Serious Sleep Hacks
Blue light, microbiomes, fatty acids and binaural beats. Serious sleep hacks you can try tonight.
By: Cameron Rosin, ECS Nurse Educator
Fatigued by day, wide awake and solving the world's problems by night.
Here's a collection of the best methods to get to sleep, from one insomniac to another.
None of the tips in this article require drastic shifts in lifestyle, expensive mattresses or silk pillows.
Article at a glance:
• "About 60% of Australians report at least one sleep symptom occurring three or more times a week." - Robert Adams, spokesperson for the Sleep Foundation.
• Despite the fact that chronic sleep problems are associated with some serious consequences for health and wellbeing - ranging from increased risk of chronic conditions such as hypertension and obesity, to accident or injury resulting from sleep deprivation and poor mental health, relatively few Australians engage in meaningful sleep practices.
• Research shows that it's not the quantity of hours you sleep, but rather the quality of that sleep.
• Figuring out your "sleep chronotype" can help you make informed decisions about your sleep practices.
• Science-backed sleep hacks such as reducing "junk light", eating the right fats, meditating, binaural beats, fixing your gut microbiome, and optimal sleeping temperatures.
SLEEP IS OUR FOUNDATION
It's pretty obvious that low quality nights can result in low quality days, but if you want to be stronger, happier, calmer and more productive, focus on improving your sleep. Good sleep is the foundation of our waking days, and if the foundation is cracked, it shows.
We've been told over and over again that it's eight hours or bust. However, research shows that it's not the number of hours of sleep that matter most - it's the quality of the hours we get.
10 SCIENCE-BACKED SLEEP TIPS FOR OPTIMAL REST
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 its time to snooze. Blue light wakes you up and tells your brain its daytime. Screens aren’t the only source of junk light - street lamps and LED lightbulbs are also common culprits.
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 (I personally use these bad boys - generally from 4pm onwards)
• Shut down electronic devices two hours before bed (ideally)
• Increase the warm light setting on your phone (learn how here)
Learn more about the risks of too much blue light exposure and more ways to protect yourself from it.
You turn off the light at a reasonable hour, nestle into your pillow, and… the thoughts start racing.
Did you reply to that email from your boss? Why haven't you paid that electricity bill, or responded to your mum? Started writing that novel yet? Are you living up to your potential?
Ah, the joys of a midnight existential crisis.
If this sounds familiar, then stress and anxiety could be getting in the way between you and some quality shut eye. That’s where meditation comes in.
Research shows that meditation significantly lower stress and anxiety. Meditation (specifically mindfulness meditation) can give us tangible, useable control over the automatic thoughts and impulses that pulse through our consciousness.
It teaches us to identify thoughts from a distance, rather than tangle ourselves within them. Through meditation, we can experience the ultimate form of serenity. We can decide and control how we respond to thoughts, rather than allowing thoughts to control us.
Start meditating for just five minutes each day. Try first thing in the morning, or last at night. Don't put any pressure on yourself! It requires practice, but the only investment is your time.
Personally, I've always found it difficult to maintain a meditation routine, until I found this app. I'm not affiliated with it in any way, I just think it's a brilliant tool that makes meditation easy. I still miss days (plenty of days), but there is no feeling quite like wiping the slate of your mind clean.
WORLD'S BEST MEDITATION APP
3. Find your sleep chronotype
The early bird doesn't always catch the worm. Owls are insanely accurate hunters. Your circadian rhythm is your internal body clock, and it's going unique from person to person. 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 Brues, a clinical psychologist and sleep expert, identified four major sleep chronotypes (a.k.a. your circadian rhythm personality).
• 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 experience an energy dip.
• Wolf: if you're a night person (a.k.a. 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 2 pm, and around 5 pm – these are wolf's 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 watching the next episode of that gruesome Netflix crime show.
• 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 afternoon and early afternoon.
Learn more about sleep chronotypes here.
4. Learn about glymphatic drainage
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 about the pros and cons of back, side and stomach sleeping positions and how best to optimise your favourite sleep position.
Then, try this revolutionary sleep hack – raise the top of your bed frame by a few inches. Sleeping on an incline helps your brain to flush out the debris that has built-up during the day, in a process known as glymphatic drainage.
Learn more about glymphatic drainage here.