Part 1: Managing Central Nervous System Pattern & Active Cooling.
As we move through our journey of exploring the essential elements to biohack your sleep, we’ll deep dive into other topics including your sleep environment, which in most cases can actually work against you by introducing stimulants that cause an increase in metabolism in the frontal cortex. In this first part of our journey, I’ll take you through temperature regulation, the goal outcomes from temperature regulation, and the different technologies and methodologies to achieving true regulation; this includes what works, what falls short, why they fail and the dangers lurking in some of the most commonly used methods of temperature regulation.
UNDERSTANDING COOLING & YOUR BODY
The goal of our 8 part journey is to ultimately learn how to biohack your sleep to experience deeper sleep that in turn, puts you on the path to biohacking your body into performing at its peak. One of the key pillars to achieving your ultimate outcomes when biohacking your sleep lies in reducing your cerebral metabolic activity through thermal regulation, but true thermal regulation does not mean cooling the body from the outside in, but rather assuring natural thermal transfer of heat outward to cool the body and brain. This is known as cerebral hypothermia when the focus is only on the brain, however, the impact is greater when exploited for the whole body.
In case you skimmed right through, I was sure to mention “natural thermal transfer”. This is important as being natural is simple, you’ll find that synthetic methods of cooling tend to introduce stimulants to the environment which are VOCs or toxins that stimulate and increase metabolic activity. We’ll deep dive into toxins in an upcoming part, but we will be reviewing technologies in cooling sleep that show that the introduction of toxins negates the desired outcome.
*(A)Chart shows the relationship between average monthly nighttime temperature anomalies and 765,000 respondents’ reported number of monthly nights with insufficient sleep. As temperature anomalies become more positive, nights with insufficient sleep become more frequent. Points represent the average of respondents’ monthly number of nights with insufficient sleep for each 0.5°C nighttime temperature anomaly bin. The line represents a smoothing of the raw data using a cubic spline fit. Shaded error bounds represent the 95% confidence interval of this fit. (B) Distribution of average monthly nighttime temperature anomalies from the daily nighttime temperature normals.
Studies show a linear effect between intensities in thermal transfer during sleep on sleep latency and sleep efficiency. Where Essentia excels, and our main area of focus, is achieving natural thermal transfer with safe, non-pharmaceutical technologies.
The old-fashioned ways of sleeping cool are simple and logical, like dropping indoor air temperature through climate-controlled environments, opening a window in cooler climates, or taking a bath or shower before bedtime. While good entry-level methodologies, these will only provide an initial effect that doesn’t last through your sleep cycles. So while being successful to initial the thermal regulation process, they fall short in maintaining proper thermal regulation desired by athletes, high performers, and someone trying to live their most optimal life.
UNDERSTANDING OLD COOLING TECHNOLOGIES
Now let’s take a dive into why the “old-school” methods of cooling aren’t optimal when trying to biohack your sleep. Adjusting room temperature will only impact the temperature around your body, having little to no effect on your sleep surface and having the benefit of the temperature around your body being mitigated by the sheets and blankets you use.
Here is where it can get tricky, you attempt to make up for the use of blankets by dropping the temperature as low as you can comfortably handle in the room, you can now trigger adverse effects on your body cooling such as perspiration when your body comes in contact with the warm bed. For this same reason, a temporary body temperature adjustment through bathing will be short-lived. Meaning the impact on restorative sleep is short-lived and does not trigger the levels of recovery the body needs to achieve our sleep goals.
Most mattress marketers have turned to phase-changing chemical additives added to the surface of their mattresses. This chemical additive is usually added to the textile surface of the mattress cover. There are many reasons why these over-used, and often falsely promoted, technologies should be on your list of components to ban from your bedroom.
1. As I’ve mentioned before, a natural thermal transfer is key. Phase-changing chemicals add chemical stimulants to your environment that trigger your brain’s metabolic response to fight unnatural toxins thus never getting you truly into the state that promotes sleep. This means you never experience the benefit of truly cooling sleep.
2. There is a double dose of toxins usually associated with the chemistry of these components. Phase-changing chemicals are micro-encapsulated and include fire barrier chemicals to keep them stable. In many circumstances, an unknowing consumer is likely purchasing a synthetic foam, covered in a synthetic cover, laced with fire barrier chemicals, and phase changing chemicals with additional fire barrier chemicals. This cocktail will give an initial cooling sensation “ideal for mattress showrooms” without taking into account the effect of this chemical cocktail on the body’s central nervous system.
3. They simply do not work, as they do not promote active thermal regulation. What do I mean by this? Within minutes of you feeling the initial cooling sensation the temperature of these phase-changing chemicals is then on the rise. You have to consistently move to allow these chemicals to work, meaning if you stay in one place you experience the usual heat trap that most synthetic foams provide.
4. Relying on constant repositioning, or tossing and turning, in order to remain cool, clearly identifies that your body’s central nervous system remains active while asleep on this “cooling tech”. It also impedes your sleep cycle with every movement. Active cooling is what creates long REM sleep cycles that promote recovery.
5. Another technology frequently used or combined with phase-changing chemicals is the addition of silicone gel powder as a foam filler. The concept was that silicone gel does not retain heat and cools down faster than polyurethane foams. While this is true in material analysis, the gel does not allow for thermal regulation and in fact, the gel material also increases in temperature during use. This is less effective for initial cooling than the phase-changing chemicals, and also depends on constant repositioning to maintain a cool surface.
THE NEW COOLING TECHNOLOGY
My goal here at Essentia was to look at our technologies from an approach of desired outcomes being the core of our research and development. This is how we came to understand the elements and stimulants in our indoor environments that affect the overall sleep experience we aim to provide. If we wanted to achieve more than a tagline or marketing spin, we needed to scrutinize each of these elements in relation to their effect on overall sleep health.
This is why at the core of Essentia’s technology you will find natural, active thermal regulation without the introduction of stimulants such as allergens and toxins. Achieved and patented in 2006, our Performance Natural Memory Foam formula was the first, and still only, of its kind to successfully address both comfort and health in sleep innovation. We further improved on ourselves, achieving even greater sleep outcomes with the introduction of Essentia’s patented Wholebody Natural Memory Foam cores in 2009, this technology when paired with the elimination of stimulants achieved from our original patent has positioned our technology to be the most effective at active cooling which in turn provides restorative sleep to achieve the goals of biohacking sleep.
The chart shows a simulation of an eight-hour sleep cycle, using controlled temperatures and air circulation. Essentia patented natural memory foam was pitted against the leading polyurethane memory foam, the results prove that Essentia patented natural memory foam retained a cooler temperature in comparison to the body, allowing heat to move away and sustain a lower core body temperature. Essentia patented natural memory foam was able to maintain a surface temperature that was 7.2℉ below normal body temperature.
In comparison, the polyurethane memory foam trapped heat at the surface as shown by the bright white area that represents the highest concentration of heat. This in turn heated the body up past a normal core body temperature and would be the equivalent of wrapping the body with insulation and allowing the body to bake.
Natural thermal regulation is what Essentia’s patented natural memory foam excels at. Lowering the core temperature is important during a recovery cycle, it will allow the body to simulate hibernation or cerebral hypothermia; slowing down heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and allowing the body to transform into its recovery phase of healing itself. An unstable and augmented temperature environment leads to uncomfortable and interrupted sleep, impeding the human body from reaching deep levels of sleep necessary to achieve peak sleep goals.