Sleep is one of the most common questions I am asked about. How to get more of it, how to survive on less of it, and what routines can improve it.
Let’s dive right into the subject and establish some facts and premises first
1. You NEED to get 7-8 total hours of sleep nightly
Rarely do humans sleep 7-8 hours straight. Rather were evolved to sleep 3-4 hours, wake up, have sex, take a piss, drink some water, and then go back to sleep for another 3-4 hours. Regardless, the sweet spot for health is smack in the middle between 7 and 8 hours
2. Our sleep cycle is directly tied to the sunrise and sunset
We are evolved to wake up when it gets light, and start to feel sluggish when it gets dark. Some people are more prone to being energetic late at night. Energetic does not mean insomnia.
3. Women need more sleep than men, on average 20 minutes more
It’s been my experience (and research reflects this) that women are more likely to experience insomnia, but men are much more likely to be “night owls”. I believe that this is partially due to Men having evolved to be group protectors, and needing to guard themselves as well later into the night. Can’t be protecting if you’re passing out early
4. There is no way to hack sleep. None.
If any brings up “but bro what do you think of Polyphasic sleep??? Da Vinci only took naps”, my answer will be IDGAF. Don’t ever read my blog again.
I have NEVER known any high performing, highly healthy person who is a polyphasic sleeper. That outliers exist does not disprove the necessity of sleep.
The closest example I can think of for someone who runs on very little sleep is President Trump (supposedly he averages 4-5 hours nightly). And you are neither Da Vinci nor Trump, so toss that idea out.
Agreeing that sleep is a biological necessity, then Why Do people sleep so poorly?
For many many reasons
- The Modern world is designed to keep you AWAKE, especially digital technology. All of your devices are specifically designed to be easy to use and to keep you hooked on using them
- Bluelight from your cellphones and computer directly stimulates your brain so that you believe its daytime
- Social media apps are designed to trigger dopamine response to keep you constantly alert and checking them
- A lack of normal sunlight exposure completely disrupts your circadian rythym and essentially leaves your body in a state of not knowing whether its day or night
- Your SKIN is photosensitive (light sensitive, obviously), and exposing your skin to sunlight entrains a normal circadian rythym and keeps your entire metabolism running properly
- A lack of sunlight and normal light exposure results in disrupted circadian rythym, which disrupts cognitive function, appetite, mood, immune system, hormone production, and every other aspect of health. ALL OF IT
- Sunlight has been demonstrated to improve symptoms of depression because the sun directly affects how your BRAIN WORKS and gets it working properly again
- Operative point, your entire biochemistry is connected to LIGHT, and lack of natural light, overexposure to artificial, its changing your metabolism, and not for the better
- Blue light exposure negatively affects brain health, brain function, sleep, mood, and is degrading for the eyes
- Diet also plays a massive role. Your gut health is essentially what produces ALL of the hormones that run your brain. When diet is poor, your brain is impaired. You are more likely to be depressed anxious moody irritable slow sluggish have brain fog and your IQ drops. A bad diet literally makes you stupider.
- Your eating schedule plays a critical role as well. Eating very late keeps you up later. The human body overall seems to be evolved to eat primary in the MORNING, and to eat minimally in the evening, if at all. Eating late night corresponds with worsened sleep
- Stress management plays a massive role. Your conceptualization of stress and your mechanisms of processing or storing/internalizing/anxiety creates the conditions for a brain/mind that either soothes itself, or keeps itself a awake
- A lack of physical activity and poor oxygen capacity also negatively impact your ability to fall asleep. A body that cannot breathe easily will have trouble getting into a restorative state
- If you are very overweight, its quite likely your breathing is impaired due to sleep apnea. This means your body does not get oxygen and you are literally choking on your own fat. You need to lose fat, and possibly need a CPAP
- Sleeping with the body exposed to LIGHT also negatively impacts sleep. Artificial lights further trick your body into staying awake. You do not need total darkness to fall asleep, but it does HELP. Especially if you live in an urban area with light pollution
- Temperature plays a major role. People generally sleep deeper in colder rooms, but your particular temperature sweet spot will vary. Women obviously prefer warmer temperatures than men. Manipulating temperature can make a major on sleep quality/quantity
- The AIR that you breathe plays a major role. If you are in a room with poor airflow and the air has a lower composition of oxygen and more carbon dioxide, you will not sleep as well. This is why people often report sleeping better out in nature; more available oxygen in the air you breathe. This is also why planes are horrible to fall asleep on. Less available oxygen the longer the flight goes in, and you are in a contained biome in which its very easy to get sick obviously.
