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

How to Wake Up and Feel Alert

Have you defeated the fearsome sleep beast that plagues so many of your countrymen?

You might think you have – after all, you installed blackout curtains in the bedroom, disconnected every LED-light before hitting the sack, peer through slitted eyes at a F.lux-altered computer screen, get seven to nine hours a night, and make getting to bed early a priority – but if you’re still waking up groggy, foggy-headed, and in desperate, immediate need of a caffeine infusion… is the beast really slain or has it merely assumed another form? You could even be displaying zero outward signs of sleep deprivation, like insulin resistance, fat gain, or a zombie-like disposition at midday, instead continuing to lean out and enjoy steady energy throughout the workday (once you snap out of the morning doldrums), but that waking grogginess cannot be ignored. It’s annoying and it’s ruining what should be a serene moment of quiet energy before the madness of the day descends. You don’t want to be stumbling through the kitchen for the coffee maker; you want to spring out of bed and greet the morning like the dear old friend it should be.

Okay, so how do you do it? How do you really defeat the sleep beast once and for all?

Self-experiment. Shift some things around, do something differently, and note the effects. I’ll give you some leads, but first, try some Seth Roberts sleep hacks.

Seth is great. I’ve discussed him before, he’ll be speaking at the upcoming Ancestral Health Symposium, and he’s connected with many of your favorite paleo and Primal bloggers. Seth is also big into self-experimentation. And I don’t mean trying things and subjectively assessing their impact. Seth goes all in and quantitatively tracks the impact of a change. Stats, graphs, logs, the whole nine. Years ago, Seth had sleep quality issues. Wasn’t getting enough and the sleep he was getting wasn’t great. He noticed that different variables seemed to improve and/or worsen his sleep, so he got to figuring out exactly how each worked.

Intermittently standing on one leg to exhaustion.

In 1996, Seth noticed that standing up while working, reading, writing, or studying worked well and improved his sleep, but it wasn’t practical. He couldn’t stand for eight hours a day comfortably and still get all his work done. Then, in 2008, he wondered if standing on one leg instead of two would condense the effect and require less time to enact it. It did. Standing on a leg to exhaustion once or twice a day led to more restfulness upon waking the next day. Three times a day was better than one or two, and four was better than three. He eventually settled on three daily sets of two – each leg to exhaustion three times per day with four hours in between sets. When his legs got too strong to reach exhaustion, he upped the ante by slightly bending his knee and “bobbing” up and down. Doing this improved his “sleep efficiency”; he didn’t necessarily sleep any longer or earlier, but he always awoke refreshed, indicating that he was sleeping better in the same amount of time.

Try standing on one leg to exhaustion several times each day. It’s goofy looking, sure, but so are those Vibrams. Who cares?

Skipping breakfast.

Seth also found that he was waking up earlier than he preferred, leading to groggy mornings and less wakefulness during the day. On a friend’s recommendation, he added fruit to his breakfast, which made the problem worse. He removed the fruit and added protein, which was better than fruit but not good enough. Finally, to go back to square one and systematically isolate variables, he stopped eating breakfast altogether. This was the “control.” His goal was to add things in and note their effect without outside noise, but the control setting solved his problem. He began waking up at a normal time feeling extremely refreshed, probably because he was no longer entraining anticipatory behavior in himself. When he ate an early breakfast, he was training himself to wake up in anticipation of feeding. Stopping breakfast solved this. Now, you may not think you’re waking up early, but you may be waking up earlier than is optimum for your body because of anticipated feeding.

Try intermittent fasting instead of eating a daily breakfast. Maybe skip breakfast altogether, or, if you love bacon and eggs as much as I do, push breakfast back to 11:00 (which is when Seth broke his fast).

Eating more animal fat.

Now, I don’t think this one will be a hard sell with the PB crowd, but I’m always happy to tell you to eat more animal fat. After Seth started working his way through a pork belly (which is uncured bacon, essentially, and mostly pork fat) that’d been sitting in his freezer, he immediately slept better. As in, the day after his first pork belly meal, he slept better. This effect persisted.

If you’re still scared of animal fat, don’t be. Don’t shy away from the fattier cuts of meat.

Those are one man’s experiments with sleep, albeit one man with a fair number of readers, many of whom have corroborated his findings. But still – they may not work for you. They certainly won’t hurt, however, so give ’em a shot.

What about some other potential ideas that you may be missing? Well, a few months back I gave you 17 concrete tips to improve your sleep. Go over those, make sure you’ve got them dialed in, and then proceed:

Daytime light.

Don’t just avoid or limit nighttime light exposure, which you’re probably a master at; maximize daytime light exposure as well. It’s easy enough to lower the lights, put on some candles, and install light dampening apps on your laptop, but it’s not always easy to actually get outside during the day and get natural light exposure when you need it. Because it’s true: you need it – at the right times – to maintain proper circadian rhythm.

