Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
4 Jan

17 Ways to Improve Your Sleep

Like last week’s stress post, I’m not going to delve deeply into why sleep is so important. I’ve done it before, and doing so again would simply take up valuable space that’s better used for action items – for actual sleep hacks that you can put into effect immediately. Just rest assured that it’s crucial to health, longevity, immunity, recovery from training, cognition, aptitude while operating vehicles and/or machinery, insulin sensitivity and, well, do I need to go on? If you want to enjoy your limited time on the planet, you better get your Zs.

Despite the long list of health benefits, sleep is one of those things that people skimp on, whether by necessity (work, traffic, kids, busy schedules) or because they figure they can simply “power through it”. The supposed ability to lower our sleep requirements through sheer will is pervasive. “Tough it out” is a popular slogan, as are “Sleep is for the weak” or “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Then there’s Virgil’s “Death’s brother, Sleep” (or, alternately, Nas’ “Sleep is the cousin of death” – thanks, Worker Bee). What we end up with, then, is a nation of overworked, overly fatigued men, women, students, and even children shambling through days dotted with Starbucks Ventis and ridiculous energy drinks. If you count yourself among their numbers, or perhaps you just want better sleep, read on for some tips and tricks:

Light Issues – The Usual

Our circadian clocks govern our sleepiness, and circadian clocks are extremely responsive to – and even dependent on – environmental light. Managing your exposure to light, especially blue light throughout the day and night can help you get to sleep at a normal time. The hormonal flux that controls our sleep schedule is complex, but sticking to ancestral light exposure norms should take care of most of it:

Sleep in a Dark Room

Total darkness is best. That means turning off the blinking DVR, using a towel to block the light streaming in under the door, flipping your alarm clock around, and drawing the blinds. If these aren’t doable, think about wearing an eye mask or draping a dark cloth over your face. You may find that such drastic measures aren’t totally necessary (the moon’s light doesn’t seem to bother me, for example), but it’s definitely worth pursuing if you feel your sleep is lacking.

Read Before Bed

Instead of reaching for the laptop or the remote, why not grab a book? For one, the blue light streaming from the laptop or LCD screen will suppress your natural melatonin production, and for two, reading is a relaxing activity that nonetheless requires active engagement of your cognitive skills. Working your brain can be tiring, while watching something is usually just passive.

Embrace Candlelit Dinners

Candlelit dinners aren’t just romantic; they actually promoted better sleep and more recovery from workouts for reader JD Moyer, who found that ditching all artificial lighting after dark (including computers and TV) in favor of candles made an enormous difference in both his and his wife’s lives. This is likely due to the fact that fire, especially the tiny flames lighting up a simple candle, emits little to no blue light. You know how candle light is “soft” and somehow soothing? There’s a physiological reason for that.

Get Some Exposure to Blue Light in the Morning and During the Day

When you get up in the morning, head outside and greet the day – and the blue sky overhead (if the season permits). Go for a walk at lunch for a bit more exposure. Thankfully, some offices are beginning to employ blue light-enriched overhead lights, which has been shown to increase worker alertness. This is more about normalizing your circadian rhythm and preparing for the rest of the day, rather than using light to fix sleep deprivation-induced fogginess, but it’ll help there in a pinch.

Install F.lux on Your Computer

F.lux is a free program that, when enabled on your computer, reduces blue light emissions.

Wear Orange Safety Goggles

Orange safety goggles may look silly, but they filter out blue light. Might be worth trying if nothing else is working.

Supplements and Other Hacks

Smart supplementation and the implementation of modern technology can do wonders. It may not be how Grok lived, but we face problems that our ancestors never had to cope with.

Get Your Leptin in Order

Sleep quality and duration are strongly linked to low leptin and leptin resistance. If you recall from my posts on leptin and carb refeeds, I suggested going lower fat and higher carb on leptin refeed days, as carbs have the biggest effect on leptin levels. Avoiding excess omega-6, sugar, and grains should take care of leptin resistance. Just stick to sweet potatoes, squash, and other safe starches for your carb-heavy days, and try to have your carbs an hour or two before bed.

