How to Improve Sleep Quality: The Only Tips You Need
Good sleep isn’t just the number of hours you spend in bed. Those hours are important, but the “quality” of those hours are arguably MORE important. Believe it or not, if sleep quality is high — if it’s truly deep and restorative — 6 hours will feel like 10. You’ll wake up energetic. You won’t yawn. You’ll hit the gym feeling like a titan. Read on to learn how to improve sleep quality so you can feel this amazing every day.
3 Tricks to Improve Your Sleep Quality Tonight
#1. One Hour of Darkness
Did you know your brain stops “manufacturing” sleep hormones in the presence of light? (There’s a reason light exposure is a banned torture technique1.) Even tiny amounts of electric light — yes, your normal overhead room lights — can inhibit your brain’s ability to produce melatonin2 for hours, increase your heart rate all night long, and increase insulin resistance the next morning3. That midnight snack refrigerator light? It doesn’t just keep you awake for 30 minutes. It diminishes the quality of your sleep all night long.
Prescription: Make your last hour before sleep a zone of darkness. Pretend you’re outside in nature. No lightbulbs. No lamps. No computer screens. If you want to be asleep at 11PM, shut off all the lights at 10PM. Yes, that may mean bumbling around in the dark. Get dim orange nightlights. They’ll change your life.
#2. One Hour Smartphone-Free
Smartphone screens are poison for your brain4. They engage your mind exactly like cocaine5. All that messaging, swiping, and scrolling (combined with blue light from the screen) signal that it’s daytime and that you need to stay alert and focused. This inhibits your ability to pass into Stage 3 slow-wave sleep for hours. If your phone enters your bed at night, you’re effectively saying: “No thank you, I don’t want high-quality sleep. Tomorrow I want to be a flacid dork who disgusts his wife and embarrasses his children.”
Prescription: Put the phone away, Ralphie. If you want to be asleep at 11PM, then at 10PM, turn the phone on airplane mode and walk away. I know, it’s tough, but you’ve got to break up with your screens if you want to improve your sleep quality. It’s just one hour. It’d even be cool if you watched TV in the living room, as long as the overhead lights are off and your phone is far, far away.
#3. Man-Sized Doses of Magnesium and Zinc
Magnesium and zinc are essential ingredients in the hormonal cascade that causes your brain to fall and stay asleep. If you aren’t consuming enough, your sleep quality will be low, 100% guaranteed. Unfortunately, 50% of US adults have a clinical magnesium deficiency6, and thanks to modern agricultural practices, pretty much everyone walks around at suboptimal magnesium and zinc levels. Luckily, this simple solution can have a HUGE effect on your sleep quality.
Prescription: 400mg of magnesium and 50mg of zinc. This is the exact dose in Hibernate Sleep Formula, and it works like a charm. The magnesium helps calm the nervous system and stabilizes deep-sleep cycles7, while the zinc synthesizes neurotransmitters that regulate sleep8. Combine them with the previous two tips, and you can expect to:
- Fall asleep quickly;
- Stay asleep without waking up;
- Rise full of energy in the morning.
One hour of darkness. One hour smartphone free. A hefty dose of magnesium and zinc. Improving sleep quality really is that simple.
What Is Sleep "Quality" Exactly?
You might think of Sleep Quality as the depth of your sleep, but we prefer to think of it as how well your body repairs stress and damage accrued during the day9. You can understand by asking yourself: “How well does my body heal itself when I’m asleep? How do I feel when I wake up?” Really, answer for yourself. Are you like Wolverine, leaping out of bed with bullet holes sealing up? Or do you wake up creaking, frazzled, yawning and…feeling like you need more sleep?
If sleep quality is high, you can sleep for 6 hours and wake up energized and ready to attack the day — a common experience for uber-healthy hunter-gatherer tribes like the Hadza of Tanzania10. If sleep quality is low, you can sleep for 8-10 hours and STILL wake up tired and with a stuffed-up nose — the common, modern American experience.
This may sound familiar if you’ve ever taken pharmaceutical sleeping pills, like zolpidem, which are closer to surgical anaesthesia than normal sleep. Through their sedative–hypnotic effects, they knock you “unconscious.” But you spend the next day yawning and red-eyed with headaches, nausea, diarrhea11, memory problems, and hallucinations12. Does that sound like high-quality sleep to you?
