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.
Blue light, microbiomes, fatty acids and binaural beats. Serious sleep hacks you can try tonight.
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.
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.
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.
5. Fill up on the right fats
What do you eat significantly effects your sleep. Your brain is the fattiest organ in the body. High quality fats like grass fed butter, wild caught fish, avocado or oils rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fats help our brain to repair itself while we sleep.
The right fats also keep your blood sugar steady and hunger pains at bay. Filling up on fat at dinner means you're less likely to find yourself poking around the fridge it fridge at midnight. For an extra fat boost, consider adding up to 1 tablespoon of high-quality MCT or hemp seed oil before bedtime blended into your favourite herbal tea.
6. Try using binaural beats
Binaural beats are a fascinating technology that harness the brain’s innate responsiveness to sound to facilitate states of deep relaxation, relieve anxiety, and help us sleep better.To understand how binaural beats can help relaxation, mood, mental performance and sleep, we need to know a little bit about brain waves and what they indicate about our state of consciousness. Brainwaves are created from the pulses of electricity activity that neurons exhibit as they communicate with each other. Every thought, feeling and action and reaction is associated with a certain brainwave frequency.
The four major types of brainwaves are:
Beta (between 15-40 hertz): Associated with high levels of alertness and arousal. Beta waves are fast, with a higher frequency (between 15-40 hertz). At higher levels of this range, beta waves are associated with anxiety.
Alpha (between 9-14 hertz): Alpha brainwaves are associated with a state of wakeful relaxation. Alpha waves are associated with states of meditation, and also with our ability to be creative.
Theta (between 5-8 hertz): Theta patterns are associated with deep relaxation and with some stages of sleep, such as the lighter stages of non-REM sleep. Deep meditation produces theta waves, which are slower and of lower frequency than Alpha waves. That murky barrier between sleep and wakefulness, where thoughts feel dreamlike and difficult to remember? That’s theta-dominant state of consciousness.
Delta (between 1.5-4 hertz): Delta waves are slow, low-frequency brainwaves that are the dominant brainwave pattern of deep and NREM sleep.So how do binaural beats work?
Binaural beats aren’t quite music - they combine two slightly different sound frequencies to create the perception of a single new frequency tone.With two different frequencies (one in each ear), the brain actually perceives one single tone that’s somewhere in the middle of the two frequencies.
For example, when your left ear receives a 300-hertz tone and your right ear receives a 290-hertz tone, the brain will process and absorb a 10-hertz tone. That’s a very low-frequency sound wave (one you can’t actually hear), but your brain doesn’t need to hear the sound to be affected by it.
By exposing the brain to beats that create low-frequency tones in the brain, these sound waves create shifts in brainwaves themselves, generating slower frequency brainwaves that promote deeper states of relaxation.
7. Cut the caffiene
Hear me out; I'm not one to preach abstinence, but I will preach moderation. Caffeine levels in the blood will peak about one hour after consumption, but can remain at those levels for several hours. Six hours after caffeine consumption, half of that caffeine is still in your body.
Try implementing a caffeine curfew of 2pm. If you’re still having trouble getting that restful sleep, make the curfew earlier or even try cutting out coffee altogether (sacrilege!).
Personally, I need hot drinks to sustain my existence. I cycle through various herbal teas throughout the day (peppermint, chai, lemongrass, then chamomile). If you do have a caffeinated beverage, ensure you match each serving with a glass of water to maintain hydration and help sustain that energy.
8. Focus on gut health
Microbiome has become a bit of a buzz word in the health and wellness space as of late, and for good reason.
The microbiota (trillions of microorganisms within and on our bodies) are key regulators of the gut-brain communication function and the microbiota-gut-brain axis. The microbiota and brain communicate with each other through the immune system, tryptophan metabolism, the vagus nerve and the enteric nervous system.The gut-brain axis is responsible for far more than digestive function and satiety (feeling full). It is also a crucial component in all aspects of higher-order cognitive and psychological functioning, including sleep.
9. Keep it chill (circadian oscillators)
Our bodies are acutely tuned to respond to environmental "time cues".
Circadian oscillators, wired into every speck of life from bacteria to elephants, allow us to tune into the the 24 hour rhythm that governs our world. Our bodies expect these cues primarily in the form of light and temperature changes.
Researchers from the Sleep Foundation found that the ideal bedroom temperature for optimal sleep is 18.3 degrees Celsius (65 degrees Fahrenheit). Of course, this can vary from person to person, but for optimal sleep doctors recommend keeping the temp between 15.6 and 19.4 degrees Celsius (60 to 67 Fahrenheit).