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How to Master Your Circadian Rhythm for High Performance with Phil Learney, Human Performance Specialist and Coach

Join us in our conversation with Phil Learney, an experienced coach with more than 20 years of experience coaching celebrities, elite athletes, and the general population. He is also the co-founder of the Human Performance Brand HMN24.⁠

In this episode, Phil Learney discusses how we can optimize our sleep for improved performance by understanding our circadian rhythms. We examine the impact that routines, environment, and habits can have on our sleep and explore the effects of various factors, including circadian rhythms, light exposure, jetlag, alcohol, and caffeine. 


Take advantage of Rewire’s Sleep Better collection on our free app to optimize your sleep quality today. In this collection, you’ll find a variety of active and passive sessions that utilize scientifically proven binaural beats and breathing techniques to help you get a better night’s sleep, prepare for bedtime, or overcome a bad night’s sleep.

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4-7-8 Breathing and 2Hz Binaural Beats for Sleep

Rewire can help optimise your sleep with a mix of breathing exercises and binaural beats – here’s how.

Picture this: you head to bed at a good hour, you turn off the lights, and you’re ready to enter your dreams with open arms. But it doesn’t happen; you continue to lie there until you eventually fall asleep, exhausted, only to wake up feeling more tired than when you want to go to bed.

Approximately 1 in 5 people in the UK are not getting enough sleep, and a further 31% say they have insomnia. That’s a lot of people who struggle with sleep – especially when we need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, as stated by the Sleep Foundation, and that’s not counting the time in bed before falling asleep. 

Even if you don’t have issues falling asleep, getting even better sleep is vital – it allows you to wake up feeling rested; it’s when your muscles and body recover after a workout, and after a good night’s sleep, you’re more prepared to tackle the day. That could mean crushing an important meeting at work, or smashing a set of intervals.

So, today, we’re talking about sleep and how to optimise it.

This blog post will highlight two proven methods for better sleep – the 4-7-8 breathing exercise and binaural beats. We’ll also discuss how to add these to your sleep routine with the Rewire app for better overall sleep. 

What is 4-7-8 breathing?

If you’ve tried meditation before, then you’ve likely done 4-7-8 breathing exercises

4-7-8 breathing, also called “the relaxing breath,” alleviates stress and anxiety, decreases fatigue, improves stress management, and, the big one: helps you fall asleep. 

But how does it work? You exhale through your mouth to begin, then close your mouth and inhale through your nose, counting to 4. Hold your breath to the count of 7, then exhale through your mouth to the count of 8. That’s one breath. 

The 4-7-8 breathing technique activates the parasympathetic nervous system – this is responsible for rest and relaxation. When the parasympathetic nervous system is switched on, the sympathetic nervous system (fight vs. flight response) is suppressed. This allows you to better control your body’s response to stress, ultimately helping you fall asleep quicker.

What are binaural beats?

What goes in one ear, doesn’t go in the other. That’s right – we’re talking about binaural beats.

A binaural beat is when two different frequencies are played in each ear to create a perceived third tone, known as the “binaural beat.” Although considered an auditory illusion, the third beat is of a new frequency, and its frequency is the difference between the two beats, for example, if you listen to two beats, one at 200 Hz and one at 204 Hz, the third tone, the binaural beat, will be 4 Hz. Your brain activity starts to mimic that tone through a process of brain entrainment which can facilitate a change in mood, emotion and action. Headphones must be worn to hear a certain frequency (Hz) – listening without headphones will produce a single frequency, and it will not be binaural. 

So, the big question: why should you listen to binaural beats, and what effect does it have on sleep?

Binaural beats have been shown to reduce anxiety, encourage relaxation, induce a meditative-like state, and improve deep sleep. In fact, they’re so effective that binaural beats were found to significantly reduce anxiety in pre-operative patients, as stated in a 2005 study.

It’s important to note the different frequencies of binaural beats. For example, lower frequencies are greater associated with sleep, while high frequencies (13 Hz and higher) are linked to increased concentration, focus, and alertness. 

You can use the right binaural beat (Hz) at different times to facilitate certain states of relaxation, focus, and concentration. 

For more information on binaural beats, we suggest reading out 101 guide to Binaural Beats.

2 Hz binaural beats for sleep

Typically, a frequency of 1-8 Hz is thought to improve sleep. One study investigated the effect of sleep quality on fifteen young elite soccer players. The players listened to binaural beats between 2-8 Hz during sleep. Another group of sports students performed the same protocol but with no beats. Results found an improved perceived sleep quality in the soccer players.

