Sleep Hacking: How to Transform Your Quality of Sleepby Scott Jeffrey
Overview: This in-depth sleep hacking guide offers research-based, battle-tested sleeping tips and strategies that will help you have a more rejuvenating night’s rest.
It’s easy to become accustomed to fatigue.
Perhaps that’s why over 1 billion cups of coffee are poured each day globally.
But a few rejuvenating nights can be transformative.
Suddenly, caffeine becomes optional, a poor habit at best.
Not only do we feel more awake and alert after a good sleep, but we also feel less depressed and more joyful.
Rejuvenation comes with a feeling of aliveness that many of us have forgotten.
In this in-depth sleep hacking guide, I’m going to share with you what I’ve learned from over 20 years of sleep experiments.
You’ll find around 30 practical tips and strategies you can try for yourself right away.
Table of Contents
- A Quick Disclaimer About Sleep Hacking
- Reduce Your Exposure to Blue Light
- Reduce EMF Exposure in your Bedroom
- Quiet Your Mind Before Bedtime
- Treat Your Sleeping Environment as Sacred
- Change Your Brainwave Patterns
- Detoxify Your Pineal Gland
- Experiment with Sleeping Hacking Supplements
- Pay Close Attention to Your Internal Terrain
- Avoid this Common Sleep Hacking Tip
- Sleep Hacking Essentials
- What Do You Think?
A Quick Disclaimer About Sleep Hacking
Personally, I’m not a fan of the term “hacking.” It’s used most commonly in the context of biohacking, short for biological hacking.
There are entire biohacking communities who prowl for ways to “upgrade” or “optimize” their brain, body, and health.
A lot of biohacking is about measuring results and taking evidence-based approaches, and that part I agree with.
But “hacking” also implies a shortcut. I’ve found that many so-called sleep hacks might work temporarily, but they end up backfiring in the long run.
One example would be to establish a rigid sleep schedule, where you go to sleep exactly the same time at night and wake up at the time. And track your results. (Below I’ll explain why this strategy isn’t advisable.)
The reason many sleep hacks fail over time is that we’re trying to hack our unconscious (the body).
And there’s an apt saying in psychoanalytic theory: whatever you resist grows stronger in the unconscious.
So the insights in this sleeping hacking guide are designed for the long-term in mind, where we work with our unconscious instead of trying to shortchange it.
Okay, now we’re ready to dive into some power sleep hacks.
Reduce Your Exposure to Blue Light
All of our modern devices—TVs, computer screens, smartphones, tablets, etc— emit a large amount of blue light.
This blue light can actually promote wakefulness during the day, but when we get too much blue light exposure in the evenings, it tricks our pineal gland into thinking it’s still day time.
Artificial blue light throws off our circadian rhythm and we fall out of harmony with our natural environment.
As a consequence, our pineal gland, which regulates the hormones for sleep, doesn’t produce sufficient melatonin. And as a result, we can’t rejuvenate at night.
To combat the negative effects of blue light, there are a few sleep hacking tips you can try:
Tip #1: Reduce screen exposure at night
Stop using all screens at least 2 hours before bed. This will help your brain calm down as your body will be producing less cortisol.
Tip #2: Use blue light blocking glasses
Use blue light blocking glasses in the evening. Blue light blocking glasses look like regular sunglasses, but instead of blocking UV light rays, they reduce the exposure to blue light. This study demonstrated that these glasses work.
I tested and experimented with about ten different pairs of blue light blocking glasses a few years ago. In terms of the optimal blend of filtering ability, comfort, and affordability, Night Shades by Spectra479 topped my list.
Tip #3: Eliminate light entering your bedroom
Reduce as much light from your bedroom as possible, including all of your electronic devices. If you have streetlight coming into your bedroom, consider investing in blackout shades.
If you’re not ready to make this investment, get an eye mask like this one. They are great for travel too.
