In this article I’m going to share how to biohack your sleep so you can sleep your best every night.
But before we get started, I have to go on a little rant. There are lots of guys out there who refer to themselves as “Biohackers” and share a plethora of so-called biohacks. Some good and many not so good. My problem isn’t so much with the tech and tools they are recommending, instead it’s the fact they’re doing the same thing every diet author and fitness entrepreneur is – trying to make you believe they have the silver bullet to health.
As someone who has trained over 10,000 one-on-one client hours, I know there are no silver bullets. There simply is no one-size-fits all panacea to health & fitness. So instead of trying to give you the fish, I’m going to give you a framework – almost a lens of how to look at health and fitness – that teaches you how to fish.
This way you can create the lifestyle that works for you, and most importantly, the lifestyle you can sustain and adapt to any goal you set.
Now, let’s talk about sleep.
How we sleep plays a large role in how we feel when we wake up, and how much energy we have all day long. Getting quality sleep at night can literally make your day. However, many people struggle to sleep at night because they do not pay much attention to the important factors that can help them sleep better. Here are some tips on how to sleep better at night.
Maintain your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle
Having specific times for sleeping and waking up can help the body maintain its circadian rhythm. Altering the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle can lead to low-quality sleep.
Things like travel and your evening habits (i.e. watching TV before bed) can alter the body’s natural wake-sleep pattern. Most people, regardless of travel, are actually walking around with some level of “jet lag” because of their lack of exposure to natural light. Natural light enters the eyes via a photopigment behind the rods and cones called melanopsin.
This light then travels down the retinohypothalamic tract to a non-visual part of the brain called the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus of the Hypothalamus that then helps set our body clock. I personally enjoy an exercise called sunning every morning which is where you expose your eyes (with eyelids closed) to sunlight outside in the morning for about 5 minutes. This helps reset your circadian rhythm as well as many other help benefits we will discuss later. If you live in an area that lacks good sunlight, you can also do this exercise with a SAD light which is traditionally used for treating seasonal affective disorder. Just make sure to get one that provides 10,000 LUX of brightness or more.
Many people tend to sleep in later than usual when they go to sleep late. This can affect the body’s circadian cycle, which leads to poor quality sleep. Taking a nap during the day is not discouraged if it lasts for about 20-30 minutes.
Control your exposure to light
Exposure to light determines the amount of melatonin, the sleep hormone, secreted by the body. The more melatonin the body produces, the sleepier an individual would feel.
Many people find it difficult to sleep during the day due to prolonged exposure to light. You can limit the amount of melatonin produced by the body by going outside when you feel sleepy and by letting as much light as possible into your house. On the same breath, expose yourself to as little light as possible when going to sleep. Switch off TVs and other electronic devices. This will also ensure you do not struggle going back to sleep in case you wake up in the middle of the night.
Also, I would suggest getting a blue blocking screen protector for your smartphone and installing the f.lux app on your computer. These will help reduce your overexposure to blue light which inhibits melatonin production. Conversely, you could also purchase blue blocking glasses to wear in the evenings to help with this.
Exercise during the day
Exercise refreshes the mind and body and is often associated with quality sleep. It can also help control sleeping disorders including insomnia and sleep apnea. Exercise moderately because excessive amounts of exercise can trigger an excessive stress response, which can make it more difficult for you to sleep at night.
For the best results, be sure to exercise at the right time during the day and at least three hours before bedtime. However, certain exercises such as yoga or light walking are relaxing and can be useful prior to sleeping.
Be smart about what you eat and drink
The foods we eat and drink determine the intensity of digestion, which can affect the quality of sleep at night. Dinner should be eaten at least two or three hours prior to sleeping. Eat light foods and drinks for dinner so you do not burden the digestive system with the task of digesting significant amounts of food when the body’s organs should be resting. Avoid drinking lots of fluids in the evening to minimize visits to the bathroom in the middle of the night. In addition, avoid alcoholic drinks, caffeine, and nicotine before you go to sleep because they interfere with the body’s sleep cycle.
Clear your head
Our daily activities determine how active our brains and bodies are. In turn, this affects our ability to calm down and sleep at night.
Pressure, anxiety, and irritation can make it difficult for you to sleep. Therefore, find ways to reduce stress, anxiety, depression or any other factors that can affect your composure and mental health. The better you manage mental discomfort, the easier it becomes to switch off and sleep at night. It may not be possible to simply shrug off your concerns and sleep. Therefore, consider doing relaxing exercises before you go to sleep. These exercises include:
- Deep breathing
- Closing your eyes, thinking about a wonderful place and imagining yourself there
- Listening to soft music
- Light exercising or muscle relaxation
- Reading a book
- Taking a warm shower
Improve your sleep environment
It may be very difficult to have quality sleep at night if your sleep environment does not favor rest. Consider having your room dimly lit or totally dark before you go to sleep. In addition, your room temperature should be comfortable enough for you to sleep. Approximately 68 degrees fahrenheit is the best ambient temperature for sleep. The bed should be big enough, have enough covers, and well made so that you can easily turn and stretch. Your bed should be firm and designed to enhance comfort while sleeping. Learn to sit or lie on your bed only when you want to sleep to condition your mind to associate the bed with sleeping.
Learn to get back to sleep
Many people find it hard to go back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom or after experiencing a nightmare. There are several tips that can help you overcome this problem. One of the solutions is to avoid believing that it would be difficult to go back to sleep once you wake up in the middle of the night. In addition, focus on something else such as how you feel or imagine your dream vacation.
Use various relaxation techniques such as yoga and deep breathing to help you switch off and sleep. You may also listen to relaxing music if that works for you. If you are unable to sleep because of something that you need to take care of urgently in the morning, it is advisable to write it down on your to-do list so that you can have peace of mind and sleep. Additionally, putting a small amount of sea salt and coconut sugar under the tongue can help appease your body’s stress response (i.e. adrenal glands) so that you can fall back asleep.
Sleep can affect productivity at work or school as well as our health and performance. Quality sleep will help you feel confident and refreshed when you wake up. It can also help improve your overall quality of life. Fortunately, there are several strategies you can use to help you sleep better at night. Exercise, relaxation techniques, and limited light exposure are some of the factors that can help improve the quality of your sleep at night.
In my next article I’ll share my red light biohack that can help you spot-reduce body fat in the areas of the body you want to lose the most.
Talk to you soon 🙂