Go outside right when you wake up. Even if it’s overcast and gray, you’re still getting exposed to natural light. It’s a great way to wake up in the immediate sense, and it ensures your circadian rhythm is on point for the future.

Keep an eating schedule.

Just like eating an early breakfast entrained Seth Roberts to awaken early, eating your other meals at roughly set times might also entrain stable sleeping patterns. Wild variations in eating schedules could be sending your body a confusing message about when to expect bedtime. While I’m not big on eating schedules in general (eat when you’re hungry and don’t when you’re not), if you are waking up groggy this might help.

I don’t think it’s all that important how your schedule is constructed. Just have one.

Eat an earlier dinner.

Maybe all those grandmas and grandpas who wake up at the crack of dawn and eat dinner at four PM know something we don’t. I’m not saying you should sit down for a roast just after noon, but it might be worth eating a little earlier than usual – especially if you’re having trouble with morning grogginess. Melatonin, the “sleep hormone,” is blunted with feeding.

Eat no later than two hours before bed.

Stop caffeine.

I know, I know, it’s sacrilege. Caffeine comes in many delicious packages. It is king. But maybe it’s also affecting the quality of your sleep. We’ve all heard of the people who can’t have a sip of coffee without it preventing them from getting to sleep later that night. What if caffeine isn’t affecting your ability to knock off, but it is reducing the quality, or efficiency, of the sleep you get? It’s certainly worth a (decaf espresso) shot, right?

If you’re a cup-a-day drinker, avoid coffee for a week altogether. If you’re more of the pot-a-day kinda drinker, reduce your daily intake to a cup (I hear caffeine withdrawal headaches are nasty things). The key is to drastically reduce your caffeine intake from present levels.

Eat gelatin.

Animals have traditionally been consumed nose to tail, including all the gelatinous connective tissue that most modern meat eaters trim and toss. Real bone broths are another lost dietary component, replaced by canned “stock” and bouillon cubes. Both are rich sources of gelatin. To whit, most modern eaters don’t get enough gelatin, and modern PB eaters who focus on muscle meats, veggies, and eggs to the exclusion of bone broths and bone-in cuts might be missing out, too. According to Ray Peat, gelatin helps with sleep (of course, he also insists sugar is a prime energy source…) by supplying certain amino acids, like glycine, which are relatively rare in muscle meat. Even if he’s wrong, broth is worth working into your diet.

Incorporate real bone broth into your cooking on a regular basis. Get into the habit of making stock every week. Freeze in ice cube trays. Stock cubes are easy to add to veggies, soups, sauces, or even just alone in a mug. Powdered gelatin also works; this brand is from pastured cattle.

Reading fiction.

Rather than “limit electronics” before bed, eliminate them and read yourself some fiction to sleep instead. Even with F.lux engaged, I’m unconvinced the late-night blog reader is completely in the clear. The smooth, inert pages of a real life novel you can hold in your hand, though? It’s a potent sleep aid. I’m not exactly sure why it works so well. Maybe fiction is similar enough to dreaming that you get halfway there just by opening the book. Maybe immersing oneself in a fictional world takes more mental exertion than reading and understanding nonfiction, and it just tires you out faster. Whatever the mechanism, it’s worth pursuing.

Read some fiction before bed. Ebook readers that use e-ink should work about as well as regular books.

Nearly everything we do has an effect on some seemingly far-flung physiological process. It might be slight, but it’s there. The key, then, is to try lots of different things one by one (so you can deduce cause and effect), note the response, internalize it, and move on to the next one. It may be that caffeine doesn’t affect you, but a lack of morning light does. It may be that skipping breakfast by itself isn’t enough, but standing on one leg and skipping breakfast are sufficient (that does sound odd, doesn’t it?). The cool thing about all these tips is that they are completely safe. Experimenting with any or all of them is not going to put you in harm’s way. Heck, I bet some of you have already been thinking about drinking more bone broth, standing up to work, getting more sunlight during the day, and giving up caffeine without morning grogginess as the impetus. Overall, these are just healthy, net-beneficial practices to incorporate – all the more worth trying if you’re having trouble getting up in the morning.

Now it’s your turn. Give these a shot if you’re having sleep issues, and let us know what’s worked for you if you’ve already slain the beast. Thanks for reading, and I hope to hear from you in the comment section!

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. Great article once again Mark. Sleep has always been an issue for me, even when I was a little kid.
    I have really noticed that reading on my iPad right before bed is horrible for me. Usually, reading makes me sleepy, and it’s no different using the iPad. However, I can’t sleep for hours after using that thing.

    Edward wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • As I understand it, the iPad does not use e-ink. Therefore it has the same light as a computer screen and will interfere with sleep.

      Ely wrote on June 7th, 2011
      • there needs to be a F.lux app for the iPad, that would definitely help

        Burn wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • I used to notice the same thing with my mac (addicted to getting updated on blogs before bed.) I’m not sure if the Ipad has a similar feature but if I turn down my screen brightness to the last setting before off, it almost looks like a real book page to me and is much less stimulating. I’d like to see some studies done with this but try it on the lowest light setting you can. Helps the battery last longer too 😉

      Nutritionator wrote on June 7th, 2011
      • I set my iPad (kindle app) to sepia or white letters/black background; I get sleepy after a few pages!