Check Your Thiamine Intake

Thiamine, found in meat, especially pork and animal offal, has a big effect on sleep patterns:  a deficiency can lead to poor sleep. Make sure you’re eating enough thiamine-rich foods. Yes, this means you may have to start eating more bacon. I’m sorry. Pair your pig flesh and chicken liver with sunflower seeds, which are also high in thiamine.

Eat Your (Beef) Heart Out

Taurine is a non-essential amino acid, but dietary taurine is still very useful. New research suggests that it plays an important role in brain function, specifically with regards to the inhibitory  neurotransmitter GABA, activation of which is linked to sleepiness. It’s odd that taurine is included in most energy drinks, since it seems far more likely to sedate than energize. Eat more animal hearts, which are very high in taurine. Whole Foods usually carries frozen boxes of turkey and beef (grass-fed, too) hearts for $1.99/lb, at least in Los Angeles.

Take Magnesium (and/or Zinc)

ZMA is a popular supplement combining zinc and magnesium for workout recovery and sleep improvement. Natural Calm, as popularized by Robb Wolf, is a high quality magnesium supplement that many people use for sleep support. Eating leafy greens like spinach, and nuts like almonds for magnesium, and meat/shellfish for zinc are the best ways to obtain either mineral, of course. If you opt out of nuts and greens and choose supplements, stick to magnesiums and zincs that end in “-ate” (don’t take supplements made strictly of oxide, although blends are fine).

Take Melatonin

Melatonin is the primary sleep hormone. We generally produce it endogenously, but sometimes life gets in the way. If that’s the case, exogenous melatonin taken about 30 minutes before bed can help you get to sleep. Less is more with this stuff, although more has been known to lead to extremely vivid dreams. Just stick to small doses, about 0.3 mg to 1 mg to start, and be cautious: it is a hormone.

Get Cooler

Some people associate warmth with sleepiness, but I’m the opposite. I need crisp, cool air if I’m going to get a good night’s sleep. If I can’t control the ambient temperature, in a pinch I’ll rub an ice pack on my inner wrists or dip my feet in cool water to (seemingly) lower my temperature a bit so I can get sleepy. It works for me. Try making your environment cooler and/or making your body cooler.

Try Guided Meditation

Yeah, yeah, it sounds cheesy, but I’m into it. I just tried it over the weekend right as I was going to sleep and it was fantastic. I tried the Moodstreams podcast, specifically the “Down the River” meditation. You have to listen to him promote his products at the start, but the actual “trip” is totally worth it. It got me into that weird half dream, half awake brain state (which was fun) and I just slipped off to sleep without even realizing it. Highly recommended. Here’s his blog, which contains links to the podcasts on iTunes.

Try Esther Gokhale’s “Long Lying”

This recommendation is buried in my sleep posture post from way back, but it bears repeating. I still make sure to do it every time I lie down for a nap or full on sleep: You touch ground with your sacrum, lay your palms on the ground, and slowly lower yourself back, taking care to actively lengthen your spine – vertebrae by vertebrae – by pushing through your hands. Works like a charm, every single time.

Get a Massage or Foam Roll Yourself

Ideally, we’d all have access to stout Swedish maids with strong butter churning hands for nightly massages, but in the real world, foam rollers will do the trick (when your significant other isn’t up to it). You may not slip off to sleep while foam rolling yourself (if you’re doing it right, you’ll be in pain), but you’ll release a lot of physical and mental tension that should make sleep easier and more satisfying. Do ten minutes of foam rolling before bed, focusing on the legs and upper back.

Have a Sleep Routine

We are creatures of habit, and behavior, not just environmental, external cues, helps set our body’s rhythms. Take all or some of the suggestions in this post and put together a comprehensive pre-sleep ritual that you try to stick to every day. Maybe it’s turning off the lights at 6 and switching to candles, followed by a cup of herbal tea, a quick massage, and a good book before bed. Taken individually, each item might have an effect on your sleep, but taken as a whole, they become a standard ritual that you do every night to prepare your body for sleep and that acts as a cue to your circadian clock.

Fix Your Stress

Duh.

Everyone knows they need better sleep, but I’m not convinced they actually know it. At least, they don’t act like it. The preceding represent some pretty simple, basic tips, tricks, and hacks that anyone can try without too much investment. Try a few out and see how they affect your sleep, or lack thereof, and be sure to let me know how it goes in the comment section! Also, if I’ve missed anything, let me know. I’m always looking for more ways to improve!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I highly recommend F.lux program. When I do need to use to the computer as night falls it definitely makes a difference on the eyes.

