Sleep Hygiene 101 - The Ultimate Guide to Sleeping Like a Grizzly (So You Wake Up Like a Champion)
In this guide, you will learn:
1) What is this “sleep hygiene” and how modern life wrecks your nights and your body.
2) The 7 steps you can take toward mastering your own sleep hygiene and reclaiming your primal health.
3) What kind of results you can expect when you optimize your nightly routine
So…what is this "Sleep Hygiene?"
The National Sleep Foundation describes sleep hygiene as: "a variety of different practices and habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness."
Now, let's stop and focus on a few key words for a moment: sleep quality and full daytime alertness.
If you're an insomniac, then you understand these terms intuitively. But maybe you're someone who used to think of themselves as a "good sleeper." Now you're wondering: did I ever wake up with full daytime alertness? Did I ever wake up feeling energetic and ready to rock and roll? Maybe, or maybe not. Yet the fact remains: the vast majority of people today suffer from very low sleep quality (even if they "fall" asleep easily at night).
Sleep, in fact, is a lot like diet. If all you consume is soda and doughnuts, then it doesn't matter how MUCH you eat - more isn't going to make you healthy. Yet a diet filled with fresh leafy greens and antioxidant-packed fruits and berries is going to keep you lean and mean, and fight off cancer and heart disease.
Likewise, if your sleep quality is high, then you'll wake up in the morning according to your own natural circadian rhythms. You'll yawn, stretch, and feel ready to attack the day. It's a wondrous feeling when the body's restorative systems are working at 100%.
If you don't feel that way however, then chances are your sleep quality is low, and the most likely culprit is poor sleep hygiene. In other words, your evening habits are limiting your brain's ability to relax and kickstart its natural restorative processes.
But what are these dangerous habits that wreck your precious sleep?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that the most common sleep destroyers are fairly obvious:
- You're not consistent in your bedtime. (Ever heard that before?)
- Your bedroom isn't dark, relaxing, and set to a cool, comfortable temperature.
- Your phone is charging by your bed, and pummeling your brain with flickering lights and notification chimes.
- Your belly is full of spicy food, you've been drinking alcohol, or maybe you're consuming caffeine too late in the day.
Like we said: obvious, right?
The truth, however, is not so simple. Modern life simply isn't designed to optimize your rest and recovery. See, your body works best when you've consumed plenty of the natural vitamins and minerals it needs to kickstart sleep, and your brain works best when your nights aren't filled with external stimuli like Facebook notifications. This isn't groundbreaking stuff, yet it's real. Our modern diets and lives fight against our sleep quality at every turn.
The beams of pure light blasting from your phone are constantly telling your brain: "Wake up! It's daytime!"
The beeps of social media notifications, the upstairs neighbors stomping around, and the growls of cars on the road outside all scream at your brain: "Stay awake! Something is happening!"
If you understand this, however. If you decide to fix your sleep hygiene, to work with your body instead of working against it, then you can enjoy the blissful sleep you were designed to experience every night. Truly, you'll sleep like a grizzly.
Let us teach you how…
Step 1 - Turn down the lights
It's funny. Anyone who enjoys camping knows that when you're out in the wilderness, sitting by a campfire, you can't help but start yawning as soon as the sun goes down. Really, it's a miracle within our own bodies! Our circadian rhythms are deeply intertwined with the sun. So, what do you think happens when our modern homes are filled with dozens of tiny electric suns?
Most people never realize this, but electric light can be disastrous for sleep. We learned this in a big way while staying at an eco-lodge in the Ecuadorean Amazon a few years ago. Off the grid, with hardly more than a flickering solar lamp, we couldn't help but pass out by nine o'clock, and woke up smiling at the crack of dawn to the sound of maniac toucans. It was special.
Now, every night, we try to go back to the jungle. After 9 o'clock, we dim the lights, or turn them off completely. We even light candles. (That's a serious pro tip! For real. Try it once and you'll love it.) Figure out how to minimize lights in your own sleep routine, and we have no doubt that you'll fall asleep more easily, kickstart your body's natural ability to recover, and get in touch with your deep-sleeping primal human nature.
Step 2 - Avoid blue light and subconscious digital stressors (AKA smartphones)
It's probably obvious that staring at a beam of luminous digital information will keep you awake. This is partially due to the effect of "blue light." Our brains are designed to gradually wake up as dawn passes from gray to daylight, and then start releasing melatonin as the day dissipates into the red skies of dusk. This is somewhat intuitive, and it's why your phone and laptop likely have an orangey "night light" mode. Blue light tells your subconscious mind that melatonin isn't needed, because it's still the middle of the day. Obviously, this isn't very helpful if you want to get to sleep.
Yet blue light induced melatonin disruption isn't the only problem. Even if you're using nighttime mode, every Twitter notification, every chime of an incoming email is a tiny needle prick to your hormonal sleep cascade. The more you scroll through Reddit and Tinder, the more your subconscious brain stays active and fights against its own relaxation processes. It may feel easy and relaxing to you emotionally, but to your subconscious mind it's like fighting a swarm of mosquitoes.
