Have you ever had problems sleeping? Have you thought about how to sleep more efficient? If so, this article is for you! Sleep is both an art and a science. Still a lot of people have trouble sleeping. Even if you sleep 8 hours a night, would it be optimal, uninterrupted restorative sleep? Do you wake up feeling 100% refreshed? This article provides everything you need to know about sleep, the importance of sleeping and practical game-changing tips on how you can improve your sleep right now. To set your mood: Sleep is probably the single most important thing you can do for your overall health on a daily basis.
- Why we sleep
- Science of when
- Cutting edge practical tips you can implement right now to improve sleep
- Out of scope for this article: Lucid Dreaming
- Links to more resources
The miracle of sleeping
Before we start the “show”. I want to bring you along for a short thought experiment.. Relax, and imagine that I told you that scientists just created a magic-pill that gives you magical and miracle benefits of:
- Recovering from training
Making you more creative, attractive and slimmer
Making it easier for you to resist food cravings
Protects you from
cancer and dementia,
the flue (cold)
Makes you feel less depressed and anxious
Makes you feel happier
With no side effects! Would you be interested? Of course you would! What is this miracle?? You guessed it: Sleep!
A 20 year long sleep expedition
My personal journey with exploring sleep began back in 1999 when I stumbled across a book about: “transhumanism”. In essence transhumanism is all about personal development and optimisation, with the help of technology. It could be considered an early embryo of what we today are calling: “biohacking”. Biohacking is of course how to optimise your body, biology and environment to work in your favor and help you reach your goals. The term biohacking was popularized by Dave Asprey – founder of Bulletproof (perhaps most famous for bulletproof coffee) – but lets stick to the topic: Sleep. In the transhumanism book there was a really interesting chapter about sleep, which opened up my mind to the art and science of sleeping.
It was here that I first encountered expressions like: “SCN”, “polyphasic sleep”, “lucid dreaming” and more. I started exploring the topic, testing different techniques, gadgets, supplements, and I even tried to change my “default sleeping position”. A lot has happened since then. For the last couple of years I have once again activated my reticular cortex to focus on sleep and improving it, the biggest driver for this renewed interest is the life changing activity of becoming a parent.
Lets start with one of the best questions to ask: Why? Why do we sleep?
Why do we sleep?
How come we need to spend so much time of our lives being completely “unconscious state” and be completely vulnerable? As we spend one-third of our lives sleeping, meaning 25-30 years of our lives! Or if you (like us) are into longevity it means you will sleep 60-80 years of your life. 🙂 Why do we have this design?
Science still have no specific clear reason for our sleep. But as Hansen (2019) suggests, we can be very sure that it must be something extremely important for us. From an evolutionary perspective; since we are in an almost unconscious state, and that must have been absolutely life threatening for our ancestors. We did not do any good for our tribe, and we can not reproduce during this stage. Hansen (2019) claims that one thing we do know happens is “cleaning”. The brain cleans itself in its own weight during a year, this cleaning system is called the “glymphatic system” and was discovered 2012 (https://www.futurity.org/sleep-brain-cleaning-1994692/) , compare it to the body “lymphatic system”. Sleep also has a crucial part of memory consolidation (when moving short term memory to long term memory) also called LTP (Long Term Potentiation). Consolidation takes place mainly in “deep sleep” mentioned below.
Dan Gartenberg phd mentions in an interview that many researchers are subscribing to the theory of: “Synaptic Homeostasis hypothesis” in essence the theory states that the activation of neurons increases during the day. The main function of sleep is to down regulate all the irrelevant connections of these neurons during the day. So the that relevant connections go to “the top” and stay there. REM sleep (mentioned later in this epic post) replays the connections and add the relevant things for your survival and add these new connections to to your personality. To be honest it is a good theory, but for our practical purpose it does not deepen our understanding on how we can improve our sleep. Without exception, every animal that has been studied sleeps (or engages in something extremely similar). Sleep is universal. Sleep allows us to:
- save energy,
- clean toxins from our brain,
- consolidate memories.
- controlling our weight,
- regulate emotions and
- boost our immune system.
Sleep truly improves our waking lives in all areas. If we don’t sleep we will actually die. It might be possible that the earliest organisms spent their entire lives in a resting/sleeping state, and the awake state came later. According to Mathew Walkers excellent book: Why We sleep the question we should ask ourselves is not why we sleep? It’s: why are we awake?
Are there any biological functions that DO NOT benefit from a good night sleep? The answer is: No!
Sleep is the single most effective thing you can do to reset our brain and body’s health each day
Key drivers for sleeping:
- We will die if we don’t sleep.
- It improves everything.
- Do you really need a third reason here? 🙂 Infograph about what happens if you don’t sleep.