        Jules wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • iPad is like a iPhone, computer or tv screen. Too much blue light stimulation which is known to disrupt production of sleep-inducing hormones. Kindle uses e-ink, so it works great. I use non-fluorescent light bulbs (natural spectrum incandescent bulbs) with the Kindle – amazing. Give it a try!

      Jess wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • The Barnes and Noble app called Nook has a brightness setting in the upper right hand corner. Tap on the screen to bring up the menu. I like the fact I can change the setting while reading. I keep mine on the lowest setting when reading before sleep and I doze off just like reading a bound book.

      Dragonfly wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • Mark, you say to eat animal fats, yet you say to avoid non-organic animal fats because they are laden with antibiotics/pesticides, but how do we, those who are unable to afford/access organic meats, obtain animal fats? Just butter? What else can we eat?!?!!?!?!? FFFFFUUUUUUUU!!!!!!!

      Taco wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • I don’t have an iPad. I sleep great. LOL

      Paleo Josh wrote on June 15th, 2011
    • You highlight a brand that you say is from pastured cattle for gelatin. When I clicked the link it says great lakes porcine. Is that the one that you recommend or should I get bovine? I wonder what the difference is. Thanks.

      Trish wrote on October 1st, 2015
  2. Eating a healthier diet overall has helped me with sleep. Also, I have found that b-complex vitamins work well with managing my stress and helping me fall sleep.

    Satish wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • The B-complex has helped me out, too. Also, I have read that early morning grogginess, especially after 7 – 9 hours regularly per night, might signal that your cortisol and melatonin are out of rhythm. You can get them checked with your doctor if you suspect that is the case.

      Shamra wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • I noticed improvement with b-vitamins too, and also with taking Calcium Magnesium right before bedtime.

      Katie @ Wellness Mama wrote on June 7th, 2011
      • You should separate calcium and magnesium as they tend to cancel each other out.

        If you’re going to take calcium, take it in the morning, because the magnesium will help you sleep, so it should be taken at night.

        Same with Vitamin A and D. Don’t take them together. You’d normally get D from sunlight, so morning to afternoon is a good window for D. A you should probably take at night. A and D both compete for the same receptors, so if you take them both, they cancel each other out.

        raydawg wrote on June 11th, 2011
  3. Reading fiction is absolutely a good one. I swear by it. I just get into bed a good half hour before I’d like to be asleep and read until my eyes begin trying to close on their own. Then it’s just a matter of setting the book aside and turning off the light and I’m out immediately. Works like a charm.

    Andy wrote on June 7th, 2011
  4. Eating Primal and getting more exercise helped me be able to wake up in the mornings. I usually wake up before the alarm rings and I don’t have to drag myself out of bed. However I still get extreme sleepiness sometimes in the afternoons. I’m not sure why this is.

    I’m already doing the things listed here except for the standing on one leg thing.

    Daria wrote on June 7th, 2011
  5. nice

    francois gamache wrote on June 7th, 2011
  6. Several people in Barefoot Ted’s Google Group sleep on the floor–no mattress, no pillow, just a blanket or duvet under them–and report much improved sleep. I’ve been experimenting with it for about 2 weeks now, and it DOES seem like I get to sleep faster, and wake up less often.

    It fascinates me how little we “need” to function perfectly well in the world.

    wilberfan wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • I’m a big believer in this! I wouldn’t do it chronically, but 3-4 times a month i’ll sleep on the floor (at a friends house, too hot in bed) and I notice waking up feeling much better.

      Jaybird wrote on June 7th, 2011
      • I’ve slept on the floor in Chicago at my bros place before and I recall sleeping quite well.

        I have no reason to change how I sleep but I also love experimenting. Hmmm….

        I am going to Orlando, FL – Harry Potter World – this weekend with 2 others… with 2 beds… we were going to get a cot. If its extra I am going to sleep on the floor the first night.


        Primal Toad wrote on June 7th, 2011
        • Go for it dude, it’s an idea I’ve been toying with as well and I’d like to know how it works out for you. Is there anything better than a nap on a soft carpet in the summer?

          Nutritionator wrote on June 7th, 2011
        • Sometimes I have the urge to take a nap on the floor. Its almost like my body craves the carpet floor over the soft bed. My only problem is my tailbone and back of my head start to hurt after 30m to an hour.

          Brandyn wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • Indeed! I use a natural rubber mattress (firm) on platform bed – the best investment I’ve ever made. It’s similar to sleeping on the floor, only a bit more comfortable and something about sleeping directly on the (dirty) floor bothers me. My sleep has always been good, only better now…springing out of bed is my favourite feeling of the day. Back issues also went away.
      Interestingly…sleeping on my SO’s soft as pillow bed with fancy supports make me wake up droggy and in a rotten mood, with back issues on a full-on revenge. It did not feel good. Training first thing in the morning (which is always my routine) is also much harder.

