How To Sleep Better
Simple and effective sleep hacks based on experience
Sleep is essential in our lives, both short term, and long term. It plays a critical role in every aspect of our health. Most of us know this and make a conscious effort to sleep every night; however, some of us, like myself, suffer from sleep deprivation without understanding the root causes.
In this article, I want to share my experience of how I improved my sleeping problems caused by my active mind, work stress, metabolic activities, and environmental factors. I learned the importance of sleep when I was very young and adopted the conventional wisdom of going to bed early and rising early. My aim has always been to get at least eight hours of sleep. However, I still suffered.
Until recently, I thought sleeping eight hours was enough, so I never suspected that my terrible weaknesses some days were related to sleep deprivation. Feeling sleepy and lethargic after eight hours of sleep was a mystery to me.
The awakening moment happened when I purchased my first fitness smartwatch over five years ago. The smartwatch was monitoring how many hours I slept, how many times I was restless, and the quality percentage of my sleep. It was accessible from my phone, tablet or PC.
After a few days of monitoring my sleep, I noticed that even though I allocated eight hours for my sleep, I was sometimes having less than six hours of quality sleep. Two hours were recorded as awake or restless. It was devastating when I noticed that.
Then based on this information, I took new measures using some practical solutions that resulted in increasing my sleep hours and quality. Then there was a huge change in my mood, energy level, and overall feel. I was feeling wonderful on those days when the quality of sleep was recorded at eight hours or more. It was an important lesson to learn that not the total sleep hours, but the quality sleep hours mattered.
Another benefit of sleep monitoring is to see how long it takes to fall asleep. This small piece of information may have important effects on establishing sleep patterns. If I cannot fall asleep in 20 minutes, I get up and try to perform some sleep-inducing activities as recommended by the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy practices.
Nowadays, I consistently use my smartwatch to monitor my sleep daily. Every morning I check my smartwatch dashboard for the amount and quality of sleep I get. If for any reason I get less than eight hours of sleep I take informed actions to rectify.
I am very sensitive to sound. Especially if any noise is made when I am in bed in the middle of the night, I wake up very quickly. Even the smallest noises can wake me up easily. For many years, I didn't know why I was waking up so frequently. Once I learnt to use silicone earplugs to reduce noise coming to my ears, my sleep quality really improved.
After using the silicone earplugs, the frequency of my wakeups dramatically decreased. I tried a few different types of earplugs, but they were not as practical and comfortable as the silicone earplugs. They are cheap and easy to find in many pharmacies or online convenience stores.
Darkness is essential for quality sleep. Our brains are wired to produce melatonin naturally when it gets dark. Therefore, sleeping in a dark room is very important to have a restful sleep.
Even though I keep my room dark, there are times some little light can enter the room through various means. As a secondary support scheme to maintain absolute darkness, I use black silk eye masks.
After using the silicon earplugs, and adding an eye mask to my sleep regimen, the quality of my sleep further improved. When I get quality sleep, my day proceeds smoothly, with optimism, joy and happiness. Even the most prominent challenges look manageable.
A cool room is another essential factor to maintain quality sleep. Long ago I thought that a warm, cosy room would be great to sleep but I was so wrong. It was counter-intuitive.
Once I learned to reduce the temperature of my room around 18 Celsius degrees, my sleep quality improved further. Interestingly, my body got used to the cooler temperature.
The biggest problem with the warm room was waking up in the middle of the night with perspiration and an itchy body. I hated to feel itchy at night, which used to cause me to lose sleep and make me an insomniac. Therefore, I warmly embraced the cool temperature in my bedroom.
In addition to the above practical measures, I also added an air cleaner to my bedroom after reading many positive testimonials on them. Adding an air cleaning machine to my bedroom made me feel the difference in breathing fresh and clean air at night. Such an affordable, quiet machine can be an ideal addition to the bedroom for improving quality of sleep.
I also added Himalayan salt-based lamps to my bedroom. These lamps are believed to spread negative ions, attracting positive toxic molecules in the air. However, I don't have a measure to prove the effectiveness of these lamps and rely on anecdotes. Considering the testimonials by experienced users, they can be excellent additions to the bedroom. I like breathing clean air at home.
Since I started having 30 seconds cold and 30 seconds hot shower for around three minutes before going to bed, I felt a big difference in falling asleep quickly and having a deep sleep. My understanding of the mechanism for alternating cold and a hot shower before sleep is setting the circadian rhythm.
It is nice to have natural blue light exposure during the day. However, exposure to blue light at night can be problematic, as this exposure can adversely affect our circadian rhythm. There are practical solutions to address these.
One of the most effective solutions is using blue light blocking glasses. We can also turn off blue light-producing devices such as mobile phones, tablets, PCs, and TVs at least an hour before we go to bed. Dimming lights and reducing blue light exposure even earlier, such as two to three hours before bed, is recommended.
I learned to use flux software on my PC to address this issue at night. My mobile phone also automatically goes to the night shift light scheme. After learning the adverse effect of blue light on the circadian rhythm, I removed all the blue light producing devices from my room. It was in many gadgets such as the alarm clock and even in my beloved air cleaning machine, so I cover its blue light with a piece of dark, sticky paper.
Another hack was taking a magnesium tablet an hour before my bedtime. Taking magnesium tablets contributed to my sleep quality. The usual dose of magnesium I take is around 400 Mg. More than this amount caused bowel discomfort for me. Because of the poor digestion of magnesium intake, I learned to take magnesium through my skin.
Therefore, I take a bath with Epsom salts. This is the sulphate form of magnesium and well tolerated by the skin. In addition, sometimes, I use magnesium cream if there are any sore muscles in my body, especially on the days with strength training.
In addition to stress and relaxation of muscles, I learned that optimized magnesium in our bodies has many other benefits for our metabolism; therefore, I take it daily either in tablet, bath or in cream form to ensure my magnesium levels are optimal.
In summary, having a cool room, preventing noise via silicone earplugs, wearing an eye mask, reducing blue light exposure before going to bed, having a hot-cold shower, introducing an air cleaner, and supplementing with magnesium improved my sleep quality.
Monitoring my sleep duration and quality via smartwatch provided a data-driven approach to manage my sleep in an informed way.
However, one additional hack I learned related to dealing with short-term sleep deprivation to be effective at critical times. I use a supplement called N-Acetyl-Tyrosine. Tyrosine is an amino acid and this acetyl version can pass the brain-blood barrier.
These amino acids helped me to stay alert at least six hours with good feelings during difficult situations when I am sleep deprived. I rarely need to use it nowadays, but when I need it, it works wonders for me.
In terms of results, after having quality sleep consistently for three months using these simple hacks, my blood markers returned to optimal levels. For example, my testosterone level remarkably increased, and the cortisol level returned to normal.
My memory and focus improved substantially. I tested using several memory and attention tools. I felt a great sense of pleasure in my life, feeling calm and composed. Small things did not irritate me anymore. I became more productive. Life became more joyful and meaningful.
Thank you for reading my perspectives.
I'd like to share my top 10 stories related to health and mental health topics on Vocal. These stories reflect my decades of sensible biohacking experience. I hope you may enjoy reading them and find them beneficial.
Simple & Powerful Life-Transforming Bio-Hacks by Dr Mehmet Yildiz
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About the author
I'm a writer and published author with four decades of content development experience in business, technology, leadership, and health. I work as a postdoctoral researcher and consultant. My background is at https://digitalmehmet.com.