just, I think that we need to be open to the ideas that many human behaviors, many animal behaviors, are likely to not be in this oversimplified you need eight glasses of water so just drink them in a row over two hours rather than, well, some of that water is supposed to be in your food. Some of that water you gulp in the morning so you don’t need it later on. Sometimes you drink at night. So you don’t… like there are these other variables that we’re just not used to considering and so with sleep I would say that it’s not only the frequency but the distribution. And then also, you know, she’s asking, how do I know if I’m tired or basically just sluggish. I would say physically sluggish, where, I feel like what I want is sleep but what I really need is a walk, you know. So if you’re able to discern am I tired or am I sluggish… and sluggish is the word I’m using for under-moved at this point …would be to look at your total movement and go, do you feel like you’d be under-moved? Do you notice that noon-time sluggishness go away if you add more movement into the day and of course we can’t really have conversations about movement and sleep without diet, right? Because there can be drops in fuel. So a big issue that you might want to also approach, the distribution of your dietary nutrients and see if that is not part of the equation because of course it is. Right?
DANI: Yeah. I read this cool book several years ago about this guy who went to the Amazon for years, you’ve probably read it too. I can’t remember the title. I’ll look it up and put it in the notes, but he lived with this tribe and their standard practice was they would go to bed as soon as the sun went down, usually, and then wake up about 1 in the morning. And all sit around at talk for a little bit. And maybe have something to drink, have something to eat and then stay up for about an hour and then go back to bed. *Dani’s note: I finally remembered the book! Kenneth Good’s Into the Heart
DANI: And that was just the cycle that they were on. You know and then sometimes they’d take a short nap during the day and there wasn’t anything weird about that for them because that’s just, they were just doing what they were accustomed to.
KATY: Siestas are quite pervasive. I mean as far as in the animal world. Right? If you’re moving and foraging all day long, there’s going to need to be a bout of resting, you know. We’re in that weird dichotomy where we don’t get enough movement because we’re busy doing stuff, sedentary, but we’re never actually rested because none of that sedentary time is down time. It’s always like intense stimulus packaged with sedentarism which is, I imagine, very stressful given that stress and movement kind of go hand in hand biologically. But a couple references, Shawn Stevenson has a book called, “Sleep Smarter” which I thought was a really great introduction. If you were like, “Woah, I never thought about sleep before as something I could play with like my movement and my diet,”
KATY: “Sleep Smarter” is great. Shawn Stevenson is great. I’ve done his podcast a few times and he’s just, he’s really great. And then also in “Eat Well, Move Well,” you know, Galina and Roland Denzel cover a lot of those chapters are just on sleep and they’ve interviewed some different sleep experts. So those are a couple places if you’re interested in more sleep you can go check that out.
DANI: Sounds good. That’s a good book too.
KATY: How many more questions?
DANI: Well, as many as you want. This is one, uh, from Andrew.
DANI: Oh, siesta time everybody. Take 5. And Andrew writes: “I was wondering if you could talk more about the dangers or benefits of sleeping on your stomach. I know some practitioners like Kelly Starrett suggest not sleeping in this way. I’ve been sleeping in sort of a half side half stomach position propped up by a pillow under one-half of the side of my body. I’m worried if this may harm my neck.”
KATY: Mm. Kelly Starrett and I did an interview and we talked about sleep if you want to link to that in the show notes.
DANI: Ok, we’ll do that.
