Are you chronically sleep deprived? Do you snore? Is sleep apnea killing your nights?
You might be lucky instead.
Your sleep problems may not be that bad. You're just taking 2 hours to fall asleep every night. After waking up at at 7:00, you're feeling groggy. Then you have to go to work...
In all these instances, your sleep quality is (too) low.
Low sleep quality means you won't regenerate and recover during the night. Without recovery, you'll feel bad and age quicker.
You should wake up refreshed instead - ready to conquer the day.
Fortunately, I have solutions...
Even if you have serious sleep problems, this blog post can help you improve your sleep quality.
Almost everyone is making mistakes in managing their sleep. That means that almost everyone can improve their sleep as well.
Almost everyone is chronically sleep deprived. Literally.
The more often you answer "yes" to these questions, the worse your sleep and sleep quality are.
In fact, I would go as far as calling the need to sleep late during the weekend a sign that your sleep quality is sub-optimal. The same is true for napping: with optimal sleep, you should not have to nap. Neither should you doze off during the day, or be able to sleep after dinner.
If you have answered "yes" to any of the questions above, you have to read this blog post.
All 50 tips are categorized from most important to least important.
I thus consider tips 1-5 far more important than tips 15-20. Likewise, I consider tips 15-20 far more important than tips 40-45.
This blog post has the length of an e-book. Don't be intimidated by its length--apply what you can. Start using the first tips and work your way down from there.
For your convenience, I've included a summary at the beginning of this article. If you just want to understand the basics of how to improve your sleep, read the summary section. If you want to understand all details, read the entire blog post.
Note: this blog post - like my previous blog posts - contains some nerd sections. These nerd sections contain more advanced explanations. You can skip these nerd sections if you just want to understand the basics about sleep quality improvement.
Ready? Here we go...
Do you need help with improving your sleep even further? Download the #1 advice I have for applying these 50 tips:
Tip 1: Get Sunlight Into Your Eyes
Tip 2: Block Blue and Green Light At Night
Tip 3: Get Sunlight On Your Skin
Tip 4: Grounding And Environmental Radiation
Tip 5: Cut Out Coffee Later In The Day
Tip 6: Dark Bedroom
Tip 7: Fatty Fish and Shellfish Consumpion
Tip 8: Magnetico Sleep Pad
Tip 9: Have A Purpose In Life
Tip 10: Eat A Big Breakfast
Tip 11: Avoid Late Night Eating
Tip 12: Ensure You Get Magnesium And Zinc.
Tip 13: Develop A Stable Bedtime Routine
Tip 14: Lower Stress
Tip 15: Tape Your Mouth Before Bedtime
Tip 16: Mindfulness
Tip 17: Cold Therapy
Tip 18: Keep Your Bedroom Cool
Tip 19: Use Proper Lighting In Your Home
Tip 20: Keep Your Windows Opened
Tip 21: Use An Air Purifier
Tip 22: Be Smart About Napping
Tip 23: Inclined Bed Therapy
Tip 24: Avoid Vegetable Oils Like The Plague
Tip 25: Cure Your Gut
Tip 26: Buy A Premium Matress
Tip 27: Use A Weighted Blanket
Tip 28: No Nicotine (Before Bedtime)
Tip 29: Only Drink Alcohol During The Day
Tip 30: Beware Of Sleep Medication.
Tip 31: Include Sufficient Salt And Potassium In Your Diet
Tip 32: Write In A 5-Minute Journal
Tip 33: Cannabidiol Oil
Tip 34: Eat Bone Broth, Gelatin, Or Collagen During The Evening
Tip 35: Exercise (But Not Before Bedtime
Tip 36: Block Light Coming From Laptops, Tablets, Smartphones, And Televisions
Tip 37: Warming Up Or Cooling Down Before Bedtime
Tip 38: White Noise, Pink Noise, Earplugs
Tip 39: Stretching And Yoga
Tip 40: Honey (Sugar) Before Bedtime
Tip 41: B-Vitamins
Tip 42: Adaptogens
Tip 43: Taurine
Tip 44: L-Ornithine
Tip 45: Phenibut
Tip 46: Manage Your Feelings About Sleep
Tip 47: Dress "Cool" - But Have Blankets Handy
Tip 48: Change Your Bedroom
Tip 49: Do Not Identify With Insomnia
Tip 50: Cognitive Behavior Therapy
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*Post can contain affiliate links. Read my affiliate, medical, and privacy disclosure for more information.
Author: Bart Wolbers. Bart finished degrees in Physical Therapy (B), Philosophy (BA and MA), Philosophy of Science and Technology (MSc - Cum Laude), and Clinical Health Science (MSc).
In this summary, I'll consider the 10 most important tips to improve your sleep quality. But what are we trying to accomplish with these tips?
If your goal is sleep quality, the most important sleep types are "deep sleep" and the period in which you dream. We'll consider superficial sleep the opposite of sleep quality.
In other words, we're maximizing the time you spend in deep sleep and dreaming. We're minimizing the time you're lying in bed trying to get to sleep, or sleeping superficially. We're also minimizing the need to nap during the day - and your ability to nap in the first place.
But before giving you these top 10 tips, let me supply you with some background information that justify why I've chosen the specific tips I included.
To understand our sleep today, we need to understand where we came from as humans. The environment we evolved under as human beings - in the East African Rift zone - massively influences how you should sleep today.
You're mostly the same human being that evolved in Africa 250.000 years ago. We lived in a very specific environment there. Humans arose with the sun. That sun acted as our primary light source during the day. A few hours after the sun went down, we slept in almost complete darkness. Campfires were the only artificial light source we had at night.
That ancestral environment is totally different than our modern city environment.
Nevertheless, our sleep can only be optimal when we follow that pattern of (sun)light and darkness we were exposed to before we entered civilization. The light in your environment is extremely important for your sleep quality.
That's why the all my first tips have to do with light.
Our ancestral background - with sunlight during the day and darkness at night - thus shapes our optimal sleep pattern and the tips in this article.
There you have it. Ten tips to improve your sleep quality.
Do you want to have more sleep tips? Continue reading the full article!
I've tried some crazy sleep experiments through the years. When I was 20-21 years old, I cut back my sleep as far as possible. I tried relying on just 3-4 hours of sleep a night, for weeks on end.
I thought sleep was useless, and that you could learn to sleep less. I thought sleeping too much was something lazy people did.
I also thought sleep quality and sleeping less were just a habits that you needed to develop. I was only half-correct in that assessment.
Cutting back on sleep should never be a goal you have.
Phrased differently, you should never consciously try to cut back on your sleep. Instead, if you're sleeping well, you'll automatically wake up refreshed in the early morning.
For almost all people, however, sleeping just 3-4 hours a night is not healthy in the long-run. The goal of this blog post is thus not to have you cut back on sleep as much as possible.
No alarm clock needed. We can only accomplish that goal by improving your sleep quality as much as possible.
Coming back to my story about sleep:
I actually had a bet with friends, that I would wake up every morning at 4:30. My friends participated in this challenge as well. Because we were very tired adapting to our new sleep rhythm, we had to made sure that no-one was cheating on the agreement.
You see, it was very tempting to go back to bed at 4:30.
To ensure complicity with the agreement, we would then have to do three things:
Send one e-mail at 4:45, one e-mail around 5:15, and one e-mail around 5:45. If the emails didn't come through with the other person, you would have to pay your friend. That system ensured that we could no longer go back to bed.
Our theory was that if you learned to sleep less, your sleep quality would eventually compensate for the fewer hours of sleep.
Nevertheless, we never succeeded in establishing the habit of sleeping very few hours.
The experiment ended up in a massive failure. I sometimes ended up cheating, by taking a nap in the afternoon. I'm pretty sure my friends did so as well (but might not admit doing so!)
Now, I'm 10 years older. What lessons did I learn from this experiment?
I then learned that you cannot force yourself to sleep less. I also learned that improving sleep quality remains an amazing goal for everyone to have.
It doesn't matter whether you're lying in bed for 10 hours each night--if you're not getting sleep quality, you're not getting the health results you'll want.
Good sleep improves every domain of your life. Your relationships. Your weekends. Your job and athletic performance. And much, much more.
For example, six years ago I learned that magnesium supplements could influence my sleep quality. Magnesium really helped me, even though I thought I was consuming enough magnesium through food. The magnesium experiment got me thinking.
Soon after that, I learned how light exposure in the evening influences your sleep quality. One thing led to another, and before you knew, I was accumulating all extant knowledge I could find on how to sleep perfectly.
Now I'm giving it all away. For free.
Before we look at the specific 50 tips, let's first consider how our ancestors slept.
Our human ancestry - who we were before we ended up in civilization - is very important for understanding our health today.
I don't think you can divorce health from fully our prehistorical past. In an important sense, we're still the same beings as we were back then.
What does our past tell us?
