Tips for better sleep and optimizing the bedroom
You spend one-third of your life sleeping. Better sleep is correlated with improved heart health, better mood, increased energy, better academic achievement, job success, and longevity. After a well slept night, the mood is generally better and the nervous system is less reactive. Sleep also protects from dementias. If you want to improve your sleep quality and spend more time asleep, it’s important to upgrade daily sleep-related habits and optimize the sleep environment, that is, your bedroom. When the bedroom ergonomics, air quality, and lighting support relaxation and recovery, you are more likely to fall asleep, stay asleep, and visit all the necessary sleep stages. This article covers the best sleep hacks from morning till evening and guides how to optimize the bedroom for better sleep.
Sleep tips for the day
Morning sunlight improves evening melatonin production
Getting enough blue spectrum light (short wavelength 450–490 nm) during the day, especially right after waking up, is important for evening melatonin production and circadian rhythm. Avoid the use of sunglasses during the day that blocks blue spectrum light. It may start the production of melatonin at the wrong time. Sunlight exposure is also important for adequate vitamin D levels in the body, which is linked to sleep quality.
Vitamin D is important for sleep
Make sure you get enough Vitamin D during the day. Vitamin D receptors are found in brain areas that regulate the sleep-wake cycle and vitamin D deficiency is linked to sleep disturbances. In addition to sunlight, vitamin D supplement helps to ensure adequate vitamin D levels. Take vitamin D only during the day because when taken by night, it can interfere with melatonin production. Vitamin D is fat-soluble and thus additional fat or oil in the supplement may increase vitamin D absorption.
Recovery and sleep
Exercise and movement, or working in a static posture for long periods during the day can all cause muscle tension and negatively affect sleep. Acupuncture, massages, foam rolling, and magnesium bath in the evening can help to relieve the muscle tension. Red light treatment during the day can also speed up muscle recovery and ease tension. Red light penetrates cells' energy centers (mitochondria) increasing energy production and cell repairing. It can even have a positive effect on sleep quality and evening melatonin production. It is better to take the longer red light treatment during the day and only a short (under 5 minutes) session in the evening if necessary.
Mealtiming and sleep
Nightly blood sugar regulation is a major factor for sleep: if blood sugar levels drop during the night, the release of glucose-regulating hormones (adrenaline, glucagon and cortisol) can wake you up. To stabilize nightly blood sugar, eat the last bigger meal no later than 2–3 hours before going to bed and formulate the meal so that it consists of easily digestible foods. You can also take 1 or 2 tablespoons of MCT oil or omega3 oil about an hour before bed. A spoonful of honey replenishes the liver’s glycogen reserves up to 12 hours. Two green kiwis have been shown to actually improve sleep quality and reduce awakenings during the night.
Optimized bedroom supports healthy and serene sleep and aids you to unwind and relax. Here we will cover how to optimize bedroom lighting, temperature, supplements, air quality, and behaviours to fall asleep faster and have more restorative sleep.
Block blue light 3 hours before bed
Blue light is emitted from TV, laptop, phone screen, and even bright indoor lighting. Blue light exposure should be prevented about 3 hours before sleep because it can disturb the shift in melatonin production and delay sleep even by 3 hours. As a rule of thumb, all electrical devices are better to be left outside of the bedroom. If you normally relax watching a movie or need to use a phone or laptop in the evening, do it in another room and use blue light blocking glasses. This ensures that your melatonin production is not disrupted from the light. Also, if you wake up during the night to use the toilet or for a glass of water, put on blue light blocking glasses on first to prevent exposure to blue light waves during the night. It is easier to fall back to sleep when the light does not stimulate your brain and wake you up.
By the way, have you noticed that Biohacker’s evening glasses also block almost all UVA and UVB light, so you can use them on a sunny day to reduce eye strain.
Melatonin and other sleep supporting supplements
Sufficient intake of micronutrients is important for relaxation and good sleep quality. Some nutrients act as a precursor to sleep hormone melatonin and others increase relaxation by modulating the GABAergic neurotransmitter system.
Magnesium promotes sleep-related hormonal balance and improves the ability to relax and sleep. It acts as a mild sedative making it easier to unwind. Always check the form of magnesium as some of them, such as magnesium oxide, have very poor absorption (less than 30 %). Best absorbed magnesium forms include glycinate (also contains glycine), citrate, chloride, lactate, malate (contains also malic acid), taurate (contains also taurine), and aspartate. Place the bottle in your nightstand and grab the magnesium about an hour before you want to fall asleep. If you wake up in the middle of the night, taking some magnesium can help you to fall asleep again faster. Potassium citrate, or potassium carbonate, works synergistically with magnesium.
Glycine and taurine
Glycine is a building block for glutathione which helps to combat oxidative stress. Glycine has a calming effect and can help to lower core body temperature, which also facilitates sleep. Glycine can also be found in magnesium glycinate. Taurine is another amino acid that can support sleep. Taurine is especially concentrated in the nervous system, eyes, heart and muscles, and supports their optimal functioning. Taurine affects the GABAergic neurotransmitter system and thus can support relaxation and sleepiness. Taurine is found in magnesium taurate.