In particular, avoid using LED bulbs. I realize they are the most energy-efficient bulbs, but they also produce the most “dirty electricity” (see below) and negative effects on the pineal gland.
This study found that white light from LEDs suppresses melatonin production more than any other light.
You’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to fall asleep at night when you reduce your exposure to blue light.
Reduce EMF Exposure in your Bedroom
EMF, or electromagnetic frequencies, are emitted by all of our home electronic devices.
Because these particular frequencies are not naturally-occurring, numerous studies including this one show that they can have harmful effects on human and animal biology, including our sleep.
If you’re curious, you can purchase an EMF meter like this one to determine which devices have the highest EMF levels.
I did this a few years ago and I found that the biggest culprits are internet modems, WIFI routers, and cell phones. (I’m sure microwave ovens are bed too, but I don’t own one.)
Here are sleep hacking tips to reduce EMF exposure at night:
Tip #1: Keep your cell phone far away
Keep your cell phone out of the bedroom, or at least ten feet away from you.
For many people, this suggestion is sacrilegious. But it’s an essential practice if you’re serious about sleep hacking and you want to improve your quality of sleep—and not just for EMF reasons. (I’ll explain more on this below.)
Tip #2: Limit dirty electricity
Unplug everything you possibly can from the outlets in your bedroom. If you need to use an alarm clock, consider using a battery-operated one.
You might consider investing in outlet shields. You can find EMF resistant outlet plates online as well as outlet filters by companies like Greenwave and Stetzerizer. Both devices are designed to reduce dirty electricity in your home.
Tip #3: Invest in a set of earthing sheets
Earthing sheets are like normal bedsheets threaded with silver. These sheets plug into the ground wire of an outlet near your bed. And they work! I review the best earthing sheets here.
Tip #4: Unplug your modem
Unplug the modem in your home at night. There’s no reason to have additional EMF flooding your home while you and your family sleep.
Unplug the router before bed and simply plug it back in in the morning.
Tip #5: Get additional EMF shielding
If you live in an apartment building where you’re bombarded by EMF from other tenants, you can find EMF shielding bed sheets, paint, and other products made from silver to help reduce EMF exposure.
While some of the above recommendations may seem extreme, if you’re sensitive to EMF (and many people are but no know it), these steps will greatly improve your quality of sleep.
Quiet Your Mind Before Bedtime
An overstimulated mind doesn’t want to drift off to sleep. An overactive mind ruminates, replaying scenarios over and over again.
What most of us don’t realize is that thinking expends mental energy. And sleeping is designed to restore mental energy.
But if you’ve ever tried to meditate or stop thinking, you know that it doesn’t really work: the more you try to stop thinking, the more the thoughts come.
So what’s the alternative?
Here are a few sleep hacking tricks you can try before bed:
Tip #1: Write down what’s running in your mind
Capture all of your ideas, concerns, and to-dos for the following day. These things will rotate in your mind until you capture them on paper. Often times, doing this is sufficient.
Keep a journal or notepad and a pen by your bedside and add things as they come to mind.
Tip #2: Stretch and loosen your body
Stretch for five to ten minutes before going to bed. Why? Although we often don’t make the connection, our physical tensions are directly related to our mental tensions (stress).
By stretching and relaxing your muscles and the fascia beneath it, it can help promote a more result sleep.
If you know any qigong or yoga, try practicing it right before you get into bed.
This video illustrates a stretching routine you can try before going to sleep:
Tip #3: Breathe consciously and correctly
Consciously breathing properly can help quiet your mind too.
Or, experiment with the 4-7-8 breathing technique: Inhale slowly and evenly for a count of four. Hold your breath for an even count of seven. And then slowly and evenly exhale from your mouth for a count of eight. Be sure not to push or force the air in or out as you exhale.
Dr. Andrew Weil calls it a “natural tranquilizer.” Use this breathing cycle three times before bed and you’ll likely notice the results.
Tip #4: Stay warm
While cold showers are a popular biohacks for improving mental performance during the day, when it comes to relaxing the body before bedtime, a warm shower is preferable.
