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

snoozeHave 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. I ditched the high-pitched shrieking alarm clock when I was a kid – I hate being shocked out of bed by such an annoying and unpleasant sound.
    Back then I just turned the volume off on my clock radio and surprisingly, the ‘click’ of the alarm was enough to rouse me gently from sleep. Today, I use the vibrate setting (on very low) on my phone. I always set my alarm about 20 minutes early and this lets me comfortably ease into wakefulness.

    Another thing that has helped me is to sleep with the blinds open…the natural change in day/night light seems to work for me!

    Cha wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • Yes, I’ve noticed the same thing with having the natural light come in. It does seem to aid in the wakening process in a calm and soothing manner without having the shock of that shrill alarm clock jarring me out of bed. I’d be a wreck for the next 15 minutes or so after that thing went off – I hated that feeling. Although I can continue to sleep in the morning with the room lightened without any problem if I want to. I guess the problem with letting the natural light come as a “natural alarm clock” is for folks who have to get up super early in the morning before the sun comes up. I used to get up at 3:15AM to get to work — no natural light then (at least not on the west coast of the USA). Using a clock radio wasn’t quite as bad, however.

      On a side note, I’ve seen alarm clocks that use a light source instead of a loud noise to waken you. Never tried one but it seems like a good idea.

      PrimalGrandma wrote on June 7th, 2011
  2. Here is another quick tip – Sleep at a temp that is comfortable for you. Around 68 is a general temp for most people. I do best around 66-68.

    I prefer to have it a little cool and then wrap myself in a bedspread as oppose to having it warmer and nothing on me.

    Oh, and sleep naked. I’ve experimented with this and being naked wins every time.

    Primal Toad wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • During the summer – where I’m at that’s usually starting around end of June – I sleep with a fan blowing on me. I have a fan set up on a bar stool right next to the bed blowing directly on me all night. In the couple of months prior to that (usually end of April-May)I just use the ceiling fan and that seems to do it. (That’s not including the A/C that we usually have to start running around the end of June.)

      You’re right about the room temp – I’ve read that the mid to high 60 degrees range is optimal for good sleep. Of course I guess that depends on the person. DH freezes as does my daughter. But my granddaughter loves the fan blowing on her — geez, she could have inherited my superior intellect or my fabulous good looks — but NO, she inherits my hot flashes! Go figure!

      PrimalGrandma wrote on June 7th, 2011
  3. Awesome post! I get a good 7 hours a night but always seem tired through out the day. I do drink 1-2 cups of coffee a day though. I think I may try the coffee fast. I have fasted it before and I felt amazing but I love the taste of coffee!

    William wrote on June 7th, 2011
  4. My fiancee and I just flew to Honolulu to visit my grandparents yesterday. I ate on the plane, so I wasn’t hungry for dinner and skipped it. My grandparents have no TV in their living room and almost no electronics in their house. The house is also dimly lit at night with just a few lamps. No bright lights or electronic distractions anywhere. There is a 3 hour time difference so we got tired around 9:00 instead of midnight and went to bed by 9:30. It is hot and muggy here this time of year so we set up a fan to blow on us (white noise) and went to sleep.

    We woke up at 5:00 am to the sound of tropical birds singing and a rooster crowing down the hill. The sun was just starting to lighten the sky; we stayed abed for a few minutes talking quietly and then agreed it was time to get up. No grogginess, perfectly alert, we said good morning to my grandfather who is always up at 5, then into the garden for a little walk and smell the plumeria blossoms. I’ve been awake and alert all day. Sure beats my usual pattern of staying up until midnight and dragging my ass out of bed grudgingly at 9 or 10am like I usually do at home. I need to cultivate a little Hawaii to take home to Arizona (too bad I can’t afford to move here).

