How to hack your sleep – Quality over Quantity

Some of my favourite tried and tested methods on how to get a better night's sleep...

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We all feel great after a good sleep, but how can we consistently achieve a great night’s sleep?

First of all, what gets tracked gets measured, so the first place to start is to download Sleep Cycle onto your smartphone.  The app tracks your sleep either through sound or via the accelerometer. You place your phone either on your bedside table or the edge of your bed, and the app will track the amount of time you spend in normal sleep, deep sleep and when you’re awake.  It’s not flawless, but it gives a very good indication on how you’ve slept. It’s accessible and a great starting point to measure both your duration and quality of sleep.

Quality is more important than the quantity of sleep. The largest sleep study ever conducted on 1.1 million people shows that quality and quantity are what matter the most and the optimum amount of sleep each night is 6.5 hours. 

Every night your brain goes through several 90-minute sleep cycles. You will awake refreshed if you wake up towards the end of a cycle because then, you are closest to your normal waking state. To increase the chances of this, use the Sleep Cycle alarm to wake you up within a 30 minute window.

It takes a few days to calibrate, and please remember to put your phone in aeroplane mode; otherwise you’re going to be frying your brain all night!

Here are 10 top tips for having a great night’s sleep:

  1. Don’t drink any caffeine after 2 pm as it will interfere with your sleep and make the cut off time earlier if you are sensitive to caffeine.
  2. Sleep in a cave – Make sure the room is completely dark – invest in some blackout curtains and tape up any LEDs on devices in your bedroom. It has to be pitch black. Your brain and skin are very sensitive to light and this confuses your circatian rhythm leading to restless sleep.
  3. Keep the room cool – Aim for the temperature in the bedroom to be 18.5 degrees Celsius. Nobody likes being too hot in bed, go for a cold room and it’s a good excuse to cuddle up to your partner.
  4. Avoid all electronic devices at least 1 hour before bedtime. If you need to work late, install f.lux on your computer to help block out the blue light. If you want to take this to the next level, invest in a pair of blue blocking glasses
  5. Take a magnesium supplement – Most people are deficient in magnesium because we don’t get it from our food sources due to mass farming methods. Supplementing this mineral can make big improvements on the quality of sleep – take 400–500 mg before bed. I recommend Life Extension.
  6. Watch your exercise at night – for some people, if they exercise within 2 hours of their bedtime it increases their adrenaline levels, heart rate, and body temperature, making it difficult to fall asleep.
  7. Get to bed before 11 pm – Because of your circadian rhythm, if you are awake after this time your cortisol level rises and you get a second wind.
  8. Consider taking GABA – a neuro-inhibitory transmitter that your brain uses to calm itself down. It will dramatically calm you, stop your thoughts from flying through your head and help you drift off to sleep faster. Start with 500 mg.
  9. Honey, tea and apple cider vinegar – Combine 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon of honey, and stir these into 1 cup of decaffeinated tea. This pre-bed cocktail will knock you out. It’s worth the funky taste.
  10. Write a journal for 10 minutes before going to bed to empty your head and stop yourself from overthinking as you try and drift off to sleep.
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