5 “Sleep Hacks” You Should Try For Better, Deeper Sleep
When i was going through my worst period of sleep ever, I grew really tired of reading the same lamo “sleep hygiene” stuff all over the internet that basically repeated the same exact “tips” which to me really seemed like common sense.
Since that time, I'm proud to say that my sleep is much much better. BUT, i still have a way to go until I would consider it nailed down, and for that reason i'm still continually on the lookout for sleep hacks that can get me sleeping deeper, easier, with more REM sleep, and less periods of waking during the night.
I've discovered a few things that have helped me during my own experimentation, and so I'd like to share these ideas with you here on this page.
Feel free to skip ahead to anything that seems especially appealing from the contents below:
Those Annoying “Sleep Hygiene” Tips – The 4 That Are Actually Important
Tip #1 – Raw Local Honey
Tip #2 – Doing Nothing For 1 Hour +
Tip #3- Setting Your Internal Clock With Light
Tip #4 – Taking EMF/Blue Light Reduction Seriously
Tip #5 – PEMF For Sleep
Sleep Hacks That Have Worked For You
The “Sleep Hygiene” Tips That Might Actually Help
- Make the bedroom for sleep and sex only
- Use soft lighting
- Use good bedding
- Go to bed at the same time each night
- Use aromatherapy
Now I tried just about all of these things when i went through my hellish insomnia period of like 6-8 months (you can read more about it here where i also discuss the EarthPulse and how it helped me) and pretty much none of it worked.
I want to make a point in this article however, before moving on with some of the lesser known ideas about sleep, and how to improve it or overcome a more serious sleep disorder.
That being, SOME of the sleep hygiene stuff is actually really good advice, and really important. That being said, whether or not much of the popular advice will work for you personally really does depend on the severity of your sleep issues, and what the causative factors are.
In my case, because i had developed some rather serious amounts of stress in my life, i actually built my stress levels up to the point where they really changed my normal circadian biology.
I remember having heart palpitations at like 3 am in the morning, and not being able to get to sleep properly as I'd immediately be awoken by my adrenaline pumped body. That's when i knew i had some more serious issues, and that a lot of the normal advice just wasn't going to be enough.
I needed something stronger, and luckily for me I was able to find that very thing that got me through the temporary nightmare. For anyone REALLY SUFFERING from insomnia or terrible sleep patterns, again, you can read more on that specifically here.
So before getting into the meat of this article and the tips that i think are a little lesser known, I want to say that now I've overcome my really bad insomnia period, I also use the following sleep “hygiene” ideas as a good basis for my sleep routine (or at least I try to, though like with trying to build any healthy habit in your life, the 80/20 rule is definitely a good thing to follow in this case too).
Here's the typical advice that I actually find really helpful to improve already average sleep (Note – I've omitted anything common sense like low natural lighting, and good bedding, as that really should be obvious if you're taking this stuff seriously):
- Aromatherapy – The power of our sense of smell definitely has a great effect on calming the mind down (or excitation and focus, depending on the type of scent) in my personal experience, and can be a powerful way to create a “trigger” which will put your mind into a deeper state of relaxation upon being exposed to that trigger.Using such natural triggers is a powerful way to build your sleep routine. Coincidentally we all already use similar triggers whether or not unconsciously or not, just think about how getting natural light in the morning affects your state of mind (more on this in a minute).
- Removing all electronics, screens, etc – Again, you'll hear just about every person talking about this, but it's actually really really important. Not only for the common sense reason of not having all those distractions in your place of rest (possibly creating an unconscious trigger, but in this case being one of stimulation instead of relaxation), but also even more so I think because of reasons related to biologically disruptive ambient EMFs (electromagnetic frequencies). Again, we'll delve more into this in a moment.
- Regular sleep time/wake up time – Again, this is pretty obvious you would think, but many people including myself to be totally honest, struggle with this one. It's super important because we're dealing with the programming of our circadian clock, which basically rules our ability to sleep and how deeply and therefore how much regenerative sleep we're actually getting each night. So it's definitely smart to get into a regular patter of going to bed by 10 pm, and getting up around 6-7 am if that's suitable to your schedule.
- Stress management – As i personally found out, high stress equals high and out of balance cortisol levels, and if you've ever had the problem of dysregulation of your cortisol and getting pumped up at night or in the middle of the night when you should be calm and hopefully asleep, then you'll know that this is a total nightmare and will really affect your ability to sleep well. So on the flip side, I find a winding down period, and de-stressing during the day in general to be pretty important as far as sleep improvement goes.
