Please note : This post may be updated overtime with additional tips.
Fun fact : It can take up to 14% longer to finish a task if you attempt to power through your day with crappy sleep.
Poor sleep can turn you into an emotionally unstable zombie but instead of craving brains you’ll reach for sugary treats and comfort food to satiate you.
When you take into consideration that the key hunger hormone Ghrelin ramps up from insufficient sleep and that your brain has 14% less glucose you’ll see that you can easily become the puppet to your own biology and instincts.
Goodbye self control.
Skimping on sleep can also lower your IQ making you as cognitively adept as someone that went binge drinking for a few nights. Lay off the jose cuervos.
Getting just 5 hours of sleep ONE TIME can make you as insulin resistant as a type 2 diabetic!
From essential hormone production to physical rejuvenation there is literally not one aspect of your health that isn’t measurably enhanced.
Here’s just a smidgeon of sleep tips to reclaim what you lack when this key component to well being is not made a priority.
Tip 1 : Avoid The Light
Your phone, computer and TV emit a near invisible hue of a spectrum of light known as “blue light”.
If you were walking down a sidewalk and watching cars whiz by you you would notice an eerie blue glow emanating from within that looks like the kind of light alien spaceships would beam down before abducting people.
This type of artificial “junk light” is hyper stimulating to the brain and greatly impairs the production of your key sleep hormone melatonin.
If you take into consideration that the sun’s primary wavelength of light is also in the blue light spectrum you’ll understand why you only need this during the day to keep your body primed and awake.
How does light throw your body off so easily?
When light enters your eyes a protein in the ocular cells called melanopsin triggers the super-chiasmatic nucleus (SCN) (The bodies master clock) to start your internal circadian cycle that under normal circumstances releases cortisol in the morning and melatonin at night.
But the blue light from your devices (at least 1,000 LUX) is enough to keep your SCN always thinking it’s daytime and stops you from releasing melatonin when you need it most.
Here’s some tips to avoid blue light and prevent it from wrecking your sleep:
Avoid walking into drugstores or supermarkets at night.
1-2 hours before bed put your devices away and switch to reading a physical book, journaling, etc.
Use a blue light filtering software on your computer to put a veil of “red light” over the screen which is essentially the color of faint candle glow. Red light is calming to the brain and nervous system. The best option is Iris which has color combinations that can be set so they automatically activate. Another option is Flux which is free, but it’s debated whether flux actually blocks blue light.
Get yourself a pair of blue light blockers. These funky looking amber tinted glasses will suppress and filter any incoming blue light if you want to stay up a bit longer on your devices. Great options are Swannies or Twilight.
Tip 2 : No More Binging
Consume your last major meal 2-3 hours before you go to sleep..
This gives your digestive system enough time to pass everything through..
Digestion is a VERY energy-intensive process and your gut has to work double-time to break all the fats, fiber and protein from the food you crammed down your mouth-hole into tiny pieces so it comes out the other end smoothly.
Never lay down directly after eating because it can cause acid reflux and it’s just not the optimal position for your stomach to function properly when it comes to digestion.
Digestion itself is a parasympathetic process so the body needs to be relaxed to a degree, but some light movements that turn on the core such as mini yoga session can help to speed up the process.
And because digestion is parasympathetic managing your level of stress is muy importante!
That’s where the most deficient mineral in the human body comes into play.
I’m talking about magnesium.
This is a wonder mineral that too many of us lack (at least 80% of the US population) but it does so much!
Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body and it’s found in every tissue.
It can ease muscle tension and without sufficient magnesium your cells can’t make adequate energy.
It also keeps organs like your heart (the most magnesium dependent organ) working like a race horse.
Here are some tips to achieve great sleep while still being able to eat at night:
Do your best to avoid eating any enormous meals that are heavy with oils or meat. This can sit in your stomach like a rock and it takes many hours for your intestine to chop it up.
Know that digestion starts in the mouth! Chew slowly with intention so you can savor every…last…piece and help your gut do it’s work.
Munch on a handful of fiber filled foods. Fiber aids with digestion. A few examples of fibery foods are almonds, oatmeal, carrots and celery.
