I don't know about you, but I've certainly had times in my life when I simply couldn't sleep.
And it's extremely disturbing when you can't sleep. It can be especially frustrating if your partner is sleeping soundly while you're tossing and turning, or when you know you have an important day of work or a workout the next day and you know you're going to be too tired, or when you're extremely sleepy, but you just can't get your darn brain to shut down.
Sometimes this kind of insomnia happens because there's too many thoughts going through your head from work…
…other times insomnia happens because you're worried or anxious about a life or relationship situation…
…and sometimes insomnia can be purely biological, such as you being hungry, or having a neurotransmitter imbalance, or being over trained from too much exercise or not producing enough melatonin.
In today's article, I'm going to tell you what you need to know about the important biology of sleep, give you a video that explains your circadian rhythm in detail, and then tell you how to hack your sleep, beat insomnia, and get into a deep sleep phase as fast as possible.
Why Lack Of Sleep Matters
No matter the cause, insomnia and lack of sleep can cause some serious health and performance issues, as you learn in this anecdote from the Become Superhuman article “Improve Your Performance…Sleep“, which explains that when you get less than 6 hours of sleep, it:
…weakens your immune system (and for athletes, getting sick = less training or poor training).
…leads to obesity. Recent studies have shown that even one night of poor sleep can result in changes in appetite and food intake. Sleep deprivation also impairs carbohydrate tolerance, insulin sensitivity, and glucose uptake. When glucose uptake is inhibited, you aren’t able to refuel before, during, and after your workouts.
…causes intellectual decline. Sleep deprivation negatively impacts short-term and working memory, long-term memory and the generation of nerve cells – all of which affects our ability to think clearly and function well.
…raises inflammation. Sleep deprivation causes chronic, low-grade inflammation. Inflammation is the root of all modern disease and severely inhibits the bodies’ ability to repair muscles, tissue, and tendon damage.
…increases risk of injury: When you don’t get enough sleep your motor responses are dulled, this leads to bad form, inefficient neuromuscular patterns and injury.
And I believe it was Paleo author Robb Wolf who I once heard sum up the importance of sleep like this:
“If you want to kill somebody fast, deprive them of sleep.”
What A Normal Circadian Rhythm Looks Like
So if you don't want to die faster, or you just want a more restful, better night's sleep, it's important for you to understand the basics of your circadian rhythm. On the website http://www.SuperhumanCoach.com, you can get a free 7 part video series that reveals little-known tips and tricks to enhance your performance, fat loss, recovery, digestion, mental performance, hormonal balance, and sleep.
Below is a video from the Superhuman series that explains what a normal circadian rhythm looks like, and teaches you why some of the suggestions I'm going to give you below the video actually work.
My Top Recommendations For Getting A Better Night's Sleep
Now that you understand how your circadian rhythm works, it's time to get into a bit of “sleep hacking”. The following sleep recommendations, insomnia natural remedies, and sleep supplements are taken from my “Ben Recommends” page and explained in more detail below…
Using Sounds for Better Sleep
In Podcast Episode 213, I mention a homemade sleep audio playlist that I made, which has been very successful in helping me sleep, especially when I'm hyped up from work or on an airplane. Basically, what I did was the following:
I bought this 99 cents album, which is a 2:00:00 track:
And then I put 4 of those tracks above (for a total of 8 hours) on an iTunes playlist which started with this free 20 minute relaxation podcast track I downloaded from iTunes:
“ZZZZZZ – Stin Meditation Station Fitness & Nutrition”
And that's it!
If you do this, what you'll end up with is 20 minutes of meditation and relaxation that then goes straight into 8 hours of delta waves (and you can learn how delta waves help you sleep in this podcast I did with Jeffrey Thompsons from the Neuroacoustics Institute).
So what are some other ways you can use sounds to help you sleep better?
-use the PZizz iPhone app to create “binaural beats” (read about how those kind of beats work here). I've found this works really well for short naps, but not so well for long nights, and you need to use them about 5-10 times in a row before you brain gets “trained”.