    I’ve always found a quick way of getting to sleep for me is to not think about the events of the day or what I need to do tomorrow. Instead I like to think about a good movie or book and put myself in it. This daydreaming at night knocks me out fast!

    Paleohund wrote on January 4th, 2011
    • Thats really great! i was searching 4 it,since a long time,& finally i got it & feeling so happy using of F.Lux.

      Raaz wrote on January 21st, 2011
  2. Holding two or three forward bend stretches for no more than 20 seconds each before bed really helps me fall asleep quickly and easily.

    Gorm wrote on January 4th, 2011
    • I have to agree with the stretches. Right before going to bed, on a lazy day where i did not get my legs strongly involved, i find glutes, harmstrings and quads stretching (isometric) are most helpful. Stretching and proper breathing.
      Just a hint :-)

      Furan wrote on January 4th, 2011
  3. Mark,

    Did you really mean to write this, or is there a typo in this recommendation on reading before bed:

    “For one, the blue light streaming from the laptop or LCD screen will suppress your natural melatonin production…”

    This is the opposite of what we need, which is eliminate blue light at night to allow full melatonin production so we can not only sleep, but let melatonin do its night-time job of cellular repair. I know you know this…

    This also counters your other recommendations, which is to use the F.lux program to reduce blue light exposure at night and have candle lit dinners.

    Please check!

    Thanks, Mark!

    Marsha Stopa wrote on January 4th, 2011
    • It was an awkward sentence, but he is staying to SKIP the laptop and read because of the blue light the laptop emits and how it will disrupt your natural melatonin production.
      “Instead of reaching for the laptop or the remote, why not grab a book”

      I’m thinking a suggestion that could be added is lock-out the cat/dog. My cat drives me crazy, he sleeps on my feet and then I want to move but feel bad disrupting him. Why? I don’t know. He gets to sleep all day anyway!! :)

      Rhoda wrote on January 4th, 2011
      • I have the same cat problem! One of mine sleeps ON me at the other at my feet…and I feel bad for moving…even though they come right back! And you are right…they do get to sleep all day anyway!

        Julie wrote on January 4th, 2011
        • I have 3 cats who all sleep on me every night. I can’t imagine a good night’s sleep WITHOUT them! :)

          Karen wrote on January 4th, 2011
      • No no! Part of your care for yourself must extend to care for the planet whenever possible. Even domestic cats are nocturnal killers, although they eat all day between kips. We love our feline companions, but we have flooded the planet with them as a result. If they get out at night, they will kill huge numbers of small beasties annually. Sorry, your cats must stay in.
        You cannot be a Grok and ignore the health of the planet – all else would be morally bankrupt.

        Bronwen wrote on January 5th, 2011
        • This makes no sense. We can’t emulate a prehistoric human if we let our cats kill “beasties?” Personally it makes me crazy when I see a bunch of migrating songbirds dead in a driveway, surely killed by my neighbor’s cat. However, this has nothing to do with Grok. Who, I’m guessing, wasn’t too terribly concerned for “beasties.”

          Meghan wrote on March 4th, 2013
    • I believe he’s saying that you should read a book because your natural melatonin production will drop if you’re looking at the blue light of your laptop.

      Kevin wrote on January 4th, 2011
      • You’re right — I reread it. The sentence is a big awkward but the intent was spot on! Thanks for clarifying.

        Marsha Stopa wrote on January 4th, 2011
        • …ahh, error of my own.

          — a bit awkward — I meant to say. :-O

          Marsha Stopa wrote on January 4th, 2011
  4. Perfect timing on this post for me. I slept terribly last night. Probably because I was reading on my iPad for a while before I went to bed. I was really excited about reading books on it (especially not having to carry them) when I travel. But, I can’t sleep like I did last night every night.

    Steve wrote on January 4th, 2011
    • I haven’t tried the Kindle before bed yet. It has a different type of screen, so I wonder if it has a different effect.

      Ely wrote on January 4th, 2011
      • I read at night on my 1st generation iPhone without any problems. If you’re reading a book on the iPad (using an app like Kindle, Nook, Stanza, etc.) they usually have either night mode, which transposes it to white lettering on a black screen, or you built in dimmers. If all else fails, go to the iPad’s setting and just dim the screen for everything. It helps me a lot.

