man sleeping

How to Greatly Improve Your Sleep

Sleep problems are an epidemic in the United States. Consider this, "50-70 million US adults have a sleep disorder. 48.0% report snoring. 37.9% reported unintentionally falling asleep during the day at least once in the preceding month. 4.7% reported nodding off or falling asleep while driving at least once in the preceding month." (Sleep and Sleep Disorder Statistics) Not only do many of us suffer from sleep issues, but sleep is the cornerstone of health and longevity.

Why We Need Sleep

Your biological systems need sufficient good quality sleep for restoration and repair. Your body needs REM and non-REM sleep according to Dr. Matthew Walker (a world renowned expert on sleep) it's, "In stages 3 and 4, that’s where a lot of body replenishment takes place". Dr. Walker goes on to discuss REM sleep, "Our brain replays memory sequences we learn while awake, but ~20x faster than when you’re awake. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice with a night of sleep makes perfect. You come back the next day and you’re 20-30 times better at your skilled performance, compared to the end of your practice session the day before. Sleep is the greatest legal performance enhancing drug that most people are probably neglecting” (The Joe Rogan Experience – Sleep Expert and Neuroscientist Dr. Matthew Walker)

My Personal Experience with Sleep

Personally, I've struggled with sleep since childhood. In my adult life, my sleep became so bad that I ended up in the hospital for several days due to issues stemming from a lack of sleep. Under medical suprivision, I have tried most of the major sleep medications from Ambien to Sonata. Prior to going the pharmaceutical route, I tried just about every herb and supplement remedy I could lay my hands on. I had varying levels of success with both the pharmaceutical and supplement routes.

Today, I routinely get a good night's sleep without the use of any pharmaceuticals and my life is night and day better for it.

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

This will depend on who you are. For example, newborns need 14-17 hours of sleep a day while healthy adults typically need 7-9 hours of sleep a night. It's important to remember as well, that good sleep is not all about sleep duration but also about how much time you're spending in the different stages of sleep. With sleep, as in so many areas of life, it's about quality, not quantity.

The Importance of Sleep and Understanding Sleep Stages

What Works for Sleep

In the following list, I'll share with you what has worked for me and what continues to work consistantly for a good nights sleep each time my head hits the pillow:

  • Don't overuse caffeine
    • Coffee is a wonder drug and a superfood, so use it wisely
    • Daily caffeine use will desensitize you to adenosine (source) among other important neurotransmitters
      • Pro tip: use l-theanine with your coffee to reduce the negative impact caffeine can have on your sleep and neurochemistry
    • This desensitization will negatively impact your sleep, long after the caffeine has been fully metabolized
    • Your best night's sleep starts in the morning with the right amount of caffeine, mindfully rotated with days taken off with no caffeine intake (other stimulants to take when rotating off caffeine)
    • Ben Greenfield rotates coffee 3 weeks on and 1 week off with decaf (source)
  • Get out of bed when you wake up in the morning
    • Don't lay in bed too far past your normal wake time/alarm, even if you're tired
    • Get up and start moving
    • The earlier you get out of bed the easier it'll be to fall asleep when it's time for bed again
  • Get sun exposure (or an alternate source of bright full-spectrum blue light)
  • Do some light exercise
    • Personally, I do some pushups and situps to get my blood flowing and maintain fitness
    • An easy workout will also upregulate the glucose transfer chain to smooth out glycemic variability before your next meal (if you're eating breakfast or even just drinking black coffee which can spike blood glucose by dumping cortisol into your system which triggers your liver to release glucose)
  • Take a shower (hot then cold)
  • Maintain your fasted state
    • You want to shoot for a 12-16 hour fasted state every day, which includes the time you sleep so it's not that hard
      • If you ate dinner at 6pm and then breakfast at 7am that's a 13 hour fast
      • If you push breakfast back to 10am then that's a 16 hour fast
    • This will greatly improve your metabolic flexibility and overall health and you sleep better when you're health
  • Breakfast
    • Keep it low carb/low sugar in most cases (skip breakfast entirely if you're working on improving your metabolism, intermittent fasting, stimulating stem cells, working on your horemomes etc.)
    • Some healthy fats and a little protein are good
    • Plain yogurt with a little honey and some nuts is a good place to start
  • Maintain a low-stress day
    • Easier said than done, but integrate meditation with attentive breathwork into your daily routine and you'll be amazed at how much this will lower your stress
  • Lunch (usually don't snack)
    • Keep this meal low carb/low sugar, high in vegetables, high in healthy fats and moderate to low in protein (unless you have a specific healthy diet you're already following)
  • Dinner
    • If you're working on ketosis then no carbs here either, but if you're cycling ketosis (often a good idea) then this is the meal to have healthy carbs in reasonable quantit
  • 3 hours before bed
    • Put on your blue light blocking glasses
    • Consider taking a cold shower to lower your core temperature which will improve your sleep
    • For insomnia or particularly difficultly with sleep, consider taking 1/4 tsp of Phenibut (be careful with this one, it's powerful and can become addictive)
      • it takes a while to start working so take it several hours before you need to sleep
    • Other
      • I've also taken another peptide called BPC-157 which reduces system-wide inflammation (source) Note, I take BPC-157 in the morning.
  • 1-2 hours before bed (time for some supplements/nootropics)
    • I've taken a peptide called MK-677 which is a growth hormone secretagogue that's been found to significantly improve sleep (source)
    • Magnesium (take a good bioavailable form that won't disturb your bowls) I use Magtein (available here or on Amazon)
    • CBD (sleep research on CBD has been done at much higher doses than are often indicated on supplement bottles but I use 80-100 mg for good sleep)
    • Herbs (I like lemon balm, chamomile, valerian, hops, kava, skullcap and passionflower)
    • l-theanine
    • low dose melatonin (.3mg is a good place to start according to this research)
    • f-phenibut (use with caution)
    • Doc Parsley's Sleep Remedy (it's expensive but it's also the best out there)
  • Keep your room cold
    • Optimal bedtime temperature ranges from 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit (source)
    • Other research suggests that room temperature where you sleep is one of the most important factors for good sleep (source)
    • Consider a chiliPAD
  • Shut off wifi and power
  • Essential oils
    • Diffuse lavender in your bedroom at night (be sure your diffuser emits no light)
  • Sleep in the dark
    • I mean, sleep in the total dark
    • This Japanese study found that even small amounts of light (think the little bit of light that leaks around curtains at night from a street lamp) were enough to increase symptoms of depression in otherwise healthy individuals
    • Wear a sleep mask, sleep with the pillow over your eyes and/or put up blackout curtains taped to the walls on the edges


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