Quality vs. Quantity Sleep: How To Biohack Your Sleep
Biohack your sleep: all sleep is not created equal. The importance of achieving not only quantity but also the quality is finally being understood in the scientific literature, and enabling us to bio-hack our sleep in ways like never before. Sleep is one of the most important habits we do, and the impact of sleep on our health far outweighs diet or exercise. By tweaking your sleep hygiene in a few simple ways and measure it using new wearable sleep-technology, you can drastically improve your health and longevity.
The Importance of Quality Sleep
The scientific literature highlighting the importance of high-quality sleep suggests that getting a good night’s rest could be more impactful on wellbeing than diet and exercise combined. The quality of your sleep heavily relies on the state of your hormones. In so, making a few smart adjustments to the sleep environment and your nightly routine can have a rapid and profound impact on your health and longevity.
A single night of poor sleep has a profound impact on your insulin response.
Over time, poor quality of sleep can lead to hormone imbalances, obesity, infertility, increased risk of heart diseases, diabetes, strokes, and kidney disease. Sleep quality is also profoundly connected to brain health, with new studies suggesting that Alzheimer’s may be preventable with a nightly dose of deep sleep.
The glymphatic system is essentially the brain’s lymphatic system, which detoxes amyloid plaque during those periods of deep rest. Although the literature is new and not completely understood, there is a strong correlation between poor sleep quality and the advent of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Biohack Your Sleep: What Is Quality Sleep?
Good question. Sleep is divided into several stages, known as N1, N2, N3, and REM. Even the best sleeper will cycle through these stages, tapping into all four cyclically throughout the night. N3 and REM are the two cycles that produce the “quality” sleep and are the types of sleep interrupted by things like blue light, caffeine, and other influences that affect sleep quality. N3, in particular (also known as ‘deep sleep’), is imperative for that restorative, healing rest.
Measure Your Sleep
The first key to biohack your sleep is knowing where you currently stand. All sleep is not created equal, and unfortunately, simply falling asleep doesn’t mean you’re getting the invaluable REM and deep sleep you need to stay healthy and live a long time. Although most of our modern sleep-related problems are caused by technology, there has also been a surge of technological tools to help us overcome these recent problems.
By tracking your sleep with device, you can know exactly where you’re starting with your sleep hygiene and effectively measure your progress as you start to implement tricks and tools to improve the quality of your sleep.
The wearable smart tracker that monitors not only sleep but also movement and various metrics like heart rate variability and body temperature variability. In doing so, it makes predictions about your body’s daily energy levels and makes suggestions on how to improve your rating. A regular ‘readiness’ score helps you tailor your day to match how rested your body is, which can help improve your score over time.
Biohack Your Sleep: Observe and Improve
Although there are general methods to biohack your sleep quality, every person is different. Figuring out what works for your body may require a little bit of n=1 self-quantification. By observing your results over time, you can tinker with habits and eventually find the perfect formula for a night of deep, restful sleep.
Some of our top tips for improving those sleep scores include:
1. Eat 3-4 Hours Before Bed
Eating right before bed generally detracts from the resting state that should occur during sleep. Although it happens internally, digestion is a very active state of being. Digestion prevents the body from doing the healing work that could and should otherwise be happening during this time. This includes tapping into autophagy (the body’s ability to destroy unhealthy cells) as well as the glymphatic activation within the brain that clears out amyloid plaque and helps prevent Alzheimer’s.
2. Avoid Blue Light After Sundown
Blue light before bed depletes melatonin, the sleep hormone required to achieve a quality deep sleep. The most obvious way to do this is not to use any light-emitting technologies, including light bulbs, tablets, televisions, computers, and cell phones. Unfortunately, our modern society continues to operate after sundown, and so disconnecting in that way isn’t always possible.
Thankfully, there are various hacks we can use to reduce the harmful impact of these blue light rays heavily.
- Blue light blocking glasses (blue blockers): these orange/ red spectrum glasses are one of the easiest and most powerful ways to biohack your sleep and cut the blue light exposure to your eyes after sundown. Opting for amber-tinted glasses anytime you look at a screen or are around artificial lights after sunset will promote that natural release of melatonin that should start to occur around 9 pm, but is otherwise disrupted to exposure to blue light.
- Red light bulbs: similar to red/ orange-tinted glasses, using red light bulbs is one way to prevent the harshness of blue light while still getting some light to operate after sundown. Dimming a white bulb does nothing to cut the blue light, but swapping out for red bulbs is a step in the right direction.
- Salt lamps: these lights are a great way to enjoy light after sundown without the harshness of blue light. Salt lamps have a wide range of health benefits. Using them, especially in the bedroom after sunset instead of conventional lights, is a big win for deep sleep.
- Incandescent light bulbs: if you absolutely cannot live without conventional light after sundown, opt for old school incandescent bulbs over newer LED or CFL bulbs. The incandescent bulbs emit almost no EMF radiation, very little blue light, and very little dirty electricity.
- Sleep in complete darkness. Studies suggest that even the slightest light (as insignificant as that little red light on smoke detectors) can interrupt the depth of sleep. Although your eyes are the most sensitive to this issue, there are photoreceptors all over your skin. Simply throwing on an eye mask while you sleep isn’t enough if you want to dodge the problem. You can cover the various little lights around the bedroom with special electrical tape, and consider investing in blackout blinds for your bedroom.