    Uncephalized wrote on June 7th, 2011
  5. Chuck Palahniuk

    Kevin Cowart wrote on June 7th, 2011
  6. Ever since I’ve started this diet I’ve been a walking zombie. I’m sleepy all the time and have trouble staying awake. I get plenty of sleep (at least 8 hours/night) and never nap. I’ve been eating primal for about 4-5 months so far and love the other benefits it’s provided, but don’t understand why I’m sooooo sleepy and dopy all the time. It’s not just a lack of energy, it feels like I haven’t slept in days. I’m dizzy, light headed, my body feels like it weighs a ton. I have trouble even talking to people or standing up straight most of the time. At it’s worst I feel very depressed and lack any motivation. I’ve tried adding some carbs in the form of rice and potatoes, but that hasn’t helped.

    Ray wrote on June 7th, 2011
  7. SEX. Before bed time. Trumps everything else you can do

    Jack wrote on June 7th, 2011
  8. I think my sleeping issue is more about having an 11 week old baby that enjoys her 4am nommies than my diet or exercise. I used to sleep wonderfully before. Ah well, some day soon she will be sleeping thru and ill get some blissful uninterrupted sleep – then she’ll be in school and ill get a daytime nap too!

    Earthspirit wrote on June 7th, 2011
  9. Polyphasic sleep taught me to fall asleep within minutes, any time, any where.

    I take several 20 minute naps during the day (as many as I need to feel well rested, all the time, which usually is 2 or 3) and I try to keep my sleep to 4.5 hours at night.

    Try this if you can do it with your job: Every time you feel tired during the day, lie down for 20 minutes, no more. That should be enough for you to dip into light REM sleep but no further.

    Make sure you have an alarm that will wake you and that you do not oversleep. Jump up as soon as the alarm goes off. If you’re not tired enough to sleep, build up some sleep deprivation to get you started. It’s all about getting quality naps

    A sleep mask and headphones with white noise help to keep out the environment. My alarm is a sample of me whispering “Wout, wake up”, which gets me every time. I now nap at my desk or in my car, by slumping in my chair and letting my head stoop forward and folding my arms or jamming them between my legs – this position is comfortable and stable without using any muscles.

    As a bonus, you get more time during the day! Some people only get 2 hours of sleep, on uberman. I tried E3 which is a total of 4 hours but it was too harsh for me and made me irritable. I now average 5.5 hours and feel well rested all the time.

    Google puredoxyk, Uberman, Everyman, SPAMAYL and Freenap if you want to find out more.

    Takeaway: Learn to nap like Grok.

    Wout Mertens wrote on June 7th, 2011
    • Sounds like torture.

      Annika wrote on June 10th, 2011
  10. Listening to an audio book! mostly thriller/historical.
    Nothing knocks me out like that at night. Much better then reading (and no light required). But must be one read by a male with a dark voice. Most (high) women voices are out of question for this purpose.

    Franco wrote on June 8th, 2011
  11. This is such a timely post. Thank you Mark I’m experimenting different ways to improve my sleep quality. I normally don’t have any problems falling asleep, except for my noisy upstairs neighbour that keeps waking me up at night. However, waking up is a whole other issue. I drag myself out of bed every morning and it normally takes about 30 minutes of snoozing before I can even convince myself to do so. Ever since the link on sleeping on the floor a couple of weeks ago I have experimented doing so. I simple take the mattress pad out of my bed and sleep on the floor. It’s less than 2 inches thick and I definitely wake up less groggy in the morning. I’ve thrown in a couple of nights of sleeping in my bed the past few weeks and definitely feel worse waking up, more groginess and more backpain. I realize I probably need to experiment on reducing/eliminating caffeine and see if sleep improves further. For those of you who have trouble falling asleep, I recommend a hypnosis recordning. I listen to one every night just because I find it so relaxing and I fall asleep within minutes!