Eat foods rich in melatonin. As you recall melatonin is your sleep hormone, so why not eat something tasty while helping your body wind down? Tart cherries (unsweetened) are outstanding because they contain an Immense amount of melatonin. Ginger root, pineapple, tomatoes, oranges, apples (lots of fiber in skin as well), walnuts and asparagus also have a little.
Add in some magnesium to your diet through foods like Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, spirulina, sesame seeds and especially green leafy veggies like Kale. Or try a Pili nut, which is a tear shaped phillipino nut with over 85 milligramsofmagnesiuminaone-ounceserving.
Apply magnesium topically to the skin via a cream or oil. This allows it to be rapidly absorbed into the body. A common way that works is soaking in a bathtub of magnesium salts, this is commonly known as epsom salt. There’s also companies like Magnesium Breakthrough that provide all 7 forms of magnesium in a single pill.
Tip 3 : Go Dark
Your room should be a sanctuary devoted to two things.
I’ll let you guess what they are.
Hint : they both start with S.
Your sanctuary also must be peaceful and welcoming.
That’s right, not a bunch of random items on shelves or a pile of dirty laundry covering the floor.
Above all though it should be devoid of any light once it comes time to shut down.
I mentioned the detrimental problems with blue light from your devices but you may not be taking into consideration the effect of the lights outside of your home.
Depending on where you live you could have street lamps shining light into your room or possibly the momentary passing of headlights if you live next to a road.
Did you know that your skin contains the same photo-receptors as the retina that picks up outside light?
This again activates your SCN and signals to the brain that it’s daytime when it’s clearly not.
Outside light will effect your ability to enter deep REM which is the stage of sleep where dreams occur and your body rejuvenates and repairs itself.
No gains from all that lifting if you can’t enter REM.
If you have some light still peaking through your curtains follow these tips and you’ll be all set!
Cover your windows with black trash bags or grab a set of blackout curtains. The downside of this is that some blackout curtains tend to be too short to fully block all light.
Wear a sleep mask. For this to be effective you must be able to completely cover your eyes and the mask must be comfortable enough to not cause any pressure or tightness around your head. My recommendation is to purchase a Manta Sleep mask.
Manta have removable plush eye pads that can be endlessly moved around to your liking with a velcro like adhesion to the mask and an adjustable band at the back.
The next option is to do what I did and pick up a tri-fold black poster board from Walmart (or your local arts and craft place)
Measure your window beforehand and then cut the poster board to fit your windows until all cracks are completely covered where light can seep in. (see image below)
To test if the above works wait until its dark, slide the boards into your windows, roll the curtains over top, close your curtains, turn off all the lights in your house and close your door. Wait a few seconds for your eyes to fully adjust to the darkness and notice if you see ANY light. If not, well done!
Tip 4 : Be Cool My Friend
Temperature plays a big part in the quality of your sleep. If it’s too hot under your sheets, you could overheat and subsequently toss and turn maniacally. Or when it’s just right you will sleep like a bear.
And what is the best temperature to improve your sleep quality?
61-68 degrees. Not too cool, it’s just right.
Keep your socks on and don’t layer yourself too much as if you’re about to brave Narnia in your dreams. Taking a warm shower an hour before sleeping can help your body de-stress and through thermoregulation your body will calibrate your body temperature until it’s back in the optimal range.
You can also set your thermostat to this range and tweak it until it’s comfortable.
Tip 5 : Dump Your Brain
Rumination is the brains way of making sense of the days scooping up of ideas, unchecked to-do’s and other random bits of information still clinging onto your attention.
Without extracting all of this out of your mind you’ll have a far more difficult time falling asleep because of the nagging guilt of what you could have finished, or having important knowledge you gleamed throughout the day swimming around in your brain that could disappear in a few hours.
This has to do with The Zeigarnik effect, when your subconscious mind holds onto unfinished things until they are crossed off. Your brain is basically a computer so you must clear out the vast amount of data that’s sitting in your mental “recycle bin” taking up space and then afterwards shut down the system.
The simple solution to prevent rumination and the zeigarnik effect is to whip out a notepad and write down everything you can think of.
Important projects, grocery items to pick up from the store, plot concepts for your new epic fantasy novel, blog post titles,etc.