I deeply recommend Mathews book
. As we have established a clear why
How much sleep do we need?
Most of us
need between 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night. In Sweden about one third
of the population has sleep problems; about 3 million swedes, and sleep issues the 5th most common reason for swedes visiting the doctor. In USA only about 30% of Americans sleep 6-8h. That means 70 million Americans suffer from sleep deprivation (sleep deprivation is a public health epidemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
. What about those who recommend us to sleep less for “productivity”? Like Robin Sharma
and Arnolds classic line: “Sleep fastah”
For most of us: this tip is completely wrong. But Peter! Isn’t Arnold one of the coolest persons alive? Sure! 🙂 But let’s dig deeper.
What (biological) time is it?
Nearly all living things have biological clocks.These clocks govern a collection of what is is called circadian rhythms. The name comes from: latin circa [around] and diem [day] (meaning “around a day”). These clocks sets and manage the foundation of every creature’s life and our biological rhythms. The science of biological rhythms is called chronobiology. To learn more about the importance of “timing for life” I deeply recommend: Daniel Pink – When: The scientific secrets of perfect timing. As in most cases timing is individual, but this Wikipedia image shows a general timing schedule for a human and some activities related to the internal clocks.
SCN – The master time keeper
For humans the most important biological clock; is the Supra Chiasmatic Nucleus (SCN), it is located in the hypothalamus (the lower center of the brain) directly above the optic chiasm and it is the “master circadian pacemaker”. The name SCN is derived from “Supra, that means “above” and “chiasm” that means crossing point, (“above the crossing point”) and the SCN is actually located above where the eyes cross (see image)
Image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optic_chiasm
- controls the timing of the sleep-wake cycle
- communicates via the hormone melatonin.
- consists of a cluster of 20K cells and it is the size of a rice grain.
- controls the rise and fall of body temperature,
- controls hormones,
- helps us fall asleep at night and
- helps us awake in the morning.
The timer of SCN runs a bit longer than the time it takes Earth to make one rotation (24h and 4 minutes). This means that the SCN gets “out of sync” on a daily basis with earth. Therefore our built-in clock uses social cues (timetables) and environmental signals (sunrise and sunset) to make small adjustments to bring internal/external cycles in sync. In Chronobiology this process is called “entrainment
“. It is important to note that our “internal clocks” is not the same for everyone, and that the “clocks” changes throughout life and they are also determined by genetics.
Whats your chronotype?
The first step for you to take charge of your own internal clockwork is to get to know it!
(Authors note: This is exactly the same reasoning behind the screening system we use in Breathing
, Movement, Productivity
as well. To change something, first we need to be AWARE. )Your own biological is called your: ” chronotype” – this means when your body naturally wants to do various things, and when you can get most “bang for your buck”, from sleeping, to eating, to working out, to having sex. To understand your own chronotype will give you a competitive advantage in life in all areas. Chronotypes is elegantly explained in Michel Breus book – The Power of When: Discover Your Chronotype–and the Best Time to Eat Lunch, Ask for a Raise, Have Sex, Write a Novel, Take Your Meds, and More
You can take a simple test of you Chronotype right now for free on his website https://thepowerofwhenquiz.com/
once done you will get your “chronotype animal”.
Breus has divided the population in 4 different animals: Dolphin, Lion, Bear, and Wolf.
- Dolphins account for 10 percent of the population. Light sleepers.
- Lions account for 15 to 20 percent Early risers
- Bears account for 50 percent. Their cycles matching the rise and fall of the sun.
- Wolves account for 15 to 20 percent. Late sleepers.
The last time I did that test I was a “Bear”. What helped me most is that I got a “second opinion” of when I am most alert: mid-morning into early afternoon. Most productive: late morning. There are other tests you can do. Daniel Pink recommends The Munich ChronoType Questionnaire (MCTQ) was developed by Roenneberg et al. and has been in use since 2000 (Roenneberg et al. 2003, JBR). You can check it out here, but for most of us Breus animals is sufficient.
Remember! your chronotype is partly genetic – determined specifically by the PER3 gene. If you have a long PER3 gene, you need at least seven hours of deep sleep to function, and tend to be an early riser. If you have a short PER3, you can get by on light or little sleep, and you tend to be a late riser.
Maximizing your chronotype
Except knowing that you are just a “night owl” chronotype, you can now start to understand yourself more, planning your day so that you dont set a brain storming meeting in the morning or late afternoon. If you are even more daring, ask your team to share chronotypes- this will make you understand eachother more and maximize meeting and overall be more efficient.
Below are suggestions for a daily schedule for your chronotype. To the left it is a “daily when” for the MCTQ which has 3 chronotypes (Lark, Third Bird and Owl) and for the 4 chronotype animals mentioned above.