We're no longer located in the sunny African environment as 100.000 years ago. We're no longer eating the foods that made us truly exceptional beings. We're no longer sleeping in total darkness.
Many humans think we're at the pinnacle of human brain development in 2018. I, however, believe that we're very far removed from living optimally.
Brain health is what made humans exceptional. Brain health is thus how we should judge our development.
By that standard, humans are not doing great--we're doing poorly.
To be more specific: our technological developments are doing "great", but our (brain) health is not. The goal is to return to these optimal health conditions - and perhaps venture beyond them.
This article tackles optimal health from the perspective of sleep. Sleep, of course, is very tightly related to brain health.
How did our ancestors sleep? And better yet, who are our ancestors?
Many people think we just have to look 4-5 generations back to arrive at your ancestors. In that case, we would have to study and follow the sleep patterns of 19th century people.
I don't buy that argument.
Even in the 19th century, our environment was already radically different from our ancestral past. Yes, these people did not have most of the modern technology we have. But, our environment was already much different from our real ancestors.
Working inside a factory 12 hours a day.
Not really an environment to emulate...
Let's look at our true ancestors. I consider the period in which we evolved in Africa our true ancestry.
Consider what happened between then until now. We'll start with the period closest to you.
We cannot understand ourselves by just observing what kind of human being we are today. We need to keep track of and understand our evolution - our past.
(Nerd section: Moreover, we need to look even further than our species. Our species, the homo sapiens, was preceded by other homo species. In a sense, all of the listed developments above are evolutionary mismatches with earlier periods. Some mismatches had great outcomes for our brain development, others did not).
When do I think our ancestors were at their pinnacle?
I place our pinnacle about 250.000 years ago. Before that period, the different homo species began walking on two legs, and then lost their hair.[247-248] At about 250.000 years ago, we achieved our greatest brain development.
Again, I'm emphasizing brain development here.
To me, it's not your muscles that make you human, but your brain capacity. Our exceptional brains is what distinguishes us from other primates.
Ethiopia - your real ancestral home
Let's now see how sleep is scientifically understood today. Then we'll recreate the optimal sleep pattern of your ancestors.
You know what's crazy? It's really hard to define "sleep"
We nevertheless know that sleep is massively important for optimal health. In the short term, without enough sleep you'll:[1; 109]
Besides the problems listed above, sleep deprivation lowers how well dopamine functions in your brain.[2-4] Dopamine is a "neurotransmitter", which helps communication between your brain cells. Dopamine makes you capable of assertive action, stimulates your overall motivation levels, and makes you capable of thinking outside the box.
Dopamine also keeps you awake.[133; 134]
What's even more interesting?
Let that sink in for a moment.
Why do so many people have sleep problems?
First, people don't prioritize sleep in modern society. Secondly, people don't even know how to optimize their sleep. These are two big issues.
But there's an additional problem:
Your feelings won't always tell you that you're sleeping poorly. If you've not slept well in a long time, you just don't "feel" sleep deprived anymore. Phrased differently, after a long period of sleeping poorly, you'll no longer notice that your sleep quality is very low.
Sleep deprivation is very counterproductive though. It's not efficient to deprive yourself of sleep.
Better sleep leads to a longer life. Poor sleep increases your chances of getting neurological diseases, obesity, heart disease, cancer, and autoimmune disease.[111-116]
In a very simple analogy, sleep "creates time". With good sleep, you'll last longer and perform better.
It's thus an illusion that sleeping less saves you time. My earlier experiments I did in my early twenties - to cut back on sleep as far as possible - were thus based on misconceptions.
For good sleep, you need to have both "deep sleep" and sleep periods during which you dream.
Let me explain.
During sleep, your body moves through different "sleep stages". Sleep stages are different "types" of sleep. Sleep stages can be deep, or superficial, and come with dreams, or exist without dreams. Our human sleep stages are:
Don't worry about remembering those difficult names. Instead, consider this:
If your sleep is broken, you'll experience very little NREM 3 and REM sleep.
(Nerd section: humans may also dream during deep sleep. Additionally, an observant reader might notice that NREM sleep stages 3 and 4 existed in the past. These have been "collapsed" into each other", resulting into a single new sleep stage.
Now, you might be asking: "why do we sleep?"
Sleep helps you stay young through the creation of hormones, aids your memory and cognition, and helps your metabolism.[131-133] During sleep, the brain also gets rid of "waste material" in your nervous system.[119; 120] Sleep additionally allows for an interchange of nutrients to your brain.
You don't have to be conscious of your dreams for REM sleep to be working well. You do need to sleep at the right times during the day.
Nighttime is for sleeping. Daytime is for wakefulness. There's no avoiding that principle.
Your body has a 24-hour day-night rhythm:
Don't worry if you don't understand all the details of that picture. My point is just that there already is a rhythm inside your body. That rhythm is closely tied to optimal health.
If you break that 24-hour rhythm in your body, you'll move away from optimal health.
Lastly, there are three more concepts we need to treat before finally diving into the 50 tips.
You can be very fatigued, for example, but not sleepy. How? You might :
All of the instances above make you fatigued, but not necessarily sleepy. There are other reasons why you can be fatigued as well, which I won't go into now.
In general, I will be assuming that you do not have a specific disease in this article. My assumption, however, does not mean that you cannot use these tips if you have a disease.
On the contrary, many of the 50 tips are especially useful if you're not sleeping well because of a disease.
Nevertheless, I've assumed that you do not have a disease. The reason is that treating the relationship between disease and specific diseases would make this blog post much longer than it already is.
Poor sleep - when continued for years or decades - will automatically make you fatigued. Poor sleep also leads to disease. Once you are diseased, it might not be possible to find a simple solution for your fatigue. In that instance, sleeping more and better will not (instantly) resolve your fatigue.
(Nerd section: It gets even more complex. Sleep and wakefulness can also be distinguished or separated.
Sleep and wakefulness are actually not opposites - they are two separate biological processes. How? If you're healthy, your sleepiness increases through the day. Your brain builds up a substance called "adenosine". The longer you stay awake, the higher your adenosine levels, an the greater your sleepiness thus becomes.
Biologically, your wakefulness becomes less active throughout the day--unless that wakefulness gets spontaneously triggered. What can trigger wakefulness? An example is a stress reaction because you experienced a burst of anger. In turn, that 11PM wakefulness means that you can no longer sleep.[128; 135; 136] If wakefulness is often stimulated late at night, a negative habit can develop. Many people who experience excessive wakefulness at night begin to dread sleep over time - and have a sort of sleep performance anxiety. These people feel they need to sleep well, which lowers their ability to sleep.)
The relationship between fatigue and sleep is complex. Nevertheless, improving your sleep quality generally lowers your fatigue, which also help you deal with disease.
You now know why my article can help you when you're diseased, even though I do not focus on specific diseases in this article - the key is giving you more energy.
Most physicians have very little background knowledge about sleep disorders and sleep problems. In fact, education on this topic is only two hours long.
Only 40% of physicians routinely ask their patients about their sleep quality. You, however, should now know that your physician should ask how well you are sleeping. Why?
Let's find out how you can take charge of your own health. Use the following 50 tips.
All tips below have been categorized from most important to least important. Tips 1-10 are thus far more important than tips 30-40. You can never compensate for breaking the intention behind tips 1-5 by applying tips 25-30.
Fasten your seatbelts! This is going to be a long but exciting ride...
Again, the first few tips are absolutely essential for sleep quality. The avoidance of these two tips is the primary reason why people in modern society sleep poorly.
The first tip demands hat you get sunlight into your eyes - especially during the morning. And yes, that light needs to be sunlight. Artificial light does not have the same benefits.
To understand why sunlight is so important, we have to look at what is called "the light spectrum".
You can see that light spectrum below:
The light spectrum consists in all the different wavelengths of light that are present on the earth's surface. There are three main types of light:
The sun emits all three types of light.
Indoor lighting, that is found in almost all buildings on this planet, however, only emits visible light.
By staying indoors, your body is thus never exposed to infrared light or ultraviolet light.
How was our environment in the past different than the indoor lighting we have today?
For billions of years many organisms on this planet have been living under sunlight during the day, and the absence of sunlight during the night. The role of sunlight is especially important for most land animals (as opposed to sea life).
You're a land animal. Your ancestors in Africa lived under these lighting conditions.
The invention of electric lighting in the 19th century, changed our relationship to the sun dramatically.
That electric lighting has only been used for a tad longer than 100 years:
Electrical lighting allowed us to live our lives mostly indoors, as opposed to living in the sun.
Even before the invention of electrical lighting, however, human beings were already spending more time indoors than during our time in Africa. Civilization itself causes human beings to slowly move indoors.
We moved inside into buildings. Moving indoors is a big mistakes, given the environment we evolved in. Living indoors means you're no longer exposed to sunlight.
What was your relationship to the sun if you were born before the agricultural revolution? In other words, what happened if you were born in prehistory?
