How to Sleep Better: Science-Backed Sleep Hacks to Wake Up Ready to Go
By: Alison Moodie
- America has a sleep issue. At least half of all Americans say they suffer from insomnia, and nearly 9 million are using prescription sleep medication.
- But those sleeping pills that seem to work so well come with a laundry list of side effects and they mask the underlying issue for why you can’t sleep in the first place.
- Research shows it’s not the number of hours of sleep you get that matters the most – it’s the quality of the hours you are getting.
- High-quality, restorative sleep carries a number of benefits. It improves brain function, aids in muscle recovery, boosts longevity, balances your hormones, protects your heart, and fights fat.
- Science-backed sleep hacks include figuring out your sleep chronotype, blocking out junk light, filling up on the right fats, using wearable sleep devices, changing your sleep position, meditating, and taking certain supplements.
- Are you ready to take your sleep to the next level? Try the Bulletproof 30-Day Sleep Challenge. After the 30 days are up, you’ll feel happier, stronger, and more alert.
One of the most common sleep hacks is sleeping pills, but they come with a laundry list of side effects. Even worse? They mask the underlying issue for why you can’t sleep in the first place and stop working the second you stop taking them.
Getting good sleep is both an art and a science – yet the overwhelming majority of people have trouble sleeping, even those who have mastered every other aspect of their lives. Even if you had time to sleep an entire eight hours a night, would it be optimal, uninterrupted sleep? Would you wake up feeling 100 percent refreshed?
Are you ready to start sleeping better? Read on to find out why sleep matters, how much sleep you really need, and science-backed sleep hacks to improve your sleep. As Bulletproof Founder Dave Asprey writes in his new book “Game Changers: What Leaders, Innovators, and Mavericks Do to Win at Life”, “sleep quality drives happiness, and as we’ve seen, happiness drives success.”
Why sleep matters
If you want to be stronger, happier, and more productive, focus on improving your sleep. Good sleep is a pillar of high performance.
High-quality, restorative sleep carries a number of benefits, including:
- Improves brain function
- Aids in muscle recovery
- Boosts longevity
- Balances your hormones
- Protects your heart
- Fights fat
How much sleep do you need?
You’ve likely been told over and over again that a good night’s rest equals eight hours of sleep. But research shows it’s not the number of hours you sleep that matters the most – it’s the quality of the hours you are getting. The largest sleep study ever conducted on 1.1 million people shows that it’s quality, not quantity, that matters most. The researchers found that participants who slept only six and a half hours a night lived longer than those who slept eight hours. It’s easy to conclude that you’ll live longer if you sleep for six and a half hours a night, but the reality is more complicated. It’s possible that the healthiest people simply need less sleep. And when you’re getting good-quality sleep, you likely need less of it.
So how do you make sure that the sleep you’re getting is of the highest quality? Read on for science-backed sleep hacks to help you fall asleep faster and deepen the sleep that you’re already getting.
7 science-backed sleep hacks to improve your sleep
1. Protect yourself from junk light
If you try just one sleep hack, make it this one. Junk light — the blue light that emits from your smartphone, laptop, and tablet screens — is wrecking your sleep. Too much blue light messes with your brain’s production of melatonin — the hormone that tells your body when it’s time to snooze. Blue light wakes you up and tells your brain that it’s daytime. Screens aren’t the only source of junk light — street lamps and LED lightbulbs are also to blame.
The best ways to protect yourself from too much blue light exposure:
- Use blackout curtains
- Unplug unnecessary electronics in your bedroom
- Wear blue light blocking glasses
- Shut down electronic devices two hours before bed
- Increase the warm light setting on your phone (learn how here)
2. Meditate every day
You turn the light off at a reasonable hour, nestle into your pillow, and… your thoughts start going a mile-a-minute. Did you reply to that email from your boss? What should you pack the kids for lunch tomorrow? Are you living up to your potential? And why haven’t you started writing that novel/taken that trip/bought that house yet? If this sounds familiar, your stress and anxiety is getting in the way of you and some quality shut-eye. That’s where meditation comes in.
Science shows that meditation significantly lowers stress and reduces anxiety. Meditation makes you aware of your automatc thoughts and impulses, and with that awareness comes more control. You learn to differentiate between a helpful thought and a destructive one. Meditation also rewires your brain, strengthening neural pathways that calm your nervous system.
Start meditating for just five minutes each day, and slowly work your way up to 20 minutes. Get started with the Bulletproof 30-Day Meditation Challenge (includes guided meditations).
And on those days when you’re operating on little sleep, try this guided yoga nidra meditation. It’ll make you feel like you got a full night’s rest.