KATY: Because you know a lot of times Kelly Starrett and he said this in the podcast, he’s talking about athletes and training and people working on their mobility. So again, this is a way to use sleep as a way to correct this particular thing. Where my views on sleep are about how to add more movement into your life and ways to identify casts that you may be putting on. So rarely will I suggest that you, like my suggestions aren’t really that you make edits or changes in single areas of your life, although you’re welcome to do that, but rather it’s entire system that works all together. So sometimes if you’re only making changes in one part of the system it doesn’t bode well because there might be some other change in some other aspect of your life that was, they were supposed to work together. So that’s that the challenge of slowly adding in movement here or there. As you might find that in order to sleep, like for that question I think it was Dana maybe, you know, in order for her to transition to sleeping in a different way, she needs mobility exercises done outside of sleep, right? So if you’re only going, oh, get rid of my mattress, great! I’m gonna do that but you’ve not done anything else then all of a sudden that might be not harmful but maybe painful for you. Although I just, my neighbor walked by, a neighbor that I didn’t even know really knew, really knows anything that I do, and he said, “hey I read some of your blog posts, you know that you got rid of your pillow and I got rid of my pillow and I’ve had this problem in my neck and shoulders for a couple years and it’s like two weeks I’ve been doing it and it’s gone.” And that’s all he did. So you just never know. You just never know what’s gonna work.
DANI: Right that’s crazy. That’s awesome.
KATY: But the intention is that is all goes together, right? That the sleeping goes with the walking, goes with the squatting, goes with the corrective exercises, that go with the texture, that go with the terrain, that go with the long distance vision, right? It all is one system all together. You can certainly do whatever parts of it that seem more feasible to you but that it does work together as a system. So, again, the answer is, you know my recommendations aren’t for one particular sleeping position as much as it is for looking at your bed as an opportunity for more motion. To move, which is not only that you’re tossing and turning in bed more. I don’t mean more motion like that. But that you’re moving more of your parts in order to accomplish sleep. So benefits of sleeping on your stomach often times big cushiony bed allows you to sleep on your stomach all night long. So you’re just consuming one long bout of one position. So I imagine that that would become a problem if you were working on mobilizing your neck or some other part that your sleeping might be a mass consumption of one position that you’re trying to move away from. So that would probably be the perspective I would assume.
KATY: A practitioner would have.
DANI: All right. Well, I just want to give a shout out to Alison and Fern because you asked questions that were in this podcast but Katy already answered them. You’ve got to this point and it was like, “hey that was my question too, kind of.” Just so you know I saw you and thought of you. I see you but your question has just been answered. Ok, this is a good, this is a gem from Tom. “Any thoughts on how our modern day body adaptations have impacted what seems to be an increasing number of sleep apnea diagnoses? Specifically for those people who are not dealing with obesity.”
KATY: Oh my gosh, well. It’s just hard to…
KATY: I mean it’s hard to extract. This is where you know we talk about breathing and the impact of jaw formation. Nursing, breastfeeding, chewing, all of those early forces and how that affects the structures that we breathe with. Our palate height, our tongue thrust. Right? All of those, like, why would we associate sleep apnea with a behavior in our first two or three years? And not to say that they are related but that this is the, the is the sphere of questions that are yet to even be asked which is like what actually designates the size and the shape of our breathing tubes. I mean we have a bunch of people who are, like, they have obstructed breathing. They go to bed at night and they are unable to breathe. Again, red flag, central. And then when we look at, we have to go back to the beginning and go what is the, what are the earliest exercises we engage in that help us set those shapes of those structures that were breathing in and out of. That I would say that, I personally if I were the research on this would start with early infant and toddler practices and then you could go to chewing. Like I would start with the easiest things like what are the largest forces is that the jaw and the tongue and the palate would experience you know in those first few years and they’re gonna be eating practices. So that’s where I would look.
KATY: So modern day adaptations, just, I would look at feeding practices. Because there could be a lot of other things. I mean in nutrients too, for sure, but it’s hard to say… it’s hard to pull out dietary nutrients from the methods that you take in the dietary nutrients because both of those things, there are the mechanical loads and then there are the nutrients that you are utilizing to build the structures based on mechanical loads. So diet, both dietary and mechanical, to me, would be the first place that I would look at for some of the sleep, you know, obstructed breathing.
KATY: And then, of course, upper thoracic kyphosis, immobility, of all the muscles around the chest. The fact that the head is regularly positioned so far forward from the rest of the body and is only made worse as we bring in technology i.e., excessive head in front of torso practice positioning tension, that’s a tube.