For hundreds of thousands of years, humans got up at sunrise, and went to sleep a few hours after sunset. Sure, we discovered how to create fire, and use certain materials to create lighting at night.
But sunlight always remained our main light source.
After the start of "civilization", we slowly removed the sun from our lives. Right now, the average human being only spends 1 or 2 hours each day outside.
You nevertheless need sunlight. Your brain and body's biology respond to light that enters your eyes. The sun's infrared and ultraviolet light enter your eyes as well. Those light frequencies have some very specific benefits:
Some people will do anything
to get their morning sunlight...
Nothing replaces sunlight.
You cannot get the same benefits as sunlight from exposure from artificial lights in your house or office.
Sunlight contains infrared and ultraviolet light in the balanced quantities we've evolved under. Humans have not been able to fully simulate sunlight through technology. Tanning beds, for example, don't even come close to the light spectrum of the sun.
Even when it's cloudy outside, you should still see some sunlight. At most locations on this planet, ultraviolet light still passes through the clouds at 10AM.
By the way, don't wear glasses or contact lenses when you go outside.
All glass blocks ultraviolet light, and lowers the amount of sunlight you're getting through your eyes. For that reason, sunlight exposure through your windows doesn't count either.
If you want to know more about sunlight exposure, read my extensive guide on this topic.
Now that I've covered sunlight exposure through your eyes during the day, let's have a look at darkness at night.
At nighttime, you need an absence of light from your eyes.
Remember the light spectrum we looked at earlier. Besides ultraviolet and infrared light, that light spectrum also contains "visible light". Visible light can be divided into several colors - such as violet, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red.
Simply put, visible light consists in the colors of the rainbow.
In modern homes, blue and green light is emitted from television screens, smartphones, tablets, and artificial light bulbs. That blue and green light is emitted all day and night.
Before the invention of electrical lighting, that blue and green light was only present when the sun was out.
If blue and green visible light from technology enter your eyes, they disrupt melatonin production in your brain. Remember that you need melatonin to sleep deeply, quickly, and to stay asleep.
But light emitted by technological devices causes additional problems. That light programs the 24-hour day and night rhythm in your brain. Just 15 seconds of bright light exposure can tell your brain it's daytime. The bright light stimulus basically gives your brain a "mini jetlag".
What's the solution? Blue blocking glasses:
Blue blockers need to be worn until you're in your bed. Brushing your teeth under a light bulb already results in your sleep quality being lowered.
I know. Some people think wearing blue blocking glasses looks very weird at night. At first...
Blue blocking glasses simulate darkness for your brain.
Your ancestors slept in almost total darkness after sunset. Sure, they might have used campfires, but campfires only emit red (and infrared) light. Campfires do not emit blue nor green light. It's only since the invention of artificial light and screens that technology destroys your sleep.
And yet, there's no alternative to wearing these glasses. Light is literally everywhere in modern society:
Almost no-one lives in an environment where there's no artificial light anymore.
Fortunately, I can help:
Their blue blocking glasses block all blue and almost all green light. The glasses also look very stylish ,and are definitely wearable outside your house. Use code "NBH1" at checkout for a 10% discount.
Ra Optics is my favorite blue blocker company because their blue blockers both work extraordinary well while being extremely stylish.
If you want to test an inexpensive blue blocker first, before trying a very stylish model, try these. You can try the inexpensive blue blockers in the privacy of your home, to see whether blue blockers are working for your.
Lastly, do you want bonus points with applying this tip? Cover up your skin after sunset as well. Blue and green light that reach your skin lower your sleep quality as well.
By now, you know that you need sunlight in your eyes on a daily basis. You may not know, however, that you also need sunlight on your skin.
When the sun is high up the sky, and sunrays hit your skin, vitamin D is created. That vitamin is created in your skin.
Vitamin D is subsequently transported to your organs, and stored in your body. When necessary, that vitamin is used.
Vitamin D is important because it increases your sleep quality.
Sunlight, however, has many additional benefits than vitamin D creation alone. Ultraviolet light is also absorbed by your skin and blood, and used as energy in your body.[160; 168] As energy, ultraviolet light will deepen your sleep during the night.
Even if exposing your skin with sunlight would not create vitamin D, sunlight would still improve your sleep quality.
If you take vitamin D pills, you'll miss out on all the additional benefits that ultraviolet light has to offer. Additionally, the form of vitamin D created in your skin is different than the form you get from supplements. Vitamin D supplements are thus not an optimal solution.
Lastly, do not wear sunscreen if your goal is vitamin D creation through your skin.
Sunscreen blocks the specific ultraviolet sunrays that create vitamin D.
How to avoid a sunburn then?
If you've had enough sun, move into the shade and wear more clothing. At first, slowly increase your sunlight exposure. After exposing yourself to the sun more often, you'll feel when you've had enough sun.
Additionally, if you expose your skin to morning sunlight, you'll better be able to withstand the afternoon sun. Infrared light exposure - which is pre-eminent during the morning - helps you better tolerate ultraviolet light.
First of all, I must admit - I'm relying on experts with regards to this tip. I've not looked through all the scientific literature on this subject.
Nevertheless, many expert who I've double checked on many other subjects, think that environmental radiation is a very much underappreciated health concern.
In this tip, I'm going to argue why you should be concerned about electromagnetic radiation.
First, what's "electromagnetic radiation"?
Technological devices in our environment - such as WiFi and cellphones - emit radiation in what is called the "electromagnetic spectrum". In physics, that electromagnetic spectrum consists of radiowaves, microwaves, and x-rays for example.
Modern technology adds electromagnetic radiation to our environment that never existed before. It's not just WiFi and cellphones that are problematic. Electrical wiring, smart meters, and cell towers, can all be equally problematic.
Most governments around the world consider electromagnetic frequencies harmless. Of course, I cannot yet saying they are harmful - because I've not yet looked at all the data yet. What I'm saying instead, is that you should at least be skeptical towards claims that electromagnetic frequencies do no harm at all.
Let me remind you that governments did not protect you against:
blue light toxicity from devices, which usage exploded at the beginning of this 21st century
cigarette smoke since the second world war
heavy metal pollution since the 1900s
air pollution, starting in the industrial revolution
outdoor light pollution, that has exploded since the second world war
noise pollution in cities
Don't worry if you don't exactly understand what all these mean. All these technologies were considered "safe" at first, but turned out to harm our health later.
To me, the entire electromagnetic radiation narrative sounds like the explosion of blue light in our environment since the 2000s. Human stupidly assumed that you could change the light spectrum every species on this planet evolved under for billions of years.
Right now, we're assuming that we can exponentially increase the amount of electromagnetic radiation in our environment. I think we should be skeptical towards the viability to massively change our environments with no health consequences at all.
Now, because I've not looked into this subject yet, I do not expect your to believe me on faith. However, I do not expect you to blindly believe governments either. That's only fair. Do your own research.
So, what are some precautions you can take regarding electromagnetic radiation? Make sure you never:
The advice I'm giving above is currently uncontested. Even phone companies such as Apple or Samsung assume that holding a connected phone against your body is damaging.
I do believe, however, that problems with electromagnetic frequencies are far greater than previously assumed.
The problem of electromagnetic radiation is not limited to phones and laptops. A lot of other devices work on electromagnetic radiation as well. Cell towers, modern cars, power lines, 5g technology, and "Internet of Things" devices all emit electromagnetic radiation.
Even the World Health Organization is sounding some alarm bells. The World Health Organization has classified cell phones as "possibly carcinogenic" - which means possibly causing cancer.
The question becomes: do you trust your government, when they say that cell towers, 5g technology, and smart meters are completely safe?
In all previous examples I listed above, governments only regulated technological developments when the health consequences were undeniable to most of the population. In other words the government regulated once our health was already being negatively affected.
Now, besides avoiding electromagnetic radiation, there's a second action you can take to improve your sleep quality. Try grounding. To ground, you have to stand with your bare feet on the earth.
Grass, sand, or concrete, all work for grounding.
Many people have reported benefits from grounding, although I do think that more research on this topic is needed.
(Nerd section: on the one hand, I do not think there are any high-quality biochemical scientific studies on grounding currently exist. From a modern physics perspective, however, it is possible to deduce that grounding must have effects on the human body.)
I love coffee.
But I never drink coffee in the afternoon. I often my consumption at 10AM latest. Why?
Caffeine has a "half-life" of 5 hours. That "half-life"means that half of the caffeine content of coffee is still active after 5 hours. Even after 10 hours, a quarter of the caffeine from coffee still remains in your system.
Drinking caffeine in the afternoon or evening lowers your sleep quality.[161-163]
Yes, quitting caffeine in the afternoon and evening may give you withdrawal symptoms. Just get through the first few days of withdrawal, and you're fine.
(Nerd section: for simplicity sake, I've assumed that caffeine and coffee have the exact same effects. In reality, they do not. Coffee a way more complex substance than caffeine, and interacts with the properties of caffeine.)