Daniel Pink suggests an advanced version of tracking
Track your behavior systematically for a week. Set your phone alarm to beep every 90 minutes. Each time you hear the alarm, answer these 3 questions:
- What am I doing?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how mentally alert do you feel right now?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how physically energetic do you feel right now?
Do this for a week, then tabulate your results. You might see some personal deviations from the broad pattern. Use his PDF as a companion
Why do we have a variation of Chronotypes?
According to Breus: Since the dawn of man, the variation of chronotypes has been necessary for survival. Each chronotype had its purpose and contributed to the larger group’s security. Bio-time had to be diverse for the larger group to stay safe over the long night. Although we don’t stand watch over the cave opening anymore, our genetic structure hasn’t changed all that much since prehistoric times. To quote Peter Diamandis:
“We haven’t got a software or hardware upgrade for the last 2 Million years”.
Walkers research shows
- Early morning type: 40% of population
- Evening person goes to bed late: 30%
- Rest: somewhere in between. This is a bit in contrast to the above chronotypes, but not direct opposite.
The power of when in training:
I am sure that you are into some kind of training regimen like CrossFit, Running, Swimming ? You can note that the power of “when” is important in sports and training as well. For instance an unproportional amount of olympic records has been set in the afternoon or early evening: especially in swimming and running.
Here is an overview of when to train (according to Pink)
- Morning: Loose weight, boost mood, keep your routine, build strength
- Late afternoon or evening: avoid injury, perform your best, enjoy it a bit more..
How much sleep do I need again? It depends…
Now that we know our chronotype and understand the basics of chronobiology we have to ask ourselves: When should I go to bed? And how much sleep do I need? As most things this is individual ,but for a simplistic roadmap how much sleep you should aim for: check out sleep foundations. In general 7-8 hours is golden for most people
(for me I definitely need 7,5-8h for optimal performance). But this also depends as you see on the chart in what stage in life you are, and also on the quality of sleep that you are getting. It is getting clearer and clearer that letting teenagers start school too early in the day is counter productive as their chronotype is naturally during adolescence more into “night-owl” – as you probably remember your parents asking you to go to bed over and over again. They most likely did not understand that staying awake longer then them is very natural and perhaps should even be encouraged. At least we should let them sleep for development and learning. Walker makes a compelling case that this is the next paradigm shift in education. Perhaps thanks to “ed-tech” and other exponentials (like learning by yourself at home in your own time) could speed up this process. The education system is as you know slow and actually “old school”. 🙂
All sleep is not the same. Chasing Delta!
As mentioned above, the amount of sleep is important, but more important is of course the quality of sleep! How can we know and measure quality sleep? Obviously we can “feel” if we are rested or not. Lets keep nerding and we will discuss the practical tips in the end of this amazing article.
We (Humans) sleep in cycles of about 90-120 minutes, and during these cycles the body alternates between two distinct modes:
- REM sleep and
- NREM sleep, which has 3 stages.
Hypnogram ( a graph that represents the stages of sleep as a function of time) of sleep stages
stands for “Rapid Eye Movement”, and it got its name because of the random and rapid movement of the eyes, coupled with low muscle tone throughout the body during this phase. During REM sleep we are more likely to dream vividly. [This phase is also known as paradoxical sleep (PS), because of physiological similarities to waking states, including rapid, low-voltage desynchronized brain waves – lets come back to brain waves further along.]
stands for Non Rapid Eye Movement. In these stages eyes usually don’t move, and dreaming is rare, and the muscles are not paralyzed. Like the movie inception, if you dont go trough the stages correctly you might get stuck in NREM sleep, and because muscles are not paralyzed, you might sleepwalk. The stages of NREM:
- NREM Stage 1 – (theta waves, 4–8 Hz): mostly in the beginning of sleep, with slow eye movement. Alpha waves disappear and the theta wave appears. People aroused from this stage often believe that they have been fully awake. During the transition into stage-1 sleep, it is common to experience hypnic jerks. Duration: about 10 minutes.
- NREM Stage 2 – (sleep spindles, 11–16 Hz) no eye movement, dreaming is very rare. The sleeper is easily awakened. Getting enough stage two sleep improves motor skills. EEG (Electroencephalography) recordings tend to show characteristic “sleep spindles” (see image) , which are short bursts of high frequency brain activity, and “K-complexes” which is the “mount everest” of a healthy EEG, meaning it is the largest event in a healthy human EEG during this stage. Duration: 20 to 30 minutes.
- The functions of sleep spindles and K-complexes are still unclear. Sleep spindles is believed they are actively involved in memory consolidation. The density of spindles has been shown to increase after extensive learning memory tasks.