KATY: You know, I mean I think it’s in Dynamic Aging where I actually put in the diagram and maybe in Alignment Matters as well only I used a straw to say here’s a straw in one way, here’s a straw another way.
DANI: Before your days of high-tech illustration.
KATY: Yeah, you have affected all of the structures involved in swallowing, breathing, and then the size and shapes of those tubes, their strengths. Oh, the fact that we don’t let kids put anything in their mouths. In the fear of choking they’ve lost their earliest development of the ability to move their tongues in particular shapes in being able to have the strength in moving the thing up and down. Like it’s a very … nebulous isn’t the right word, because I feel like it’s probably very simply defined it’s just there’s gonna be a ton of variables that are gonna affect it so they all need to be investigated one at a time so that would be my, those would be my hypothesis if this was my field of research.
KATY: There’s a lot of dentists now, they are now considering those structures as much more adaptive pieces of your physiology. It’s like hey you get this many teeth and this is the genetic shape of your jaw. They were going oh yeah, no, it’s all formed just like the muscles in your legs and the shape of your bones in your shoulders. It’s genetic, there’s genetic shapes in there but part of that genetic programming is how to respond to the loads as they’re developing. Thanks for the gem, Tom.
DANI: Yeah, dude, your answer is as cool as his question. That was a good match. All right. Last one. Samantha writes: “I am on the eliminate the pillow plan. I’m down two notches from where I began, taking about 10 months to get there. I’m currently on a pretty darn flat nothing of a pillow. Next stage, the towel or less. Here’s my problem. In the middle of the night, while sleeping, I fold the pillow in two and double the height. So will one of you come sleep beside me and jab me in the ribs when I do this. My husband won’t mind. Seriously, I don’t feel I have transitioned too quickly but dang it if I can get my body to commit to it. What are your thoughts.” I’ve got this one Katy. Samantha, I will come sleep beside you as long as we can sleep on the floor. But I won’t jab you in the ribs when you fold your pillow because I feel it’s kind of a rude move. I’m just gonna grab you by your shoulders and shake you and shriek and I think that’ll cure the problem. So if you’re down with it, fly me out to wherever you are and three nights and you’re over it. But what are your thoughts?
KATY: This is a service you’re gonna be offering?
DANI: Well it depends. I feel like she really needs it. She’s trying hard. But what are your thoughts?
KATY: Well, my thoughts are she needs the height. So kind of like she’s reaching for what she needs to be comfortable in the middle of the night. And that’s great. What I would suggest is, try to find, so where she is seems to be based on the indication of her behavior, as indicated by her behavior, too low for her to sustain throughout the night so if she could find something that’s a little higher than what she’s starting out with but a little lower than what she’s doubling up to, that would be better or cut your pillow in half, you know where you can’t, you know, use something that’s actually smaller that you can’t fold it.
KATY: But I will often do the same thing. In the middle of the night like there’s just like something that I need and I just usually will grab a piece of clothing that’s around me because I just need, like, a half a centimeter more, you know, and I want to put my arm down.
KATY: So I feel like you don’t have to ignore that. But that’s not the goal to ignore yourself. It’s to listen to yourself and then go maybe I need, for me my practice is like, I need to do more things with my upper body. Because not necessarily I need to change my sleeping environment more, I’m already on a thin pillow. It’s like, to me this is an indication that my shoulders and my neck aren’t as supple as I want them to be so I will add more of that movement to the next day to the point where my upper body is more relaxed without any bolstering.
DANI: Awesome. I didn’t think about that. Well so this is gonna come out around March 16th I think of 2017. Where are you gonna be around there. Are you gonna be out in the world doing stuff.
DANI: Did I say March. Wow.
KATY: That’s ok. I was like, you’re gonna hold on to this one for a long time.
DANI: I think it’s time to, well we’d have to go back in time. I’d have to get in the tardis and go back in time. That wouldn’t work. I think I need a siesta.