      Jess wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • Mmm, I’ve started doing this. I was cleaning my mattress one day, didn’t finish before bed, so I just plopped down on the floor. Weeks later, I’m still sleeping on the hardwood. For some reason, almost every night I’m having vivid dreams and waking up feeling…well, not bad. Certainly with a lot to think about. And now there’s so much more space in my room!

      calvin wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • I used to have trouble falling asleep when I was a kid. I would eventually make my way down to my carpeted floor and slept great.

      Wendy wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • My brother-in-laws all gave up sleeping in their beds for one month just for the heck of it, and they are still sleeping on the floor, swearing it is more comfortable…

      Katie @ Wellness Mama wrote on June 7th, 2011
      • In my teens I found my bad back felt better after I’d spent a night on a friend’s floor. So I got rid of the bed and slept on a closed cell camping mat for the next seven years. Worked great. When I got married the concession was to get a thin futon instead, and lay it directly on the floor. Twenty years later, still using a futon and never (either of us) had any sleep problems.

        caolas wrote on June 8th, 2011
  7. These are some interesting ‘sleep hacks’, many of which I’ve never heard of before. It will be interesting to try these things out. I’m pretty much unable to keep a schedule where I get more than seven hours of sleep per night (usually more like 5-6), and every little bit helps. I cut most of the caffeine a while ago, now I just enjoy a glassful of iced tea in the morning a few hours after I wake up. The standing on one leg thing is too simple NOT to try.

    Hal wrote on June 7th, 2011
  8. I am known to sleep like a baby every night but I am still going to utilize this tip…

    “Read some fiction before bed”

    I love my primal/evolution/sciency books but I need to start reading some fiction too. Does anyone have any recommendations? I am going to Harry Potter world this weekend and I would not be surprised if I came home with the first book…

    Primal Toad wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • I’d recommend “The Atrocity Archives” and “Jennifer Morgue” by Charles Stross. They’re perfect summer books.

      TheMaskedEmu wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • Don’t try reading Harry Potter before bed. I found it so engrossing, I stayed up much too late reading. :)

      Ely wrote on June 7th, 2011
      • Ha! Have you read all the books? I LOVE to sleep so I think I will be able to put the book down. I’ve been flirting with the idea of reading fiction for 30-60 minutes before I wish to sleep but have yet to do it.

        Since I am going to the Harry Potter Park with 2 die hard fans it just seems like this will be the winner!

        Primal Toad wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • Harry Potter books are really engrossing and fun (and well written:)

      Erin (Pretty in Primal) wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • Harry Potter is a great read.

      If you like Military Sci-Fi, try David Weber’s Honorverse novels. 1st one is “On Basilisk Station.” Female lead space-naval officer.

      If you like long epics with swords and magic, try Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time novels. 1st one is “The Eye of the World.”

      Heck, those two series alone could take you two years to read if you’re only reading 30 minutes a night.

      Jenn wrote on June 7th, 2011
      • If you are into sci-fi or even not (seriously amazed at how many people love this but hate sci-fi) check out Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. You’ll quickly get sucked into the sequels and prequels and related books… so good.

        kerry wrote on June 7th, 2011
        • Next to the Dune sereies, The ender saga is the greatest sci-fi series written.

          Jaybird wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • Everything by Jules Verne. It’s 19th century science fiction, what’s not to love?

      Malin wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • If you are looking for something more primally, I would recommend Clan of the Cave Bear Series and The First North Americans series (People of the Wolf, etc.)

      Chipin wrote on June 7th, 2011
      • I am actually. A story out in the wilderness.

        A perfect example that is a true story is “Into the Wild.” Have any of you heard of that?

        Primal Toad wrote on June 7th, 2011
        • Yup, I have it :)

          juliemama wrote on June 8th, 2011
      • I second both of those–just finished Jean Auel’s latest one last night. The first three are her best, but I haven’t found one of the Gear’s that I haven’t liked yet.

        Mamaeli wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • FWIW, I’m re-reading James Clavell’s Shogun. If you like historical fiction it’s a must-read.

      Laconophile wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • anything by Robert Heinlein. I particularly like Glory Road.

      bbuddha wrote on June 7th, 2011
      • And “The Moon is A Harsh Mistress”!

        Also Pastwatch, and the Ender Series by Orson Scott Card. Good stuff!

        Hal wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • If you’ve never read any Vonnegut, now’s a good time to start. May I recommend you start with “Breakfast of Champions,” “Cat’s Cradle,” or “Slaughterhouse 5.”

      fritzy wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. Humorous and thought provoking at the same time.

      Bev wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • I know I’m really late to this conversation, but if you’re still looking for good books, try The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

      Slightlycracked wrote on October 6th, 2014
  9. Thanks for the article. One thing that has changed a lifetime of sleeplessness for me is to cut out sugar and sweeteners- has made all the difference

    Staci wrote on June 7th, 2011
  10. Foresaking the computer and TV at night and using the Kindle I just got has been a great improvement. Some low light and Kindle, getting a bunch of the classics on ebook for little or no cost. Treasure Island!

