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There’s an eye-opening trend that’s happening in the fascinating world of sleep: sales of over-the-counter sleep aids are up—way up. Some research suggests that transient insomnia might be affecting up to 80% of the US population. That’s alarming.
It’s especially alarming because sleep might be the single most important thing we do every day. It’s a critical component of our overall health. If you’re chronically sleep deprived, you increase your risk for heart disease, obesity, higher blood pressure, and developing a much weaker immune system.
But with so much riding on the line, why are people struggling to get more than six hours of sleep a night (doctors recommend a minimum of 7-9)? There are probably a lot of answers. Our culture puts a greater emphasis on busy-ness and productivity than rest. People who sleep a lot (i.e. the exact amount they should) are often labeled as lazy or unmotivated when nothing could be further from the truth. It’s also no surprise that we’re loading our diets with sugar and caffeine that can keep us up at night.
Additionally, a lot of the new technology that’s woven its way into our lives is interfering with our natural sleep cycles that have evolved over thousands of years. Toss light pollution, noise pollution, and a lot of other factors on the pile, and you end up with the perfect recipe for a sleep epidemic.
Whether you have difficulty falling asleep, waking up multiple times during the night, or just feel extra tired in the morning, it might be time to take back control of your sleep with a few tips to help you biohack some shuteye.
1. DARK, DARK, DARK
Try sleeping in complete darkness. And no, we’re not talking about turning off your light. Think DARK. Like Bat Cave dark. Why? That’s how our bodies evolved. Back in the day, there wasn’t ambient light, and now the overabundance of light actually messes with our pineal gland’s ability to produce melatonin. Think of melatonin as your body’s secret sauce to enabling blissful sleep.
So yes, turn out the light. But beyond that, shut your curtains, toss the night lights, put your phones face down, and tape up your windows if you have to.
2. SLEEP PREP
The bed might be something you jump into but getting ready for it shouldn’t. Most sleep experts agree that you should start winding down about two hours before bedtime. This means limiting your use of electronic devices and dimming those computer screens. If this bums you out and you need something to keep you entertained before bed without your phone, try curling up with a good book, have a stimulating conversation with someone, or break out a board game.
3. KEEP IT COOL
It’s easier to sleep in a colder environment. How cold? 60-68 degrees is optimal. Scientists believe that this phenomenon occurs because a colder room mimics the body’s temperature drop that occurs when we sleep. Give it a try.
4. LIMIT EMFs
Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) come from all the manmade devices in our houses and on our person. These devices have a higher rate of oscillation (vibrate at a higher number of cycles) than the natural electromagnetic fields of your body at rest. The electrical current in your home is generally between 50-60 Hz. In contrast, the ideal frequency in your brain during sleep drops to as low as 2 Hz.
This discrepancy messes with your sleep cycle. And EMFs cause big problems when it comes to the production of melatonin and serotonin, which is essential to falling asleep and staying asleep. Limiting your exposure to these devices during the night will help you sleep better. A lot better.
5. DEVELOP A ROUTINE
Start taking your sleep seriously with a bedtime routine. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or time-consuming. The only rule here is to make it relaxing. Try meditation, deep breathing, or aromatherapy. Not only will it help you relax, a bedtime routine will send a strong message to your brain that it’s time for bed.
6. DON’T SKIMP ON THE GOOD STUFF
We’re always big fans of frugality, but sometimes it pays to pay. And sleep is one of those instances. Make sure your pillows, sheets, and mattresses are high quality. Please don’t go into debt to afford a luxury bed setup. But it’s also important not to lump these items into the “frivolous expenditures” category. They’re important.
If you want to biohack a better night’s sleep, it’s important to remember the principles underlying biohacking. These suggestions aren’t cookie-cutter solutions for everyone. Our bodies are all completely different, so they will respond differently. Experiment, measure, and adjust. For example, try cutting off your caffeine intake at different points during the day and see what your body responds to. Sleep with socks on if that’s your thing. Hacking your biology is a unique, individual effort that comes with a lot of trial and error. If you approach every night with a biohacker’s mentality, you’ll sleep better at night and feel better during the day.