Now that's the basics out of the way, at least the one's that I've found to be important. Let's get onto the more fringe stuff that maybe you haven't already heard about elsewhere. Some of these tips can really give you a much higher quality sleep, so I'm excited to share them with you.
Tip #1 – Raw Local Honey
This is one that I've tried more recently with some good feedback so far. Basically you can use any carbohydrate to spike your blood glucose levels, and then ride the “sugar crash” on the way down to help you get to sleep more easily. That's the theory anyway.
I have tested this one on myself and it works pretty well to get my sleep deeper from what I've seen so far. I do not necessarily get to sleep that much faster or easier than normal, but I have noticed better dream recall along with increased depth of sleep.
So as i said, you don't have to use honey, but i like using it because it's appropriate on the diet i'm currently following (The Specific Carb Diet), which doesn't really allow a lot of sugars, but is cool with the use of what's known as monosacharides (which basically refers to sugars that are extremely simple in terms of chemical structure, and are easily digested and absorbed into the body).
If you're going to go the same route, as to what I've done and go with honey, make sure it's unprocessed and ideally raw, locally produced as well. Basically a lack of added sugars or chemicals is what we're after. Personally i was able to source this kind of honey quite easily via my local food co-op, so if you have such a place local to you, that could be a good option. It's important to only use raw local honey as much as possible though, so if you can't source it locally, then check out something like this from Nature Nate's on amazon.
Tip #2- Doing Nothing For An Hour Before Bed
The principle of “winding down” AT LEAST an hour (preferably 2 hours) before bedtime is something that i've also found to work pretty well, i believe because like many of the things that truly work, it's based on respecting and working with the natural rhythms of the body.
This also means doing anything that's gentle, quiet, and doesn't involve any sort of pressure, stress or anything that's going to stimulate you and decrease your chance of entering and/or staying in the “rest and relax” mode, associated with parasympathetic nervous system activation.
Now if you have a serious insomnia problem like i did for a while, this may not really do you much good. You may have trouble winding down at all, and that may be your biggest issue right now. For something like that, tip #5 is something that you may want to look into.
Tip #3 – Understanding and Using Light To Set Your Internal Clock
As you may have already learned, light plays a crucial role in setting the many natural rhythms of our biology, and of course this is definitely the case when it comes to the timing of the circadian rhythm which is associated with our sleep/wake cycle.
For this reason, it's important to understand how this works if you want to optimize your sleep and re-train your biology to naturally make you feel tired at the right time, and awake when you should be.
Jack Kruse has commented several times that properly functioning circadian biology and having the correct natural timing of this system is crucial for ruling a large majority, if not all of the other biological processes within the body. That's enough for me to listen up and take it seriously.
What does this mean on a practical level? Basically you want to be going to bed at a reasonable enough time (many experts say in between 10 pm – 12 am is optimal, and allows for the healthy cycling of sleep states).
You also want to get some UV light into your eyes first thing in the morning. Getting sunlight into your eyes/brain first thing will basically program your (or “reprogram” you if you've been doing it otherwise) brain and body to start to get tired at the right time later, as the day comes to an end.
Tip #4 – Taking EMF/Blue Light Reduction Seriously
This is something that more and more people are cluing onto, but unfortunately the majority seem to still be largely unaware of the serious issues created by artificial light, especially blue light from all our devices (laptops, tablets, phones, etc).
For this reason I definitely believe that It's a good idea to start looking into using special glasses at night that block out specifically the blue light from the spectrum.
These glasses pictured on the right here are what I'm personally currently trialing, and i do seem to notice that i'm a little more tired after wearing them a couple of hours in the evening.
You can find this particular model pretty cheaply, here on amazon.com.
I've yet to compare them with other types, so this is still a biohack that's in progress for now, and is probably something that will need a fair bit of playing around with before I'm satisfied that I've nailed this down.
I'll be updating this page when i know more about the whole blue light thing in terms of the science and how it affects biology as I learn more, and linking to a more in-depth discussion, as I feel it's a really important area to learn more about, along with the other similarly related issue of EMF exposure and reduction.
I'm actually planning a podcast with an expert on EMF reduction and management too, so that will be really good, as this is a big topic, and it's becoming increasingly important. (update, the interview is being produced and edited as we speak, so shouldn't be long, I'll post a link here when it's done!)
The modern world is swamped in non native EMFs and we're going to have to learn how to deal with them better if we want to feel healthy and strong while living in a world that's honestly very different from the world we evolved to thrive in, on a purely physical level, and especially in this case relating to light and electromagnetics.