Relaxing adaptogens and herbs
Some adaptogens and herbs relax the mind and calm the body. Adaptogens are herbs or medicinal mushrooms that help the body to build resistance for stress. Sleep-supporting adaptogens include ashwagandha, holy basil, and reishi. Herbs that support sleep, and can be enjoyed, for example, as a tea include chamomile, valerian, passionflower, hops, and kava. Adaptogens and herbs can support sleep by affecting neurotransmitter systems in the brain, decreasing tension and stress, and improving relaxation. For example, reishi mushroom affects hormone functions regulating stress and cortisol levels. Take adaptogens in water-extracted supplement form or add adaptogen tincture to your (non-caffeinated) herbal tea or under your tongue in the evening.
L-theanine is a compound that is found naturally in tea leaves. It is responsible for the relaxing effect of tea and has been shown to increase the occurrence of alpha brain waves, which indicate a relaxed state of mind. L-theanine is found in a supplement form and it brings a relaxed state at least up to 90 minutes.
Tryptophan is an amino acid found naturally in some foods but it is also sold in therapeutic doses as a supplement. Tryptophan is a precursor of amino acid 5-HTP, which further gets converted into serotonin and melatonin.
5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is an amino acid naturally produced in the body from tryptophan. It gets further converted into serotonin and melatonin. Low serotonin levels are associated with sleep disorders, increased food intake, and anxiety. Supporting serotonin levels may help in balancing mood, sleep, and general contentment.
Precursors of melatonin
Adequate intake of melatonin precursors and nutrients that facilitate its formation can help the body in the production of melatonin. Nutrients involved in melatonin production include L-tryptophan, folate, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and zinc.
Melatonin is one of the main hormones in the body regulating the sleep-wake cycle. Light is an important regulator of melatonin. Darkness increases melatonin production and bright light decreases it. If you struggle with falling asleep, you can use melatonin supplement as a last resort. It can help align the body's natural circadian rhythms. Also, consider trying microdosing with melatonin to avoid any grogginess and other possible side effects.
Indoor lighting also affects melatonin production. Warm-toned and dim lights support melatonin whereas white and bright LED lights and indoor light bulbs can shift melatonin production for later disrupting the circadian rhythm. In the evening time, it is recommended to use warm-toned light bulbs and salt lamps in the bedroom. Consider installing smart lighting to the bedroom that changes the light spectrum according to the cycle of the day. Using blackout curtains help to darken the room when you want to fall asleep. If you can not achieve a completely dark room try a sleep mask with a skin-friendly material such as silk.
Bedroom temperature and air quality
Good indoor air quality and optimal temperature are essential for good sleep. Adjust the radiators for optimal indoor temperature, which for most people is around 18–22 degrees Celsius (64–69 Fahrenheit).
Ventilate the bedroom during the day and use an air purifier and filtering device in the night. Optimal air quality can be achieved with air-purifying plants such as gerbera daily, bamboo palm, peace lily, warneckei, marginata, mother-in-law’s tongue, and Janet graig. You can also consider purchasing an air filtering device (UV, HEPA, carbon filtering, photocatalytic oxidation, and air ionizer). Air humidifier adds moisture to the air and prevents dryness of the air and possible respiratory symptoms. Using specific incenses and relaxing essential oils (ylang ylang, vanilla, lavender) may increase sleepiness at the cost of air quality.
It is very important that bed materials are allergen-free and that the bed supports your sleeping posture. Consider changing the mattress to one that’s made of organic cotton, wool, hemp, or natural rubber. Materials for bed linen that support thermoregulation include organic cotton and silk. Natural pillow materials include oat, cherry, spelt, and buckwheat. Finally, choose a pillow that also supports your neck. Recent evidence suggests that weighted blankets may help evening anxiety and thus support sleep.
Relaxing evening activities
Stop using your phone and laptop 1-2 hours before bedtime to prevent stimulating the mind. Go to bed only when you feel you could fall asleep so that your brain creates a strong link between being in bed and being asleep. Do something relaxing in the evening. For example, put on your blue light blockers, get comfortable on a couch, switch on a red-toned night light, and grab a good-mood book such as the Biohacker’s Handbook for a relaxing reading session (we recommend the Sleep chapter). Learning something new just before sleep will also improve the memory for that information. However, don’t get too carried away with the reading, since studying too intensively can also stimulate the mind. You can also try a magnesium bath, laying on a spike mat, meditation, yin yoga, or a calm walk in nature.
- Biohacker’s Handbook Sleep chapter FREE (e-book)
- Biohacker’s Handbook (hardcover)
- Metabolic Autophagy by Siim Land (paperback)
The best way to know if your sleep hacks are working is by measuring your sleep with a high-quality sleep tracker. A high-quality sleep tracker measures sleep hours, REM sleep, deep sleep, light sleep, night-time heart rate, heart rate variability (HRV), and body temperature. Sleep data can be collected with a piece of consumer wearable technology (such as a smart ring, bracelet, or a pendant), a technology that’s installed in the bed, or a sleep laboratory with polysomnography.
The OURA ring has become one of the most popular sleep trackers among biohackers. Users of Oura ring include biohacker Ben Greenfield, Harvard anti-aging scientist David Sinclair, and the Duke of Sussex Prince Harry. Oura has also actively been developing its algorithms for detecting signs of COVID-19.
Consult a sleep doctor
Have you tried everything but still having a hard time catching proper sleep each night? Book a private consultation with Dr. Olli Sovijärvi, who specializes in biohacking. In an hour-long comprehensive session, Dr. Sovijärvi listens to your experiences on sleep optimization and gives you further tips on how to improve sleep quality and quantity with lifestyle, nutrition, stress management, and biohacking. He can also interpret and advise with your sleep data.