- For K-Complexes science believes it to have 2 functions:
- First, suppressing cortical arousal in response to stimuli that the sleeping brain evaluates not to signal danger, and
- second, aiding sleep-based memory consolidation just as sleep spindles
- NREM Stage 3 – (delta waves, 0–8 Hz) aka Deep Sleep or slow-wave sleep (SWS). Delta waves occur here . Muscles are completely relaxed, and the pulse, body temperature and blood pressure have decreased. Production of human growth hormone (HGH) begins, and the regenerative mechanisms of the body are activated. Pulse, blood pressure and body temperature are at their lowest. If you have an Oura ring this could be good to know. Dreaming is more common in this stage than in other stages of NREM sleep though not as common as in REM sleep. It’s hard to wake from deep sleep
- Other benefits of deep sleep include:
- energy restoration
- cell regeneration
- increasing blood supply to muscles
- promoting growth and repair of tissues and bones
- strengthening the immune system
- Duration: 30 to 40 minutes. Elderly people experience a shorter duration, by as much as six minutes.
Surfing on Brainwaves (Neural oscillations)
We have mentioned brainwaves several times in the above chapter about NREM stages. But what are they? Brain waves are produced by the electrical pulses from the neurons in our brain communicating with each other. These brainwaves can be compared with musical notes. Our brainwaves change to adapt to what we’re doing and feeling. When slower brainwaves are dominant we feel tired, slow, sluggish, or dreamy. The higher frequencies are dominant when we feel wired, or hyper-alert! Also interesting to compare brainwaves with the cadence of running where we know in general that higher cadence will generally be better up to 170-190 need to get MTE (Muscle Tendon Elasticity).
Brainwave speed is measured in Hertz (cycles per second) and they are divided into bands representing slow, moderate, and fast waves.
- Infra-Low Frequency (<0.5Hz) (ILF),
- are thought to be the basic cortical (outer) rythms that underlie our higher brain functions. Very little is known about infra-low brainwaves.
- Delta Waves (0.5-3 Hz)
Delta Waves, the slowest but loudest brainwaves (low frequency and deeply penetrating, like a drum beat). They are generated in deepest meditation and dreamless sleep. Delta waves suspend external awareness and are the source of empathy. Healing and regeneration are stimulated in this state, and that is why deep restorative sleep is so essential to the healing process.
- Theta Waves (3 -8 Hz)
Theta brainwaves, occur in sleep and are also dominant in deep meditation. Theta is our gateway to learning, memory, and intuition. In theta, our senses are withdrawn from the external world and focused on signals originating from within.
- Alpha Waves (8 to 12 Hz)
Alpha brainwaves occur during quietly flowing thoughts, but not quite meditation.Alpha brainwaves are dominant during quietly flowing thoughts, and in some meditative states. Alpha is ‘the power of now’, being here, in the present. Alpha is the resting state for the brain. Alpha waves aid overall mental coordination, calmness, alertness, mind/body integration and learning.
- Beta Waves (12 to 38 Hz) awake.
Beta brainwaves are present in our normal waking state of consciousness.Beta brainwaves dominate our normal waking state of consciousness when attention is directed towards cognitive tasks and the outside world. Beta is a ‘fast’ activity, present when we are alert, attentive, engaged in problem solving, judgment, decision making, or focused mental activity.(Beta brainwaves are further divided into three bands)
- Gamma Waves (38 to 42 Hz) Gamma brainwaves are the fastest of brain waves and relate to simultaneous processing of information from different brain areas (high frequency, like a flute). Gamma brainwaves pass information rapidly and quietly. The most subtle of the brainwave frequencies, the mind has to be quiet to access gamma.
Why do we sleep poorly?
Alright – now we know a lot about sleep. Walker (referenced above) suggests top 5 of why we are sleeping poorly.
- Constant electric light as well as LED light
- Regularized temperature
- A legacy of punching time cards
When daylight dissappears it informs SCN that nighttime now has begun (“shutdown -s” as you write commandline on your windows machine) , and that it is now time to release the brake from the pineal gland, unleashing melatonin, which in turn signals the brain and body that it is now dark, and therefore its time to sleep. Electric light has put an end to this “natural” order of sleeping at dusk. All kinds of light (even the smallest light or minimal lux) will fool your SCN that the sun has not set yet. Normally in hunter gatherer times we slept between 20.00 to 22.00 (8-10 pm). Do you really mean that a small bedside lamp could influence my SCN? For sure! Even a small hint of dim light (8 to 10 lux) has been shown to delay the release of nighttime melatonin in humans.As Walker states humans invented: blue light emittingdiodes, or blue LEDs in 1997 that made our sleep situation far worse. The 3 guys who did it ( Shuji Nakamura, Isamu Akasaki, and Hiroshi Amano) won the Nobel Prize in physics in 2014. Blue LEDlights are far more superior over incandescent lamps in terms of lower energy, and longer life spans. But they have a negative effect on our lives. Walker explains that the light receptors in the eye that communicate “daytime” to the SCN are most sensitive to short-wavelength light in this blue spectrum—the exact same wavelength that blue LEDs are most powerful.