    Joe Brancaleone wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • I have been strongly considering buying a kindle. Amazon just started there buy back program where you can sell back your books for store credit. I have 20-30 books chilling here that have not been read yet that are available on Amazon. I am thinking of just selling those books and then getting the kindle version when I am ready to read them.

      What do you think? Is the kindle worth it?

      Primal Toad wrote on June 7th, 2011
      • Getting a Kindle or Nook is definitely worth every penny. I’ve read more in the 6 months I’ve had mine than I had in the last 6 years. I can’t recommend one highly enough.

        TheMaskedEmu wrote on June 7th, 2011
        • Nook color is fantastic. It’s a full android tablet. I have one and I didn’t even bother to register it with B&N. Instead, I installed on the internal memory (eMMC). Phiremod is a very functional version of the Android software, I’ve had better luck with it than with cyanogen.

          I use the Aldiko ebook reader which works very nicely and even has a “night” mode. You can change the colors to whatever you want, and dim by dragging your finger up and down on the left hand side, so it’s safe to use at night.

          It’s much nicer than the Kindle, which I gave to my older kid, but the battery doesn’t last anywhere as long, but that doesn’t bother me.

          raydawg wrote on June 11th, 2011
      • Harry Potter books are easy, but good, reads.

        They are normally in the kids section though, just fyi. It took me a while to succumb to the fact I was buying children’s books at 25 at the bookstore. :) I looked everywhere else, lol.

        I just finished “Feed” by Mira Grant. Not your average zombie book. It was -very- good.

        Grim wrote on June 7th, 2011
      • And yes, the kindle is -absolutely- worth it.

        If I don’t have my kindle with me, I have the app on my phone. So anywhere I’m bored for a minute, I’ll whip out my phone and read a few pages.

        Grim wrote on June 7th, 2011
      • I love my Kindle. I’ve had mine for two years now. I can read it in direct sunlight with no problems.

        You can also loan out some books now, digitally. Basically, you give someone access to your book license for a couple weeks. During that time, you can’t access your book content, but you don’t have to worry about never getting it back. When the time is up, your copy is unlocked again.

        Jenn wrote on June 7th, 2011
      • LOVE my Kindle. I take it everywhere with me. The screen is so easy to read, and you never have to worry about tattered pages or broken spines.

        Bourgogne wrote on June 7th, 2011
      • Love the Kindle. I only read ebooks now. Another big benefit – after reaching the age where your eyes change and you can’t see close up any longer, reading books became a chore – I had to have reading glasses on top of wearing my contact lenses for life-long myopia. Then I got multi-focal lenses, which helped but I still got eye fatigue from reading.

        When I got the Kindle when it first came out I could read it without any issues of eye tiredness. Hooray! I also read my Kindle books on my iPad and even on the iPhone.

        HillSide Gina wrote on June 7th, 2011
      • I have a Sony Reader, it’s great. I’d do some price shopping, find out which one will give you the best deal. Kindle started coming down in price when they started getting some competition so they may be the best deal now.

        bbuddha wrote on June 7th, 2011
  11. The linked gelatin product is made of pork (see picture and product description).
    The same company has another product made of beef, but I haven’t found any information on whether it’s made of pastured animals.

    Z wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • Z,

      The company’s direct web site sells both kinds in packages of six. The price is cheaper than Amazon, but shipping is pretty expensive unless you decide to buy 12 or more at a time.

      There is no direct information on how the cows are raised, but I found a few blogs mentioning the product that claim the cows are pasture raised and grass fed. I would take that with a grain of salt, as it is second hand information, and definitions of pastured vs grass fed vs grass finished, etc. can get sticky pretty quickly.

      It sounds like one of the better options out there for gelatin. Go directly to the company site if you want to order larger quantities.

      Rodney wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • Store-bought gelatin is a pretty pure product so between grass- and grain-finished it shouldn’t matter.

      Andrea Reina wrote on June 7th, 2011
  12. Natural Calm!

    Meghan wrote on June 7th, 2011
  13. I like this article a lot. I am definitely struggling with excessive consumption of caffeine and the belief that I can get by on less sleep. This is an area I would like to work on.

    Nick wrote on June 7th, 2011
  14. My three best tips for waking up alert and ready are intermittent fasting, not eating 2 hours before bed, and no caffeine 4 hours before bed. When I started doing all that I wake up ready to roll every day and do not even need an alarm clock.

    Gary Deagle wrote on June 7th, 2011
  15. Very timely Mark – thanks!

    Ryan Denner wrote on June 7th, 2011
  16. The primal lifestyle has definitely helped me to have more quality sleep (except if I have coffee or chocolate in the afternoon or evening!)