- Wholetones. This one might seem counter-intuitive, but another great way to biohack your sleep is sleeping with a special noise-emitting device. These soothing sounds like rainfall, crashing waves, or even religious chanting can help lull you into a deep sleep and tap into those restorative N3 and REM states.
3. Stay Chilly While You Sleep
One of the prerequisites to tap into the N3 cycle of sleep (deep sleep) is a slight lowering of core body temperature. Studies suggest that sleeping in a bedroom that hovers around 65-68 degrees is optimal for achieving the deepest sleep.
One way to bio-hack this tip is to sleep with a Chilipad, a device that can control the temperature of your mattress. This tool comes with two pads so that it can be controlled separately if two people are sleeping in the bed, according to their optimal temperature. The temperature is controlled by water that flows through small tubes throughout the pad.
4. Biohack Your Sleep by Going EMF-Free
It can be nearly impossible to eradicate all sources of electromagnetic fields while you sleep completely. However, you can reduce the impact with a few mindful acts.
- Unplug the wifi. Although you may still be in the range of a neighbors wifi device(s), unplugging your wifi router is one way to drop the EMF impact on your body while you sleep. Having a cut-off time for wifi is also a great way to prevent working late or spending countless hours on Netflix right before bed. Implementing a ‘no technology’ after 8 pm or 9 pm house rule is a great way to improve sleep quality and promote family bonding time.
- Unplug all electronic devices from the bedroom. Dirty electricity is emitted anytime any electronic device is plugged in, even if it isn’t on. Unplugging all devices from the bedroom sockets will drastically cut your EMF exposure while you sleep. This is especially important right next to your head (on a nightstand), so avoid things like plugged in alarm clocks or phone-docks.
- Turn your phone on airplane mode. Turning your phone onto airplane mode every night is key to preventing unnecessary EMFs near your body while you sleep. Turning your phone off is especially important if your phone is lying next to your bed. If you have to keep it on for any reason, opt to leave the phone outside of your bedroom. Your phone can still be within the sound range. You want to keep electronic devices as far as possible from your body while you sleep.
5. Biohack Your Sleep by Getting Grounded
Our constant exposure to EMFs takes a toll on our human bodies. One of the easiest ways to balance our ions is to spend time in nature. Getting barefoot in the dirt, grass, sand, or rocks can help ground our energy and rebalance our bodies. Our indoor lifestyles mean it’s easy to go days and even weeks without connecting our bodies to the earth. One way to bio-hack this is to use a grounding pad or mat.
These grounding mats have that same impact that connecting to the earth does. Grounding mats reduce your exposure to EMF and can improve your deep sleep.
6. Use A Nighttime Sleeping Aid
Some various natural herbs and products can help induce relaxation and promote a night of deeper sleep. From topical gels, sprays, and oils to teas and other supplements, every person is different. Finding what works for you is the key. Once you find something that works, incorporate it into your bedtime routine. Unlike artificial melatonins and other synthetic products, some of our favorite all-natural sleeping aids include:
- Chamomile tea: Chamomile tea is known to be a mild tranquilizer due to an antioxidant called apigenin that binds to specific receptors in your brain. Chamomile tea may decrease anxiety and promote relaxation and sleep.
- Vibrant Blue Oils: is a potent blend of relaxing and sleep-inducing essential oils, including rose geranium, white grapefruit, melaleuca, myrtle, lavender, balsam of Peru, and myrrh. Each ingredient plays a crucial role in creating this synergistic nighttime sleep aid. These oils can be used in a diffuser or rubbed behind the ears before bed.The Pineal Gland is a small endocrine gland located near the center of the brain involved in several functions of the body including:
- Production and secretion of the sleep hormone Melatonin
- Modulation of the circadian rhythms (sleep-wake cycles) and seasonal functions.
- Regulation of Endocrine Functions and hormonal signals.
- Optimal Pineal Gland function helps balance the adrenal output of the stress hormone cortisol which has an antagonistic relationship to the sleep hormone melatonin
If you trigger the pineal gland to naturally release melatonin, it forces the stress hormone cortisol down and serves as a back door to balancing the stress response and endocrine health. Circadian Rhythm is an essential oil formula designed to help you optimize Pineal Gland function during sleep—and the release of healthy hormones.
- Dream Sleep Aid by Systemic Formulas: promotes healthy sleep and relaxation thanks to an all-natural blend of tryptophan, melatonin, and GABA for neurotransmitter and hormone balance.
- Magnesium. Magnesium is an ideal supplement that relaxes the muscles and nervous system. Taking magnesium can help you slip into a deep sleep. It can be taken orally through a supplement, or topically through a gel, spray, or as a magnesium bath.
- Try Organify Gold: A blend of turmeric, ginger, lemon balm, Reishi and many other amazing ingredients to help you fall asleep and stay asleep naturally!
Sleep is an essential part of cultivating a long and healthy life. Modern technology has largely influenced our hormones and bodies to impact sleep quality negatively. However, recent innovations are also allowing you to track and biohack the quality of your sleep. By using wearable sleep-technology like the Oura ring to quantify our sleep quality, we can start to improve it by making simple lifestyle changes. Some of the most impactful habits include:
1. Avoiding blue light, especially after sundown
2. Cutting the EMF and dirty electricity exposure in the bedroom while we sleep
3. Using a white noise machine while we sleep;
4. Getting grounded; not eating anything for 3-4 hours before bed.
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