        James Criswell wrote on January 4th, 2011
      • The Kindle or any e-ink screen should have no effect on melatonin, since they don’t emit light. It’s only LCD screens you have to watch out for.

        I also third (fourth?) the recommendation to use F.Lux. My girlfriend and I use it on all our computers and it’s great.

        Uncephalized wrote on January 4th, 2011
      • I have a Kindle and love it! It has the same effect as readying the printed page!

        Amber wrote on January 4th, 2011
  5. Hi Mark,
    Thanks for your post, I’m glad to see you talking about the importance of sleep, but I have the opposite problem. Starting this summer, I followed your advice and tossed my alarm clock in the trash. I now consistently (and I mean every night) sleep at least 9.5, and more often 10 hours per night. My sleep is very good, I fall right asleep, and don’t wake up in the night at all, but why the heck am I sleeping so much? I am a 33 yr old woman, very active with sports I love. I also have MS, but none of my friends with MS sleep nearly as much as I do (even those who don’t use alarm clocks)

    This means I only have about 2 hrs each evening after work before I need to be in bed, not a whole lot of time!! Any thoughts are appreciated…
    Kate

    Kate wrote on January 4th, 2011
    • Maybe you just need 9-10 hours a night? Some people do, and some only need 6-7. Annoying maybe, but if that’s how your body works, you might just have to accept it.

      Ely wrote on January 4th, 2011
      • i don’t think so. for me, the fewer carbs i eat the less sleep i need. has to do with adrenal gland fatigue, i suspect. I do need more sleep in winter when the days are shorter

        DThalman wrote on January 4th, 2011
    • I would agree with Ely. Depending on my activity level during the day I need any where from 8-10 hours of sleep a night. However, my boyfriend is fine with 7-9. Different strokes for different folks!

      Amber wrote on January 4th, 2011
      • probably there are a lot of factors, though. stress, cortisol. since the body is such an elaborate and finely tuned system, there’s likely to be a lot of variation. but don’t discount diet, it’s huge

        DThalman wrote on January 4th, 2011
        • Thanks guys… I don’t eat much in the way of carbs, (gluten sensitivity means all the tempting carbs are off limits) just a piece of fruit a day and occassionally a sweet potato/winter squash side dish – I’ve never been a sugar fan, so that’s probably not it. Maybe I’m just programmed this way :( I probably have high CRP due to the MS, but have never had it tested. I appreciate all your feedback, I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately..

          Kate wrote on January 5th, 2011
    • I find that darkness improves the quality of my sleep. Every time I visit my parents, I sleep in their basement, in a pitch-dark room sans windows or electronic equipment with little blinking lights. Without fail, I have vivid, lucid dreams there and sleep 1-2 hours less than I normally do, yet feel startlingly well rested in the morning. Maybe going for sleep quality could help you reduce quantity? I know I appreciate the extra waking hours when I’m there!

      Calvin wrote on January 5th, 2011
  6. Valerian root is quite useful for sleep quality. My wife and I have been using it for the past 6 months, and it makes a big enough difference for us to continue to use it.

    It has quite a bit of research behind it that helps to prove it’s effectiveness.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17940604

    Michael Bankston wrote on January 4th, 2011
  7. This is great stuff. Getting 8 hours or even 9 or 10 hours of sleep energizes your whole body and soul. I use caffeine to power some workouts and long work hours but nothing can replace sleep for true health. I find that people tend to eat more calories when they are over tired as well. Which makes sense they need energy so they turn to food. The United States isn’t sleeping enough and we’re fat. Coincidence?

    Mike @ Papa Star Health wrote on January 4th, 2011
    • Lack of sleep also disrupts the hunger/satiety hormones (I forget their names). Basically if I don’t sleep enough, I never get full… I can just eat and eat. And I crave carbs. So sleeping enough definitely helps me keep my weight down. :)

      Ely wrote on January 4th, 2011
  8. I’ve been having quite a lot of hot chocolate lately. It’s not Primal by any means (80/20), but there’s nothing outlandish about the ingredients list (aside from it being processed).