Interestingly, books and non-LED eReaders like the Kindle Paperwhite don't seem to have the same effect. For many people, they might actually help you fall asleep. The LED lights of iPads, Kindle Fires and laptop screens, however, are terrible for many people. Just one glance at these devices can delay sleep for thirty minutes to an hour.
Remember: these are subconscious effects. They even affect "easy sleepers." Even if you can fall asleep after spending thirty minutes down a Reddit rabbit hole, certain subconscious realms of your brain are still working overtime, and that may be why you wake up seven hours later feeling as if you hardly slept at all.
Trust us. Your daily worries are stress enough. Your brain doesn't need any more stimuli. Put away your phone, turn off Netflix, and give your subconscious a chance to generate blissful, natural sleep.
Step 3 - Drown out external noise
Ever find yourself falling asleep, when the drip-drop sound of a leaky bathroom faucet startles you awake? It's annoying, right? Or maybe it's the sound of a truck downshifting on the highway, your upstairs neighbors making sexy time, or even the sound of a baby crying? Makes it impossible to sleep, right?
This is actually a good thing!
It should make sense that some deep part of your subconscious mind is constantly scouring your dark nighttime environment for sounds of activity. This is a wonderful evolutionary defense mechanism. When we were all cavemen, the ability to wake up quickly was helpful. After all, you don't want to be the person who keeps on snoring as a hungry jungle cat creeps into your camp.
Luckily, we no longer have to worry about nocturnal predators. Our brains, however, are still living in the past. It may only be a leaky faucet, but your brain perceives it as potential danger.
The solution? White noise. Drowning out "incidental" noises with the steady drone of an electric fan, a fancy white noise machine, or even an air conditioner can prevent your subconscious from leaping into fight-or-flight mode every time your home creaks or groans. We actually prefer rickety fans ourselves. We run two of them along with an air conditioner fan every night!
Don't worry about sleeping too deeply, however. If your baby starts crying, or a marauding bear comes bursting through your door, you'll still wake up. A layer of white noise only drowns out the small, annoying sounds like passing cars. The rest of the time, a simple fan will wrap you in an auditory blanket of pure sleep and relaxation.
(PRO TIP: Don’t charge your phone in your bedroom. Or at least put it on airplane mode. Nothing can wreck a good night's sleep like buzzes, chimes, and steady alerts from your late-night pals who never stop sending you memes.)
Step 4 - Keep your room dark
"How far that little candle throws his beams!" said Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice. How right he was.
You know that crack around your curtains where the street lights seep through? You know the digital display on your clock that illuminates your nightstand? These can totally screw up your sleep!
We may be beating a dead horse by droning on about artificial light, but it's really an insidious problem. The National Sleep Foundation indicates that the light-caused circadian rhythm disruptions can affect brain wave patterns and cell regulation, and have been linked to depression, obesity, breast and prostate cancer, and cardiovascular disease, in addition to our old friend insomnia.
Seriously. Obesity? Depression? Insomnia? Cancer? Is this what you want from your sleep?
This goes beyond smartphone screens and late-night TV watching, however. Even small amounts of light pollution in your bedroom can obliterate your circadian rhythms. In fact, a recent study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal found that exposure to nightlights, external lightbulbs, or digital screens in the bedroom was associated with long-term weight gain and obesity among a population of nearly 44,000 women. That doesn't sound like good sleep, does it?
But…how does this work? Is blue light from your windows seeping in through your eyelids? Is it related to photosensitive skin cells? Don't ask us. The scientists are still figuring this one out. But one thing is for sure: by removing all digital displays from our bedrooms, and using black-out curtains, our sleep has improved drastically. Try it and we're pretty certain it will help you too.
Step 5 - Control your bedroom temperature
Listen, we're not going to tell you keep your room at exactly 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Yes, there are studies showing that this is the "optimal" temperature for sleep. But we say: optimal for who?
We know people who grew up in Miami that sleep like babies when its sweltering out. We also have cold-blooded friends who sleep beautifully under four blankets, and wake up with their teeth chattering if the temperature drops below 80. Thus, the key doesn't seem to be some magical temperature, but finding out what works best for you. In fact, we're guessing that you probably already know. (We love it absolutely freezing, by the way.)
The tricky part is when you're sharing a bedroom with another person. You may like a freezing bedroom, but your equatorial husband likes it hot. What can you do?
Seriously, this is game-changing stuff. Who says couples have to sleep under the same blanket? Figure out your ideal room temperature, get your cuddling in, and then when it's time to snooze, give your better half the fluffy down comforter while you relax under the thin silk sheet. This way you both can enjoy the wondrous rest that proceeds naturally when your bedroom is a sleep haven.
(PRO TIP: This has a bonus effect of thwarting notorious blanket stealers. Really, we probably just prevented a thousand divorces.)
Step 6 - Be smart about booze, caffeine, and nicotine
So, you need that late-night glass of wine to help you fall asleep? Fair shake. It will help you fall asleep. We can't dispute that. Unfortunately, it pretty much wrecks everything that comes after. Consuming alcohol has been linked to delayed and disrupted REM sleep, and it can wreak havoc on sleep apnea and snoring habits. That means low sleep quality. And that means feeling like crap the next morning.