    Hanna wrote on June 8th, 2011
  12. Wow, after reading this I am going to have to completely re organize my schedule. I have had a terrible insomnia for so many years, I don’t even remember the time when I didn’t have insomnia. I’ve cut down on coffee and I tried giving it up completely but that gave me migraines I couldn’t handle. Now I just drink a cup a day.
    The only thing I eat before bed is a cottage cheese, but that actually helps me sleep. I tried not eating it but then I can’t sleep because I am hungry.
    Thank you Mark for another great post.

    Tatianna wrote on June 8th, 2011
  13. There are so many great ideas here that it’s insane. It’s unfortunate that I really don’t have any option in the summer. I live in a cheap apartment that doesn’t have an air conditioner. This means that in the summer it’s sometimes even hotter inside than outside. With this said I now wonder how I can sleep at all in this heat.

    I’ll try to experiment sleeping on the floor, but first I’ll also try sleeping without a pillow. Yesterday I kinda tried it and it felt good, because there’s nothing to elevate your head — your head is just lying straight.

    One question for you folks: How does reading fiction help? My logic tells me that it’s good for stimulating heart and brain, not help you fall asleep. I’ve always questioned this idea, because it doesn’t seem to work for me.

    It’s interesting that Marks mentions not eating after two hours before bed. It’s the rule I’ve pretty much always followed too, but when you have conversations with bodybuilders, it’s very common that they eat immediately before bed or at least get their protein shake in. Apparently they don’t want to lose their hard-earned muscle… But yeah, I generally eat the last time 3-5 hours before bed.

    Risto wrote on June 8th, 2011
  14. LIMIT LIQUIDS WITHIN 3-4 hours of bedtime. Having to get up to pee interferes with sleep. I limit caffeine to tea in the am, caffeine in coffee seems to be far more disruptive. And I had to put all electronics away before bed. My ipad was addictive and far too bright evn on dimmest setting.. Also, alcohol at night, especially wine wakes many peopke at 2-3am. A warm bath w/epsom salts is also restful.

    Digby wrote on June 8th, 2011
  15. I would second the recommendation of the Ender books and Dune. I would also recommend anything by Phillip K Dick: “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”, “Time Out of Joint”, “Ubik”, “The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch” …. all of his work is good. People need to read more PK Dick.

    Tino wrote on June 8th, 2011
  16. I’m excited to try these things. I have been feeling less of myself recently, due to this week of restless sleeping and poor sleeping habits.

    I’m going to skip breakfast, and try to over exhaust my legs. I practically do everything else on the list :) But I think I also need to stop eating right after 7:45 pm,again, I find my body much easier to relax, when its still not processing my food.

    I’ll let you all know how it works :D

    Miss*Kris:primal wrote on June 8th, 2011
  17. Definitely good advice, I personally started falling asleep better after eating slightly later dinners. The worse thing for me is an empty stomach when it comes to falling to sleep. Personally the traditional eating schedule just makes dinner too early for me.

    I personally find a slightly repetitive game or a magazine article work better for me than a good book because if the book hooks me I don’t want to put it down (And I usually don’t read it if it doesn’t hook me)! And even when I do I’m in anticipation of what will happen next. This feeling is similar to anxiety and I don’t find it ideal for sleep.

    As far as waking up alert goes my biggest thing is just getting up as soon as I wake up. I notice that if I lay in bed for another 20+ mins trying to get some extra snoozes in it can make me groggy for the rest of the day. Where as if I get up soon as I wake up I can be alert for most the day even if I don’t get adequate sleep. I’m surprised this wasn’t mentioned in the article since I find it to be the primary catalyst in waking up alert and staying that way.

    Jeff wrote on June 8th, 2011
  18. Thank you for this great post. I am printing it out and giving it to my father-in-law who has suffered with insomnia for years.
    For me, what’s my eyes open, I am awake for the day. For me, as soon as I wake up, if I go outside and take the pup for a walk THEN eat my breakfast I feel fuller longer and have more energy.

    Jessie wrote on June 8th, 2011
  19. Great article as always. Not sure I could get rid of breakfast though. lol. I have very weird sugar levels. Have you guys ever covered that topic? I get severe headaches and stuff if I don’t snack small throughout the day.

