Science in Action: Why Did I Sleep So Well? (part 12)

Over the last week I’ve found that standing on one foot till it becomes difficult just twice during the day is enough to produce much better sleep that night. Maybe the effect is larger with three times but not enough to make much difference.

It now takes 8-10 minutes of one-leg standing (with the other leg stretched back behind me) before it gets difficult. When I started, it took 2-3 minutes.


12 Replies to “Science in Action: Why Did I Sleep So Well? (part 12)”

  1. Hey Seth, so do you think this effect is chemically driven? It seems to me there’s gotta be some molecules bouncing around between your legs and your sleep neurons that is important. Might this relate to other, pharmaceutical sleep aids? I know that’s not a focus of your own experimentation, but while I will still hit google scholar tomorrow, maybe you’ve already done some research?

  2. On the humourless/pedantic side — are you referring to your legs “singly,” as in if you stand on your right leg until tiredin the morning, and later in the day again stand on your right leg until tired, you get the effect? When you stand on your leg, is your knee locked, or slightly bent? The former takes less energy — I’m trying to imagine how to tell when I’m ‘tired’…..

  3. Also, do you always balance on the one leg, or just stand on it while touching something for balance? For me, the former is more difficult, so I suppose more effective? As in yoga, focusing on some point while balancing is the only way: close my eyes, and I fall.

  4. I just made a connection with something I often see as a massage therapist. When releasing a ‘knot’ the client often gets very relaxed, goes into a trance, and then starts snoring as they fall asleep.

    One of the important things the body does during sleep is to try and relax and unwind restrictions in the muscles and fascia. It makes sense that the more residual myofascial tension, the deeper the body will relax overnight as it works to release that tension, which is what may be happening by standing on one foot.

    This suggests to me that the primary cause may be in the nervous system instead of chemical; in the interaction between the nerves that monitor how much tension is stored in a muscle (proprioceptors?) and the sympathetic nervous system that controls autonomic relaxation. The onset of patients deep relaxation and falling asleep seems like it’s to quick to be initiated by chemicals.

  5. Mike, yes, I think it’s chemical: the stressed muscle puts something into the blood that tells the brain to sleep more.

    Darkhorse, I usually touch something for balance at the same time. I don’t know if it makes a difference whether you touch something or not.

    Caleb, the time between cause (standing on one leg) and effect (better sleep) can be 16 hours or more. If I stand on one leg at 8 am and sleep better starting at midnight, for example. That’s easy for chemicals (hormones) to bridge. Not so easy for change in neural activity to bridge.

    MT, I always do both legs. One-legged on the left leg (in the morning, say); one-legged on the right leg (in the evening, say). During this the leg is both straight and a little bent — I go back and forth. I do it until it’s hard to continue.

  6. Yeah, the effect only can occur during deep relaxation/sleep. What I’m saying is that during sleep the body runs a program for loosening the muscles. The greater the stimulus (myofascial tension) on the propriceptors, the greater the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, and thus the deeper the sleep.

    It doesn’t matter when the muscle tension occurs because the body has to wait until sleep for the brain waves to drop to delta where it can run the program to clear the muscle tension out. I guess that’s the key; the program doesn’t run until the CNS drop into the theta/delta range.

  7. Seth –

    Last year you were studying the link between sunlight exposure and sleep. A large number of hours of sunlight exposure seemed to lead to better sleep. I didn’t see this item in your recent list of self-experimentation discoveries. Where did your research on this link ultimately lead?

  8. Jeff, I ultimately found it worked, as far as I could tell. But I haven’t yet done especially conclusive experiments. It isn’t much of a discovery — lots of people already say light is important for the control of circadian rhythms, such as sleep. The value of self-experimentation in this case is the ability to get better evidence and measure the dose-response function.

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