    Crunchy Pickle wrote on June 7th, 2011
  17. Love it! Going to be giving these a try. I always go outside after I wake up to check the weather. It usually gets me energized, but that may be because I live in San Diego and the weather’s almost always great.

    PrimalArturo wrote on June 7th, 2011
  18. I sleep like a rock 99% of the year.
    I always make sure I’m not going to bed with a growling stomach, that’s pretty much the only thing that would keep me from falling asleep.
    Don’t be hungry!

    On full moon days and a couple days leading up to a full moon I sleep lighter and wake up more easily.

    Primal Palate wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • Haha love it. Instead of saying baby I will have to say rock as well.

      I tend to usually go to bed when I am tired and wake up when I wake up. It seems to work quite well.

      People will say… oh, yea well you don’t have to wake up for anything. Ok, well, I wake up around 6 am in the summer :)

      There are exceptions of course… I have a 6:30 am flight on Thursday to go to Harry Potter World!

      Primal Toad wrote on June 7th, 2011
  19. I find if I eat a small portions of carbs like rice or potatoes with dinner, I have much more energy in the morning. I also notice if I have a small amount of carbs + protein for breakfast (e.g. bacon, eggs with potatoes), I don’t get that 2pm crash.

    However, it’s a very delicate balance. No carbs or too many carbs knock me out.

    Steve-O wrote on June 7th, 2011
  20. Primal Toad, Kindles are definitely worth it. I have a first generation one and have never regreted it. Will buy another one if this one bites the dust.

    Debbie Hodges wrote on June 7th, 2011
  21. i’m in the primal camp. i found that when my eating habits are based around 100 grams of carbs a day and the rest of my energy, mainly fat; i sleep like a baby and wake to the sun. oh yea…don’t forget to MF@SP. if i get sleepy in the afternoon i take a 20 min nap. give it a try…

    Dasbutch wrote on June 7th, 2011
  22. I’m not sure if this has been brought up when it comes to sleeping issues but: Examine your relationship to sleep.

    I used to have a lot of problems with sleep ever since I was nine and when my life is stressful sleep is the first thing that stops working. At times it would get so bad that I would avoid going to bed and just stay up because it was preferable to laying in bed with that dread in my stomach and eyes wide open.

    If you’re having serious sleep issues, look at what the psychological problem behind it might be, as well as the physical ones.

    Malin wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • My husband has chronic insomnia. On nights where he finally does fall asleep he wakes up within the next 2 hours again and then lays there with his eyes wide open until the sun comes up.
      Once the sun is up he is so exhausted from laying there awake all night, he finally falls sleep.
      He then wakes up around 9 a.m., takes his morning bath (he hates showers because he is too exhausted to stand) and then usually lays back down to ‘nap’.
      I want to slap him, seriously. Our relationship has suffered because of his chronic insomnia. All he does is SLEEP. But he says he doesn’t sleep, he tries to sleep and lays there.
      How can someone not sleep, EVER? His oxygen when awake is at 94% (mines at 98% at elevation of 4500 feet). He is a mouth breather and snores…and has 2 different kinds of sleep apnea.

      I’ve noticed that when I go out into the sun my Melatonin production goes WAY up in the evening and it hits me like a train. I literally am already asleep before my head hits the pillow.
      He hates to go outside, he hates the sun, he hates to sweat and hates the brightness of the sun. And when I want to go to bed he turns into a chatter box.
      I’m at a loss with this guy.

      Primal Palate wrote on June 7th, 2011
      • different beds in different rooms

        Dasbutch wrote on June 7th, 2011
      • I knew a man who always woke up at 3 am. It turned out that 3 am is when his grandfather would come to molest him. Your husband may need more compassion and less judging. And help beyond what any of us here can give him.

        Linda wrote on June 7th, 2011
      • He has to want to sleep bad enough to make changes. You can’t save people from themselves.

        Dave, RN wrote on June 7th, 2011
      • I feel for you guys! My boyfriend has sleep apnea- half the time I have to nag him into using his CPAP, and the other half the time he falls asleep on the couch watching TV. He also has combat PTSD, which causes a whole other set of sleep issues. Like your husband, he also turns into a chatty Cathy when I’m ready to go to sleep, grrrr. I try to encourage him to read before bed to get his mind off things, try melatonin & magnesium, and he insists on sitting in front of the TV; it’s quite frustrating!

        Jules wrote on June 7th, 2011
      • Primal Palate, how may I get in contact with you? Any chance you could shoot an email to doit [at] so I can write you back? Thanks!

        Evolutionarily wrote on June 7th, 2011
      • Sleep can very well be tied to psychology, might not be as dramatic as what Linda’s friend went through however. It can also be a sign of depression. Though the dislike of light, sun, and heat could be related a sensitivity of some sort. I would tell him to see a Dr who may decide he needs to see a psychologist. If he refuses then there is not much you can do but try and decide if you want put up with it or not. I was in a relationship with someone who had insomnia related to depression. It was very tough and I did end up leaving after he refused help and then when he had no choice he did not do all he was told in order to heal himself.