In particular, 1-4 Hz is linked with deep sleep and relaxation – that’s helping you fall asleep quicker and makes sure you get the all-important deep sleep. 

The Rewire sleep recovery session (more on this below) uses 2Hz binaural beats to encourage deep sleep and relaxation.

The Rewire mindfulness and recovery protocol for sleep

The Rewire app has a mix of mindfulness and recovery sessions that use a mix of binaural beats and breathing techniques to help reduce stress and improve focus, whether that means achieving better sleep or simply reducing stress.

For example, you may choose our deep relaxation recovery session, which utilises 2 Hz beats and 5-10 breathing to calm the body and mind after a stressful day. But for the purpose of this article, let’s say you use the sleep recovery session…

Mindset Recovery – Sleep

The Rewire sleep mindset recovery session uses 2Hz binaural beats and 4-7-8 breathing to help you unwind and optimise your state for sleep.

The 2Hz frequency encourages relaxation, and the purposeful 4-7-8 breathing further alleviates stress and anxiety, decreases fatigue, and prepares your body for sleep.

Our users, on average, feel 32% more relaxed after using our sleep recovery session

We recommend implementing a recovery session such as Rewire sleep recovery to get better sleep.  

If you have Rewire downloaded on your mobile device, tap here to try ‘Sleep’.

Get better sleep with Rewire Fitness

Rewire can help optimise sleep by being part of your wind-down routine 30 to 60 minutes before sleeping. 

Start using the Rewire Fitness app for free, and begin feeling more relaxed for a good night’s sleep, eliminating the stressors and anxiety of everyday life so you can wake up feeling rested and ready to tackle the day, whatever that means to you.


References:

Abeln, V., Kleinert, J., Strüder, H.K. and Schneider, S., 2014. Brainwave entrainment for better sleep and post-sleep state of young elite soccer players–A pilot study. European journal of sport science, 14(5), pp.393-402. 

Mental Health UK. 2022. Sleep and mental health – Mental Health UK. [online] Available at: <https://mentalhealth-uk.org/help-and-information/sleep/> [Accessed 22 September 2022].

Padmanabhan, R., Hildreth, A.J. and Laws, D., 2005. A prospective, randomised, controlled study examining binaural beat audio and pre-operative anxiety in patients undergoing general anaesthesia for day case surgery. Anaesthesia, 60(9), pp.874-877.

Pandekar, P.P. and Thangavelu, P.D., Effect of 4-7-8 Breathing Technique on Anxiety and Depression in Moderate Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Patients.

Suni, E., 2022. How Much Sleep Do We Really Need? | Sleep Foundation. [online] Sleepfoundation.org. Available at: <https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need#:~:text=National%20Sleep%20Foundation%20guidelines1,to%208%20hours%20per%20night.> [Accessed 22 September 2022].

Tindle, J. and Tadi, P., 2021. Neuroanatomy, parasympathetic nervous system. In StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing.

Weil, A., 2017. Three breathing exercises. DrWeil. Com.


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The Worst Habits for Your Brain

Our habits directly relate to our brain health. Habits allow us to complete daily tasks without having to think about them too much. A study in 2020 showed that habits can be controlled right at the start when we introduce them into our lifestyle.

These are some of the worst habits for Brain Health:

1. Unhealthy sleep habits

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-third of Americans don’t get enough sleep. Research has shown that adults need about 7 hours of quality sleep for optimal health. Good sleep habits include reducing bright light before bed, ensuring a balanced diet, and implementing an evening routine.

Effects of not getting enough sleep:

  • Affects memory
  • Decreases brain health
  • Harms the heart
  • Reduces ability to focus

2. Sitting too much

Despite an active lifestyle, sitting for prolonged periods of time has a negative impact on brain and metabolic health. However, most adults don’t have the time to focus on more exercise, so here are some easy habits to introduce to avoid sitting too much during the day:

  • Stand up when you call someone
  • Take the stairs
  • Walk around while brushing your teeth
  • Get up and refill your water glass
  • If sitting at a desk for work, stand up and walk around every hour
  • Dance more often

3. The wrong foods

Do you start your day with orange juice? There are about 20 grams of sugar in an average glass of orange juice and research has shown that high-sugar diets can lead to a significant decrease in memory and cognitive function.

For some top tips on what foods to eat, check out our article on foods to fight fatigue.

4. Chronic stress

There is an abundance of studies that have shown the impact of stress hormones, including a decline in attention, memory, and emotion processing. The good news is that there are models that suggest developing “early stress interventions” can counteract the effects of chronic stress on brain health.

Some habits to help counteract the impact of chronic stress:

  • A diet high in antioxidants (some great sources include beets, sweet potatoes, and strawberries)
  • Daily physical exercise
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Build mental resilience (like Rewire’s Neuro-Training)

Neuro-Training works by targeting the part of the brain that is responsible for managing fatigue and willpower.

Benefits include:

  • More energy
  • Increased recovery speed
  • Improve mental resilience and athletic performance

Users of the Rewire App have reported a decrease in stress of 74.1%.

5. Negative mindset

Research has shown that negative thoughts can trigger a stress response and a prolonged negative mindset has been linked to cognitive decline. Want to implement habits to improve your brain health? Check out our article on the best habits for your brain here!

Visualization and self-talk can help us avoid dwelling on the negative and instead create a more positive habit. For example, visualization can improve athletic performance because they act as a sort of mental rehearsal, which can train the mind to act in real life as we imagine it.

Rewire’s Mindset Recovery system includes evidence-based protocols to promote mind/body recovery, improve mindset, manage stress and prepare for training and competition. This system includes tools such as visualization and self-talk. Check out an overview of Mindset Recovery here.

Are you ready to improve your brain health? Try Rewire to give Neuro-Training and Mindset Recovery a go!

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Sources

Crego, A.C.G., Štoček, F., Marchuk, A.G., Carmichael, J.E., van der Meer, M.A.A. and Smith, K.S. (2020). Complementary Control over Habits and Behavioral Vigor by Phasic Activity in the Dorsolateral Striatum. The Journal of Neuroscience, 40(10), pp.2139–2153.‌

CDC (2022). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [online] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/.‌

Owen, N., Healy, G.N., Matthews, C.E. and Dunstan, D.W. (2010). Too Much Sitting. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, [online] 38(3), pp.105–113. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3404815/.‌

Magnusson, K.R., Hauck, L., Jeffrey, B.M., Elias, V., Humphrey, A., Nath, R., Perrone, A. and Bermudez, L.E. (2015). Relationships between diet-related changes in the gut microbiome and cognitive flexibility. Neuroscience, [online] 300, pp.128–140. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25982560/ [Accessed 1 Dec. 2021].

Lupien, S.J., Juster, R.-P., Raymond, C. and Marin, M.-F. (2018). The effects of chronic stress on the human brain: From neurotoxicity, to vulnerability, to opportunity. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, 49, pp.91–105.‌‌

Marchant, N.L., Lovland, L.R., Jones, R., Pichet Binette, A., Gonneaud, J., Arenaza‐Urquijo, E.M., Chételat, G. and Villeneuve, S. (2020). Repetitive negative thinking is associated with amyloid, tau, and cognitive decline. Alzheimer’s & Dementia.‌

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The Best Habits for Your Brain

Did you know that mental decline is common as we age? Many people fear the consequences of aging, such as declining cognitive and mental function or loss of independence. However, there some habits we can implement that have been shown to improve brain health.

Here are the top 5 habits for Brain Health:

1. An active lifestyle and the right diet

Physical activity has been shown to slow the process of brain aging and degenerative pathologies, such as Alzheimer’s Disease and diabetes. Studies have also proven that an active lifestyle can improve memory and cognitive processes.

Both endurance and resistance exercise allow for muscle synthesis, but there is no consensus on the impact of different types of exercise on brain health. However, research has shown that habitual exercise has a positive impact on both physical and mental health, including brain health.

Additionally, a nutritious diet can help prevent cognitive impairment and improve brain health. Studies have proven that nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins (particularly vitamins B, D and E) can positively impact cognitive processes.

2. Balance

Practicing mindfulness and finding the right balance is an important habit that can help us reduce stress and engage positively with the world around us. A poor work-life balance has been shown to have long-term negative impacts on our brain health.

3. Healthy sleep habits

Research has shown that “sleep plays a vital role in brain function” and adults need about 7 hours of sleep every night to be able to perform their best. Check out our article on how to optimise your sleep here!