- The sleeping surface makes a major difference. An uncomfortable bed, a cramped bed, a futon, if you are sleeping on something that leaves you stiff, that needs to change
- Sleep POSITION plays a major role. Sleep position (lying on your back, lying on your side, laying on your stomach) does affect your breathing and ability for the body to relax.
- A lack of sleep means your brain never fully clears itself of toxins (and I dont mean the groovy guru bullshitting about made up toxins, your brain really DOES produce waste byproducts that build up during the day and are filtered out at night.
SO which ones are your issues? Maybe all of them
You can see why “how do I get better sleep?” is a loaded question. It can be A LOT THINGS. You’ve got roughly 20 factors to consider that all play and role.
SO, where might you begin? Having just run through all the pertinent factors that to mind, lets solve for them in the same order
- Minimize the brightness as much as reasonable on all digital devices, and consider getting a blue lighter filter on your laptop. You can change your phone to greyscale also (which is what I’ve done with mine). You look at it less when the colors arent grabbing your attention.
- Blue light filtering glasses late at night can also make a difference.
- To reset your sleep cycle, wake up at dawn, and immediately make yourself go outside, even if you are still drowsy and dont want to. Spend time in the sun for a full 30 minutes
- Make a point to get more daylight exposure. This does not mean go tanning, but a simple 5 minutes outside with even your face exposed will help to retrain your circadian cycle
- Consider supplementing with Vitamin D if you are not already. Somewhere around 60% of adults are deficient.
- Reset your eating patterns to big breakfast, moderate lunch, light dinner. Do not eat erratically and at constantly different times
- If you are going to fast, do so properly.A Fasting guide is included with my “Old School Fat Loss” program
- If you’ve no idea what proper nutrition is, read Deep Nutrition. I will recommend this book until the end of days.
- I cannot tell you how to fix stress. I’ll frame this way way; you are as fragile or resilient as you believe yourself to be. And you are as capable or incapable as you believe yourself to be as well. Stress management is part elimination, part transmutation. How you USE stress is a critical question (and probably a book unto itself, if Im being honest)
- Exercise makes a big difference in overall health (captain obvious checking in right here), and if you are high anxiety, it will likely help stabilize your mood as well. Get exercise. Walk, Lift weights, don’t overcomplicate this.
- If you are overweight, fix that.
- BOUNDARIES-Create a routine of relaxation and sleep. This means turning off all devices, NOT keeping electronics in the bedroom, not checking emails past a set time, and turning down the lights. My new apartment, I light candles. Its deeply satisfying, and relaxing. And also romantic with female company. I don’t suggest you run out and get candles, but consider gradually turning the lights down past sundown.
- Get an alarm clock, dont use your phone to wake you up.
- Figure out your ideal temperature for sleeping at. Play around with this, its experimentation.
- Maximize the airflow to the room you sleep in. Open windows, doors, get an air purifier or fan, whatever you need to do, do it.
- Dont sleep on a shitty bed. I’ve slept on everything from floors to my car to couches to futons to beds. A quality bed is worth the $$, it seriously is. So is a foam topper, or anything else that makes your sleeping more comfortable.
- Figure out your ideal sleep position.
- The following supplements are what I PERSONALLY use. There are only two –CBD Oil. I use this religiously now, its amazing -Gorilla Dream, I tried this months ago after Mike gave me a free bottle, and good god did it work. It put me into a slumber and I didn’t wake up during the night.
The most powerful strategy I could emphasize is ELIMINATION. The bad habits that all keep you awake, cease doing them.
Do not wait until the very end of the day to turn off the Monkey mind, as Naval Ravikant calls it.
You are not going to get into bed and your stress/work/anxiety/catastrophic thinking/responsibilities will magically turn off.
Sleep is not the real issue, its the rest of your LIFE that is keeping you up.
Don’t neglect self-care.