The "We Are Becoming Monks" Edition

A couple of weeks ago, Blake and I were in Cambodia where we went on a 2-day temple tour led by a former monk!

We Are Becoming Monks

A couple of weeks ago, Blake and I were in Cambodia where we went on a 2-day temple tour led by a former monk!

After countless questions and google searches, Blake and I have both:

  1. Decided that we want to do a program called Monk for a Month, where you get to live & learn from Tibetan monks in the Himalayas.
  2. Discovered that Instagram influencers are basically like modern day monks ;) in that often rely on a “gift-giving economy” for survival.
  3. Determined that 4 of the "10 most important precepts" for monks here in Southeast Asia could all lead to better sleep, which I’ll discuss more in this article 👇.

MONK PRECEPT #1 - I undertake the precept to refrain from eating at the forbidden time (i.e., after-noon).

This was one of my favorites! Turns out, monks participate in something called Circadian Rhythm Intermittent Fasting (CRIF). CRIF is really just a fancy way of saying that if you want to get great sleep, aim to keep all of your meals between the hours of sunrise and sunset! I go more in-depth on the importance of meal-timing here.

Skipping breakfast in accordance with the now trendy Intermittent Fasting might be all the rage, but do know that it can disrupt your circadian rhythm if you have your last meal late in the day. Instead, it could be worth simply swapping the order of your fasting and eating windows. Test skipping or moving up your dinner to an earlier hour to allow your body plenty of time to digest before sleep.

Sleep trackers will prove this point for you in the numbers. Eating close to your bedtime tends to elevate your heart rate, often disrupting your sleep stages, eats away at deep sleep, raises your body temperature, and tends to tank your Heart Rate Variability.

If you wanna dive more into this, check out the book: Buddha's Diet: The Ancient Art of Losing Weight Without Losing Your Mind.

MONK PRECEPT #2- I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness.

Obviously, I’m not advocating that any of us take on this precept or ANY of these precepts, 100 percent. BUT there is something to this idea of ‘carelessness’ around what we put into our bodies. Regularly checking in on the effects that our daily beverages, over-the-counter drugs, and supplements are having on our sleep can count as a mindfulness practice.

For instance, there is nothing wrong with a drink here & there, but do know that it WILL hurt your sleep. I covered this and what you can do to mitigate the effects, here.

Coffee & sleep can also be tricky since we all tend to metabolize this stimulant differently. I covered this one in depth here.

Even the seemingly benign category of NSAIDs can have a negative impact on your sleep architecture. Or how about OTC sleep aids like Advil PM, Tylenol PM, or ZZZquil? Emerging studies suggest that long term use may actually disrupt your sleep architecture, overall brain health, and mood.

Supplements aren’t necessarily safe either. Check out the 7 Really Surprising Vitamins That Keep You Awake at Night.

Bottom line is that you never want to be careless when it comes to what you are putting in your body.

MONK PRECEPT #3 - I undertake the precept to refrain from wearing garlands, using perfumes, and beautifying the body with cosmetics.

We've discussed what you put in your body...how about what you put ON your body? Can that hurt your sleep? Garlands, perfumes, & cosmetics all fall into the category of products meant to enhance your appearance. Unfortunately, clothing and beauty products are often loaded with chemicals, or endocrine disruptors, which can alter your delicate hormone production and ultimately screw with your sleep! A really cool book on this topic is Dirty Genes, which looks at endocrine disruptors through an epigenetic lens (and gives you steps to take to do something about it!).

Not sure where to begin to clean up makeup sources to encourage better sleep? Here is a google sheets list that I crowdsourced of natural beauty brands. *If I’m missing any, please let me know and I will add them on!

MONK PRECEPT #4 - I undertake the precept to refrain from lying on a high or luxurious sleeping place.

This one is more controversial, but grounding, or ‘earthing’ therapy is something that many holistic sleep specialists will offer as a tool to improve sleep latency, sleep quality, and to reduce jet lag. Studies are tougher to pin down on this since there's not a lot of money in it, but this one is intriguing: The Biologic Effects of Grounding the Human Body During Sleep as Measured by Cortisol Levels and Subjective Reporting of Sleep, Pain, and Stress.

Also, this article gets into the weeds a bit more on the potential benefits of utilizing a decidedly monk-esc grounding mat for sleep optimization.