Let me be very clear hear. Many people will say "but I can sleep just fine while drinking coffee in the afternoon". My answer is: "no, you don't". Your sleep quality is always affected by coffee consumption later in the day. You just cannot feel that effect of coffee due to limitations of our human perception.
Moreover, humans cannot perceive changes that have been affecting them for a very long time. Even though you feel coffee is negatively influencing your sleep, you should still stop consuming coffee from about 10 AM.
Most people don't feel that blue and green light is ruining their sleep. In the same way, you do not feel that your cup of afternoon coffee is ruining your sleep. Test cutting coffee first, and then conclude. Your perception is misleading you.
Do you want to know something crazy?
Your eye can detect a single light particle. In physics, these particles are called "photons". As you now know, these particles of light affect your sleep as well.
To optimize sleep, make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible. Remove any device or light source.
If you want to use lights anyway, use red bulbs that exclusively emit red light.
In addition, if you're living in the city, blackout curtains are absolutely essential. Many regular curtains in bedrooms let lots of light through. Remember that a very small amount of light can already have huge consequences for your sleep.
If you cannot completely clear light from your bedroom, wear a sleep mask. Sleep masks should block all light that could enters your eyes.
Your skin is still sensitive to light though, and bright light that hits your skin, will affect your sleep quality in a minor way as well. It's therefore best to remove as much light from your bedroom as possible, even if you cannot remove all light.
Lastly, I also know people who've taped the windows of their bedroom. Taping your windows is another strategy to ensure that no light comes through.
Fatty fish and shellfish consumption will increase your sleep quality.[210-212]
Which fish or shellfish should you consume? Wild salmon, oysters, mussels, crab, sardines, anchovies, herring, Atlantic mackerel, and related fish types.
Don't consume fish that is located high on the foodchain, such as tuna or swordfish - these fish types are loaded with toxins.
Don't use fish oil supplements either. Most fish oil supplements are degraded, low quality, and do not contain all the other nutrients that can be found in fatty fish.
Most people in the Western world do consume too little fatty fish and shellfish. Don't go overboard with fish consumption though. Avoid consuming fatty fish with every meal of your day - which is only common sense, but I've seen it happen.
Balance your fish consumption with meats, eggs, bone broth, and gelatin as well.
Did you know the earth has a "magnetic field"? That magnetic field affects electric charges on this planet.
Your body, however, functions on electric charge as well.[10; 11; 253] That body is influenced by magnetic fields in its vicinity.
For example, electricity in your body is essential to healing. Without electricity, for example, wounds could not heal. Your cells also functionon electricity to create energy and transmit information.[170-172]
The greater the magnetic field during your sleep, the better your body can regenerate. From a physics perspective, the magnetic field upon which you sleep, certainly affects your sleep quality.
Why can you not rely on the magnetic field of the earth?
During the last few millions of years, the earth's magnetic field has become much weaker than in previous prehistorical periods. Moreover, humans no longer sleep on the earth - we're thus not exposed to a magnetic field at night.
The magnetico provides you with a strong magnetic field during the nighttime.
The magnetico recreates the stronger magnetic field the earth used to have millions of years ago.
I've used a magnetico sleep pad for several years. You can use a magnetico by simply placing it under your mattress. No additional actions are needed on your part. The magnetico will improve your sleep night after night.
Click here to go to the magnetico website. Yes, these sleep pads are expensive, but they are an excellent long-term investment.
(Nerd section: On the one hand, the magnetico has not been extensively been investigated with high quality biochemical human studies. At this point in time, we can only infer the ability of (negative) magnetic fields to have this healing effects. There are, however, a few good reasons why you might opt for a magnetico:
If you do not have a reason to get in the morning, your sleep quality will be negatively affected!
I've got personal experience with this tip (or problem). Before I started Nature Builds Health, I had graduated from college. During my time in college, I was used to working seven days a week on my three Master's degrees. I slept fine.
After graduating, I had a lot of time to think what I wanted to do with my life. Even though I followed almost all other tips in this blog post, I did not have a purpose in my life back then. That lack of purpose downgraded my sleep quality significantly.
After I regained a purpose in life, my sleep "magically" improved almost immediately. Make sure you have a reason to get out of the bed this morning.
I certainly do now...
Do you know something crazy?
Whether you eat breakfast has an impact on your day and night rhythm. Eating a big meal early in the day signals to your body that it's daytime.[43; 46; 47] Proteins, coming from eggs, fish, shellfish, and meats, are especially useful to signal to your body that it's morning.
A big breakfast wakes you up, just as sunlight exposure to your eyes does.
If you habitually eat a big breakfast, you'll improve your day and night rhythm. In a sense, eating a big breakfast everyday ingrains an expectation into your body.
With an improved rhythm, it will be easier to eat more during the morning, while avoiding having to eat a lot at dinnertime. That shift in meal timing occurs naturally in most people, after a few weeks to few months.
The flip side of the equation, is that late night eating can shift your day and night cycle unfavorably.[42; 44; 45] Late night eating thus disrupts your sleep quality - late night eating tells your body to be awake at the wrong time.
What's the solution?
Don't eat after sunset. Protein-rich foods are especially damaging . Protein signals to your brain that it's daytime. How do you learn not to eat during the evening?
Slowly adapt to eating earlier and earlier in the day. For example, if you're used to nighttime eating, first reduce the amount you're eating late after sunset. Next, eliminate your nighttime feedings altogether. Then, slowly reduce the time at which you're eating dinner.
If you're eating dinner after sunset, you're eating too late. When you start eating dinner earlier, your sleep quality will thank you.
The habits in tip 10 and 11 may take some time to develop.
Magnesium and zinc are minerals. You normally find both minerals in the foods you consume.
Due to our poor diets, however, many modern humans are deficient in both magnesium and zinc:
Guess what? Both zinc and magnesium improve sleep quality.
Magnesium, for example, decreases your anxiety and stress levels. Zinc increases your overall sleep quality. Don't sleep without making sure you get enough of these minerals.
Always remember, shellfish, particularly oysters, are the greatest zinc foods. Beef and lamb are good zinc foods too. Most people should supplement with magnesium though. Magnesium levels have been declining in our soils over the past few decades.
Remember how children need a stable bedtime routine? Remember that children have to brush their teeth at a set time? Remember how children have to go to bed, even if they don't want to?
You should follow that advice as well. I do too.
Develop your own bedtime routine. A bedroom routine entails that you take some important actions every night.
For me, meditation is an essential part of my bedtime routine (more on meditation later). For others, those actions might be relaxing with family under candle light and walking outside.
You need a bedtime routine because you have to wind down before sleep.
In general, I always wind down 1 to 1,5 hours before I sleep. I thus never blog very late in the evening. Blogging - or other work - will not help me wind down.
Winding down makes your body mentally prepared for the sleep that's coming.
Remember I mentioned the 24 hour rhythm in your body?
That rhythm depends on a main "clock" in your body that keeps track of time. Each cell in your body has its own clock, which are connected to your main body's clock.[137; 138]
Your body's main clocks can only handle a change of 10-15 minutes each day. The clock actually runs on a 24,2 hour schedule, but is set 10 - 15 minutes back when (sun)light hits your eyes.
Any change that's bigger than 15 minutes creates problems. Your body's clocks works best when its 24 hour cycle run smoothly.
All your body's biological processes are dependent on that clock inside you. That clock tells your body when your bowels should be activated, when to become more sleepy, when your temperature needs to increase or decrease, and so forth.
Let me give you an example why that clock matters.
Let's say you're in your bed at 22:00 during the week days, and 4:00 at Saturday and Sunday night. That's a 6-hour difference in time. Saturday night literally creates a mini jet-lag in your body. During Sunday, you still have to adapt to your new rhythm.
Come Monday, you're going to sleep at 22:00 again. It again takes a few days to re-adapt to the 22:00 sleeping time.
In essence, your body's clocks are set forward for a few hours on Saturday night, and then need to be reversed for few hours as a correction on Monday. Resetting the time on your clock is very hard to your body, because almost all biological processes are timed on the basis of that clock.
The solution - if you fully want to optimize your sleep - is go to sleep and get up at the same time each day.
Yes, getting up the same time every day includes weekends. Weekends is where most people fail to get up early.
Simply put, if you get up at 7AM on Monday through Friday, make sure you get up at 7AM on Saturday and Sunday as well. Your sleep immediately improves.
You want to go out and party on Saturday or Sunday? Party at the beach. Throw a dinner party. Drink coffee with friends at a restaurant.
Does that mean you should never attend nightly parties anymore? No.
You just have to be mindful of the price you pay for staying up very late. There's a toll to your body when switching your sleep schedule. If you thus party at night, you need to compensate with other sleep tips displayed in this article.
So, what if you're working night shifts?