Whatever is streaming into your brain just get it out so you can organize, prioritize and finally deal with it tomorrow.
Tip 6 : Easy On The Brew
It’s understandable why caffeine can be revered as a gift of the gods when you had shitty sleep the night before. It’s powerful as a performance enhancer for those times when you need to be alert and in the zone.
But most people abuse caffeine and drink it too late in the day or even every day which is not good.
Caffeine itself has a half-life of around 6 hours. In other words if you are drinking a cup of coffee or tea that has 100 mg of caffeine, 6 hours later you will still have 50 mg of caffeine in your bloodstream.
NEVER drink coffee, tea or other caffeinated beverages after 1 or 2 PM if you value being able to sleep by at least 10 PM.
To understand how caffeine works it’s magic you must understand it’s relationship with Adenosine.
Adenosine is a hormone that gradually increases during the day that acts as a trigger to let your brain know that it’s becoming sleepy. Caffeine has a similar chemical shape to adenosine.
It takes around 20 minutes after consumption for caffeine to effect the brain and nervous system. When caffeine eventually enters the brain it kicks adenosine out of it’s place and sits in the same spot for hours.
The problem is that adenosine now has nowhere to go so it just keeps building up more and more in the brain. The brain actually never get’s the signal that it’s not supposed to be jacked up on adrenalin and dopamine thanks to the caffeine and that it should be calming down to prepare for rest.
This is why you CRASH so HARD when caffeine wears off and adenosine takes its rightful place back. Your brain realizes that it’s been tricked.
So use caffeine smartly and not as a stimulant to keep you up all night for that enormous project!
It’s also a fantastic idea to skip caffeine altogether to limit the amount in your system for at least a few days or even a month and prevent caffeine dependence.
Tip 7 : Take a CRP
Charging through your day without taking a bit of time to recoup your energy and willpower is a recipe for disaster. You’ll end up nodding off while working on the most important activities, producing work with little to no value for the world.
A handful of the most prolific thinkers, inventors and creatives in history have deliberately taken small naps in the afternoon to recharge their creativity and critical thinking skills to come up with an answer to a pressing dilemma or product idea.
I’m talking about Edison, Aristotle, Einstein and even Salvador Dali.
You know, he’s the freaky dude that painted those odd melting clocks in the desert.
As Salvador drifted into a light sleep, he held a key in his right hand.
On the ground below was an upside-down plate.
When Salvador reached a sufficient level of doziness the key would slip from his grasp and fall onto the plate producing a clang loud enough to wake up the drowsy artist.
Edison’s nap-time routine comprised of him propping his one hand on his elbow.
In his fists he tightly clenched a pair of ball-bearings that would fall to the floor when he drifted off enough thereby immediately waking him out of his nap.
Edison purportedly HATED sleeping a long time and often proclaimed that sleep was completely unnecessary.
If a nap sounds boring why not call it a Controlled Recovery Period (CRP)
This is a term that Nick Littlehales, a sleep coach and author of the aptly named book Sleep uses with the elite athletes he trains and optimizes for peak excellence on and off the field of play.
In early afternoon around 1-3 pm your sleep pressure is very high.
This is the nudge that your body is giving you to take a breather and recover with a CRP.
If elite Navy SEALS, musicians and experts in their respective fields use naps to double their alertness and reaction time, well I think it makes sense for you to incorporate this into your schedule as well right!
Keep in mind:
A nap/crp in the midday around lunch should never exceed 90 minutes because that will restart a whole new sleep cycle. I talk about this more in the next section.
On that note you’ve probably felt the disorientating effects of waking out of a sleep cycle prematurely with all the grogginess, confusion and brain fog to go along with it.
This same response (aka sleep inertia) is felt when you hit the snooze button in the morning and wake up partly in another sleep cycle less than 90 minutes later.
To break out of sleep inertia and this feeling of groginess do this:
Splash some cold water on your face.
Do not nap over 30 minutes past 5-7 pm because it will throw off your ability to get great sleep.
Take a quick dose of caffeine (expresso shot or similar, just don’t sip) before 30 minute crp so it works when you wake up because caffeine takes 20 minutes to affect the body.