If you often find that there are cold areas on your body (for example, around your knees), this is a sign of energetic blockage.
A jade stone heating pad like this one can warm and relax areas of your body where you’re holding excess tension. If your feet tend to get cold, consider wearing breathable, ankle socks.
Tip #5: Experiment with various meditation practices.
There are a lot of options out there and not every meditation method is right for you. The challenge with meditation is that it can sometimes actually stimulate your mind instead of calming it down.
But the right meditation can help you relax your mind in a matter of minutes. Simply observing your breathing without trying to influence it is a great starting point.
Here are more in-depth meditation instructions, if you’re interested.
And if you’d like additional support, I review the best meditation tools here.
All five of the above steps can dramatically improve your quality and enjoyment of sleeping.
Treat Your Sleeping Environment as Sacred
Ancient cultures honored their sleep and dreams. They didn’t perceive the dream world as meaningless. In fact, it was considered more real than our normal, waking state.
As modern people, however, we tend to have a bias toward our waking life. Our general attitude toward sleep is that it’s necessary, but an unwanted disruption from our day-to-day lives.
“Achiever types,” in particular, have a skewed orientation toward sleep. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” is a common phrase.
- What would happen if you change your perspective or beliefs about sleeping?
- What if you honored or cherished sleeping and dreaming as much as life itself?
- Would you keep a television in your bedroom or stream movies on your laptop on your bed?
Here are some tips on how to transform your bedroom into a sacred rejuvenation chamber.
Tip #1: Remove all technology from the bedroom
Remove all unnecessary technology from your bedroom including televisions, clocks, and everything else.
As we said above, the fewer things you have plugged in, the less EMF (electromagnetic frequency) radiation there is.
But more than that, these technological devices are symbols of our waking state. That is, they establish the wrong association to sleep time.
Tip #2: Keep your smartphone out of the bedroom
In addition to more EMF exposure, our phones are associated with work, play, communication, and stimulation—none of which are desirable in your sacred sleeping chamber.
Yes, this means that you can’t use any of our cool, sleep hacking apps on your phone. But if you follow the rest of the practices in this guide, you won’t need them.
When you take your phone to bed with you, you’re sending a subconscious message that you’re still plugged into the waking world.
Tip #3: Invest in a new mattress
Most mattresses are made with harmful toxic chemicals that are released and inhaled as we sleep.
For example, most memory foam mattresses are made with polyurethane. This study demonstrates that polyurethane emits volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are toxic to our respiratory system.
Consider switching to an organic mattress made of natural, certified organic fibers. Not only is it non-toxic, but it is also more eco-friendly.
And if you’re not ready to upgrade your mattress, you can at least invest in an organic mattress topper to add an extra layer of comfort and protection.
Tip #4: Upgrade your pillow
Try using an organic buckwheat pillow. Why? Two reasons. First, it’s more firm, which is healthier for your neck and shoulders.
Second, the buckwheat hulls help redistribute heat so that your pillow doesn’t overheat, which generally causes irritable sleep. (No more flipping over your pillow.)
Here’s the one I use. I found a noticeable difference once I started sleeping on it.
Tip #5: Switch out your light bulbs
There are two reasons for doing this. First, most lighting in the bedroom is too bright. The closer you come to going to sleep in the evening, the dimmer the lighting should be.
(And on that note, avoid using dimmer switches or lamps with dimmers because they tend to emit more dirty electricity.
Second, popular CFL and LED bulbs are filled with what’s called “dirty electricity” or “junk light.” It’s like eating pesticides or genetically-modified foods.
Instead, use low wattage (40W), incandescent bulbs for your nightstand. These amber bulbs work great.
Tip #6: Clean and declutter your bedroom
This sleep hacking tip might seem obvious, but it’s easy to neglect to do it. Layers of dust will negatively impact your respiration while you sleep.
