Want to sleep better? Here are 5 sleep hacks you can start tonight!
If you google sleep, then one of the top questions people will ask in the search bar is “how to sleep better?”. It seems that millions of people are having issues with sleeping these days – it’s an epidemic, as more than a third of us apparently suffer from insomnia!?! This is such a hot topic that my last post covered why good quality sleep is necessary for your health and for living limitlessly.
Aside from feeling fantastic, there are an abundance of cognitive and physical benefits to getting good quality sleep and a whole heap of disastrous health consequences from not getting enough!
This post will talk about the top 5 sleep hacks that you can implement, as of tonight, to ensure that you fall asleep more easily and in general, help you to sleep better. The sooner you do these things, the more quickly you will notice a huge difference to your sleep patterns and how much better you will feel.
First up, let’s get a little scientific so that you get where I’m coming from with the following suggestions. The first important element in knowing how to sleep better is circadian rhythms.
Most of the processes that occur in the mind and body follow natural rhythms. Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a 24 hour cycle (approximately). One of the things that affect circadian rhythms is light, which either turn the genes that control your internal clock on, or off. Other factors such as exercise and medication also affect the settings of the circadian clock. Circadian rhythms therefore influence sleep-wake cycles, hormone release, body temperature and other important bodily functions.
Circadian rhythms are controlled by groupings of interacting molecules in cells throughout the body and a “master clock” – the SCN – which is located in the brain and coordinates all the body clocks so that they are in sync. The SCN is located just above the optic nerve and relays information from the eyes to the brain. The SCN will receive information via incoming light for example and let’s just say there is less light—like at night—the SCN tells the brain to make more melatonin (a hormone made by the pineal glad) to make you drowsy in readiness for bed time.
Ok, now that you’ve got that, you’ll see how the first 3 points directly hack your body so that you will naturally feel tired and sleep better and ultimately improve your health.
5 SLEEP HACKS
Go to bed before 11pm
I know, I know…you want to stay up & watch TV & just zone out after a hard days work before you go to bed & start it all again…I hear you! Or, if you’re like me, you ‘come alive’ around this time & get a second wind. I’m telling you though, in the long term this will screw with your health (just read my previous post).
Your melatonin peaks at around 11pm, which means this should be the time you naturally feel tired. If you miss that window, you may experience a cortisol-driven ‘second wind’ that could keep you awake till 2am. By going to bed prior to 11pm you will wake up feeling more rested, than if you got the same amount of sleep which started later (say 1am) and you slept in (say to 10am). This is because you are working with the natural cycles of your body.
Staying up late and sleeping-in late on weekends can disrupt your body clocks sleep–wake rhythm, so try to limit the difference to no more than about an hour on weekends.
I know it sounds boring to you night owls – I used to be the same – but I promise you, this is something that has changed the quality of my sleep. Now-a-days if I happen to go to bed after 2am, I feel really ordinary the following day. I have brain fog & feel like I have some kind of hangover – and that’s with no alcohol! Just try it, you will really love the difference it can make to how you feel once you get into the rhythm of it. Not only will you sleep better, but your health will really thank you for it – less brain fog, more get-up-and-go in the mornings etc.
Now, if going to bed prior to 11pm seems a bit tricky, the following hacks will help your body to naturally feel drowsy in preparation for bed time.
Avoid bright lights & LCD screens at least 1 hour prior to bed time
If the SCN signals to the brain via light whether it should be awake or feel drowsy, then you can only imagine what all the white light from the screens on our TVs, smart phones and computer screens etc are doing to our sleep-wake cycle – right? White light is definitely not conducive to good quality sleep because it confuses our bodies. Even a few minutes of it can shut off the melatonin production that makes us feel drowsy in readiness for bed.
Reports show that participants reading an LE-eBook took longer to fall asleep and had reduced evening sleepiness, reduced melatonin secretion, later timing of their circadian clock, and reduced next morning alertness than when reading a printed book (2).
No more looking at screens in the night time!? What??…yes, that seems a bit ridiculous – even to me at this point…ha ha. To hack this process and cut out the artificial light that inhibits you to sleep better, here are a couple of options:
- You can install an app on your computer called f.lux. f.lux makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and brighter like sunlight during the day. It’s downloadable for free on windows and macs.
- For your phone or e-books you can use blue blocking screen protectors. I’m experimenting with a couple of different ones at the moment so I’ll keep you posted on my recommendations.
- To protect you from light bulbs and TV screens, you can also wear the blue blocking glasses around the house to ensure you are not affected. They are comfortable and it’s quite amazing how you naturally start to feel sleepy at the right time by not allowing those artificial lights to stop your melatonin production. I use them every night…sexy! 🙂
- You can also add some amber globes around the home to emit a soft glow rather than a harsh white/blue light.
Avoid exercise at night
Daily exercise has amazing benefits for your body and a study published in the Journal of Physiology found that exercise helps regulate circadian rhythms (3). What they also found is that by exercising at night, which increases your adrenalin levels, heart rate, and body temperature, may also make it difficult for you to fall asleep.