    Thing is, if I drink large amounts (about 2 large cups or so) a few hours before bed, I end up with some extreme insomnia that night – I’m staring at the ceiling and tossing and turning for at least 3 hours straight. I definitely get insomnia from too much dark chocolate, but I use milk with my drinks.

    I’m skipping the chocolate tonight so I can catch up on my sleep, but why has my insomnia been so severe?

    KG wrote on January 4th, 2011
    • Chocolate has caffeine and caffeine-like substances. Not as bad as drinking coffee at night, but it does affect some people the way it’s affecting you.

      Ely wrote on January 4th, 2011
    • Two cups of sugar and caffeine before bed? I may be missing something but why *wouldn’t* that keep you up? Particularly if you’ve cut out sugar and caffeine from the rest of your diet.

      Carl wrote on January 4th, 2011
    • Chocolate and cocoa contains caffeine in varying amounts depending on the method of processing. It’s not much, but some people may be more sensitive to caffeine than others.

      Trav wrote on January 4th, 2011
      • I am very sensitive to caffeine. Basically if i get an espresso on monday morning, i know i am off and running for the rest of the day and that i am not going to sleep for another three nights (worst case : a week). I mean it’s just going to be painful and i am not gonna recover. At all. Best thing i can do then is to work out heavily. Strength training, plyo, shadow boxing.

        Furan wrote on January 4th, 2011
    • Change from chocolate to raw cocoa, and drink it only in the morning. It contains only a little caffeine, but it contains theobromine and phenylethylamine, which are both mild stimulants/antidepressants. Raw cocoa, without sugar or milk, could well be called Grok-food, it has been around a long time, and so far as the ancient denizens of Central America were concerned, it was the food of the gods. It is stuffed with polyphenols, as well as magnesium,copper and manganese.

      Bronwen wrote on January 24th, 2011
  9. Perfect timing with this post. Due to having an early job for the first time in my life, 2010 was definitely The Year of Sleep Deprivation for me.

    After getting sick of feeling like crap all the time, I’ve started to make a concerted effort to go to sleep earlier and rely less on alarm clocks this year.

    I’ll be timing how long I sleep every night and analyzing it on my blog as well.

    I’ll definitely make sure to give this stuff a try!

    Darrin wrote on January 4th, 2011
  10. I am obsessed with sleep – my own and my familys.

    Ditching the laptop before bed has helped no end and I’m now also trying to wake up slowly.

    I believe low progesterone can also affect sleep which is why some women regularly have the awake at 3:30am problem. Progesterone cream helps some but I just get up and get a lot done. I can nap later to catch up.

    Alison Golden wrote on January 4th, 2011
    • you’re cute..hope to see you

      david wrote on January 6th, 2011
    • Wow, low progesterone does that? I wake up at 3:30 am sometimes and can’t sleep for hours afterwards. I might try the progesterone cream thing. I will ask my doctor about it. Thanks!

      Cheryl wrote on November 28th, 2012
  11. Love the many options here for obtaining great sleep! Thanks.

    Yes, ditch the iPad and computer before bed. My job, as most, require me to look at a computer screen around 9 hours a day. When I get home if I spend much time on a computer before bed it effects my sleep, not always but most of the time. I received a kindle mainly for this reason, I did not want to go to bed reading an iPad, a LCD computer screen, and have it effect my sleep.
    For those thinking about e-readers, and like to read before bed make sure you get one that has the E-Ink technology, it is not back lit and will require an external light, hey, maybe a candle, but your sleep and body will thank you for it. It is also easy on the eyes!

    Ryan wrote on January 4th, 2011
  12. I’m pleased to see someone else talking about wanting to be cool to sleep well. I have been known to run my hands and feet under a cold tap, and open my window even in Dec. It used to help the gluten-induced swollen feet and hands and restless leg syndrome too!

    Katherine wrote on January 4th, 2011
    • I run a fan and sometimes crack a window too. I grew up in an old house with an unheated upstairs…loved it cold, now I have trouble if it is not cold.

      Julie wrote on January 4th, 2011
    • I love sleeping with a little cold air draft as well. We also have the fan on when sleeping to circulate cooler air (and for the white noise). Having the room be cool makes getting warm under the covers so much nicer!

      Amber wrote on January 4th, 2011
    • I’m with you on this! It’s Summer here in Australia … it’s hot, it’s horribly humid and, without airconditioning, getting some solid sleep is pretty difficult.

