Josh Clemente is the founder and president of Levels Health, an innovative company that uses continuous glucose monitoring to help you optimize your metabolic health through improved diet and exercise.
As it turns out, your metabolic health is also directly related to your sleep health. Higher blood glucose levels are associated with worse sleep quality.
After seeing my Levels data showing my glucose crashing into hypoglycemia territory, then oscillating all night long, I started to reevaluate [having wine with dinner].
We had an opportunity to chat with Josh, and here are some of his insights into how he optimizes his sleep for his health.
1. Regulate your sleep with glucose
Josh's perspective of glucose levels informs his relationship with sleep.
When we eat (especially carbohydrates), our glucose increases because carbohydrates are metabolized quickly into glucose, or they are stored as "back-up" energy in the form of glucagon. Insulin, an essential hormone in glucose metabolism, is the gatekeeper for glucose into cells. As we eat more carbohydrates, our blood glucose levels spike, which influences the timing of our eating habits through its interactions with appetite hormones.
Glucose also influences our sleep drive and is connected to our circadian clock. As we sleep, insulin takes up glucose and peaks again between 4 am, and 9 am, partly influenced by cortisol levels (which also fluctuate with sleep and the circadian clock).
Sleep and glucose interact with each other and have bidirectional effects. Sleep deprivation impacts glucose in two main pathways. First, sleep deprivation alters our bodies' response to glucose. Second, sleep deprivation also prevents insulin from transporting glucose from the blood and into cells, leaving glucose circulating throughout the blood.
When we take all of these pathways into account, we see that we can regulate our sleep by regulating circulating blood glucose.
As the Founder and President of Levels, Josh Clemente takes the relationship between sleep and glucose seriously. So how does he track his sleep to know what's going on?
2. Josh's sleep routine/sleep stack
At Levels and Crescent, data is central to understanding our sleep and our performance. Josh uses a Whoop Strap for recovery score tracking. For environmental control of his sleep, he uses the Eight Sleep Pod Pro set to -5 degrees from room temperature to optimize his sleep.
Like many leaders in the health and performance space, Josh takes an 80/20 approach to his sleep.
"My routine is not as nailed as I'd like it to be, which is the territory of being a founder, I guess."
He focuses on behaviors he can control, like meal timing and what he consumes, and his exercise regime.
"Minimize late exercise and email, both of which activate every pathway I want to be shutting down for sleep."
He's found that shooting for 8 hours in bed and getting 7 hours of actual sleep works best for him.
3. Optimize meal times
Higher blood glucose levels are associated with worse sleep quality.
For example, meals high in carbohydrates raise glucose levels, resulting in a feeling of unsettledness or irritability that makes falling asleep more difficult.
To control for those unpredictable glucose spikes, Josh emphasizes meal timing. He finishes his meals by 7 p.m. when he can, a few hours before he's due to fall asleep.
4. Limit alcohol
"Any alcohol after 5 p.m. destroys my sleep." Given alcohol's direct interaction with multiple sleep and wake centers in the brain, alcohol is associated with sleep fragmentation and less REM sleep than people going to bed sober.
"The discovery of how significant the effects of meals and alcohol are on the quality of sleep has been completely life-changing. I previously would often have wine with dinner on weekdays, assuming it would help me relax.
After seeing my Levels data showing my glucose crashing into hypoglycemia territory, then oscillating all night long, I started to reevaluate that.
Eventually, I started wearing a Whoop and saw a single glass of red wine could drop my recovery score by almost 80%. My heart rate would remain as elevated as when I was awake for hours into the night and affect my HRV severely.
All of this data reinforced what I had learned in Matt Walker's book Why We Sleep - alcohol is completely destructive to rest and recovery.
To improve your sleep, Josh recommends that we reassess alcohol in the evenings since it's a dramatic and simple opportunity to improve your rest and recovery.
"I now try to avoid all alcohol during the week to conserve recovery, energy, and mood when I need to perform. If I'm having a drink or two on the weekend, I try to do so as early as possible - before 5 p.m. - giving it time to metabolize through the afternoon and early evening and still get good rest. In general, I find that feeling better during the day and waking up rested far outweigh the short-lived enjoyment of a nightcap."
Putting it all together
What you eat and drink affects your sleep, and your sleep affects how you metabolize what you consume. The short-term benefits of a sugary meal before bed are probably not worth the sleepless nights that are likely to follow.
That said, data is the best way to track your body and its physiology. Check out how you can monitor your glucose to optimize your diet, sleep, and metabolism at levelshealth.com.