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 rest can turn you into an emotionally unstable zombie and instead of craving brains you’ll reach for sugary treats and comfort food to satiate you.
Take into consideration that the key hunger hormone Ghrelin ramps up from insufficient sleep and your brain is left with 14% less glucose and you’ll see that you can easily become the puppet to your own biology and instincts.
Wish your self control goodbye.
Skimping on quality sleep can also lower your IQ making you as cognitively capable as someone that went binge drinking for a few nights.
And to make matters even worse 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.
Sleep is the keystone habit that elevates everything else you do.
Let’s jump into just a few of the insanely helpful strategies to reclaim what you lack when proper shuteye is not made a priority.
💤Sleep Enhancer 1: Avoid The Light
Your phone, your computer and the TV emit a near invisible hue of a spectrum of light collectively known as “blue light”.
If you were walking down a sidewalk at night and watching cars whiz by you would notice an eerie blue glow emanating from inside the car that’s strikingly similar to 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.
The sun’s primary wavelength of light is also in the blue light spectrum and even the bright light’s from the supermarket, drugstores and your dinky night light (if you still use of those) will trick your body into literally thinking it’s daylight all night long as melatonin is zapped from your brain.
Warning! Every 30 minutes exposing yourself to this harmful blue light prevents melatonin from being released for the next hour! At least 1,000 LUX.
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 (the bodies master clock) to start the internal circadian cycle.
This cycle under normal circumstances tells the body when to release cortisol and melatonin AND governs the regulation of hormones, appetite control, digestion, and much more.
A note on cortisol: yes it’s a stress chemical but it’s not always the baddie it’s painted to be. Cortisol is meant to be released in the morning as the sun rises to kick start your body and get you moving and groovin. It’s the reason why you are so alert as you begin the day. Cortisol at night however can halt the potential for adequate sleep.
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 with actual pages. Nothing too stimulating. 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 for this 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 without suffering sleep wrecking melatonin depletion. Fyi the more darker the amber tint the better they are at stopping junk light from reaching your retina. Great options are Swannies or Twilight.
💤Sleep Enhancer 2 : End The Binging
Consume your last major meal 2-3 hours before you go to sleep.
Digestion is a VERY energy-intensive process and your gut has to work double-time to break down 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 as it can potentially cause acid reflux and bottom line it’s just not the optimal position for your stomach to be in when it comes to digestion.
The process of digestion is parasympathetic in nature so the body needs to be relaxed to a degree.
On the other hand some light movements that turn on the core such as a mini yoga session can help to speed up the process.
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 single tissue.
This essential mineral can ease muscle tension and without enough magnesium your cells can’t make adequate energy.
Magnesium also keeps organs like your heart (the most magnesium dependent organ) working like a race horse..
Here’s a few ways to eat properly to improve sleep quality.
- Do your best to avoid eating any enormous meals that are heavy with oils,dairy or meat. This can sit in your stomach like a rock and it takes many hours for your intestine to chop it up. Protein is the hardest for your body to break down.
- Realize 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 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, walnuts and asparagus also have a decent amount.
- 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 milligrams of magnesium in a one-ounce serving.
- 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.
💤Sleep Enhancer 3 : Go Dark
Your room should be a “sanctuary” devoted to two things.
Hint : they both start with S.
Your sanctuary must be peaceful and welcoming.
No random items on shelves or dirty laundry covering the floor. I often preach about minimalism and your sleep environment is no exception. You don’t want anything in your periphery over stimulating the brain when it’s time to shut down.
Above all though your room should be devoid of any light.
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 may have street lamps shining light into your home or the every so often 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 re-activates your SCN signaling to your brain that it’s daytime when it’s clearly not the case.
To further complications 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 thanks to the creation of human growth hormone (HGH)
So no gains from all that lifting bro!
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. Measure out your windows and pick the size that works for you. Just search amazon for blackout curtains.
- 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. A great option for this is 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, great job!
💤Sleep Enhancer 4 : Be Cool My Friend
Temperature plays a HUGE part in the quality of your sleep. If it’s too hot under your sheets you could overheat which causes you 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?