How about your afternoon cup of coffee? Well try on this little factoid: caffeine has a half-life of 3-5 hours. That means if you finish an espresso at 4:30PM, the caffeine could still be floating around in your bloodstream at 9:30. And if you've got live caffeine in your blood at 9:30, after the sun has gone down, you're certainly not producing melatonin. In fact, one study has shown that consuming caffeine 6 hours before bedtime can reduce your total sleep by 1 whole hour. Yeesh. Not cool, coffee.
Nicotine is slightly different. It only has a two-hour half life - far less than caffeine. However, nicotine has this funky little withdrawal effect that crops up in the early morning hours, and which can knock you right out of sleep and into a restless, bleary eyed morning in which you're scrambling for a cigarette.
Solution? Well, if you want to optimize your sleep, you obviously need to eliminate caffeine, nicotine and alcohol from your nightly routine. Switching your afternoon espresso for a green tea is a great start. But when it comes to booze and cigarettes, well, you're a grownup. The choice is yours!
Step 7 - Take Hibernate!
First off, the science:
Estimates suggest nearly half of adults in the United States don't get enough magnesium in their diets. As much as 45% of older adults don't consume enough zinc. An estimated 1 billion people worldwide seem to be suffering from vitamin D deficiency, and older adults and women seem to be at a higher risk than adult men. Perhaps worst of all, hard-training athletes tend to live in a chronic state of deprivation, never realizing how a few small dietary and behavioral changes could drastically improve their sleep quality and recuperative abilities.
Mix all these deficiencies together and you've got one nasty cocktail. After all, magnesium plays an important role in supporting healthy levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep. Zinc is considered a "sleep modulator" that seems to somehow govern slow-wave, nondreaming, deep sleep cycles, and studies have shown that a vitamin D deficiency correlates to a significantly increased risk of sleep disorders.
Simply put, if you suffer from these very common dietary deficiencies, you're not giving your brain the tools it needs to generate healthy sleep. This wouldn't be a problem if our bodies could just produce these nutrients for themselves. But alas, we can only obtain magnesium and zinc from dietary sources like dark leafy greens and grass-fed meat. Vitamin D only comes from exposure to sunlight. And let's be honest, couldn't we all stand to eat more of the good stuff and get a little more sun in our lives?
There is good news, however!
By taking a high-quality supplement, you can avoid these nearly epidemic dietary deficiencies which are responsible for so many sleepless nights. Note we said: "high-quality." (If you don't believe us, just take one heavy dose of cheap over-the-counter magnesium oxide and see how quickly it sends you running to the toilet.)
In fact, it was our own experiences with zinc, magnesium, and vitamin D supplementation that led to the creation of Hibernate. Obtaining the right nutrients, in the right doses, from high-quality sources helped us sleep like babies for the first time in years. It was miraculous.
Now, we consider Hibernate to be the cornerstone of our own nightly sleep hygiene rituals, and you should too. By shoring up these all-too-common deficiencies, you'll give your body the ingredients it needs to fall asleep, and stay asleep. Just as you drink coffee to wake up, and perhaps drink a protein shake to promote muscle growth, consuming Hibernate before you go to bed could enhance your life in ways you've never imagined.
What kind of results can you expect?
The truth is that a lot of different factors can lead to low-quality sleep, and insomniacs can suffer for a variety of reasons. You probably have a dietary deficiency that's mucking up your neurochemical processes. You may have a house full of nuclear lights delaying melatonin production. You may live in a noisy building, or your wife may be waking you up every time she steals the blankets.
No matter the cause of your own unique sleep disorder, however, we're certain that the 7 steps of sleep hygiene can bring you some relief. Consider tackling them one at a time.
If you fall asleep easily, but wake up at 3AM and stay awake, then the potent ingredients in Hibernate will likely stabilize your deep sleep cycles.
If you can't seem to fall asleep at all, then minimizing electric lights and smartphone activity will likely improve your melatonin production and allow you to pass into a healthy, restful snooze.
However, you shouldn't expect Hibernate to knock you out cold, no matter how good your sleep hygiene. Healthy, natural sleep doesn't work that way, and Hibernate isn't a soporific drug like Zolpidem (Ambien) or Benzodiazepines. Such drugs often cause retrograde amnesia, and can even prevent the healthy recuperative processes of natural sleep. It's health that we're chasing, folks, not a druggy counterfeit.
What we want is a 1-2 hour gradual descent into relaxation and healthy, natural sleep. If nothing else, we're confident that a combination of Hibernate and minimal electric lights will help you get there. This way, your own sleep won't be a cause for anxiety. Instead, it will give you tremendous pleasure. Even if you only sleep for 6-7 hours, it will be luxurious, high-quality sleep that helps you recover from hard workouts. It will be your own personal PED, enlivening your days and making you happier and more energetic than ever.
Master your sleep hygiene. Learn to hibernate. Doing so has changed our lives, and we desperately want to change your life too.