3. Try a high-tech sleep device
You know now that it’s not about the amount of sleep that you get, but the quality of those zzz’s. You can deepen the sleep that you’re already getting with the help of high-tech sleep devices on the market. For a budget buy, a smartphone sleep app like the Sonic Sleep Coach can track your sleep and play audio to cover any disruptive noise. On the higher-end, wearable sleep devices like headbands and rings measure your sleep, and in the case of headbands, increase the number of your slow brain waves. The result? Deeper, more restorative sleep. Learn more about sleep headbands here, and read the Bulletproof review of the OURA Ring sleep tracker.
For a non-electronic option, weighted blankets are the sleep aid du jour. Fans of these heavy blankets — they can weigh anywhere from two to 24 pounds — claim they improve sleep and ease anxiety. Learn about the benefits of weighted blankets, and check out this review of the best weighted blankets on the market.
4. Figure out your sleep chronotype
Time to bust some long-held myths: Waking up early does not make you a better person. The early bird does not always catch the worm. Your circadian rhythm is your internal body clock, and it’s going to look different to your neighbor’s. When you go to sleep and wake up in accordance with your body’s natural circadian rhythm, you’ll sleep better, and be more alert and productive during the day. Dr. Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist and sleep expert, identified four sleep chronotypes (aka your circadian rhythm personality). These are:
- Bear: Most people fall into this category. Bears’ circadian rhythm follows the sun, and they sleep easily. If you’re a bear, recharge during the mid-afternoon, when bears feel an energy dip.
- Wolf: If you’re a night person (aka wolf), burn the midnight oil and go to bed later so there will be less tossing and turning. Get most of your work done between noon and 2pm, and around 5pm — those are wolves’ most productive times of day.
- Lion: Lions wake up early and power through the morning. If you’re a lion, go to bed early instead of binging on Netflix.
- Dolphin: If you struggle to fall asleep and wake up frequently during the night, you’re a dolphin. Schedule your most demanding work between mid-morning and early afternoon.
5. How you sleep matters
You probably don’t lose any sleep thinking about the best sleeping position. But how you sleep can have a surprisingly big impact on your performance. Learn more about the pros and cons of back, side, and stomach sleeping, and how best to optimize your favored sleep position.
Or try this revolutionary sleep hack — raise the top of your bed frame by a few inches. Sleeping at an incline helps your brain flush out the debris that has built up during the day, in a process known as glymphatic drainage. Learn more here about how inclined bed therapy helps sleep, and how to do it.
6. Fill your plate with the right fats
What you eat affects your sleep (how’s that for a catchy mantra?). Your brain is the fattiest organ in the body. High-quality fats like grass-fed butter and wild-caught fish nourish your brain so it can do its job — repair itself while you sleep.
The right fats also keep your blood sugar steady and hunger pangs at bay. Filling up on fat at dinner means you’re less likely to find yourself poking around the fridge at midnight. For an extra fat boost, consider adding up to 1 tablespoon of a high-quality MCT Oil like Brain Octane before bedtime, blended into herbal tea.
7. Take these supplements
Let’s be honest: Who really wants to be dependent on sleep medication to help them sleep? You have other options. A lot of supplements really can help you fall and stay asleep. Get the full list of the best sleep supplements here.
Here’s a summary of the top ones:
Activated charcoal: Toxins from kryptonite foods like refined flours and factory-farmed meat cause inflammation in your brain, messing with your sleep. Cleaning up your diet is the first step to flushing out toxins (find out more with this Bulletproof Diet Roadmap). An activated charcoal supplement speeds up the process, removing toxins from the gut before they reach your brain. Learn more about the benefits of activated charcoal and dosage guidelines here.
Vitamin D: Low levels of vitamin D are linked with poor quality sleep. There’s a strong chance you’re deficient in it — more than half the world’s population isn’t getting enough of this vital nutrient. Learn more here about vitamin D and sleep, and how to supplement with it.
Krill Oil: Oily fish like sardines, krill, and salmon are full of brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids, which research shows improve sleep and help you fall asleep faster. Eat at least three servings of fatty fish a week, or take two krill oil supplements (1,560 mg of omega-3’s), twice a day, with meals.
Magnesium: Supplementing with magnesium can help you nod off and sleep more deeply. It does this by lowering stress and regulating melatonin. Supplement with 600 to 800 milligrams of magnesium a day, or take an Epsom salt bath before turning in for the night. Learn more about supplementing with magnesium for better sleep.
Are you ready to take your sleep to the next level? Try the Bulletproof 30-Day Sleep Challenge. After the 30 days are up, you’ll feel happier, stronger, and more alert.
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