Biohacking sleep: the ultimate guide
Have you heard of the concept of biohacking? It’s become a trend over the last few years and is popular among CEOs and top executives, best-selling authors, health and fitness lovers and beauty enthusiasts around the world.
Becoming a biohacker can be a fun journey of self-experimentation in which you learn about your body, your brain, what makes you feel your best and how you can hack your mental and physical performance.
What is one of the biggest focuses in the biohacking community? Biohacking sleep.
Why? Because if you don’t sleep well, your body and brain can’t perform at their best. If you’re trying to build an empire or simply overcome difficult tasks every day, you need to get good sleep.
What is biohacking?
Biohacking is sometimes referred to as do-it-yourself biology. Biohackers use science, technology, diet and lifestyle practices to help them optimise their mental and physical health and performance.
13 Tips for biohacking sleep
Here are a few popular biohacks that you can try to improve your sleep quality:
1. Light therapy
The majority of experienced biohackers have experimented with some sort of light therapy. Your body uses light to help it determine the best times to sleep and wake up.
Getting sunlight or blue light exposure in the morning can signal to your body that the day has arrived. In the evening, using red light therapy can signal to your body that the day is coming to an end and it is time to start preparing for sleep.
2. Cold exposure therapy
If taking a cold shower or ice bath every night seems like medieval torture to you, you might struggle with this sleep hack. However, cold exposure reduces inflammation and boosts endorphin production, and also helps improve sleep by lowering your body temperature. A lower body temperature is critical for good sleep.
You can take a 5-minute cold shower, sit in an ice bath or buy a cooling vest that you wear before bed. While it will cost you more, you can also go for cryotherapy, where you stand in a chamber filled with liquid nitrogen for a few minutes.
If you want to further ensure that your body stays cool for optimal sleep, you can sleep on a cooling mattress pad that helps you regulate temperature.
3. Use sleep trackers
Biohackers often love tracking things. Without any data, it becomes harder to measure the quality of your sleep and see where you can improve. Luckily, some of the most brilliant minds in the world have invented sleep trackers, which help you track your sleep cycles, measure your heart rate, test your heart rate variability and more.
Popular sleep trackers include the Oura ring, Fitbit Versa 2, Xiaomi Mi Band 4 and the Garmin Vivosmart 4.
4. Test your heart rate variability (HRV)
HRV refers to the time variations between your heartbeats. It can give you an idea of how stressed your body is and if you need more rest. Having a higher HRV is associated with better quality sleep and less stress. If you have a low HRV, you might need to get more sleep.
5. Intermittent fasting
Your mealtimes affect your circadian rhythm. Ideally, you want to eat during daylight hours and fast for a minimum of 12 hours overnight. That means that if you have breakfast or have your first cup of coffee at 7am, the clock starts ticking and you should stop consuming calories at 7pm.
Popular fasting times are fasting for 13, 14, 16, 18, 20 or 22 hours. If you want to do intermittent fasting, you have to figure out an eating schedule that works best for you.
6. Use blue light blocking glasses
Have you seen those orange or yellow glasses that health-conscious individuals and biohackers wear? It’s not a fashion statement, it’s for the sake of good sleep.
Blue light exposure from digital screens and artificial (LED) lights interferes with melatonin production and can make it harder to fall asleep. But if you start wearing blue light blocking glasses a few hours before bed, you can significantly reduce your exposure, which will help your body produce more melatonin.
7. Take supplements before bed
Supplements aren’t necessary, but they can be very helpful for achieving a goal like improving your sleep. Popular supplements that are taken by biohackers to improve sleep include magnesium (glycinate or citrate), L-Theanine, Valerian root, adaptogens like Holy Basil (Tulsi) and Ashwagandha, melatonin, and Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).
8. Exercise regularly
Movement is very important to regulate your circadian rhythm. Morning exercise has the same effects as morning sunlight exposure. It helps signal to your body that the new day has arrived and helps you start to produce melatonin earlier in the evenings.
It might be hard at first to convince yourself to get up and start exercising if you are not already in the habit of doing so. But if you are consistent, it will become a habit over time and doing so can be one of the best things that you ever do for your health.
9. Breathe correctly
Breathing through your mouth while sleeping is not ideal, which is why a lot of biohackers are trying to condition themselves to breathe through their noses. Breathing through your mouth at night has been associated with lower quality sleep. If you’re a mouthbreather, your tongue can constrict your airways partially and you will take in less oxygen. It can make you feel more fatigued during the day, increase feelings of stress and cause snoring or sleep apnea.
Breathing through your nose will allow more oxygen to reach your cells and the air you breathe in will also be moisturised and warmed, which makes it enter the lungs a lot better. An interesting solution to the problem is to tape your mouth shut while you sleep. You can get mouth tape and simply tape your mouth shut while you sleep. Over time, you will become used to breathing through your nose while sleeping and won’t need the tape anymore.
10. Sit in the sauna
Saunas aren’t just meant for spa days. Adding heat exposure to your routine in the form of saunas, steam rooms and warm baths can help improve sleep. While your body temperature rises in a sauna or hot bath, it drops after you get out to cool you down again, which can help make it easier to fall asleep.
You can experience the benefits of heat exposure any time of day, but if you want to use it to improve sleep, we recommend doing it closer to bedtime. You can start with the heat and then finish with a cold shower if you have the time.
Many biohackers have added some form of meditation to their routine. This is not only to reduce stress and anxiety, improve focus or slow down ageing but also to improve the quality of their sleep.
Meditating regularly will help you relax and wind down before bed, and it can also train you to be more present and block out thoughts that are keeping you up at night.
12. Get your bloodwork done
Data, data and more data. Biohackers love gathering data and one way to get more information about your health is to get your blood tested. But what will your blood be able to tell you about your sleep?
Blood tests can indicate possible conditions that can influence your sleep quality, like thyroid problems or diabetes. They can also show if you are deficient in any nutrients that are important for sleep like magnesium and vitamin D.
13. Sleep in an EMF protective sleeping bag
Some biohackers are worried about the effects of electromagnetic field (EMF) signals on their brains and sleep. An electromagnetic field is created when electric charges are moved. They are everywhere in our environment, but high levels can potentially be dangerous.
You get two types of EMFs, namely low-level radiation (non-ionising) and high-level radiation (ionising). You get high-level radiation from the sun’s rays and x-ray machines, and low-level radiation from devices like your cellphone, WiFi router, Bluetooth devices, computer and microwave.
While there are some indications that suggest that EMF signals do influence the activity in your brain while you’re asleep, more research needs to be done.
If you do want to be cautious, a simple solution is to sleep in an EMF protective sleeping bag, which blocks out EMF signals. Saying goodbye to your WiFi and switching to a LAN cable is another way to reduce EMF exposure. The further away you stand from your microwave while it is on, the less you will be exposed.
Are you ready to start biohacking sleep and experimenting with different ways to improve your shut-eye? Start with some (or all) of the tips we listed above to find the perfect recipe for sleep success.