Nick also advises his athletic phenoms and everyday normal folk to switch from thinking about sleep in terms of the typically recommended 8 hours and instead rest in consistent sleep cycles aiming for around 35 hours per week at the minimum.
Tip 8 : The Power Of Sleep Cycles
Every night you go through 4 stages of sleep.
After 90 minutes of passing through all of these stages you complete 1 full sleep cycle.
Nick Littlehales calls sleep cycles R90 (recovery in 90 minutes)
Here’s each of the 4 stages in detail:
Stage 1-NON REM (non rapid eye movement)
This is when you are just drifting out of wakefulness.
Stage 2-Light Sleep
This stage is when memory consolidation occurs aka when your short-term memories from the day are stored in your long-term memory. It enhances your motor skills. Heart rate slows and body temp drops. You spend the longest time here.
Stage 3- Deep Sleep
We produce the slowest frequency brain waves known as Delta in this stage. There is also an increase in human growth hormone. This is crucial because hgh diminishes over time more and more as you age and it keeps your body youthful. You will reap the benefits of the muscular tearing from that intense workout in this stage.
Stage 4-REM (rapid eye movement)- This is the stage of dreaming. Your eyes are fluttering like crazy underneath your closed lids. Every night you have dreams but I’m betting if I were to ask you what they involved you would have no clue or you may not think you had a dream at all.
Then the cycle repeats.
Nick suggests you figure out when you want to wake up and pick the length of your sleep apart until it’s divided into cycles that fit your current lifestyle.
However your wake time MUST stay the same every day so your circadian clock activates all the physiological processes mentioned above at the right time like clockwork, pun totally intended.
Harnessing sleep cycles instead of just sleeping for a straight 8 hours is something many people aren’t accustomed to but try it out and see how you feel with your level of energy and everything else the right quantity of sleep enhances.
Another thing to keep in mind is that all that mind chatter and brain activity in your day uses a lot of cellular energy and actually leaves behind cellular residue (waste) and toxins that accumulates in your brain.
This residue can turn into the ghastly Amyloid Beta plaque that is associated with Alzheimers.
To wipe all that dangerous gunk away your brain has its own cleaning system!
It’s called the glymphatic system.
When you’re in deep sleep your brain cells shrink in size by 60% as a fluid is released that clears away all that cellular gunk.
That’s what we call taking the trash out!
This cleansing is one of the reasons you feel so level-headed, restored and positive on the days when you get great quality sleep.
I also thought it was super interesting and worth mentioning that Swedish peak performance researcher K. Anders Ericsson spent some time studying musical prodigies and athletes across different domains and concluded that they could only sustain full deliberate concentration when practicing for 90 minutes.
The same length of time as a sleep cycle.
Anything past that and these top performers lose their focus.
So also use this to your advantage:
Work for 90 minutes.
Practice and train a chosen skill for 90 minutes.
Take a 90 minute break.
Tip 9 : Check Your Posture
Leave the contorting into a pretzel or military pose for your dog or having sex (respectively).
Think about the position you assume as you rest each night.
Littlehales suggests we end the habit of laying on our back facing the ceiling as we sleep because that relaxes the throat too much which causes a narrowing of airways which can lead to snoring or sleep apnea.
This supine position also keeps the brain alert.
Face planting into your bed laying on your stomach also isn’t very comfortable twists your neck and spine into un-natural and straining positions leading to cervical problems and making it hard to breathe.
In fact, Littlehales wants everyone to sleep on their side in the fetal position just as you would when you were a baby.
But which side you face matters.
Nick advises you face the opposite of your dominant side.
So if you’re primarily a right-handed person then you would be in a fetal position facing your left and vice versa.
Don’t crunch up into a ball either. Just bend your knees slightly and rest your hands on the side next to your head palms on top of each other
Just as you see in the picture below…
There should be an evenly smooth straight postural line through the entire back side of your body from the neck down to your bottom.
Whew! That was a boatload of sleep enhancing tips.
You can combine the tips in this post with what I share here to really conquer your day after receiving phenomenal sleep!
Also : If you have a friend that is an insomniac share these tips with them!