        Sometimes, too, leaving wakes them up and they do get the help they need. Then you could always choose to take thim back.

        Desdemona wrote on June 8th, 2011
  23. My wife is the light sleeper in our family. Our mattress was worn and dead so we invested in a new one, much much firmer this time and made from latex foam instead of sprung inside. The bed frame isn’t sprung either, the mattress rests on wooden boards. The firmness feels similar to being on tatami mats at an Aikido or Judo dojo. She has noticed since buying the mattress that she gets to sleep more quickly and has a much better quality of sleep, waking up feeling refreshed. In light of this experience I would definitely recommend now anyone with sleep problems to experiment with the surface upon which they lay.

    Alistair wrote on June 7th, 2011
  24. Thanks for covering this mark — I’m going to give some of these tips a try.

    Nicky Spur wrote on June 7th, 2011
  25. It be very interesting for you to do a post, a fair post of course, on Ray Peat. He only endorses sugar in context of a low PUFA diet (4 grams a day is his hope). There’s not much out there that examines that context (which doesn’t mean you should go eating sugar).

    Andrew wrote on June 7th, 2011
  26. I usually don’t have any caffeine during the day, but if I do, I notice that I wake up a LOT groggier the next day. it’s like a caffeine hangover.

    My partner drinks coffee and it takes him an hour to wake up. I wake up immediately and am wide awake and fully alert. He thinks this is really weird. But it was very useful when I was taking care of my mother and had to wake up during the night to help her go to the bathroom.

    I love my Kindle too. For me, non-fiction is fine before bed. I am reading The Second Sex right now (not on the Kindle).

    shannon wrote on June 7th, 2011
  27. I am blessed enough to not really have much trouble sleeping at all (thanks to following some of the previous suggestions, I think!), but I’m still really excited to try some of these, especially since while I’ve been sleeping well, some of the mornings have been rough. Besides, these sound like a lot of fun (especially the one-leg thing!)

    But not the caffeine bit. That does not sound fun at all…as I glance guiltily toward my pot-a-day plus lots of tea habits…

    L.S. Engler wrote on June 7th, 2011
  28. Great article! I’m inspired to try more gelatin…I think I will try to make an aspic sometime next week :)

    Erica wrote on June 7th, 2011
  29. I never realized how much environmental distractions prevented me from falling asleep until I started using an eye mask and sometimes earplugs. Highly recommended!

    Darrin wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • That’s a lot of gear my friend…you are one step away from wearing a helmet :-)

      Being Primal Dude wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • Omg, yes! Earplugs.
      What would I do wihtout them.
      I have a 200 lbs english mastiff and a 250 lbs husband competing with each other every night on who snores the loudest.
      Without the earplugs I think one of them would’ve already been killed =P

      Primal Palate wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • Try adding a source of white noise, like an air conditioner, or an air filter.

      A long time ago I used to have a clock radio that had a sleep mode that played various forms of white noise, some that sounded like waterfalls, etc. I haven’t seen those things around in ages, but an air filter works great for me.

      raydawg wrote on June 11th, 2011
  30. I used to have a terrible time with sleep. I had two sleep studies and they could not find anything. The doc gave me a sleeping pill script, but I hate taking that stuff and won’t. So I started taking Valarian (a herb) about 2 hours before bed, and then about 600-900mcg of Melatonin right at bedtime. This combo worked like a charm.
    I’ve recently stopped taking the Valarian and just take the Melatonin immediately before bed. At times I even forget that. Thankfully my sleep problems are now a thing of the past.
    Sleep hygiene is also important. Having a bedtime ritual prepares the body for sleep. My typical ritual is to wait until everyone else goes to bed. Then I have about 30 minutes to myself to read, play a computer game or sometimes have a snack or just sit out in the backyard if it’s nice. Works for me. I sleep like I did when I was a teenager (I’m 51).
    Oh, and a good Crossfit session that day doesn’t hurt!

    Dave, RN wrote on June 7th, 2011
  31. “you may be waking up earlier than is optimum for your body because of anticipated feeding.”

    This applies to me, LOL.

    AlyieCat wrote on June 7th, 2011
  32. I think fiction helps because of the visualization. I’ve found it’s much easier to sleep if I stop thinking in abstracts and just start visualizing things, going through another night’s dream is a good way to do it.

    John wrote on June 7th, 2011
  33. I have a real, REAL hard time waking up. I drink a shot or 2 of espresso in the morning, and a cup of coffee around 3. I’ve given up a lot of stuff easily with PB but coffee?? :(

    It would be a good experiment to take it away for a week and see if it helps though. But what can I put my coconut oil in in the morning besides coffee? Eating it straight is gross.

    Anne wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • I used to not even really wake up in the mornings. Actually I woke up around 1 p.m. I was a walking zombie…walking in a coma.
      I’d go to bed around 10 pm and still wanted to sleep the next day when my eyes opened around noon…it drove me nuts.