      GirlinOz wrote on January 4th, 2011
  13. Don’t agree with the comment about ditching the Ipad. My husband brought one back for me from the U.S and it really changed my life. An avid (but pushing middle-aged reader), I was starting to have real problems reading at night. The light in our bedroom was never right and the reading glasses were not comfortable. With my Ipad I can adjust the font size and the luminosite until I find a comfortable setting. Your mileage may vary but I for one am very pleased with the product.

    Victoria Ferauge wrote on January 4th, 2011
    • You can adjust the text size on an e-reader too! It might be worth checking out.

      Amber wrote on January 4th, 2011
  14. Great post.

    I’m always surprised to people who cut down on their sleep to exercise in the morning. Exercise is a stressor and you only benefit from it if you had enough of good food and SLEEP so your body has a chance to repair itself. As a matter of fact I recommend “SLEEP YOURSELF SKINNY” program. Where you sleep as much as you can handle and guess what, you’re almost guaranteed to lose some weight.

    Few suggestions:
    1. Our natural circadian rhythm is go to sleep around 10 pm and wake up around 6 am (From sundown to the sunrise)
    2. Stay away from caffeine after 2 PM
    3. If you are have sleep issues check your adrenals for possible adrenal fatigue

    Aram Hovsepian wrote on January 4th, 2011
  15. Learn the Gokhale Method’s technique of stretchlying here on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIpo_m6v7T0

    Andrea wrote on January 4th, 2011
  16. Not on the sleep topic but I would be very interested to hear Mark or anyone else’s comments on this latest research published in PNAS (abstract and link below) that indicates 30 000 years ago that hunter gatherers were processing and eating starchy grains. So maybe excluding grain is not so paleolithic as we previously thought….

    Thirty thousand-year-old evidence of plant food
    processing:

    European Paleolithic subsistence is assumed to have been largely
    based on animal protein and fat, whereas evidence for plant
    consumption is rare. We present evidence of starch grains from
    various wild plants on the surfaces of grinding tools at the sites
    of Bilancino II (Italy), Kostenki 16–Uglyanka (Russia), and Pavlov VI
    (Czech Republic). The samples originate from a variety of geographical
    and environmental contexts, ranging fromnortheastern Europe
    to the central Mediterranean, and dated to the Mid-Upper Paleolithic
    (Gravettian and Gorodtsovian). The three sites suggest that
    vegetal food processing, and possibly the production of flour, was
    a common practice, widespread across Europe from at least ~30,000
    y ago. It is likely that high energy content plant foods were available
    and were used as components of the food economy of these
    mobile hunter–gatherers.

    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/10/08/1006993107.full.pdf

    Sam wrote on January 4th, 2011
  17. Great post, Mark. Thanks!

    +1 to Aram. Before going Primal, I thought work outs got you lean and sleep re-energized you. Now, I work out to get re-energized and sleep to get lean.

    Geoff wrote on January 4th, 2011
  18. I’m always impressed by the quality of your articles Mark. Keep up the good work!

    Félix wrote on January 4th, 2011
  19. I’m a really bad sleeper, and I do a lot of this stuff (a cool temperature and complete darkness are KEY for me). Another thing that’s helped me is to make sure there’s minimal ambient light in the hour or two before I head off to bed. I’ll turn off the bright overhead light at 8pm or so and relax with only a small, low-light lamp for rest of the night. I can tell the difference if I can’t do that.

    Tracy wrote on January 4th, 2011
  20. Alot of people use their mobile phones (cell phones) for alarm clocks. I find that leaving the phone outside the bedroom and using a proper alarm clock really makes a difference to how I sleep. I wonder if it is the radiation? I reckon electical stuff – dvd, tv, laptops, etc, is a no no in the bedroom.

    zelda wrote on January 4th, 2011
  21. darkening my room was an amazing help. Also interested in play with REM cycles…

    acupuncturist wrote on January 4th, 2011
  22. Coffee, tea, chocolate, alcohol are all well established as causing insomnia in many people. I gave up 95% of caffiene because of sleep problems, and what little I consume is before 2-3pm. The up side, if I need to be awake for a late night drive, a small coffee will keep me up all night.