This particular study conducted, used two groups of mice: one healthy group and one group with circadian disruptions. It found that all of the mice showed positive benefits from exercising, regardless of what time of day they exercised, although the benefits were much higher for the mice whose internal clocks were impaired in the first place.
After several weeks of exercising, the internal clocks of the impaired mice were much more robust, particularly among the mice that exercised in the afternoon. The least benefit was shown by the group of mice exercising in the late evening and in fact, some of these mice also developed circadian disruptions such as poor sleep.
Personally, I have not exercised at night for years because it usually gives me an ‘adrenalin high’ and I’m wired for hours, after which all of a sudden, I would ‘hit the wall’ and crash. This process in itself would mean I would have a really disturbed sleep and wake up in the morning feeling really exhausted.
Experiment with switching up your exercise time to see how it affects you, and try exercising in the morning or afternoon to see what difference it makes to your sleep and if can sleep better by doing this.
Avoid caffeine after 2pm
Something else that may be affecting your sleep and you haven’t been consciously aware of it is caffeine. Generally, caffeine is a stimulant most people use for waking up in the morning or to remain alert during the day. This is because caffeine enters the bloodstream rather quickly and has a stimulating effect as soon as 15 minutes after it is consumed – oh yeah! – and once it’s in the body it takes approximately 6 hours for half of the caffeine to be eliminated – double yeah!
Caffeine in products such as coffee, tea, chocolate and caffeinated sodas/soft drinks can interfere with your night time sleep. The effects of caffeine can last as long as 8 hours.
I have never had an obvious problem with sleeping after drinking coffee late in the afternoon or at night. Although if I drink black tea any time after 4pm then I’m tossing and turning for hours! Weird…right?….but…
Researchers at Michigan’s Henry Ford Hospital’s Sleep Disorders & Research Centre and Wayne State College of Medicine analysed the sleep-disruptive effects of caffeine consumption at 0, 3, and 6 hours before bedtime and found that it significantly reduced total sleep time! Huh..really??… and caffeine consumed at all 3 points diminished sleep quality. Caffeine consumed even 6 hours before bedtime resulted in reduced total nightly sleep amounts by more than 1 hour (4). Dang!…
The study’s findings showed that even if you don’t feel that a late afternoon coffee has a negative impact on your sleep, it is likely to be interfering regardless.
I personally did not want to believe this was true, so I experimented with this – as all good biohackers should! For about 6 weeks I stopped drinking coffee after 2pm – a Dave Asprey suggestion – and then one day I drank a coffee at 4pm. I found that I could still fall asleep, but somehow it was not a restful sleep and I didn’t feel as good in the morning as I normally would. Now of course, that could just have been a placebo or other factors affected my sleep on that particular day, so over time, I still randomly drink a coffee after 2pm and it’s always the same result – get to sleep ok, but never the best sleep I’ve had. So for me, if I want to sleep better, then I’m sticking to the ‘no coffee after 2pm’ rule!
Take magnesium before going to bed
Apparently nearly everyone these days is deficient in magnesium….but why is it necessary? Magnesium is super important for the following reasons:
- bone strength and development
- it’s required for more than 300 different enzymes in the human body
- it plays an important role in hydration, muscle relaxation and energy production
- deactivates adrenalin and decreases cortisol – the ‘stress hormone’ (5)
- reduces the risk of blood sugar & metabolic problems (6) and
- it helps you to sleep better
Having enough magnesium in your body does not necessarily guarantee that you will go into a really deep sleep quickly and stay there, but not having enough of it will definitely guarantee that you won’t sleep very well at all!
Magnesium deficiency can cause a lot of different symptoms, so if you suffer from any of the following (and there’s plenty more in fact), it’s highly likely that you need some magnesium in your life.
- headaches & migraine
- muscle cramps or twitches
- cold hands and feet
- high blood pressure
- menstrual cramps
- difficulty concentrating & remembering
- muscle soreness
- constant fatigue
The most absorbable forms of magnesium are the ‘ates’ – citrate, glycinate, taurate, or aspartate are the best. Avoid magnesium carbonate, sulfate, gluconate, and oxide as they don’t absorb as well – which is why they are the most common forms used in cheap supplements.
For some people who are sensitive, be aware of how much you take in the citrate form as you may experience diarrhoea. If this does happen to you, don’t worry, just drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and it will pass soon enough. 🙂
The other option is to enjoy an Epsom salt bath before going to bed. This will not only be rich in magnesium, but the hot water will also aid in relaxing your muscles in preparation for a wonderful night’s sleep.
Magnesium is a ‘secret weapon’ when it comes to being able to sleep better – so give it a try.
These are all the things that I do for hacking my sleep (and more which I’ll share in future posts) and I highly recommend doing all of them to help you with yours…and remember, hacking your health is all about experimenting with different things, which you monitor, to be able to notice actual changes in your body that are the best for you personally. So go forth & try these suggestions and let me know how you go!
Test it for yourself – that’s what biohacking and living limitlessly is all about!
Until next time
Hack yourself to health, happiness & abundance
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