This means that blue LED light has twice the harmful impact on nighttime melatonin suppression than the warm, yellow light from old incandescent bulbs, even when their lux intensities are matched.Of course, few of us stare right into the a LED lamp each evening! 🙂
But many of us do stare at LED-powered laptop screens, smartphones, and tablets each night, often with the device just cm from our retinas. It has a very real impact on your melatonin release, and thus ability to time the onset of sleep. Except the solution of removing screens and light from bedroom a compromise is listed below: “blue blocking glasses”.
What is blue light?
When I mention “blue light” above. The actual color of the light is not “blue”. The reason as to why it is called blue is due to the electromagnetic spectrum. Light is as most of you probably know: actually energy and has different wavelengths. What is visible light and invisible is actually due to that evolution created our eyes to “see” certain wavelengths. Wavelengths of light is measured in nanometers (nm) . What we humans can see is generally called: “white light” or sunlight.
Image from: https://www.allaboutvision.com/cvs/blue-light.htm
Without getting into physics, there is an relationship between the wavelength of light rays and the energy they contain. Light rays that have relatively long wavelengths contain less energy, and those with short wavelengths have more energy. Rays on the red end of the visible light spectrum have longer wavelengths and, therefore, less energy. Rays on the blue end of the spectrum have shorter wavelengths and more energy. Specific wavelength of light: 450-480 nm is where the blue light spectra is. There are cells in eye: melanopsin cells that react very distinctive to that wavelength sending signals to brain: turn off melatonin.
Staying on this topic, there might be a link to obesity, and diabetes ackording to Jack Kruse (world famous Neuro surgeon https://jackkruse.com/)
But Jack is not alone in this. The field is called “photobiology” and is all about how: Light can affect your health? You can read in depth intervie with Dr. Alexander Wunsch, a world-class expert on photobiology here: https://wakeup-world.com/2017/03/01/how-led-lighting-may-compromise-your-health/
To fall asleep your core temperature needs to decrease by about 1C (2-3F), therefore it is always easier to fall asleep in a room that is too cold, than too hot. Turns out that environmental light and temperatur work synergistically (even though they are independent) to dictate nightly melatonin levels to SCN. Body is active in the “cool down show”. And one way that body cools down are using the surface of the skin. Mainly by three parts:
- your hands,
- your feet, and
- your head.
All three areas are rich in crisscrossing blood vessels. Like the activity of hanging clothes over a drying line, the mass of vessels in these places will allow blood to be spread across a large surface area of skin and that area will be in contact with air. Warm hands and feet help the body to cool down. As walker states; it is no evolutionary coincidence that humans have developed the pre-bed ritual of splashing water on one of the most vascular parts of our bodies—our face, using one of the other highly vascular surfaces—our hands. If we need to dump heat from our extremities, is also the reason that you occasionally stick your hands and feet out from underneath the cover when you sleep. Your core is becoming too hot. If you have kids, you’ve probably seen the same phenomenon late at night: arms and legs all over the place! So what is a good temp in bedroom? 18.3°C (or 65F) is ideal for most people.
Another tip at this stage: Try not to exercise before bed. Your body: s temperature can remain high for 1 to 2 hours after exercise. Meaning that your body will be “to hot” to go to sleep directly after exercise.
Be aware of when you drink coffee! When you wake up, your body boost you with cortisol. Coffee on top of cortisol, could make you “jittery” Wait about 90 minutes for your first cup of coffee. Read my truly amazing post on coffee
for deeper understanding of coffee.
Hypnogram of alcohol induced sleep. I
Alcohol is one of the most powerful represents of REM-sleep! Research has showed that Alcohol exists in Breast milk (contrary to popular belief even in Sweden) (note reference below). Alcohol also affect milk yield 20-30 %. And for the infants in the study the babies had less REM Sleep with alcohol in the breast milk. Alcohol sedates the pre-frontal cortex (PFC). PFC helps control our impulses. This makes us loosen up. After some time alcohol will starts to sedate you. When you sleep with alcohol in your body it’s a light form of anesthesia. Alcohol fragments your sleep. And in when sleeping with alcohol the sleep is not restorative.
