Science in Action: Why Did I Sleep So Well? (part 4)

I repeated the two things that remained on my list as possibilities for why I slept so well a few nights ago: 1. Looked at my face in a mirror a half-hour earlier than usual with a better sound source. 2. Stood on one foot until exhaustion (6 times). Lo and behold, I slept great. Now I’m pretty sure one of these two, or their combination, is responsible.

An unexpected twist is that I only slept 5 hours. Usually I’d still feel tired after that little sleep. But I feel like I slept 7 or 8.

I suspect the standing, not the faces, is the cause. Which would be ironic. Of the treatments I’ve studied by self-experimentation and found helpful, standing 9 or 10 hours, which greatly improved my sleep, was the most difficult. I loved what it did to my sleep. I still remember how wonderful it felt to be so well-rested the next morning. Even so I stopped doing it. As an experimental treatment, it was hard to measure how long I stood. As a lifestyle change, it was really hard to arrange so much standing. Whereas standing on one foot to exhaustion six times might be the easiest effective treatment I’ve studied (if it’s effective). Easy to measure, nothing to buy, no logistical problems.

I may try to repeat the earlier observation a few more times — as a kind of gift to myself — but now the main thing I want to do is separate the effects of the two factors, i.e., test one without the other.


14 Replies to “Science in Action: Why Did I Sleep So Well? (part 4)”

  1. there’s more to standing on one leg than meets the eye. this article notes that bird do it all the time (and not just flamingos)
    There doesn’t seem to be much literature on it, altho i did not do an exhaustive search.
    Also, one of the postures of Nei Kung involves more or less standing on one leg (Playing P’i P’a) Kei Kung is a precursor to Tia chi. These practices are generally designed to open up one’s meridians; and to generate and disperse chi throughout the body. My understanding of “Chi” is that it is the undifferentiated energy of the universe.
    A person that practices Nei Kung for several years forms a thick fascia throughout the body (Fascia is strong connective tissue which performs a number of functions, including enveloping and isolating the muscles of the body, providing structural support and protection. my instructor told me that Playing P’i P’a results in fascia being formed along the side of the leg.
    These Chinese forms evolved over many centuries and are often the result of observing animals (including birds, i would think). If Playing P’i P’a “make the cut” then it’s has to do with more than just sleep. I don’t know what that is, but it would be interesting to find out.

  2. Mike, I don’t know. If standing on one foot does matter, presumably it puts one or more stress hormones in the blood that later (at night) control depth of sleep and during sleep are gotten rid of. If that’s correct, then the time of day shouldn’t matter because the stress hormones are likely to be stable. It’s a question that I will try to answer if standing on one foot turns out to matter.

  3. excellent. i tried standing on one foot (right, then left) for about 2.5 minutes a piece on friday fairly close to bed and didn’t notice effects (though there are numerous confounding elements in the mix–it’s been a high stress time for me). it sounds like you spent more time standing on one foot though, and did it in the morning. i’ll play around with the idea.

  4. From Nancy Lebovitz:

    It’ll be interesting to see whether it’s the stress or the one-footed
    standing. If it’s the former, you’ll get less improvement in your sleep as
    you get better at one-footedness from practice.

    Answer: I don’t do the one-footed standing for a fixed time. I do it as long as possible. So it is more or less equally stressful each time.

  5. There’s also the element of balance, which is related to the stress and would improve over time. I’ve been doing a one-legged standing on a balance board or disc about 3 times daily. I’ve noticed that I feel good after doing it. My balance is improving. Last 2 nights my sleep has been excellent but I sleep well maybe 60-70% of the time.

  6. fascinating results, but man this isn’t working so easily for me. I decided i’d try it out while doing my 30 minutes with the mirror.

    The problem is I’m probably on the tail end when it comes to balance and leg endurance. I use a bike as my primary transportation, and I don’t use my hands when I ride, so my leg strength and balance are pretty ridiculous. I made it through the whole 30 minutes and I was still standing on the first foot. It was definitely feeling quite tired and sore in places, but I could have gone longer.

    Still, I might be able to make this work, as I suspect the benefits come from the hormones you produce when your legs endurance gets pushed past it’s limits. Maybe if I pre-exhaust my legs with some weight lifting before hand it won’t take nearly as long for them to give out. I’ll have to look up what are the most important leg muscles for balance.

  7. Caleb, the important factor may be the stress itself, not the fact that it’s induced via the legs.

    Maybe you could try something you’re not already good at, like maintaining yourself in the half-pushup position as long as you can. This will stress your arms, chest, and abdominal core (make sure you’re ramrod straight).

  8. Caleb, sink into the supporting leg. Soften the muscles in the hip. Always keep the knee over the foot, don’t let it move inside or outside. I just tested multiple positions and it seems that the easiest to illustrate is:
    turn the foot of what will be the supporting leg out 45 degrees (if the left foot, then it points to 10:30)
    extend the other leg in front, sliding on the floor
    sink, sink, sink into the hip
    the stopping point is when you can’t lift the other foot without lurching

    Then lift your non-weight-bearing foot from the floor a quarter inch or so. Hold.

  9. i tried standing on each foot for about 2 minutes, 3 times last night–i was more or less exhausted by this. i woke up about 2 hours earlier than usual this morning, and couldn’t get back to sleep, which was kind of weird. i tried standing on each foot till i was pretty much exhausted three times today, too, and i’ll see how i sleep and how i feel tomorrow.

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