    Digby wrote on January 4th, 2011
  23. I suffer from tinnitus (constant ringing in the ears) and it tends to affect my sleep (and everything else) negatively. Anybody else have this problem, and if so, any suggestions or solutions?

    AP wrote on January 4th, 2011
    • I actually find that some white noise (for me, listening to late night BBC radio news murmuring away quietly in the background) helps me to drop off. Pure silence is great for STAYING asleep, but I find it really hard to get to sleep in the first place if all I can hear is my tinnitus over the silence. And once you start thinking about it, that’s all you can hear…

      The only time that the imposed silence of earplugs really helps is when there’s some other neighborhood noise (barking dog, pounding party music next door) which is even more annoying than the tinnitus.

      Sigi wrote on January 5th, 2011
    • I find that keeping the bathroom fan running or having clothes in the dryer helps with too much silence.

      Dan wrote on December 6th, 2011
  24. Do a tough workout early in the day. Works every time!

    Nathan wrote on January 4th, 2011
  25. Earplugs. If I have trouble falling or staying asleep, the near total silence knocks me right out.

    Lis wrote on January 4th, 2011
  26. Very helpful list. I installed f.lux and like it very much.

    I didn’t know about taurine. Until I started this primal way of eating I rarely ate red meat. Probably wasn’t getting very much of this from diet.

    slacker wrote on January 4th, 2011
  27. I’ve been hacking through Robb Wolf’s podcasts lately and just listened to one that brought up reading before sleep. He mentioned that reading itself can be a great way to relax before bed, but to be careful about reading something that will hype you up, such as adventurous fiction tales. I know that I’ve accidentally stayed up a couple extra hours to read through an exciting part of a book.

    Neil wrote on January 4th, 2011
  28. Does anyone know of any supplements (As natural as possible), vitamins etc that you can take to help you feel a little drowsy to help you drift off better? I’ve had trouble falling asleep for as long as i can remember and unless i’m really tired can take upwards of 2hrs to be out. Once i have drifted off though i have very restful sleep. Don’t wake up through the night and usually feel pretty rested the next day but i could be spending several hours less in bed if i could just drift off within half an hour of hitting the sack. Also where abouts to you get onto melatonin? It sounds like it could be what i’m after but i’d rather something that isn’t a hormone if it can be helped.

    Ro wrote on January 4th, 2011
    • I’ve been taking melatonin for years and haven’t changed gender or anything yet! I put .3mg under my tongue about 30 minutes before bedtime. It’s available at most pharmacies and health food stores. Pretty cheap. I’ve also used GABA supplements quite a bit. Pretty expensive. I take a lot (500mg). The one side effect is it seems to make breathing a bit difficult for maybe 30 seconds as it enters my bloodstream. I also find alcohol incrediby damaging to sleep. So I stopped drinking mainly for that reason. I’ve also found garlic eaten too close to sleep time makes my dreams very vivid: sometimes waking me up.

      Mark Cruden wrote on January 7th, 2011
  29. While we have the topic of magnesium and zinc supplements again: Many supplements, and pretty much every zinc supplement I’ve found, contain some magnesium stearate. And although I’ve asked it often and used a lot of google, I still don’t know if it’s bad or not. IIRC some supplement the Whole9 people recommend contains some. Does anyone know something about it? Maybe Mark, as making supplements is what he’s doing? ;)
    (I have found a blend, more specifically the ZMA supplement available on myprotein.co.uk which doesn’t contain any magnesium stearate. But it’s quite expensive).

    hmrf wrote on January 5th, 2011
  30. And if you are a mommy-to-be: don’t do it the American way, do it like Grok did! Sleep with your baby in your bed (read up on how to do it safely) and nurse him/her in your sleep. No need to wake and get up in the middle of the night, and the nursing hormones will make you doze of in a minute if you did wake up. And your sleeping cycles will match each others when you are charing bed, so your baby will want to feed when he/her AND you are sleeping light.

    Amiechan wrote on January 5th, 2011
  31. For those who can´t toss out the good old alarm clock I recommend a sleep cycle alarm clock. It senses your movements during the night and wakes you up when you are in a light sleep phase. Getting up has become a lot easier for me.

    Also, supplement Melatonin? Really?

    I would try everything else to improve my sleep before taking melatonin. As stated, it is a hormone after all.