There's just one shift work solution: switch jobs as soon as possible. Studies show that shift work gives you higher risks for diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.[174-177] Avoiding the negative consequences of shift work is impossible.
Your body will never adapt to night shifts. You'll never get used them. The health consequences of shifts will only become worse over time.
I know this message might be hard to hear. I've worked as a bouncer during the nights for some time. Even though I very much liked the job, I quit. As you can see, I hope you can see I'm following my own advice, even though there might be a tough pill to swallow.
Yes, I know: "you're telling me not to stress?! How dare you! I'm not stressed!!'
Eliminating stress. It's easier said than done - that's true for me as well.
Stress causes your sleep quality to go down big time. With stress, you'll wake up more often, experience less deep sleep, and have fewer dreams.
What can you do right now to lower stress? Try this breathing tip:
During this breathing exercise, make sure you're breathing though your belly--not your chest. How to know whether you correctly breathe through your belly?
Lay a hand on your belly. Your belly button should push into your hand during an inhale. Additionally, the belly button should move away from your hand during the 8-second exhale period.
If you see your chest moving during breathing, you're breathing incorrectly. Re-focus on breathing through your belly button.
Why does this tip work?
Well, if you're stressed, you're often experiencing a "fight or flight response". From an evolutionary perspective, that response was meant to be activated when you were running away from a lion, or when you're (almost) falling from a cliff.
Our modern society causes that stress response to be activated way more often than it should be. Examples of unnecessary "fight and flight responses" are thinking about losing your job, or a fight you might have had 2 weeks ago with your spouse.
Most modern fight and flight responses are useless, because they impair your sleep that night. These fight and flight responses don't solve the underlying problem.
The breathing exercise I gave you calms your body down.[39-41] By calming down, the fight or flight response is removed, and you're able to sleep again.
Does this breathing tip not work for you?
Then you might need to develop a long-term strategy to deal with stress. Go on a tropical sun-lit vacation, instead of buying a bigger car this year. Developing a habit of walking through the forest in the evening. Dump your television with the trash, and take up meditation lessons.
Your health will thank you:
You know what? I've included free meditation guidelines in tips 16 and 17...
Mouth breathing - just like light exposure at light - is ever present in modern societies. And just like artificial light exposure, mouth breathing ruins your sleep.
How to prevent mouth breathing?
Tape your mouth.
Yes. Taping your mouth before bedtime will make sure you breathe through your nose while sleeping.
I already know what you're thinking. Don't worry: you won't suffocate during sleep - you'll wake up stressed or in panic, long before you'll ever suffocate. To tape your mouth, you can use common store-bought tape.
If you are uncomfortable with taping your mouth anyway, try this tape. With that tape, you only need to tape a small patch across your lips. You can still breathe through your mouth if you have to, but nose breathing is strongly incentivized with that method.
(Nerd section: Breathing too often - or overbreathing - is another problem that is plaguing many people. Why do mouth breathing and breathing matter so much? Both mouth breathing and overbreathing lower the oxygen absorption in your body.
How is oxygen absorption lowered? Your body needs to keep steady CO2 levels in your blood. When you have sufficient CO2 levels in your blood, CO2 helps transport oxygen into your cells. Without CO2, you can breathe all your want, but the oxygen won't be maximally absorbed by your body. CO2 is thus necessary for proper breathing, and not just a waste product. When you exhale, your body gets rid of some CO2. The faster you breathe, the more CO2 will be exhaled. Mouth breathing and overbreathing lead to a vicious cycle, where CO2 levels are lowered in the body, which in turn, lower your oxygen levels. Lower oxygen levels often lead to faster breathing again, which spirals the vicious cycle out of control.[57-59])
Many people experience massively lower sleep quality because they breathe though their mouth all the time.
Fixing your breathing with tape only costs you about one cent a day. I'm still using the roll of tape I started with last year.
Many sleep problems are associated with mouth breathing. If you have sleep apnea or snore, there's a high chance that you breathe through your mouth.[32-36] If you have another serious sleep condition, or a health condition that prevents you from sleeping optimally, consult your physician before applying this tip.
Do you have a stuffed nose that prevents nose-breathing?
Fill a coffee cup with water. Add 1 gram of iodized salt. The iodine works as an disinfectant. Put the coffee cup at your kitchen table, and bend over at your hips. Then submerge your nose into the coffee cup, and snort the water up through your nose. That water will end up in your mouth. Spit the water into the sink, and repeat a few times.
For many people, that will clear even the toughest sinus blockages.
Next, let's look at a meditation tip!
Being present with what is. Being in the moment. Being here and now - that's very difficult for many people.
It's certainly difficult for me...
The solution? Mindfulness.
Mindfulness mediation teaches you not to be stuck in the future or past.
If you have problems sleeping, or staying asleep, mindfulness is an extremely effective practice.[70-72] Mindfulness also helps if physical (or mental) pain keeps you from sleeping.
Many insomniacs are thinking about how they are going to "perform" the coming night, when they have to sleep again. Most insomniacs are not "in the moment". Even while laying in bed awake, insomniacs will think about what will happen if they do not sleep in 2 hours time. That thinking also exemplifies not being "in the moment".
Mindfulness can decrease destructive though patterns that keep you from sleeping. How can you practice mindfulness?
The more often you practice mindfulness, the better you'll become at it. Mindfulness will not only help you sleep during the night, but also help you stay more focused and less stressful during the day.
By the way: if mindfulness makes you sleepy during the day, that's another sign you're undersleeping!
And before you ask: no, you don't have to be religious or spiritual to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness has nothing to do with religion or spirituality. Mindfulness only has to do with being able to be present.
This tip is mostly targeted towards people who already are in good health.
If your health is poor, do not do expose yourself to intense cold - that cold may be too stressful.
In this tip, I'll mainly treat the less intense types of cold exposure: face dunks in cold water and cold showers. If you want a guide on more intense forms of cold therapy - such as cold and ice baths - read my previous guide .
Option 1: Face dunks
During face dunks, you take a bowl of cool water. You then hold your breath, and submerge your face into that water.
You repeat that step several times.
Submerging your face into water activates an ancient reflex through your face, which is called "the mammalian dive reflex".
That dive reflex allows you to signal to your nervous system that "it's really cold outside", without having to use the most intense methods of cold, such as ice baths.
Now, to be honest, face dunks will not give you all the benefits of a cold bath. Nevertheless, face dunks are a very time-efficient method to integrate cold into your life.
Option 2: Cold showers
I know many people dread cold showers. And yet, they are an effective method to increase the energy production of your body.
You just need to have a shower at home - which almost anyone has these days.
Start with showers that don't feel too cold. Then, just as with the face dunks, slowly decrease the temperature over time. If you want more intense cold showers, you can also increase the duration of your sessions.
Don't decrease the temperature or increase the sessions lenght too fast - always check how you feel a few hours after a cold session, and the next day. If you feel fine, then you can use a greater intensity.
Why does cold therapy work?
Cold therapy makes the energy producing factories of your cells, called "mitochondria" work better. Energy and information flow through your mitochondria is improved by cold therapy.
The best time to use cold therapy is during the daytime. For most people, it's best not to use cold therapy right before bedtime, as cold therapy can keep you awake.
What's another reason why cold therapy works for sleep?
Cold therapy massively increases the energy demand on your body. A lot of people have problems with their energy demand at night. For example, many people wake up at 2 or 4 AM with hunger.
Cold therapy can help you cope with that hunger over time. In other words, when cold therapy increases your body's energy efficiency and production, your body won't immediately experience a stress reaction when it's without food for some time.
There's a third reason why cold therapy works: it increases your wakefulness during the day. Improved wakefulness during the day gives you improved sleep at night.
Overall, cold therapy will thus allow you to sleep deeper while staying asleep better.
A bedroom that's too hot lowers your sleep quality. However, a bedroom that's too cold also kills your sleep quality. Why?
Overheating reduces deep sleep. A room that's too much cold causes you to be awake more often.
As a general rule, your bedroom should be cooler than your kitchen and living room. Why? The human body has a cooler temperature during the night as well.[82; 83] For optimal results, your bedroom should be around 15 degrees Celsius (60F).
At first sight, this might seem to be a "weird" tip. Nevertheless, the artificial lighting you use during the day, massively influences your sleep quality at night.
As I stated in the first tip, most modern buildings are equipped with fluorescent and LED lighting. These two types of lighting only emit visible light. That lighting is terribe for your health and well-being.
Remember that the sun emits a combination of ultraviolet, visible, and infrared light. You're missing out on ultraviolet and infrared light.
How do you recreate sunlight in your house then?
You can't. At least, not fully.
The best option is to sit close to windows as much as possible. By sitting close to a window, you'll automatically get some sunlight exposure during the day.
Nevertheless, windows block ultraviolet light. So, the sunlight exposure you get through a window is not fully as beneficial as sunlight exposure in nature.