KATY: So May 16th. We need a nap. We all do. I will be in Austin. I’ll be in Austin, Texas the 19th, 20th and 21st. I’ll be teaching at PaleoFX. You do have to get a ticket to PaleoFX for the entire conference. They don’t have any single day tickets. But I am doing a public event at Barnes and Noble there and you can find out the details, it’s in a suburb of Austin. I want to say, like, Honeybee.
KATY: That can’t be right. That can’t be right. Hold on. I’ll pull it up. Just a second. One minute, please… One minute, please… I will be doing one public event there at the Barnes and Noble on May 20th and that is in Hill Country Galleria which is in Bee Cave, Texas. Which I think is like 15 minutes outside of Austin. It’s a suburb of Austin. That’s for anyone who wants to come out I’d love to have you come out and say hi. And then I will be in the Netherlands. If you are listening in the Holland…
DANI: Ha Ha
KATY: … I will be doing, you know who that’s for.
DANI: I know.
KATY: I will be doing a public event, I don’t even want to … it’s at the shore in Shev-en-in-agin?
DANI: Oh don’t even go there. Just we’ll spell it out. We’ll link to it.
KATY: We’ll link to it. If you go to the appearances page on the calendar at Nutritious Movement. It’s actually a very cool event. So I will be teaching a RES week there that we always do in Castricum but one of the teachers who is coming to certify with us, she owns a pancake and coffee house on the beach. It’s all organic, I mean coffee and pancake house.
DANI: Oh yeah.
KATY: It’s gonna be a minimal footwear swap.
KATY: And companies, like European companies that have different types of minimal footwear, they’re gonna be coming and bringing samples and they’re inventory. So I’ve very excited because there’s a couple of new companies of minimal footwear in Europe that I’m hoping come because I love their shoes but of course when you’re buying and shipping from Europe you don’t,
KATY: It’s hard to get the sizing right. So it’s gonna be super fun. On the beach.
DANI: Across the internet, I can hear tickets being bought for the Netherlands. Oh my gosh.
KATY: And it’s free. Yes, exactly. They’re not cheap right now, I can tell you. But yes, it’s a super fun event of just this party with the natural movement and minimal footwear community. My book, Whole Body Barefoot, is in Dutch. So that publisher will be there and we’ll have those books and it should be a great event.
DANI: Sounds like.
KATY: If you are there, come on out. And Seattle, September 7, 8 and 9th at Ancestral Healthy Symposium. And I’ll probably do one other thing in Seattle on there. And then New Zealand. New Zealand I will be there in October and in addition to teaching at the Ancestral Healthy Symposium, I believe we’re gonna do two other public events. I’m going to be shaping those up over the next couple of months. At different areas in New Zealand because I’m going to be traveling there for a long while. So anyway, I will keep you posted on the New Zealand stuff.
KATY: Again, so tweet us or Instagram. Any social media outlet if you have any ideas of what I should be doing in New Zealand or great places to do different events just hit us up.
DANI: Have an organic pancake and coffee house. Just let us know.
KATY: Oh my gosh. It’s like you had me at pancakes and coffee. I’m just gonna come put my feet up. Yes, I’m very excited about it.
DANI: All right. Well, that’s a wrap for us. I hope everybody gets a good night’s sleep. Even if it happens during the day today. Or tonight.
KATY: If this last part of the podcast didn’t put you to sleep then you know.
DANI: Or we figure out where is Katy gonna be. Where in the world is Katy Carmen… whatever it is. All right so.
KATY: Katy Sandiego.
DANI: Thank you for listening. For more information, books, online exercise classes, you can find Katy Bowman at NutritiousMovement.com and you can find more about me, Dani Hemmat at MoveYourBodyBetter.com.
DANI: Thanks for listening. Bye.
VOICE OVER: Hopefully you find the general information in this podcast informative and helpful. But it is not intended to replace medical advice and should not be used as such.