    Jeanna wrote on June 8th, 2011
  20. I hate to nitpick, but what is an LED-light? A light-emitting-diode-light?
    Hello, department of redundancy department, how may I help you?

    Brian wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • It’s a lamp or light bulb that uses several or more LEDs to produce light. Yeah, it sounds stupid, but it’s something different than just an LED.

      Rana wrote on June 9th, 2011
  21. Great article. I’ve figured out with myself if I do at least 10 minutes of yoga before bed, I wake up refreshed.

    Charlotte wrote on June 8th, 2011
  22. Cold showers and baths have become such a ritual to me that they’re all I take now, and I’ve noticed an immense improvement in my sleep since adopting the practice.

    From what I’ve heard, part of the process of falling asleep is that the body cools. I assume there’s a sweet spot temperature, and if I’m right then cold showers/baths can improve sleep by helping you reach that sweet spot by warming up after the session, rather than cooling down.

    It always struck me as a mistake to take a cold shower before bedtime given the jolt it gives, but I regularly get tired within minutes of warming up afterwards, so I almost always take a cold one before bed these days.

    Benjamin wrote on June 8th, 2011
  23. I read Primal Blueprint when I want to fall asleep…j/k!!!

    beachbound wrote on June 8th, 2011
  24. Interesting suggestions. Some seem a little out there but others are worth a try. I know I am beat when I wake up. Some days it seems as though I just lay my head down and then it is time to get up.

    I will be sure to try a few of these out.

    Jason - Fitness Workouts wrote on June 8th, 2011
  25. I have insomnia; I have the type where it takes forever to fall asleep (~1 – 1 1/2 h). No matter how tired I am, pysically or mentally, I have trouble. Then I was watching a little blurb on the TV from some doctors (Wise Quacks) in a community show talk about applying a cold wash cloth to the forehead 20 min prior to going to bed. Supposedly ~15% of the population has above average activity in the frontal lobe and applying the cold cloth helps slow it down for a better sleep. Since it was only a cold washcloth, I gave it a try and it work. A simple solution!

    Erin wrote on June 8th, 2011
  26. Anyone dealing with restless leg syndrome at night? I started having pain in my upper legs causing me to shift positions constantly and leading to disrupted sleep.
    I would like to try some suggestions before going to a doctor.

    Victoria wrote on June 9th, 2011
    • Victoria, I am actually a sleep, brain, behavior researcher and not a sleep clinician. But I hear about the clinical side at our scientific conferences and in journals. Restless legs is difficult to understand and thus treat. My first suggestion is to stabilize your sleep times. Our brain does an amazing job of adapting to the habits that we give it and preparing the body to do what we want it to do. Sleeping at the same time every day may help your neurochemicals better figure out when to let your body relax. Also, I would recommend removing all possible stimulants (no caffeine, no energy drinks, etc). My last major question is how much do you actually exercise, walk, or otherwise make good use of your leg muscles? I’m less confident that exhausting the leg muscles would work, but it is something that might be worth trying. But I would only try that after you stabilize your sleep patterns and remove all stimulants from your diet. There are some drugs that the drug companies are pushing for RLS. I am not a fan of using drugs for anything but I think it is important to point out that the sleeping medications were not designed for long-term use which is what most people do with them. I find it scary. I hope this helps.

      June wrote on June 9th, 2011
      • I do a lot of exercise. I usually do a workout in the am for 40 min and then do another one in the evening for 1 hour. Resistance training every other day. I am moving my evening workout to a late afternoon one to see if that helps. It almost feels like maybe the leg muscles are overworked. What about decaf coffee? I drink a lot of that.