If sitting close to a window is not possible, then I recommend to change the artificial light you're exposed to. I'm serious: tell your boss you can get more work done, by removing the LEDs or fluorescent bulbs from your office. Bad lighting literally lowers your productivity.
Let's see how we can recreate sunlight as best as possible with indoor lighting. Use the following lights between dawn and sunset:
Old fashioned incandescent light bulbs
If possible, don't use any other bulbs. Expose as much skin as possible to your artificial light setup during the daytime.
Bright light during the day suppresses your melatonin levels. You actually want to keep your melatonin levels low during the day, to avoid sleepiness.
Now, you might be asking, how will this light setup help me at night?
The bright light also alters the difference between the illumination your body is exposed to during the day, and nightly illumination levels. Illumination levels signify the amount of light in your environment.
Most people experience illumination levels that are too low for optimal wakefulness during the day. For them, there's not a big difference between illumination levels during the day and night.
Most indoor LED or fluorescent bulb setups are not nearly bright enough during the day.
The greater lighting intensity coming from a few thousand watts of incandescent or halogen bulbs will give you a greater illumination level difference between daytime and nighttime. More light during the daytime equals deeper sleep and sleeping more quickly during the night.
Very simply put: more bright light during the day will make you sleep deeper at night.
The air quality of your bedroom influences your sleep.
One of the methods that massively improved my own sleep quality is keeping my windows open during nighttime.
Keeping your windows open is not possible everywhere: big cities, for example, have massive air pollution. At first sight, keeping your windows open might not be your best option if you're living in such a city.
However, indoor levels of air pollutants can be up to ten times as high as opposed to outdoors. Even in big cities, opening your windows at night can thus give benefits.
Opened windows also keep the CO2 levels in the room down. Excessive CO2 levels will worsen your sleep quality as well.[88; 182] CO2 levels can build up during the night, which then lowers your sleep quality, because the oxygen levels in your room will be lower.
Lastly, the only way to completely avoid air pollution is to move out of the city. Another option is to use an air purifier all night long, but that can be noisy. Which makes us arrive at the next tip.
Toxins ruin your sleep. It doesn't matter whether these toxins come from overflying airplanes, air pollution from a nearby factory, or mold toxins, pets, and dust in your house.
With an air purifier, you can remove toxins from your bedroom.
While I will not give the full details in this blog post, let me say something about toxins. First, mold is present in up to 50% of US buildings. Mold will lower your sleep quality. Secondly, even air pollution from nearly traffic can lower your sleep quality.
If you're living in a big city, an air purifier is the only option to really keep your bedroom air fully clean.
Now, should you open up your windows and use an air purifier at the same time? The best strategy here, is to open up your windows a small bit, so that CO2 can exit your house. Then use the air purifier to keep your bedroom free from toxins.
Is napping an easy strategy to get more sleep?
You might say: "sometimes, you cannot completely get all the sleep you need during the nighttime. Maybe I should take a..."
The answer is no.
Naps will only really help you if they are "planned".
People who sleep poorly, due to insomnia or sleep apnea, often take random naps throughout the day. These people don't plan their naps, but nap spontaneously to make up for lost sleep.
Random naps will kill your long-term quest for better sleep quality though. Why? Naps continue to "reprogram" your body's 24-hour clock. That reprogramming lowers your long-term ability for good sleep.
In the same sense that staying up until 4:00 during the weekend are "mini-jetlags", naps are mini-jetlags as well.
So if you nap, you need to make sure to nap during the same time every day. If you want to nap, allocate time for napping in your daily routine - and nap every day.
The second best alternative is to create a rule to nap at 12:00, for whenever naps are necessary. That means, if you nap, you always nap at 12:00. If you don't nap, you'll just continue with your day. However, this alternative, is less optimal than the previous more continuous napping solution.
Lastly, if you need random naps very often, these naps are a sign of sleep problems. If you can nap any place, any time, that's an even bigger indicator that you have sleep problems.
For me - as well as many other people - elevating their head part of the bed for 6 inches improved sleep quality. The practice of elevating the head side of the bed by six inches is called "inclined bed therapy" or "head-of-bed elevation".
Many users of inclined bed therapy report deeper sleep during the night. Inclined bed therapy has even been proven to work with sleep apnea and snoring.[185-187] Nevertheless, even if you're healthy, inclined bed therapy can probably improve your sleep quality too.
Inclined bed therapy is purported to help with:
Not all these issues have been studied in relation inclined bed therapy yet, however.
Nevertheless, this tip is very easy to test for yourself. Just take some old books, and elevate the head-end of your bed by 6 inches. Test whether your sleep improves. The tip does not cost a single dime. If the tip does not work, remove your books again.
If you do not want to use books, use these bed risers.
Vegetable oils are absolutely terrible for your health. Examples are safflower oil, canola oil, rapeseed oil, soybean oil, peanut oil. Margarine contains the same type of oils.
Together with light pollution that is everywhere in society, vegetable oils are probably one of the worst things for your health that is widely accepted in today's society.
Before 1950, vegetable oils have literally never been consumed in human (pre-)history.
Vegetable oils increase your risk for cancer, lower immune function, give you heart disease, and move you towards diabetes.[51-56]
These fats have such overall consequences for your overall metabolism, that there is no doubt that they also negatively influence your sleep quality. I infer that conclusion, even though the effects have never been specifically studied (to the best of my knowledge).
This innocent-looking canola field
damages the lives of thousands.
Do yourself and your family a favor: commit all vegetable oils to your trash.
Gut problems are extremely widespread in Western societies.
Almost 20% of children and adolescents have irritable bowel syndrome, which is a gut problem--40% of children experience constipation. About 15% of adults experience "GERD", which is a stomach acid dysfunction. The percentage is the same for "irritable bowel syndrome".
Guess what? Poor gut function is also associated with sleeping poorly.[242; 243; 245]
Several factors impact whether you develop a leaky gut. For example, if you cannot digest some foods, such as nightshades or beans, your gut function might worsen. Stress, and the toxins you ingest, can also lower your gut function.
While there are hundreds of other things that could influence your gut function, let's focus on the most common solutions right now. There are three main steps you can take to improve your gut function:
If you need specific help with your gut, you can sign up for the Hormone Reset Program below. The Hormone Reset Program is a 50-week program that included a far more extensive gut protocol during the first 6 weeks:
Your mattress has a huge influence on your sleep quality. Remember, you spend a third of your life in your bed. To improve sleep quality, your mattress should be one of your first priorities to target.
Most mattresses on the market today contain many toxins. To avoid toxins, double checking the ingredients in your mattress is enormously important.
Let's begin with a list of bad ingredients:
What are your best ingredient options? Wool, cotton, coconut, and natural latex ingredients. Make sure the mattress is entirely made of natural materials.
Weighted blankets might help you deal with insomnia.
The blanket should weigh more than a tenth of your body weight. One reason weighted blankets improve your sleep quality is because they tightly wraps around your body. The blanket makes you feel safe. Weighted blankets also work because the compression of the blanket induces relaxation in your body.
Not all blankets are safe though. Some weighted blankets contain metals. Metal in blankets attracts WiFI other radiation from your environment, which subsequently lowers your sleep quality.
Make sure you buy a metal-free weighted blanket. Most high-quality weighted blankets start at $150. Again, buy 100% organic if possible.
There's one caveat. Not everyone is positive about their weighted blanket use. If you toss and turn a lot during the nighttime, a weighted blanket might not be optimal for you. The blanket prevents you from tossing and turning.
Do you want to know something crazy?
I'm not totally opposed to nicotine! Keep in mind though, that pure nicotine is very different from cigarettes and other tobacco products. Cigarettes and other tobacco products contain hundreds of added toxins, which are extremely bad for your health.[21; 22]
You can buy pure nicotine online. Why? Nicotine can reduce the harm that cigarettes do to your health. Nicotine is also acts as a potent cognitive enhancer.[19; 20] In other words, nicotine improves your thinking ability.
The great thing about nicotine is more quickly cleared from the bloodstream than caffeine.
Half of the consumed nicotine is cleared from your body after a few hours. That means that if you consume nicotine in the early afternoon, most nicotine will be cleared when you go to bed.
Why avoid nicotine before sleep?
Nicotine affects dopamine, a signalling substance in your brain - and does so in a big way. Raising your dopamine levels before bedtime is not recommended, because dopamine is associated with exploration and motivation.
In other words, nicotine wakes you up. You don't want to wake yourself up before bedtime.
(Nerd section: contrary to caffeine, nicotine mainly affects your parasympathetic nervous system. If you're prone to getting jitters from stimulants - as I am - then you might try nicotine. Always use nicotine at your own risk, after consulting your physician. Caffeine, contrary to nicotine, affects the sympathetic nervous system, and is more stimulating).
Yes, you read that correctly.
Let me explain:
Most people drink alcohol at night. Drinking alcohol at night will make it harder to fall asleep, and cause you to sleep less deeply.[37; 38]
The solution? Do not drink before bedtime, but drink in the morning or afternoon.