      This was years ago…

      I found out it was allergies and I had an allergy test done (70 different things) and was prescribed allergy shots for about 3.5 years. My insurance paid for it.
      I had 0 antibodies for everything that was flying around. Plus a diet high in omega 6 made them worse (SAD diet) and grains and pasteurized milk made it even worse.
      I’m very thankful for having done my allergy shots at age 36.

      btw, i also used to load up on caffeine (Coke) in an attempt to wake up.

      Primal Palate wrote on June 7th, 2011
  34. I find it easier to sleep with some sort of ambiance or white noise.

    I personally believe that our ancestors didn’t have 100% silent environments while sleeping, and some mild (comforting) noise is beneficial.

    I’m also surprised this wasn’t mentioned in the article.

    Laws of the Cave wrote on June 7th, 2011
  35. First off, great article!! For some reason the part about getting outside as soon as I wake up has intrigued me & I can’t wait to try it out tomorrow morning.

    I’m one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have an issue with falling asleep at night, but every few months I have this bloody annoying habit of waking up during the night & not getting back to sleep for hours! You know when you’re just laying there watching the time tick by, getting more & more agitated -which ironically makes falling asleep even harder. It drives me nuts!! I tried loads of different sleep hacks but nothings worked. Having said that, it hasn’t happened for a while now, so fingers crossed…..

    At the moment I’m doing a 3 month Rebuild of my body & have incorporated the primal/paleo way of life into the process & I’ve got to say, WHY THE HELL DID IT TAKE ME SO LONG TO JUMP ON BOARD??? You can check out my progress at if you’d like. It’s been an eye opening experience so far.

    Thanks heaps for putting together such good blogs guys & girls. Much appreciated!

    Paul wrote on June 7th, 2011
  36. At one of the places I go to frequently we have this hard wooden bench that I lay on from time to time. A lot of the time I have a hard time keeping awake when I lay on it.

    I’ve always had trouble falling asleep, takes me forever. Not sure why the sleeping on a hard surface thing hasn’t crossed my mind. I think I will try out sleeping on the floor sometime soon.

    Kyle wrote on June 7th, 2011
  37. These are some great ideas! I have one of my own to share: eat adrenal glands. I get mine from bison.

    Now I’m taking a bit of a risk sharing this with a large audience, because after all, there’s only one pair of adrenals per bison and I sometimes have a hard time procuring my own supply. But frankly, it is a magic bullet for adrenal exhaustion, a malady that afflicts many of us.

    This will not necessarily help you sleep better, but it will ensure that you get a serious jolt of cortisol when you wake up, and you won’t have any trouble getting out of bed. Works like a charm for me. I eat them 1-3 times weekly depending on availability. They also have the advantage of being jam-packed with B- and C-vitamins, as well as large amounts of DHEA, that essential steroid hormone precursor. Of course, you must eat them raw to reap the benefits.

    Just make sure to leave a pair or two for me! :)

    Timothy wrote on June 7th, 2011
  38. I was just happily thinking, ‘Oh I don’t have any sleep problems’ – until I remembered how much I struggle to wake up. I guess I’m getting a bit tired now myself. :)

    The snooze button is my best and worst friend. I still remember one hellish wake-up call a few months back, when I had set my alarm at 2am, in order to get up and shower before a 6am flight. I must have cunningly turned the alarm off in my sleep, because next thing you know, my lovely mother had arrived to take me to the airport… I do find music helps to wake me up in the morning though – the stuff that makes you want to dance anyway.

    kerrybonnie wrote on June 7th, 2011
  39. Yeah, I don’t care if I sleep like crap for the rest of my life….I’m never giving up coffee. The aroma and taste of fresh espresso in the morning never gets old. If that means 20 minutes of grogginess after rolling out of bed, so be it.

    Rhys wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • Amen! I love the stuff and thoroughly enjoy it with no sugar and lots of real cream. I guess that’s one of the benefits of being an “old person” and being retired: I can get out of bed in the morning when I damned well please, thank you. I also go to bed when I damned well please, thank you!

      But I realize what a lot of folks here are saying as far as having to get to work or where ever at a certain time and having to deal with that. I used to get up at 3:15AM, leave the house in time to meet my car pool at 4:20AM and drive 70 miles to work (one way). I did that for way more years than I’d like to admit (hey, the $ was good!) Coffee was my/our savior and I’m not aware of anyone in the car pool having any problems because of it.

      When left to my own biological time clock – even after all these years – I go to bed around midnight and get up maybe around 9:00AM or so. I think some of us are just set differently than the rest of the world.

      Meanwhile, DH goes to bed at 9:00PM and gets up around 5:00AM!! He’s also retired but he’s always been that way so why change now? He does his thing and I do mine – it works for both of us——

      PrimalGrandma wrote on June 7th, 2011
  40. Sleeping isn’t a problem for me but i do have a really hard time getting out of bed in the morning. I’ll have to try some of these tips

    bbuddha wrote on June 7th, 2011

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