And piles of clothing and other stuff creates a subtle sense of anxiety that will inhibit your subconscious mind’s ability to relax.
All of the above sleep hacking steps can help transform your bedroom into a sleeping sanctum.
Change Your Brainwave Patterns
Our brains operate on a range of brainwave patterns or frequencies. Each frequency establishes a particular state of consciousness.
For example, our normal waking state is associated with what’s called “low beta” and it’s in the frequency range of 14 to 22 hertz. Theta waves from 4 to 8 hertz are associated with REM sleep.
Isochronic tones and binaural beats are sound waves calibrated at specific brainwave frequencies.
By listening to these frequencies under the right conditions, you can help induce your brain into specific states of consciousness.
Tip #1: Toggle down into the Low Alpha range
Generally, when you’re having trouble sleeping, it’s because your brain is stuck in a Beta state.
To use this technology, find brainwave entrainment programs that target the alpha-theta level. There are many producers of these frequencies online. Here are some of my favorites:
- Profound Meditation Program 3.0 by iAwake Technologies (This is the most comprehensive, full-spectrum audio meditation program I’ve found on the market.)
- Neurohacks by iAwake Technologies
- Anything Eric Thompson produces at Subtle Energy Sciences
You can also download three free tracks from iAwake here. (One of them is from Profound Meditation 3.0.)
If you search on Youtube, you’ll also find lots of free options. For example, check out the Meditative Mind Youtube channel.
Tip #2: Use a high-quality headset
While isochronic tones work without a headset, to get the benefits from binaural beats, listen to the tracks with a high-quality headset.
If you have access to a noise-canceling headset, that’s even better. The best noise-canceling headset I’ve experienced is the QuietComfort Noise-Cancelling Headphones by Bose. I’ve used it for many years.
Listening to these frequencies overlayed by relaxing music can help calm your mind and prepare you for a restful night’s sleep.
Detoxify Your Pineal Gland
The pineal gland plays an essential role in our sleep. When our pineal gland isn’t functioning properly, we can’t sleep well and we don’t perform effectively during the day either.
Many individuals have what’s called a calcified pineal gland. Due to various chemical compounds in many public water supplies and commercially-grown foods, calcification occurs throughout our bloodstream, affecting many organs, including the pineal gland (which is submerged in fluid).
A pineal gland detox includes taking various supplements and eating certain foods that help chelate heavy metals and other toxins from our blood to reduce calcification in the body.
Tip #1: Eat organic and avoid GMOs and pesticides
Eating organically grown whole foods and avoiding processed foods and anything grown with pesticides supports the decalcification process, which can help your pineal gland function better.
Tip #2: Chelate heavy metals from your blood
Iodine chelates heavy metals such as mercury, aluminum, and lead. Raw apple cider vinegar is another natural metal detoxifier.
Eating green plants that are rich in chlorophyll can also help chelate heavy metals from your blood while nourishing it. Try:
I provide a comprehensive protocol to counteract calcification in a 4-part series found here.
Experiment with Sleeping Hacking Supplements
Although melatonin and other sleep aids are incredibly popular, after doing extensive research on the pineal gland, I don’t recommend them.
Instead of taking a melatonin supplement, it’s far better to focus on reducing blue light exposure, decalcifying the pineal gland and chelating heavy metals from your blood.
Get your pineal gland functioning properly and it will produce the right amount of melatonin for you.
Instead, if you’re having trouble getting to bed at night and you want to take a supplement, try taking something that relaxes your muscles. As I said above, relax your body and your mind relaxes too.
Here are three sleep hacking supplements you can experiment with:
Supplement #1: L-theanine
L-theanine is an amino acid found in green tea leaves grown in the shade. The relaxing effects of L-Theanine are well-documented. This amino acid even slows down heart rate variability.
Test out Jarrow Formulas Theanine. Start with one capsule (100 mg) about 30 minutes before bedtime.
Supplement #2: Valerian root
You can also experiment with valerian root, which is considered an herbal tranquilizer. Valerian root promotes relaxation and restful sleep.