-use a White Noise app for sleeping loud settings (if you're sleeping where dogs are barking, kids are crying, trains, sirens, airplanes/airports, etc.).
-use something like the Dream Essentials contoured face mask with fitted ear plugs to block light and sound altogether.
-Get the “The Delta Effect” CD’s/mp3 downloads to play as relaxing background to lull you to sleep in your bedroom.
Using Supplements for Better Sleep
There are a variety of supplements that can be used to enhance sleep. These require some degree of self-experimentation, because some work for some people and some don't.
This is because insomnia, light sleep, or trouble getting to sleep can be so dependent on a variety of factors – such as neurotransmitter balance, mineral deficiencies, leptin insensitivity, melatonin secretion, etc. (this stuff gets bit complex for this post, but if you're a personal trainer, nutritionist, chiropractor, or physical therapist who wants to learn more, we geek out on this for nearly 2 hours in the Superhuman Sleep Module that I teach to my private mentorship group).
Here are some of my favorite insomnia natural remedies and sleep supplements:
-400-500mg potassium citrate combined with 400-500mg Natural Calm magnesium (use this 30-60 minutes prior to bed, and back off if you get loose stool!). If magnesium upsets your stomach, listen to this podcast about which magnesium is best.
–MillenniumSports Somnidren GH (can be very effective, but you must use this on an empty stomach, 30-60 minutes prior to bed, and you have to cycle it as 5 days on, 2 days off so you stay sensitive to it).
-Hammer REM caps (use 15% referral code 80244 at http://www.HammerNutrition.com) – a source of valerian root and melatonin that can be especially effective when traveling. Take 60 minutes before bed because if the surge of melatonin hits your bloodstream while you're sleeping it can wake you back up.
Using Gear, Apps & Tools for Better Sleep
From enhancing your relaxing Delta brain wave production to decreasing the ability of artificial light to suppress melatonin release, the following sleep gear, tools and apps can help beat insomnia or give you deeper sleep:
-Install “Flux” app on computer so your screen dims blue light at night
-Wear blue light blocking glasses, especially for evening computer use. I recommend Gunnar glasses because they look cooler than most of the others.
-Install low blue light bulbs as a replacement for regular bulbs in your house, and put a blue light blocker screen on your computer or television.
-Use Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy for enhancing deep sleep cycles (I highly recommend the EarthPulse and swear by it for naps, long deep sleep and travel).
-Use a light box such as NatureBright Sun Touch for morning light therapy, and click here to learn about what time of day is best to use a light box.
-In the winter or season when it is dark in the morning, use a Sunrise Alarm Clock for waking and “rebooting” your circadian rhythm.
-If traveling, use a grounding mat or grounding bedspread (stand on for 20 minutes and use in bed at night after arriving at destination) or go outside barefoot in the morning whenever you are travelling outside your normal time zone).
Tracking Your Sleep
To see if you're actually sleeping as much as you think you might be (you'd be surprised at how little you might be sleeping, even if you're lying in bed for 8 hours), or to see how the supplements or tools listed above affect your sleep, you can track your sleep cycle using the tools below:
–Zeo Personal Sleep Coach system
–Fitbit wireless tracking device
-Or a more affordable alternative to either of the methods listed above: SleepTime app by Azumio
Additional Sleep Learning Resources
There are a few other helpful articles that you should read for more insomnia natural remedies and to help you get a better night's sleep, including:
-How To Cure Insomnnia With Acupuncture (a recent article that appeared on the Bulletproof Exec's website)
-How To Sleep Better (a podcast interview I did about Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy and sleep)
–Improve Your Performance…Sleep (an article from Superhuman Coach that links sleep and performance)
What about you? Have you ever had insomnia? Have you found good insomnia natural remedies? Do you have questions about how to hack your sleep, beat insomnia and get into a deep sleep phase as fast as possible? Leave your thoughts below.