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 the process of 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.
💤Sleep Enhancer 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 all that important knowledge you gleamed throughout the day swimming around in your brain that will likely disappear in a few hours anyway.
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 you can shut down the system without undesirable process’s running in the background.
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. Get it all down on paper and OUT of your brain so you can organize, prioritize and deal with it tomorrow.
💤Sleep Enhancer 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.
By itself it’s powerful as a performance enhancer for those times when you need to be alert and in the zone. I’m drinking some myself as I type this sentence.
But most people abuse caffeine and drink it too late in the day or even every day which is no bueno.
Caffeine itself has a half-life of around 6-8 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.
Warning! 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.
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 remarkably similar chemical shape to adenosine.
It takes around 20 minutes after consumption for caffeine to affect 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 no set place to chill 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 adrenaline and dopamine thanks to the caffeine and that it should instead be calming down to prepare for rest.
This is why you CRASH so freaking HARD when caffeine wears off and adenosine takes its rightful throne back. Your brain realizes that it’s been tricked into thinking you should be up when you should be coming down.
So use caffeine smartly and time your consumption.
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.
💤Sleep Enhancer 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 thereby 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 the concepts for a brilliant invention.
I’m talking about Edison, Aristotle, Einstein and even Salvador Dali.
You know Salvador, 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.
At his feet 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 him up.
Edison’s nap-time routine comprised of him propping his one hand on his elbow.
Ina similar manner to Dali Edison clenched a pair of ball-bearings in his fists that would fall to the floor as he drifted off immediately waking him.
Edison also purportedly HATED sleeping a long time and often proclaimed that sleep was completely unnecessary. Not a great role model when it comes to your health.
If a nap sounds boring why not call it a Controlled Recovery Period (CRP)
That’s a term that Nick Littlehales, a sleep coach and author of the aptly named book Sleep uses with the elite athletes (think Cristiano Ronaldo) he trains and optimizes for peak excellence on and off the field of play.
In the 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.
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, your mind is in a haze in the twilight between two realms of consciousness.
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 grogginess do this:
- Splash some cold water on your face shortly after waking to stimulate your nervous system.
- Do not nap over 30 minutes past 5-7 pm because it will throw off your ability to get nourishing sleep.
- Take a quick dose of caffeine (expresso shot or similar) before a 30 minute crp/nap so it works when you wake up. This takes advantage of 20 minute window before caffeine works it’s magic. You want to slurp it up in one go like a shot of tequila and then let go into the nap.
- Apps like Brain.fm, Sleepstream, and Endel have specific sounds designed to help your brain slip out of wakefulness. In Brain .m you would choose the “relax” setting. Endel has a “power nap” setting that does an excellent job.
Nick Littlehales 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.
💤Sleep Enhancer 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. Your motor skills are enhanced, heart rate slows and body temp drops.
- You spend the longest time here.
- This stage is when memory consolidation occurs aka when your short-term memories from the day are stored in your long-term memory. Your motor skills are enhanced, heart rate slows and body temp drops.
- 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.
Here’s some examples of sleep cycle time-frames.
- Sleep by 9:30 wake up at 5 (7 ½ hrs/5 cycles)
- Sleep by 8 pm wake up at 5 (9 hrs/6 cycles)
Harnessing sleep cycles instead of just sleeping for a straight 8 hours is something many people aren’t accustomed to but go ahead and try it out and see how you feel afterwards.
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 true quality sleep.
It’s super interesting and worth mentioning that notable Swedish peak performance researcher K. Anders Ericsson (RIP) 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!
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.
💤Sleep Enhancer 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.
Nick Littlehales suggests we stop 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 a great idea (or remotely comfortable) as it 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. See image below.
According to him 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 bunch up into a ball either. Just bend your knees slightly and rest your hands on the side next to your head palms lightly on top of each other.
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.
This will possibly be updated with more tips overtime.
You can combine the tips in this post with what I share here to really conquer your day after receiving phenomenal sleep!
If you have a friend that has a heck of a time getting truly quality sleep share these tips with them and help them out!