    Walter wrote on January 5th, 2011
  32. My decade plus problem with insomnia literally disappeared in a week when I switched out my low fat high carb habits for a fat and protein based diet. However, back in the day when I couldn’t sleep, the trick that worked best for me was clearing my mind of any thoughts about the past or future. Counting, focusing on your breathing, or consciously relaxing each muscle in your body one by one are all techniques that used to work for me.

    kateD wrote on January 5th, 2011
  33. Thanks for the reminder of the importance of a good nights sleep.

    One of my dogs is elderly so needs to go outside for wees a couple of times in the night. While I’m waiting for him to do his bussiness I often look at my e-mails so a zap of blue light at 2am and 4am in the morning no wonder I can’t get back to sleep. I also have got into the habit of watching TV when I sleep. I think I might try out the amber glasses to cut out the blue light as a starting point.

    Plenty of food for thought, and some behaviour changes needed.

    kim wrote on January 5th, 2011
  34. Hehe. How about some good old sex to get a good nights sleep ;-)

    Ståle wrote on January 5th, 2011
  35. I’ve been a stomach sleeper for many years despite it causing me to wake up every night with neck pains. I tried the long lay method last night and it felt great to not have my back hurt when I tried to sleep on my back, but I still couldn’t resist the urge to roll onto my stomach to fall asleep.

    How do I stop that?

    Matthew Duhamel wrote on January 5th, 2011
    • I believe there are pillows for a stomach sleepers, maybe they could help with neck pain.

      As for changing predominant sleeping position, the only way I know is to turn on the back again each time you catch yourself sleeping on the stomach. For me it took many years of training myself to change my predominant sleeping side on another (by necessity).

      Helen wrote on May 22nd, 2013
  36. Awesome. Word up to WB for the Nas reference! :)

    (And don’t worry, Mark, I appreciate your knowledge of the Aeneid, too…)

    Alhaddadin wrote on January 5th, 2011
  37. The reason I chose Kindle over other e-readers is because of the light factors. The page looks just like I’m reading a book and I always read before bed…it knocks me out. My daughter and I studied sleep extensively a few years ago and light is such a huge issue. My bedroom is dark, I don’t have anything plugged in except my lamps, no alarm clocks with their bright screens. As a night light for the bathroom, I use a flameless candle keeping everything as dim as possible. When I can’t fall asleep, I “try on clothes” – not literally, but I think about what to pair with what. It may sound silly, but my clothes are decidedly unstressful and they are easy to think about, so that is what I do and viola! I’m asleep in no time. I am pretty excited to try the long lay method. I want to see if that can return me to the days when I was sleeping like the dead within a few deep breaths – like heavy sighs – geez I misss that! Those days are gone, sadly, but now I’m given new hope…less outfits I have to try on! Hahahaha!

    Kim Privette wrote on January 5th, 2011
  38. I bought a king size foam mattress several years ago and its great! It has a firm 8″ slab on bottom and a 6″ softer layer on top. I use 4 pillows-foam head pillow, small knee pillow (20+years old), a front and back pillow. The mattress molds to my body and I’m out in a minute.
    All light is blocked and I have to raise my head to look at the clock.
    I made too many parachute jumps in SF and have two metal knees and more metal in my back. I hurt all the time when up but not in bed now.
    The witch hides on her side of the bed and I have to find her when it’s time to do the wild thing. Since it molds to our body the one on bottom is in a deep depression when finished so has to be pulled out by the other one. Then it’s crash time again.
    We love this mattress and we’ll buy one again if this one dies.
    I only wish I had a couple more wives or concubines to fill up the bed with.

    ww rutland wrote on January 5th, 2011
  39. Sleep is a major issue for me because three days a week I work the night shift. I wish there was a way to get my rhythms back in order for the rest of the week!

    Sonia wrote on January 5th, 2011
    • Lots of people who work night shifts use melatonin to help with their distorted sleep cycles.

      I’ve heard it’s pretty effective.

      thehova wrote on January 5th, 2011
  40. I have been battling sleep problems since menopause but found that if I go to the gym in the evening and spend 10 minutes in the steam room after my workout I will sleep deeply and wake up feeling great. No gym, no sleep though.

    Fiona wrote on January 5th, 2011

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