Research shows that low GABA levels are associated with chronic stress and poor sleeping habits.
Valerenic acid found in valerian root has shown to inhibit GABA breakdown in the brain. The end result is more calmness and tranquility akin to the effects of Valium and Xanax (hence, “herbal tranquilizer”).
I don’t have a favorite brand for valerian root, but here are two of the brands I’ve used:
I’m not sure there’s a difference in these supplements. You just want one that’s minimally processed and derived from organic Valerian root.
Supplement #3: Vitamin D
Most sleep disorders are linked to vitamin D deficiency. And most individuals are vitamin D deficient.
And while it may be useful to a vitamin D supplement in the winter months, the best way to get your daily requirements of vitamin D is to spend more time in direct sunlight.
There are many documented health benefits to direct sunlight. For one, sunlight increases melanin, which supports pineal gland function. It also helps boost mood and improve your sleep at night.
If you’re looking for a good vitamin D supplement, I take Life Extension Vitamins D and K with Sea-Iodine when needed.
It’s worth noting that no supplement is a magic pill that will have miraculous effects. If you want to experience the benefits of these supplements, combine them with other tips in this sleep hacking guide offered in the section titled, “Quiet Your Mind Before Bedtime.”
Pay Close Attention to Your Internal Terrain
Finally, we come to the primary reason we search for sleep hacks in the first place: repressed and unprocessed emotions.
Emotions that aren’t processed get stored in the body. Our unconscious does what it can to process these emotions during our sleep. This is one of the functions of dreaming. B
ut we tend to stack the cards against our unconscious, by ignoring our emotions throughout the day.
Here are a few things you can do:
Tip #1: Reflect on the day
Before going to sleep, review your day and see if there are any events that triggered emotions left unresolved.
Even if you can’t fully process some of these emotional experiences, simply bringing them to consciousness can be supportive.
Tip #2: Record your dreams
For most of us, our dreams are too complicated or abstract to analyze. Luckily, you don’t need to understand the symbolic meaning of your dreams to use them to improve your sleep.
Carl Jung saw dreams as a bridge from our unconscious to our conscious minds.
I cover the importance of dreams here. Even if you can’t understand the meaning of your dreams, recording them in your journal can somehow have a calming effect that promotes wellbeing and reduces restlessness at night.
Recent research suggests that taking Vitamin B6 before bed can improve your dream recall.
Tip #3: Get to know your shadow
Your shadow represents everything you don’t know about your personality. If you want to improve your sleep, get to know what you’re running away from and make it part of you.
This shadow work guide will get you started.
The tips in this section arguably aren’t “sleep hacks,” as they can’t be done quickly. However, the stronger your foundation is in managing your internal terrain, including your deepest thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and intentions, the easier it is to have a sound, restful sleep.
Avoid this Common Sleep Hacking Tip
I don’t recommend sleep hacking tips that involve going to sleep and waking up a predetermined time. Why not?
Our bodies have a natural rhythm that ebbs and flows with the seasons. Plus, there are times when we need more sleep, for example, when we’re under emotional distress.
As a consequence, sometimes you may require 12 hours of sleep and other times 7 hours is sufficient.
By attempting to control your sleep cycle, you’re exerting your conscious mind/brain on your unconscious/body. And doing so always creates more trouble in the long-term.
So instead of following a rigid sleep routine, start tuning in and listening to your body. If you follow the sleep hacking tips listed above, you’ll already be taking steps in this direction.
Sleep Hacking Essentials
There are about 30 suggested sleep hacks covered in this guide.
Obviously you don’t need to try all of them at once. If you’re looking for a place to start, I recommend focusing on reducing your blue light and EMF exposure first.
Pay attention to your sleeping environment. Then, begin to regulate your internal terrain with the tips offered in the “Quieting your Mind” and “Internal Terrain” sections.
What Do You Think?
Share your thoughts, questions, and experiences below: