Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine at Night — Caffeine is a powerful stimulant that you should avoid beyond the early afternoon. Most people need hours to process caffeine and overcome the jolt it gives you. Try to avoid caffeinated drinks in the afternoon if you can, but definitely lay off the coffee and soda at night. Drinking alcohol at night can make it seem easier to fall asleep, but in reality, it’s closer to sedation. Try to have your last drink of the evening with dinner, so your body has a few hours to process it before hitting the proverbial sack.
Getting a good night’s sleep has so many physical, emotional, and mental benefits. Yet with all of the distractions that demand our attention, going to sleep on time and getting enough rest has become extremely elusive to many of us. Why is sleep so important and how can we make it a priority?
In this interview series called “Sleep: Why You Should Make Getting A Good Night’s Sleep A Major Priority In Your Life, And How You Can Make That Happen” we are talking to medical and wellness professionals, sleep specialists, and business leaders who sell sleep accessories to share insights from their knowledge and experience about how to make getting a good night’s sleep a priority in your life.
Carlos is a Software Engineer and UX/UI designer currently living out his dreams as the Creative Director of Kaiyan Medical, one of the largest and most innovative LED light therapy manufacturers in the world. He has over 11 years of experience working for companies worldwide and prides himself in being able to work cross-culturally with people in Latin America, Asia, Europe, and the US. He is passionate about the incredible benefits of light therapy, biohacking, and the integration of Chinese Medicine as ways we can all live healthier and more balanced lives.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you. Can you tell us a bit about your background and your backstory?
I am a Costa Rican native living in China and currently serving as the Creative Director of Kaiyan Medical, one of the largest and most innovative LED light therapy manufacturers in the world. I am also a Software Engineer and a UX/UI designer and I couldn’t be any happier to be where I am today. Working in the light therapy sector, I’m able to tap deep into my background in sports, as well as my skills in design and creativity,
I’m incredibly passionate about all things light therapy and how we can spread the message of its benefits to people. Apart from that, I’m also vastly interested in learning more about biohacking and the integration of traditional Chinese medicine into our everyday lives, so we can all live more holistically and become healthier and well-balanced.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this particular career path?
I’m a software engineer in love with design and marketing. I have been working on creating great synergy between these 3 for over 12 years. Some years ago, I lived in Hangzhou, China, and I got invited to Shenzhen city to give a design thinking course for a light therapy manufacturing company, Kaiyan Medical. Once I was giving the course, I met the CEO of the company, Alain. We had amazing chats about product development and so on, there he also introduced me to light therapy.I was curious about it and if I’m being honest — a bit skeptical. I’ve had injuries on my neck from the days I used to be a quarterback (around 10 years ago) and have tried everything to relieve the pain. I began using light therapy after my talk with Alain, and finally, after a long time started to feel real relief (with a light therapy handheld). It was amazing. The warm healing sensation on my neck felt satisfying. That was the day I decided I needed to spread the word about light therapy and learn everything about it.
Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the sleep and wellness fields? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
Continuing with my story, I kept learning more extensively about all things light therapy. Learning became a bit more personal because I didn’t want to go back to the way I was before — depressed, multiple cups of coffee a day, and sleep-deprived. After my initial, eye-opening moment with light therapy, I then found out its amazing benefits for sleep quality. Now, after many years in the field, I am proud to say that I have dedicated myself to studying multiple clinical trials and developing devices with specific light wavelengths not only for pain relief but also to regulate the circadian rhythm in our bodies.
After experimenting and improving my own sleeping quality, I have set up a dedicated creative and research team of light therapy enthusiasts in order to consistently keep learning and find new ways of implementing light therapy for sleep. Not only that but over the years I have been living in China, I have learned about Chinese traditional medicine and how they regulate sleep in a natural and balanced way, improving, even more, my holistic concept of sleep.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Yes, the book is called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. I read this book in my early 20s and helped me a lot to understand better my designs and development of products. With a very technical background, it can be easy to forget the human part of every device or online product. Reading this book was the perfect introduction to user experience for me. It changed the way I understand and see things.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
Yes, it is from Albert Einstein. He is widely credited with saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly, but expecting different results.” I’m an ex-pat living in China. Because of this, every day is full of surprises and new things. I am basically always out of my comfort zone and I love it — because it allows me to do different things and always find a solution for new problems, reminding me of the words of Einstein.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Let’s start with the basics. How much sleep should an adult get? Is there a difference between people who are young, middle-aged, or elderly?
Not everybody needs the same amount of sleep. I always suggest adults to have between 7– 8 hours of sleep. I also promote the 90-minute sleeping cycle. The 90-minute sleep cycle aims to wake up (at the same time each morning), having had numerous 90-minute cycles to ensure quality deep sleep and REM has been achieved during the night.
It is different for every stage of your life. For example, teenagers should sleep between 8– 10 hours per day, while young kids should sleep between 10–13 hours.
Now, for the adult phase and elderly is the same. The optimal is 7 hours and 30minutes (5 cycles) but can vary depending on habits and climate.
Is the amount of hours the main criteria, or the time that you go to bed? For example, if there was a hypothetical choice between getting to bed at 10PM and getting up at 4AM, for a total of 6 hours, or going to bed at 2AM and getting up at 10AM for a total of 8 hours, is one a better choice for your health? Can you explain?
I love this example because it is exactly how we get lost in perspective. Instead of thinking so much about the number of hours, we should focus on the sun and the light around us. Our circadian rhythms are built around the sun and the earth’s rotation cycle. As the length of daylight changes throughout the year, our circadian rhythms adjust as well. So, instead of focusing on more hours, we should focus on the quality of those hours. I’ll choose to go to bed at 10 pm because it is the closest time after the sunset and wake up at 4 am because it won’t be so long for the sunrise. In this way, I keep my circadian rhythm in check, and I get quality sleep.
As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for our readers. Let’s imagine a hypothetical 35 year old adult who was not getting enough sleep. After working diligently at it for 6 months he or she began to sleep well and got the requisite hours of sleep. How will this person’s life improve? Can you help articulate some of the benefits this person will see after starting to get enough sleep? Can you explain?
Getting good quality sleep can lead you to vastly improve your general health. It can also help maintain your weight, lower your risk of heart problems, reduce stress, and improve your mood. It can also help reduce depression, allow you to think more clearly, and get along better with people.
Again, it is all about perspective. Quality sleep and regulated sleeping cycles make our body get in balance with its natural roots. Also, it’s not only your body that needs the rest but also your mind. We need a break from all the chaos of modern life. So reducing the amount and quality of hours in our sleep helps a lot.
Many things provide benefits but they aren’t necessarily a priority. Should we make getting a good night’s sleep a major priority in our life? Can you explain what you mean?
Let’s see it this way — healthy food gives us benefits so we try to eat well every day. However, it’s not every day you feel like eating healthy meals, so you come off it and eat other types of food. It’s okay at first but then you feel its compounding effect long-term — low energy, health problems, etc. Same with sleep. If you go and try not to sleep for one day, I’m pretty sure you can make it — but it will be hard and you will feel terrible the next day. Again, go and try not to sleep the following night — do you think you will function properly? How hard will it be?
Sleep is a major priority. No matter who you are or what you do, your body is asking for sleep time at the end of the day. We evolve in this way, and it’s in our DNA.
The truth is that most of us know that it’s important to get better sleep. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives? How should we remove those obstacles?
I don’t think the information is being blocked from us — I’ll say it’s the environment. Using your laptop or mobile phone to look for information is already bad itself as you are getting a lot of blue light. Blue wavelengths have the most powerful effect on your sleep-wake internal body clock. Both natural and artificial blue light can boost your alertness and mental sharpness. However, keep that constant blue light all over the day, and you will mess up your sleeping cycle.
Second, we are most of the time indoors. We stop checking the sunset and the sunrise. We wake up in a rush to go to work, and we spend most of the time in the closed office. This prevents our mind and body from self-regulating and getting that red light and infrared light that helps us sleep better.
Finally, nowadays being “busy” is promoted as something productive and outstanding. Because of this, we pack up our days full of stuff to be “busy” and “productive.” But, unfortunately, this will create unbalance in our bodies, and we try to numb this unbalance with pills and remedies while the root of the problem is never really treated.
Do you think getting “good sleep” is more difficult today than it was in the past?
Yes, totally. I remember playing outside while getting the sun and always checking the sunset (letting my body and mind know that it was time to gather and rest). These are days with less time in front of the TV and more time for outside activities. Right now, we are being overexposed to so many online stimuli. People are addicted to social media, and there’s always something to watch or to check. No more direct contact with the sun, less control over our cycles, and way more anxiety.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share “5 things you need to know to get the sleep you need and wake up refreshed and energized”? If you can, kindly share a story or example for each.
Proper sleep is crucial for health and balance, as I said. So if you want to get the best of your sleep time, here are my5 tips:
Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine at Night
Caffeine is a powerful stimulant that you should avoid beyond the early afternoon. Most people need hours to process caffeine and overcome the jolt it gives you. Try to avoid caffeinated drinks in the afternoon if you can, but definitely lay off the coffee and soda at night. Drinking alcohol at night can make it seem easier to fall asleep, but in reality, it’s closer to sedation. Try to have your last drink of the evening with dinner, so your body has a few hours to process it before hitting the proverbial sack.
Get Active When You’re Awake
Our body’s activity level has its own circadian rhythm. When we’re awake, we’re designed to move. As a result, exercise, especially in the morning or early afternoon, can help you sleep better at night. Regular exercise raises your body temperature, and the cooldown period has a relaxing effect that promotes better sleep. By contrast, exercising later in the evening can make it more difficult to sleep because your body hasn’t fully recovered from activity mode.
Work on your Mental Health
The research is detailed: high amounts of stress throughout the day make it more difficult for our brains to relax and sleep at night. So if you have a stressful day, be mindful about claiming some relaxation in the evening with meditation, reading, walking, or whatever works for you. Bottom line: prioritize your peace of mind before getting into bed.
Keep Your Bedroom Temperature Cool
The human body decreases in temperature while we sleep. Our heart rate and breathing slow down to help regulate this temperature drop. You can give your body a better sleep environment if your bedroom is in the 18–24 degrees range. Hot rooms make it harder to get to sleep and stay asleep. Avoid waking up in sweat by keeping your bedroom cooler. It’s better for your sleeping rhythm if you don’t wake up several times in the night because you’re hot. These small disruptions can build up and lead to larger sleep problems.
Get the Right Amount of Healthy Light
Don’t overlook the importance of light for your sleep quality. Your body and brain respond to the light you’re exposed to during the day, and some kinds of light are better than others when it comes to your sleep quality. You should absolutely try to get outside every day and take in natural sunlight. However, blue light from screens is extremely bright and can trick your brain and disrupt your sleep hormones, especially at night.
Blue light has been a big advancement for screen technology that’s made our phones and computers so powerful. Now, the hormone melatonin is a counterpart to cortisol. Produced by the pineal gland, melatonin helps you fall asleep and stay asleep. Your body typically starts producing melatonin in the early evening, when you’re starting to wind down and get closer to bedtime. But this bright light has been shown to disrupt melatonin production affecting our sleeping cycles.
What would you advise someone who wakes up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep?
There are a few tips I suggest when this happens: First, get rid of bright lights or loud sounds.
Try to get out of bed and move for a while. Avoid staring at your phone or the clock. Try to meditate or stretch your muscles. Use Chinese traditional medicine and artifacts like Guasha and scents. Use relaxation noises such as birds, rain, or a fireplace.
What are your thoughts about taking a nap during the day? Is that a good idea, or can it affect the ability to sleep well at night?
In fact, an afternoon nap is great for adults, too. There’s no need to feel lazy for indulging in daytime sleep. On the contrary, a short nap in the mid-afternoon can boost memory, improve job performance, lift your mood, make you more alert, and ease stress. So if your body is asking for a nap, you probably need it. Now, I’ll avoid taking naps in the evening or early morning; this can disrupt your day and affect your sleeping time in the evening.
Wonderful. We are nearly done. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
Of course, that will be Jordan Peterson. I’m constantly checking his videos, and I love the way he always explains things. It’s out of this world.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Readers can check my work in light therapy in kaiyanmedical.com and for design thinking & marketing, on lastrescarlos.com.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!