It's easier said than done, because most parties occur at nighttime. Nevertheless, it would still be the best option to stop consuming alcohol a few hours before bedtime.
If you need to drink during the night (even though, I think you never need to), drink earlier and then switch to water. That method helps you avoid alcohol close to bedtime.
Wine is a great alcohol option if you drink during the afternoon.
If you drink during the evening anyway, switch to tequila, vodka, or whiskey. These drinks are generally very "pure" and low in toxins. Ingesting fewer toxins will help avoid sleep disruptions. And if you're limiting your toxin exposure anyway, avoid beer at all cost.
Because I'm not a doctor, I cannot give you any medical advice. Nevertheless, I can say something about what scientific studies are telling about certain types of medication.
Sleep medication should never be a long-term solution.[182; 256; 257] Instead, if you ever use sleep medication, make sure you know exactly when and how you're going to quit sleep medication.
Let me re-emphasize that point one more time: if you ever use sleep medication, have a plan ready regarding when you're going to quit again.
Nevertheless, there are some examples of instances where sleep medication is merited:
Observe that the examples above are all instances of short-term fight or flight response triggers.
Sleep medication would be a great temporary solution for such problems.
Why should you not rely on sleep medication in the long-term? Let's take benzos as an example of sleep medication. Benzos are commonly used by insomniacs, but may actually lower sleep quality - especially in the long term. Quick acting benzos negatively influence your sleep quality the most.
Besides benzos, there are many other sleep medications, such as Ambien and Rozerem.
The most important message to remember, is that none of these sleep medications have ever resolved underlying causes of poor sleep quality.
Not all sleep medication is prescribed by your physician though. Some sleep "medications" can be bought almost everywhere, such as melatonin.
Be wary of melatonin supplements as well.
Melatonin is great to use after you have a jet lag, or if you stayed up until 2AM just one time. In the long-term, however, melatonin will inhibit your own body's melatonin production, which may give rise to new problems.
Lastly, only stop using sleep medication under medical supervision.
Never quit your sleep medication out of the blue. Going "cold turkey" with sleep medication can be very dangerous.
Both salt and "potassium" can improve your sleep quality. Potassium is a mineral, found in your food.
Let's first consider salt.
Salt lowers several hormones that you want to keep down during the evening. "Cortisol" and "adrenaline" are examples of such hormones.[48; 50] Salt also decreases your resting heart rate. A high resting heart-rate is a sign of stress.
Always make sure you're consuming enough healthy salt, such as Celtic sea salt. Salt is often unfairly demonized: many pre-packaged and junk foods contain a lot of salt, and very few minerals to balance that salt.
For optimal health, you need a balanced intake of different minerals. Salt - which contains the minerals "sodium" and "natrium" - , calcium, and magnesium, are all examples of minerals.
Another example is "potassium".
Let's look at potassium.
Potassium is found in foods such as meat, vegetables, fruits, fish, and nuts.
Most people in modern society ingest far less potassium than our ancestors. The following message might be an absolute shocker, but 97% of adults consume too little potassium.
Let that number sink in.
Potassium deficiencies are a problem, because the mineral is important for high sleep quality as well. Avocados, wild salmon, spinach, sweet potato, and squash are the best potassium sources.
If you worry about eating too much to get your potassium needs met, include more vegetables, herbs, and spices in your diet. Vegetables, herbs, and spices, can offer limitless potassium for your body, without making you overeat.
Remember, salt consumption should always be balanced with potassium. Don't increase your salt intake without making sure you're getting enough potassium.
I'm not giving you exact directions how to increase your salt and potassium intake here. Nevertheless, this tip should give you an indication whether your salt and potassium intake should be looked at.
If you've been cutting down on salt for years, or know that you've not been ensuring an adequate potassium intake, do more research.
The five-minute journal is a really simple way to improve your outlook on life.
Each morning you write down what you're grateful for, what you would like to accomplish in that day, and two affirmations. In the evening, you write down what made your day amazing, and what could have gone better.
It's that simple.
Many user report that they have less anxiety, are more positive, and can evaluate their days better.
You can buy the 5-minute journal here. Of course, you can also carry out this process in your own diary.
Cannabidiol Oil - or CBD oil - can improve your sleep quality.[92-93]
And no, CBD oil does not have any psychoactive effects. Psychoactive ingredients in CBD oil are either removed, or present at almost non-existent levels.
Personally, I've not used CBD oil yet. However, scientific studies are very positive towards the results of CBD oil.
There are indications that long-term use of CBD oil may decrease sleep quality. At this point, I think you should use CBD oil mostly as a short-term solution.
Nevertheless, there are thousands if not millions of raving reviews of using CBD oil for sleep purposes. The best way to find out whether CBD oil works long-term for you, is to test this product.
Bone broth, gelatin, and collagen, have very different proteins than other food sources.
Why are these foods different? Bone broth, gelatin, and collagen, are made of the skin, bones and connective tissue of animals.
These unique proteins can lower stress, help combat daytime sleepiness, make you less depressed, and improves sleep quality.[189-193] The best time to add these proteins to your diet is during dinnertime - that's the period where you want to stimulate sleepiness.
If you want more information on this topic, I've written an ultimate guide on these food.
Exercise is a great way to improve your sleep quality, if you do it right.[60-62]
In our modern society, however, most people should not exercise very intensely or frequently. Why? Most people are already too stressed.
Moreover, if you don't sleep well, then you need to avoid exercising too much.
Don't get me wrong: I love exercise. I used to train 5-6 a week for 1,5 hours at a time. I followed that routine for years. During that time, I also made sure I recovered very well.
If your goal is optimal health, however, I would not recommend doing intense exercise more than 2 days a week. There's no need to exercise more.
What should you do instead? Move. A lot. Make sure you're not:
sitting all day.
standing all day.
walking all day.
in the same posture all day
Variation in your movement is key. Being in the same position, or repeating the same movement the entire day, is bad for you.
If you do exercise, don't exercise before bedtime.
The late afternoon is the best time to exercise. The most efficient way to exercise, is to do weight training or sprints. For bonus points, do your weight training or sprints outdoors in sunlight.
Even if you're wearing blue blockers, light originating from devices can still influence your sleep quality.
Light that hits your skin can lower the level your melatonin levels in your brain. Remember that malatonin is needed to sleep quickly, deeply, and to stay asleep.
Remember that blue and green light are the main problems with these electronics.
You can buy several products that prevent you from blue and green light emitted by your electronic devices. Blue and green light filters that can be placed on top of tablets and smartphones are examples.
The most radical solution to reduce all blue and green light from these devices, however, is to use "red rubylight" tape on any screen.
I know people who have taped their laptop screen with red rubylith tape. That tape prevents all blue and green light from entering your eyes.
Another way to avoid light exposure to your skin is to wear long sleeves during the evening and night.
Preventing light exposure to the skin might not be a strategy that all people reading this blog post will follow. If you're a long-term insomniac though, then it's a radical tip that's very much worth testing.
Your environment determines whether hot or cooling showers are your best before bedtime.
If you live in a very hot environment, take a cool shower. In a cold environment, somewhat hotter showers tend to work better.
Make sure your hot nor cooling showers are not very intense fashion before bedtime.[193-196] Instead of making you sleepy, very hot or cold showers will keep you awake .
If you're poorly adapted to the cold, slowly decrease the shower's water temperature at first. A hasty exposure to very cold water will awaken you before bedtime.
Noise pollution is a big problem in modern society. Noise might be almost as big of problem as light pollution is. Noise pollution causes:[199-201]
So, what's the solution?
If you're living in a noisy environment, earplugs can massively increase your sleep quality.[197; 198]
Alternatively, you might use white noise or pink noise.
White and pink noise are two different "types" of noise. It's not important to exactly know what their difference is. Instead, understand that both white and pink noise add a background sound to the room you're seeping in. That background sound will make any noise pollution in you area harder to hear.
Simply put, white and pink noise cancel out noise pollution in your environment. Both white or pink noise improve your sleep quality.[202-204]
Want to try something different?
Try 5-15 minutes of stretches before you go to sleep. Stretching is especially useful if you experience cramps during the night.
Yoga is also a great option as light movement. Yoga can be understood as some simple but effective postures that you adopt, which increase your stability, flexibility, relaxation, and endurance. Yoga also helps you sleep quicker, deeper, and longer.[206-209]
Many traditional cultures around the equator have included honey as an important part of their diets. Some cultures even consider honey their most highly-rated food source.[258; 259]
Honey contains a range of different sugars. "Fructose" is one of honey's sugars. Fructose is different from other sugar types, because fructose is primarily stored in your liver. Most other carbohydrates (and thus sugars) are stored in your muscles.
What makes honey different?
The fructose in your liver - sourced from honey - is steadily released throughout the night.