Sleep is when your body heals and repairs itself. “Sleep Quality” is simply a measure of how efficiently it’s doing it’s job. If sleep quality is high, you need less hours. If sleep quality is low, you need as many hours as you can possibly get.
Are You Reaching Stage 3 Deep Sleep?
Every 90 minutes throughout the night, you cycle through 4 sleep stages. A hallmark of high-quality sleep is a lot of time spent in “Stage 3” — the third phase when brain waves are slowest and you don’t wake easily. This is when the body repairs tissues, stores your memories, and supports physical recovery.
The more time you spend in Stage 3 every night, the better you’ll feel the next day (i.e. “high sleep quality”). Unfortunately, lots of things can disrupt your sleep and “kick” you into Stage 4 — that’s when physical repair shuts down and when you start having dreams.
Stage 1: Falling Sleep (N1)
- 1 to 7 minutes
- Transition between wakefulness and sleep
- You experience drowsiness
- Brain waves slow down
Stage 2: Light Sleep (N2)
- 10-25 minutes
- Brain waves slow further, body temperature drops, heart rate and breathing slow
- Occasional bursts of rapid brain activity known as sleep spindles13
Stage 3: Deep Sleep or Slow-Wave Sleep (N3 or SWS)
- 20-40 minutes
- Brain waves slow significantly
- Memories are consolidated
- Brain self-repairs and increases output of Human Growth Hormone
Stage 4: REM (Rapid Eye Movement)
- 20 minutes
- Increased brain activity and vivid dreams
- Muscles temporarily paralyzed (preventing you from acting out your dreams)
- REM stages grow longer as you sleep, ranging from a few minutes to an hour.
How to Improve Sleep Quality Long-Term
The 3 tips listed above are the easiest ways to quickly and noticeably improve sleep quality. Minimizing electric light, eliminating mobile phone use, and taking magnesium and zinc are all excellent “sleep hygiene.” Yet, if you’re a biohacker who wants to optimize your sleep at all costs, there’s a lot more you can do every night to ensure deep, restorative sleep:
- Drown out external noise: Noise at night is awful. Leaky faucets, cars on the highway — they knock you out of deep sleep and back to stage 1 or 2. Pop in some earplugs, crank up a white noise machine, and do whatever you need to do to drown/block out the noise.
- Keep your room dark: Turning your bedroom into a dark cave can really help you stay in that deep, undisturbed sleep your body needs. Consider investing in blackout curtains and eliminating electronic devices from your bedroom.
- Control your bedroom temperature: Night sweats can seriously ruin your sleep. Crank down your thermostat to somewhere around 65-70 degrees. Everyone’s different, so play around until you find your sweet spot, but in general, colder is better.
- Limit booze and caffeine: Yes, it may make you pass out, but alcohol is basically a supplement for LOWERING sleep quality14. Caffeine can stay active in your body for 10-12 hours. In both cases, you might fall asleep, but they’ll still diminish Stage 3 sleep.
How to Track Sleep Quality: The Only True Test
Here’s a foolproof way to gauge your sleep quality: Do you yawn during daylight? Yes, that’s it. You don’t need any fancy apps or tools. If you're yawning all day long, it's a red flag for low-quality sleep.
In populations that get amazing sleep, no one yawns before sunset. Nighttime kickstarts production of melatonin in the brain, and then they yawn. But during daylight? No way. They’re focused. They’re awake. Their circadian rhythms run like Japanese bullet trains.
In sleep deprived populations, however, yawning is a constant. It means your body is demanding more sleep…and that means something needs repair and recovery. So, take the Yawn Test. It’s your body's sleep meter. It’s really the only tool you need.
Get The High-Quality Sleep You Deserve
You can’t be at the top of your game if you don’t prioritize sleep quality. It means feeling great when you only get 6 hours. It means your body and brain fully self-repair every night. In our humble opinion, it's the key to crushing life, physically and mentally. It’s deeply intertwined with your health, and you can start with these 3 easy steps:
- 1 hour of darkness before sleep;
- 1 hour smartphone-free before sleep;
- Take Hibernate Sleep Formula (or any magnesium/zinc supplement) 1 hour before sleep.
How will you improve your sleep quality?