Sleep has been difficult for me for as long as I can remember. Not really ever telling anyone, my insomnia went largely unaddressed until college when I took matters into my own hands (unsuccessfully at first) to diagnose and solve my own sleep issues.
What Didn’t Work
Initially, I tried common sleep supplements, but found that they were either ineffective or significantly reduced the quality of my sleep. I didn’t need “knock out pills” I needed to fix the biological cause of my insomnia.
Not giving up hope, I started to dig deeper, past the surface level WebMD articles and into a more esoteric part of the internet in search of solutions. What did I find there?
I found some really interesting (yet eyebrow raising) content on sleep and health in general, from people like Ben Greenfield, Dr. Andrew Weil, and Dave Asprey. Through these “gurus” I got a much deeper look into the factors that facilitate healthy sleep and greatly broadened my toolkit to cure my own insomnia.
What Did I Learn?
There are many factors in cultivating a healthy sleep life, and I still have only scratched the surface. But I do want to share some of the most impactful things I learned, what has helped me, and particularly the things that widely talked about.
#1 Hacking Light
Cutting out blue light at night has been critical for improving my sleep. I religiously wear my Ra Optics every night starting at 8pm (See my review of Ra Optics Popp here) But using light to improve your sleep is far more than just wearing blue light blocking glasses…
Getting sunlight in the morning and wearing sunglasses less (yes, you read that right) also have helped me sleep better by using resetting my circadian rhythm.
Also, making my room pitch black at night, (or wearing a sleep mask) has measurably improved my sleep as well. This sleep mask is great for when you don’t have total control over the light in your sleeping quarters, such as when sleeping at a hotel.
#2 Having A Consistent Evening Routine
Having a consistent evening routine, has had perhaps the most profound effect in sleeping better. After reading a blog article by Dr Andrew Weil I started to implement an evening routine, measurably improving my sleep. A consistent evening routine works by programing your brain to prepare for sleep. It is essentially a signal to the brain (in a pavlovian sense) that signals that it’s time for sleep!
This could be reading, a certain stretch routine, a shower, or period of breathe work you do every night before bed. What you do isn’t as important, as the routine is simply meant as a trigger to your brain to start releasing chemicals associated with sleep time.
#3 Get Temperature Right
Sleeping in a cool environment is an important part of sleep.
Although it varies by the individual, most experts recommend keeping your bedroom somewhere between 60 to 67 degrees farebeat for optimum sleep. Temperature is important because a reduction in core body temperature is a circadian signal that “it’s time to go to sleep.”
Blasting the A/C isn’t the only way to accomplish this however, devices like the chili pad or even wearing wool socks work to keep your core temperature cool. (wool socks work allowing your core to stay cool by keeping your extremities warm)
Not eating before bed has been another important part of improving sleep, I put this under temperature because eating before bed disrupts sleep by keeping your core temperature warm as your body digests the food you just ate.
More Sleep Hacks
Other things that have improved my sleep that might (or might not) be obvious is:
- Natural sleep supplements
- Reduced EMF Exposure (Putting your phone on airplane mode or even unplugging wi-fi router if you are hard core)
- Reducing caffeine
- Exercising more (of course sleeping is easier when you are physically worn out!)
- And just simply reading before bed.
It’s been somewhat of a journey, and although I am still working to improve my sleep I’m proud to say I sleep quite well now. I’ve learned what works for me, and have greatly benefited from looking to the less mainstream sources of information in order to get help.
Great tips you have here! Like you I have battled insomnia my whole life. It is a nightly struggle to get my brain to shut down. Truth is, I’m a night owl and I love to stay up when everyone is asleep. It’s so peaceful and I’m mentally sharpest at night. Sometimes though, I have to get up early and that’s when the troubles begin! Sleep well amigo!
Thanks! I think some people are just wired that way, and are the most productive at night. (The “wolf” sleep type) Slowly, workplaces are adapting to the fact that not everyone functions best keeping early hours.
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The other day I actually read an article online somewhere that talked how it was actually beneficial for our ancestors to be night owls. Those members of the tribe kept a watch at night which would prove to be advantageous in a evolutionary sense, as in such behavior kept the tribe safe. To pass the time, such individuals prone to being awake at night tended to be more creative because they had to use their imaginations to pass the time. I like to think of my ancestors being sentinels ready to sound the alarm.
Whether this theory is true or not, it makes sense. All I know is that I’m happiest when I don’t have to fight my natural sleep instincts. If I’m going fishing the next morning however, some tips and tricks like you describe in your post really come in handy however!