A legacy of punching time cards
What Walker means here is that our current culture (heavily influenced by the industrial age), has a legacy that you should be at work or in school at a certain time regardless of your chronotype, age and goals in life. This is suboptimal for a majority of people, depending also of course on the season and geographic placement and actual workload. As more and more people are becoming “knowledge workers” the standard “9-5” is slowly moving away and what counts is results, not specifically at what time you are “punching in” at your job. How to be productive but maintain balance and life a fulfilled life is described in detail at our Mastery Course: Focused Productivity. Available both online and as Workshops.. Read more: flawd.se/productivity
This list is not all encompassing or too extensive. As I constantly try new things as I get new information. Instead see this list as a bit of inspiration to test some new things. And instead implement the timeless principles below. Some of the best sleep hacks I have discovered so far.
Oura Ring 4/5
Oura ring is a gadget that measures sleep. It is a biohacking gadget that gives you metrics. Compared to its price it gives you what you need to become aware and start improving sleep. You don’t need it, so send some money to me instead and save the environment. For me it has helped to become even more aware of my sleep and I can see correlation that verify certain assumptions. Alternative to Oura can be Whoop, but I have not tried that one yet. This can be done on a high level with mobile app. See below
Blue Blockers 5/5
This is so far one of my best sleep hack ever. Blocking out blue light from gadgets/screens used after sunset, and sometimes even when watching movies/netflix. Also if you go into a store after dark, where them. Recommended brand: TrueDark.
No Technology 5/5
Technology is awesome. But for sleep it does not help. Not only blue light, but also the “dopamine hits” iit facilitates with Social Media, and other information that hits your brain. Also the notion to be “available”, and even if you read on your tablet, you still have an app in the background where you know you have your work email and other commitments. Perhaps you even have notifications ON? This means that you have to use “willpower” to not check it. This will drain your precious willpower that you need for other positive habit building.
If you suspect technology is not helping you. Do what Arianna Huffington suggest in her book “Sleep Revolution”. Leave technology out of the bedroom. I challenge you do do this for a week.
AirPlane Mode 5/5
Contrary to No Technology tip. I realise that some of you will not have the courage to remove technology, perhaps you need the alarm on your phone? In this case: set the phone in airplane mode. So you avoid any new stimuli if you have to look at the screen after going to bed.
Wake Up Light 4/5
Invest in an “old school” alarm clock if needed. Or even better: Wake up gradually with light. Recommended product: Philips Wake Up Light:
Earthing Sheets 4/5
Read the book: Earthing. There are some minor science backing the theory up. Try it. I felt a huge difference first 2 weeks. What is it you ask: as with electricity, you must have a “earth” as a positive force. And this theory claims similar with your body, that it gets to negative and must find balance either via walking barefoot on grass, sand or rock, or you can do it while sleeping/working/watching tv. So you need a wire and a rod. Only downside is that during thunder you MUST remove it. There is a small chance that lightning will find its way to your sheet. Otherwise completely harmless.
Bamboo Sheets 5/5
Game changer! We bought bamboo sheets during research of sleep, and it was an immediate effect. Bamboo is a “living” material, which means when you are cold it gets warm and vice verca. Have used it for a year and now it is time to get new sheets. Cannot recommend this enough. Brands: we bought something cheap noname. Brands I have been watching: Ettitude but there is a difference in the Nordic/Swedish design of quilts and sheets. Let me know if you have any tips on nordic/european brands.
Cold exposure 4/5
Get an idea: read science behind cold. As written above core temperature goes down about 1C during sleep. I prefer cold showers in the morning, but if I for some reason are too hot while lying in the bed a cold shower for 1-5min will definately make me want to get under the covers and it feels psychologically better. Otherwise mild cold exposure by just going outside
Raw honey 3/5
Brain needs energy as it “cleans” during the sleeping. It needs energy, so having a little extra sugar before bed can actually help your brain function better at night. According to BulletProof: Raw honey taken without protein will raise blood glucose while you sleep too. Take 1-2 teaspoons of raw honey before bed. (take it with MCT oil to stay in fat burning mode.) Read more
Gut smash 5/5
I first learned this from Shawn Stevenson book: Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep. To massage your gut, and diaphragm preferably using Jill Millers: courageous ball (as we also use in our Breathing workshops for massaging the diaphragm) More specifics read this article: https://www.tuneupfitness.com/blog/2016/04/22/roll-away-autoimmune-inflammation The benefits stretches (notice my ninja writing skills there?? 🙂 ) over not just sleep improvement, but breathing, lymphatic system, stress management, boosting immune system. This is one reason we use this specific ball and this specific technique during Focused Breathing workshop. to learn more how to do it.
Aroma therapy 2/5 (Lavendel)
Have tested using lavendel and ultrasonic device coupled with water. Did not notice an extreme effect, except it smelled nice. Let me know if you have tried it. Lavendel could also be used with one drop on your feet.
Read more on our breathing site. But breathing cannot be overstated. Fixing your breathing will make you sleep deeper (Deep sleep), which inturn will make your brain more effecient, you will snore less, even improve your mouth health and on an on. Some specific tips: if you wake up in the middle of the night use: left nostril in, right nostril out (stimulates the parasympatic nervous system PNS). Other sleep tips regarding breathing: tape your mouth. This will “force” you to breathe with your nose even while sleeping, which is the core principle of breathing correctly and it will also get you in deeper more relaxed sleep.
Tried this in 2013 and onward.
Nasal Saline Irregation (Nose Rinse + coupled with Nose Breathing) 5/5
As you know by now, nosebreathing is most optimal for sleep. To do a rinse of your nostrils before sleeping is a superhack. Try it! Tip: boil the water first (to remove bacteria), let it cool down to 37-38C (body temp), add a pinch of himalaya salt and rinse your nose. Always add salt for nasal irregation, because normal watere irritates the mucous membrane (slemhinnan) and is often experienced as uncomfortable.Nasal irregation can flush away mucus and viruses, decrease inflammation of the nasal lining, and help stop some of the coughing thats caused by postnasal drip. You could also add bicarbonate of soda, Anders Olssons Tip: https://www.medvetenandning.se/artiklar/hur-du-frigor-en-tappt-nasa/
Some people prefer a drip, me personally have been using a Noserinse product called Nasaline: https://www.apotea.se/nasaline-nasskoljare and this particular product is: developed in Sweden patented in 20 countries and registered meditech product class I (CE).
Acupressure Mat 4/5
Acupressure also known as “spike mat” in the nordics. I really like this, and if memory serves right the hyarolonic acid in the cells are stimulated but the pressure, and as you probably remember, first you are tense, and think you are going to die, but after a while your muscles are relaxed and you can stay on the “spikes” for a long time. Acupressure is the practice of applying pressure to specific points on the body to treat a range of conditions, like insomnia and anxiety. Acupressure mats engage the nervous system, which triggers a flood of feel-good hormones and increases blood circulation. Try it 30 min before you go to bed. Read more on: https://blog.bulletproof.com/acupressure-mat-sleep/ and some of the science https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3559075/
IMT – L-E Uneståhl 5/5
Integrated Mental Training by Lars-Eric Unesthål. A true legend in Mental training. And I deeply recommend if you have any issues or just want to improve your sleep with his training programs. One that I personally have been using on and of is “sleep training” and I just press play and follow along with the guided steps – first one being to “physically relax” – and one general tip there is: hold your breath, and tense all your muscles maximum for about 5 seconds, exhale deeply and long, and feel your body becoming heavier, deeper against the ground. This protocol can be done either full body, or one muscle at a time. Same approach is also given in alot of other mental+physical strategies to relax. Namely to tense maximum to really “feel” the actual difference between tension and relaxation. Listen to the podcast (swedish) above to get a grasp of the concept.
Liquid magnesium 3/5
Learned this trick from Shawns book. Have been testing it – it is a good tool to have in your mobility toolbox, for instance cramp in backside leg. But Shawn suggest to spray on your chest and in your “problem areas”
SleepCycle app (for tracking) 4/5
I have been using SleepCycle for years and it listens to you and give some insights of how deep you slept and if you snore or not. After getting Oura ring, this app is now for me redundant, and I also want to remove screens from sleeping area. But if I have phone with me in bedroom I use this app, and it is probably the biggest bang for the buck in forms of sleep tracking. When writing this I have tracked 1432 nights using this app. And the correlations from other actitities and or/tracking is (to me) super interesting.
Magnesium (supplement) 3/5
This is almost as important a supplement as vitamin D, and almost as under appreciated. Magnesium is used in over 300 enzymatic processes, including all of those involved in ATP production. Magnesium deficiency is a serious problem.
Symptoms include heart arrhythmias, tachycardia, headaches, muscle cramps, nausea, metabolic syndrome, migraines, and pretty much everything else you don’t want. Due to soil depletion and poor farming practices, it’s almost impossible to get enough magnesium from your diet. Without a doubt – everyone should supplement with magnesium. Dr. Seeling, an internationally recognized magnesium specialist, recommends that athletes in training obtain at least 6-10mg/kg/day of magnesium to help replace the losses from exertion, sweating and stress. Some experts even suggest that athletes competing in high-intensity sports have a 10-15% increased requirement for magnesium. For a 190lb man: 510-855mg/day
For a 150lb woman: 408-680mg/day
CBD oil 2/5
CBD stands for CannaBiDiol and it is legal (at least in Sweden) and it does not get you high. CBD does come from the actual marijuana plant but does not contain the psychoactive euphoric properties that Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) contains. When you take CBD by ingesting it there is a network in your body that is called endocannabinoid system (ECS). Some claim that the ECS to be the one of the greatest neurotransmitters in our body. (Endo means: internal). CBD is very beneficial to our body’s system of creating it’s optimum energy balance system. There are so much research on CBD that it is redoncolous (yes I made that word up..) Some effects of CBD have been linked pain regulation, adenosine which helps our circadian rhythm, and serotonin levels which influence our stress and mood. When you start to research CBD you will notice that it is a jungle of products. I have so far only tried one product and I did not notice any huge benefits. But let me know what you are using
For me as a lover of mobility/movement getting the mix of mindfullness, and full ROM (Range Of Motion) before sleep is simply great. I currently use ROMWOD, which mainly programs “yin yoga”, which inturn means a “long” time in the actual end range of the position, completely passive. As with all tips and recommendations in this article: this is not for everyone, but for me this works in several layers. 1. Habit building – press play and go. 2. Mobility is worked on regardless of lifes other challanges. 3. mental aspect of cooling down, if I am not present the routine is harder. 4. Test of precscence: if I fiddle with my phone or for some other reason are restless and/or stressed: I get the feedback of this on a daily basis. 5. Flow state: Done with a partner or in class you get an even deeper state of “group flow” read more in my article on flow
The right to darkness 5/5
The leading circadian rhythm researcher and sleep expert Dr. Satchin Panda makes a great statement on BulletProof podcast: Better Sleep Month Part 4 – Rest, Reset, and Rejuvenate Your (Circadian) Rhythm – #595 where he states that we should have a
right to darkness
Which seems to be deeply forgotten, look around you – how many artificiall sources of lights do you have over you right now? But perhaps more importantly for this topic: how much light do you have in your beedroom? If you are nerdy, try Satchins app to measure the actual lux. Called: MyLuxrecorder (iOS)
“Blink 182” ??
Some people claim that this hack works. Blink with your eyes quickly and intensely during 1 to 2 minutes without rest. This potentially tires the eye muscles around the eyes and helps some people to fall asleep
Timeless Sleep principles
Below are principles that will help you for the rest of your life to improve your sleep.
- Make sleep a priority. Walker mentions: “Fall in love with sleep”. If sleep is something that happens once everything else is done, you, your health and performance will suffer. Read this article again and re-prioritize
- Make time for sleep. Marcus Filly, Revival Strength Owner & 6-Time CrossFit Games Competitor, mentions on Whoop podcast #20 that after getting a baby he still plan his time so that he is in bed to make it possible for him to get the sleep he needs. As a father myself I validate this suggestion, your baby will be random and hard to predict, plan for interruptions, and revisit principle 1 if you are unsure.
- Kaizen – this is a principle in life and in all our diciplines at FLAWD (breathing,movement,mobility, productivity), it means continous improvement – always and forever. With a relentless passion to improve. Best way to improve? know where you are now, and where you want to go. How? Measure. As Management Guru Peter Drucker said: Whats is measured can be improved.
- Measure (Metrics/Triangulation) – Measure your sleep. It does not have to be a fancy awesome magic ring like Oura. It can simply be (in particular if you are a man) your sex drive in the morning. It can be your BOLT score (read breathing post), it can be a subjective metric, like how you are “feeling”. Consistency with the metric and test/retest is key here.
Last Sleep tips
- Stick to a sleep schedule: Matthew emphasizes this is the #1 priority from the list; stick to a regular sleep schedule.
- Don’t exercise too late
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol
- Avoid large meals and beverages late at night
- Where possible, avoid medicines that delay or disrupt your sleep
- Don’t nap after 1500 (3pm)
- Make sure to leave time to relax before bed – see IMT for instance above or Yoga.
- . Take a hot bath before bed – The drop in body temperature after a bath may help you to feel sleepy, and the bath can help you to slow down and relax before bed.
- Have a really dark, cool (in temperature), gadget free bedroom
- Get the right sunlight exposure: Sun exposure during the day helps us to regulate sleeping patterns. Try to get outside in the natural sunlight for at least 30 minutes per day.
- Don’t stay in bed if you (really) can’t sleep – tops 20 min. Then do something els.
I loved this article! I want to improve my sleep. Now What?
Now that you know so much about sleep and have been given so much tips and trick, whar are you going to do about it? Your life consists of 25000 days. Lets level up! Why not start with sleep? Let me know what you thought about this article and how you are sleeping!
Scott Carney – What Doesn’t Kill Us
Anders Hansen – Skärmhjärnan 2019