        Victoria wrote on June 10th, 2011
        • Victoria, did you read the Primal Blueprint Fitness ebook? That much exercise doesn’t seem to align with its ideas…

          Wout Mertens wrote on June 10th, 2011
        • Victoria, The first issue to resolve is your sleep-wake schedule. Are you going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning both during the week and the weekend? That is the first change you should try. My suggestion is to try stabilizing your sleep times for at least 2 to 4 weeks and see if that makes a difference. Moving any exercise periods earlier in the day may help. Some people can really feel a difference in their sleep quality by making their exercise times before about 6 pm. But, it doesn’t seem to affect everyone. Also, please remember that any effect from changing your exercise time will likely be much less than the positive benefit of stabilizing your sleep patterns. I don’t think that decaff coffee would be a major issue. At least there is no scientific evidence about decaff coffee. Hope this helps.

          June wrote on June 10th, 2011
  27. Be careful, everyone. I am a sleep and brain scientist. Please be careful playing with your sleep. Many things are happening at night while we sleep. Playing with your sleep can be unwise. My recommendation for what it is worth, go to bed and get up at the same time every day. That will likely solve most problems. It is important to note that if you don’t have stable bed times that any other changes you might make will be unreliable at best.

    June wrote on June 9th, 2011
  28. I’m a swing shift worker. Do you have any sleeping advice for those of us stuck in the 24 hr. work world? Thanks.

    Leigh Anna wrote on June 9th, 2011
    • Leigh Anna, Shift work definitely makes it harder. My first suggestion would be to stabilize your sleep times as much as you can. For example, if you work nights, try to find a specific time of the day that you can sleep, even if it is in two episodes and sleep at the same time every day that you work nights. Do the same thing no matter what shift you actually work. Try to pick a time that you can sleep and really work to sleep at that same time every day. Of course, if you work nights, you won’t do that on days off. That is one of the biggest problems for night shift workers. In those cases, I’d recommend stabilizing the sleep times at night for days off and having separate but stable sleep times on the days that you work nights. It isn’t perfect, but working nights is never doing to be perfect. I hope this helps.

      June wrote on June 9th, 2011
  29. Good post. I will follow your guidelines from now.

    Gender Aid wrote on June 11th, 2011
  30. try read something really boring tutorials like higher Math or Estonian language .

    :)

    works like a charm

    Sergey wrote on June 18th, 2011
  31. All these ideas to get to sleep are great, but is there any specific advice on how to recover from a night when you don’t get enough sleep? If I miss an hour or two, my energy is completely shot and my muscles feel like they’ve shrunk overnight!

    John wrote on June 29th, 2013
  32. I recently moved and it is becoming increasingly difficult to wake up in the mornings. And when I do finally get out of bed, I am groggy for hours. After reading this article & comments, I think I found the culprit – chickens! I had chickens at my last place and they helped start my day in 2 ways. 1) the morning clucking was a gentle & gradual alarm and 2) I had to go outside every morning to check on their food & collect eggs. Since I cannot have chickens at my new place, I think I will try a bird feeder outside my bedroom window and remind myself to take a few minutes outside before rushing off to work.

    Vanessa wrote on July 12th, 2013
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    Bernice wrote on September 27th, 2013
  34. A while back I was not happy at all with the quality or the quantity of sleep I was getting. I had changed my diet, was getting into a routine of exercise but my sleep was just awful. So as an experiment I decided to drop all caffeine for a while and see what happens. At that point I was what one might call a heavy coffee drinker – around 4-5 cups of black coffee a day (can’t help it, I love the smell and taste of it). The withdrawals were quite nasty as I jumped in and did it cold turkey (similar to my approach for everything else Primal). The effect it had on sleep was immediate and unbelievable. The first few days I was so tired I went to bed early and slept for 10 hours. I figured it was the withdrawals still and I kept at it. It’s been a few weeks and even though sometimes I still can’t get to sleep as early as I’d wish I wake up much much easier than ever before. I miss the taste and smell of coffee but I’m enjoying the sleep a lot more.

    Andreea wrote on November 1st, 2013

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