Managing Daily Energy Levels: Sleep Optimization Biohacks
Updated: Dec 7, 2021
Have you ever wondered how to better ensure consistently high-quality sleep? Here are a few suggestions for how to get started.
"Manage your energy; not your time" is a common mantra nowadays. Personally, in the past I've often wondered what this really means on an actionable level. Certainly, developing awareness of your physical, mental, and emotional states seems like a generally good idea. I try to focus on high-priority tasks when I'm most alert — many others do as well. However, beyond this rule of thumb, here are some of the bio-hacks that I've personally found most helpful for optimizing my sleep, and thus optimizing the productivity of my waking time:
No caffeine 10-12 hours before bed
No alcohol 3 hours before bed
No THC 3-12 hours before bed
No food 3 hours before bed
Red/orange/yellow light bulbs
Reduced room temperature for sleep
Cold showers before bed
Meditation 0-2 hours before bed
Yoga/isometrics 2-3 hours before bed
Sleep tracking device
Caffeine vs. Sleep: The half-life of caffeine can vary from around two to around twelve hours, averaging around 5 hours. This could mean, for example, that if you drink a cup of regular coffee around 6pm, you might have around half of its caffeine content still floating around in your system when you fall asleep at 11pm. Caffeine's quarter-life is around 10-12 hours, so I've found it's a good rule of thumb for me to avoid caffeine after 12pm, assuming a bedtime between 10pm and 12am.
Alcohol vs. Sleep: Alcohol might put you to sleep faster, but it could also be deteriorating your sleep quality. Studies have shown it reduces the amount of REM sleep you're able to get in a night, and can also lead to sleep apnea. When tracking my sleep cycles, I've personally found my REM sleep time go down even when I have two or three drinks ending around three hours before sleep. My heart rate is also around five to ten BPMs faster during sleep when I've had alcohol. A good rule of thumb I've found for myself is to wait three hours before sleeping (after one drink of alcohol), and add another two hours on top of that for each additional drink. So, if I'm having two drinks and want to sleep at 11pm, I'll aim to finish my two drinks by 6pm.
THC vs. Sleep: Similar to alcohol, THC can hamper your REM sleep and cause sleep apnea. Personally, I've found that a hit or so of THC (when smoked) needs to be around 3 hours before bedtime for me to get a decent night's sleep. Since edibles are processed more slowly, I've found I would need to take an edible no laters than 9-12 hours before sleeping — similar to drinking coffee.
Food vs. Sleep: Many experts agree that eating too close to bedtime can hamper your overall health and wellbeing, leading to potential weight gain, digestive issues, and sleep deterioration. One way to sleep well is to stay cool (your body lowers its temperature automatically when you sleep), and personally I've found my sleeptime body temperature readings when eating right before sleep to be consistently higher than when I've eaten three or four hours before sleep.
Blue Light vs. Sleep — Orange Lights and Orange Glasses: Studies show that excessive exposure to blue light (especially after sunset) can lead to depression, anxiety, and other unwanted outcomes. Blue light helps stimulate your body's production of "daytime chemicals" like dopamine and serotonin, whereas orange light helps your body stimulate production of "nighttime chemicals" like melatonin. Personally, I find that wearing blue-light-blocking (i.e., orange-tinted) glasses after sunset — and especially in 2 or 3 hours before going to sleep — improve my energy levels and mood the next day and lead to higher levels of deep sleep and REM sleep detected by my sleep tracker. Same thing goes for using orange-tinted light bulbs.
Warm Rooms vs. Sleep: Some experts recommend sleeping in a room with a temperature of around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. I've found that when I turn down the room temperature and sleep with minimal blankets and minimal nightwear, my sleeping body temperature tracks much lower, and my REM and deep sleep levels increase.
Warm Activities vs. Sleep: Related to the above point, I used to take warm showers before bed to relax myself. However, I've found cold showers to be equally relaxing, while also helping me to reach the lower body temperature that I look for during sleep.
Meditation/Exercise & Sleep: Meditation and exercise can improve your sleep quality, according to many studies. Personally, I've found my overall sleep quality (including high REM time, low heart-rate variability, low sleep-time body temperature) to be best when doing intense activities (such as cardio or weightlifting) earlier in the day (for me, no later than 3 hours before sleeping), and restorative activities (such as yoga and meditation) at pretty much any point in the day, but especially in the early morning and late evening.
Sleep Trackers: Knowing metrics like resting (sleeping) heart-rate, heart-rate variability, and body temperature has been useful for me in learning about cause and effect of various behavior patters (both positive and negative) on my sleep, and thus on my daytime energy levels. Some people use the Apple Watch for their sleep tracking needs, but I dislike having yet another screen to distract me, and also find the battery life to be non-ideal. Others use the WHOOP sleep tracking bracelet, but its look doesn't appeal to my personal fashion sense. I've found the Oura Ring to be the best product for me, since it has a roughly week-long battery life, no screen, and is much smaller and (I think) sleeker than the other two solutions.
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Disclaimer: These are based on personal experiences, and results vary person to person. Do your own research, and consult a medical professional before acting.