That steady release of fructose can reduce your stress levels and prevents you from waking up at night.
A second way through which honey can improve your sleep quality is by reducing coughing. Honey even outperforms cough medicine in some studies.[261; 262]
Fortunately, honey does not contain any protein. Why does that absence of protein matter? Remember that the protein you eat alters your 24-hour day and night rhythm in your body. Carbohydrates do not seem to have the same effect on that rhythm as proteins do.
That means honey is safer to eat later at night than for example, a steak, nuts, or eggs.
I think sugar is great in the proper context. Consuming honey at nighttime might nevertheless still turn out to be problematic for your day and night rhythm. Dinnertime is thus the safest time to consume honey. Moreover, honey is best consumed when it's in season at your location.
Even in developed countries, up to 30% of people are deficient in some B vitamins.
That deficiency is dangerous, because B vitamins are very important. B-Vitamins keep your metabolism healthy, and allow your body to store more glycogen. Especially vitamin B1 and B2 allow you to properly store the carbohydrates that you consume.[88-90]
If you eat a carbohydrate rich meal during dinner, then B vitamins will make sure those carbohydrates can be properly used during the night. That way, your body can run off stored energy.
Without proper energy supply, you're more prone to wake up during the night.
Vitamin B6, moreover, can increases the length of the REM stage of your sleep. The REM stage is the part where you dream. Many different B vitamins thus either have a direct or indirect effect upon sleep.
You don't have to rely on supplements to get your B vitamins though. Simply ensure to consume enough liver and oysters - which are amazing vitamin B sources.
Most people are not consuming these foods these high B vitamin foods. We did consume these foods plenty during our time in Africa - in prehistory.
Adaptogens are herbs that help you deal with stressors in your daily life. Some examples of adaptogens are:
If your stress hormones are elevated - such as "cortisol" and "adrenaline" - then adoptogens can bring these hormone levels back down. Adaptogens can decrease your stress levels, lower anxiety, make you less tired, and help you relax.[218-224]
It's best to use adaptogens in the morning or afternoon. Evening use of adaptogens sometimes gives people too much energy.
You can buy ginseng as a root, as a powder, or as a supplement. The first option is the most natural, and probably gives you the most benefits. With roots you can make your own adaptogen tea:
Adaptogens are a great replacement for coffee in the afternoon.
Finally, we arrive at the supplement section of this blog post.
My reason for including supplements last is that they often do not cure the root cause of sleep problems.
Moreover, taurine should be considered more of a nutrient than a supplement. Traditional cultures consumed a lot of a lot of taurine through uncooked meats. Uncooked meats are nature's best taurine source.
Of course, other sources of taurine can be found in nature. Eggs and milk products are good sources as well. Lastly, you could opt for a taurine supplement.
Taurine can help your sleep quality by making you more relaxed.[216; 217] Follow the instructions on the supplement package.
L-ornithine is another supplement that can improve your sleep quality.
L-ornithine is a building block of proteins. That substance is not found in large quantities in foods. Nevertheless, l-ornithine does improve your sleep and lower your stress levels.[225-227] During the daytime, the compound may lower your fatigue levels, if you're underslept.
While more research is needed on l-ornithine, many people do report better sleep after ingesting this substance. Dinnertime is the best time to ingest l-ornithine.
Do you remember that I previously stated that sleep medication can negatively affect your long-term sleep?
Phenibut is the same.
Well, at least, if you use phenibut all the time. Used incidentally, phenibut can be a great sleep aid. Why?
Phenibut is extremely calming, and lowers your anxiety levels.[105-106]
If you're expecting a fight or flight response, phenibut can help you get a good night's sleep. An example of an expected fight or flight response, is if when you know that you usually sleep very poorly the night before an important presentation. In that instance, phenibut helps you sleep well and thus helps you perform better the next day.
Take about 500mg - 1.000mg 4-5 hours before bedtime, on an empty stomach. Don't take phenibut more often than once every 2 weeks.
Phenibut is highly addictive. Buy and use at your own risk - and consult your physician before consumption.
Many people tell themselves that they haven't sleep for days, or that they cannot sleep at all. That perception is often mistaken.
Even the most hardcore insomniacs sleep most nights. The problem is that you cannot always remember that you've slept. How do we know you did at least get some sleep?
It's biologically impossible to completely avoid sleeping.
Moreover, the very thought that you cannot sleep at all undermines your ability to sleep well in the first place. In other words, the thought that you do not or cannot sleep at all creates toxic expectations and behavior around sleep.
Just the acceptance that you do sleep sometimes, changes your mentality around sleep towards the positive.
Many insomniacs sleep very poorly because they very badly want to sleep. They have the assumption that sleep is needed for optimal health - which is correct. Their psychological need to have amazing sleep the upcoming night does nervelessness undermine their ability to sleep well.
What's the solution?
Relax. Make sure you apply the tips in this blog post. Don't worry if you don't sleep well tonight. Instead, focus on your long-term strategy to improve sleep. This blog post should give you such a long-term strategy.
Lastly, don't worry too much if you cannot sleep immediately tonight either. If you cannot sleep, leave your bed, wear your blue blockers, and try sleeping again in 60 to 90 minutes.
Worrying too much about sleeping tonight is often another short-term "solution". Short-term "solutions" often prevent long-term solutions for better sleep. Instead, worry about solving your insomnia issues in the long-term.
You'll have the best sleep when you're cool but not cold.
Remember that in a previous tip, we've talked about your room should be cool as well.
When you dress for a cool night, however, you may inevitably end up being cold. if that happens often, have an additional blanket ready during the night. That additional blanket allows you to quickly get warm enough, and continue your sleep.
Don't wait for hours to fall asleep in bed while being cold. Have an additional blanket ready.
There are three situations in which you might want to change your bedroom setup to improve sleep quality.
First, you may have an enormous emotional attachment to your bedroom. If that emotional attachment is negative, that attachment can affect your sleep.
In that case, you might want to change the way your bedroom looks, or the room in which you sleep.
For example, you might have slept next to your spouse for 10 years. Unfortunately, you've broken up. After the breakup, it might be very difficult to sleep in your old bedroom. Why? Every night you might remember the closeness you had together.
Give your bedroom a makeover. Change the paint, or alter the setup of the room. Changing the look of your bedroom will change psychological associations you have in your mind. If these options don't work, you may even want to change what room you use as a bedroom.
Secondly, sometimes it's unwise to sleep with a partner.
For example, you should never sleep with a partner who is snoring. Before sleeping in a separate room however, allow your partner fix an issue they may have. If fixing is not possible, then please don't continue sleeping with that person.
You've read that right: never continue sleeping with a partner who keeps you from sleeping. I consider sleep that important.
Third, you may have pets in your bedroom.
If pets ever wake you up during the night - especially if you already have sleeping problems - then make sure to change that situation.
It's not acceptable for your cat to wake you two times every night. Over time, the negative influence of pets in your bedroom can and will add up.
Cats: planning to take over the world since eternity.
They start their conquest by ruining your sleep...
The moment you start to identify as an "insomniac", you will lower your chances for great sleep.
On the one hand, it's best to admit that you have a problem once your sleep troubles have become chronic. On the other hand, identifying as an "insomniac" is itself problematic.
For example, insomniacs worry a lot about whether they will sleep well the coming night. That worrying already sets you up for poor sleep.
Stop identifying as an insomniac until you've tried all the tips in this blog post. Please make that promise to me.
If all else fails, try cognitive behavior therapy. There's good scientific evidence for the validity of cognitive behavior therapy.
Cognitive behavior therapy deals with the relation between your thoughts, feelings, and behavior - and helps you correct unproductive instances thereof.
Cognitive behavior therapy looks especially useful for more serious sleep problems.[228-236] Examples of serious problems are chronic insomnia, hallucinations, chronic pain, and sleeplessness resulting from disease.
Cognitive behavior therapy works by helping you deal with managing your emotions, racing thoughts, and excessive worrying.
Do you need help with improving your sleep even further? Download the #1 advice I have for applying these 50 tips:
That's it. 50 tips to improve your sleep quality.
I don't expect you to take a while to try all these tips immediately. Don't be intimidated by the sheer number of sleep tips.
Instead, the most important point of this article needs to be re-emphasized:
Not all these tips are on equal footing. I consider the first ten tips the most important.
Start with the first tips, and work your way down from there. The first tips in this blog post are dealing with root cause issues of most sleep problems.
Fixing the root cause of your sleep problems is always the most important. Don't opt for temporary solutions if you don't have to.
Getting your sunlight exposure during the day, and blocking blue and green light at night, always remains more important than taking supplements.
*Post can contain affiliate links. Read my affiliate, medical, and privacy disclosure for more information.
Author: Bart Wolbers. Bart finished degrees in Physical Therapy (B), Philosophy (BA and MA), Philosophy of Science and Technology (MSc - Cum Laude), and Clinical Health Science (MSc).
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