For now if you want to learn more about EMFs and what to do about them check out some of the available books on the topic, visit Lloyd Burrel's website electricsense.com, and if you really want to get into protecting yourself from EMFs, then you'll want to work out how serious the problem is in your home with something like a Trifield EMF Meter.
Tip #5 – PEMF And Other Technology For Sleep
As mentioned above, if you have a really serious issue that's messed up your sleep patterns, or you're going through some kind of adrenal exhaustion, you may need “extra help” to be able to restore your sleep patterns to a more reasonable state.
This was me about 6 months ago. My insomnia was really bad, and i couldn't get more than 3-4 hours decent quality (often far less than decent) sleep most nights. i had tried all of the usual stuff, including things that actually do help my sleep now, like the above tips, but to no avail.
This proves to me that there are certain levels of sleep disorder that just don't improve by applying all the normal common sense stuff that you will read on most sites on the internet, and even be told by many well meaning Doctors.
I tried all the sleep hygiene stuff, melatonin supplementation, Magnesium supplements before bed (one of the one's that does help now to improve my sleep a little), a hot bath before bed, etc, etc, etc.
Nothing was really putting a dent on it. I believe i discovered PEMF therapy in my search for answers on how to improve my sleep and overcome the insomnia. I came across the weird looking device you see pictured here, and learned as much as i could about it. This particular PEMF device is called an EarthPulse.
I'm not going to go into much detail about the device itself or my experience with it other than to say it got me out of that hellish period of insomnia, and so despite not really using it anymore due to reasons relating to wanting to use more natural approaches, I am SUPER grateful that i got it, as it totally saved me at the time.
If you want to know more about that particular story, and you somehow missed the other references above already, you can read up on the details about that particular PEMF device on my EarthPulse Review page.
Something else that I'm seriously going to be looking into for the future, that's supposedly pretty amazing for sleep, but is quite a lot more expensive than even the EarthPulse, is the Magnetico sleep pad.
It's a special kind of mat, with magnets built into the design which apparently creates a very beneficial magnetic field. I'm not really well versed enough to give you any more than that very vague description for now, but I'll be sure to research it more in the future, and write about my experience with it when I do get one. Unfortunately the shipping to get one to my part of the world (down under mate) is ridiculous, something like $500 just for shipping 😀
What's Worked For You? – Let's Share Our Sleep Hacks!
So I'd love to hear if you've tried any of the above or anything else that you've personally tried to improve your sleep in your own life.
If you have anything to share, help others by posting a comment about your experience below, I plan on building a huge resource of sleep hacks that actually work on this website and compiling them (I guess just kind of adding more and more valuable stuff to this page over time in effect).
So please do get involved in the discussion and tell us your successes, and failures if you like too. We can only help each other by sharing what's working and what's not, and that's always a great thing!
Look forward to reading your comments 🙂
Hey Nick, i like your article, you shed some light on new things for me. Blue Light, i can see how this could be a problem. i am usually pretty good at getting to sleep, but occasionally i have some trouble. I tend to use the breathing technique, where you basically slow your breathing down. What do you think of the breathing technique??
Another great article on life hacks Nick, thank you… I just can’t help but to keep coming back. I agree about eliminating the blue light at night (get rid of the iPad in bed) and taking my magnesium at night instead of the morning or after working out has proven very helpful. I have suffered from sleep issues over the years and being able to get to sleep for me does seem to be an issue. Your point on cortisol is important I think and I will definitely have a look at the Earth Pulse as well as your review. Good advise.
# 3 is an excellent point. I’ve struggled with insomnia myself and tried different things which worked more or less. Until I tried something similar to what you propose: mindfulness exercises in bed before sleeping.
Well, I never got to do the actual mindfulness work, because.. it made me so relaxed that I fell asleep!
My point is: it’s worth trying either way. Whether it is doing “nothing”, relaxing or meditating – at best it works for you. And at worse, as in my experience, it relaxes you so much that you can trick yourself into sleeping 🙂
Oh! I also recommend not drinking too much before going to sleep. Because that makes us get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. And that randomly disrupts the sleep cycle leaving us unrested the next morning.
Learned something new about honey. I will have to try that. You are right about winding down and doing nothing for awhile. I like to read and keep all electronics out of my bedroom. Big subject blue light and EMF and how they affect our bodies and sleep patterns. Great insights! Thanks.
You shared some really interesting ideas. I think I am not sleeping deeply and may try the raw honey, which we do get locally, before going to bed. I also snore, which affects the quality of my sleep. Most of the time, I don’t feel rested when I wake up. Do you have suggestions for dealing with that? Appreciate the helpful insights and tips!