Other benefits of sleep include:

  • Supports mental health
  • Improves memory
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Supports the immune system

The Rewire App has a personalized Sleep Priming Session because we know just how important quality sleep is.

4. Social interaction

A study in 2020 showed that “social engagement may protect against cognitive decline” and accumulating research has proven that socializing is good for our brain health. Interacting with others trains our brains and social contact can help us improve memory formation and build mental resilience.

5. Stimulate the brain

In the same way that we exercise our bodies, our brains need exercise too. Studies have shown that stimulating the brain can enhance cognitive function and build mental resilience. Interested in learning more? Read about the worst habits for your brain here.

Rewire’s Neuro-Training protocols are backed by over 10 years of scientific research and have been shown to develop mental resilience. Rewire takes a holistic approach to achieving peak performance by providing tools for training and recovery of both the mind and body.

Give Rewire a try and experience how good habits can help the health of your brain! Train both your physical and mental fitness with Rewire today.

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Sources

Harvard Health. (2006). 12 ways to keep your brain young. [online] Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/12-ways-to-keep-your-brain-young?msclkid=ee9f1fc9bd5611ec9d3b5fcafd3ab3de [Accessed 16 Apr. 2022].

Di Liegro, C.M., Schiera, G., Proia, P. and Di Liegro, I. (2019). Physical Activity and Brain Health. Genes, [online] 10(9), p.720. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6770965/.‌‌

Gómez-Pinilla, F. (2008). Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, [online] 9(7), pp.568–578. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2805706/.‌

www.medicalnewstoday.com. (2016). Poor work-life balance leads to poor health later in life. [online] Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/313755?msclkid=e3e89170bd7411ec866fa008cd28ab97#Findings-likely-to-apply-to-wider-populations [Accessed 16 Apr. 2022].‌

Medic, G., Wille, M. and Hemels, M. (2017). Short- and long-term Health Consequences of Sleep Disruption. Nature and Science of Sleep, [online] Volume 9(9), pp.151–161. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5449130/.‌

Cynthia Felix, MD, MPH, Caterina Rosano, MD, MPH, Xiaonan Zhu, PhD, Jason D Flatt, PhD, MPH, Andrea L Rosso, PhD, MPH, Greater Social Engagement and Greater Gray Matter Microstructural Integrity in Brain Regions Relevant to Dementia, The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Volume 76, Issue 6, July 2021, Pages 1027–1035, https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbaa173

Al-Thaqib, A., Al-Sultan, F., Al-Zahrani, A., Al-Kahtani, F., Al-Regaiey, K., Iqbal, M. and Bashir, S. (2018). Brain Training Games Enhance Cognitive Function in Healthy Subjects. Medical science monitor basic research, [online] 24, pp.63–69. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29674605.‌

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Optimize Sleep

How to Optimize Your Sleep for Recovery.

Over the years, it has become clear that sleep is a vital physiological function crucial to athletic recovery. Sleep deprivation has been shown to adversely impact many aspects of athletic performance including reaction times, accuracy, vigor, submaximal strength, and endurance (Vitale et al., 2019). Because of this, athletes must optimize their sleep as a key foundational element of their training system.

So what can we do to optimize our sleep so that we can experience better recovery and performance?

Top tips for better sleep:

  1. Establish a regular bedtime routine. Having a routine each evening before bed will help you relax. Some examples we love are reading for ten minutes, taking a warm bath, and limiting screen time one hour before bed.
  2. Optimize your sleep environment: Make sure that your bedroom is quiet, dark and cool. 
  3. Incorporate meditation and brainwave entrainment. Rewire’s mindset recovery and binaural beats are perfect for this. 
  4. Reduce mental fatigue. Recovery from exercise should not only focus on muscle recovery, reducing mental fatigue and strain from other external stressors in life is just as important for healthy sleep. Read more about becoming mentally strong here.
  5. Optimize your nutrition. Consuming foods higher in carbohydrates, proteins and foods containing naturally occurring melatonin (e.g. tomatoes, walnuts, raspberries) at night may improve sleep. Try to avoid caffeine and alcohol if possible. More better energy during the day, check out our article on foods to fight fatigue here!

Sources
Vitale, K. C., Owens, R., Hopkins, S. R., & Malhotra, A. (2019). Sleep Hygiene for Optimizing Recovery in Athletes: Review and Recommendations. International journal of sports medicine40(8), 535–543. https://doi.org/10.1055/a-0905-3103

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