How to hack your sleep cycle and get better sleep

How to get the deep sleep
you crave – and fast!

Some nights, getting a good, deep night’s sleep, can feel like an impossible feat. Maybe you are about to start a new job and are already feeling those first day jitters. If you’re a new parent, you may be wondering why you ever took your blissful nights of uninterrupted sleep for granted. Or maybe you’re the one lying awake wondering why you thought it would be a good idea for that third cup of coffee at 4 in the afternoon.

However you struggle with sleep, the benefits of catching those quality zzz’s are undeniable. When we get a full 7 or 8 hours our days seem easier, stress levels lowered, and our energy levels increased so we are able to summon the strength and motivation to accomplish whatever challenges our day may bring.

But what about those nights when we are on our mattresses for those 7, 8, or 9 hours and still feel like we are about to fall asleep as our boss drones and we can’t peel our eyes off of the clock? At Nectar, we’ve done our homework and found that not all sleep is created equally. In fact, more important than the quantity of sleep you are getting each night is the quality of those hours, with deep sleep being one of the most important phases to consider in terms of overall health and energy.

Let’s break it down:

Deep sleep is like the frosting on top of a cupcake: it’s not the entire cupcake, but it’s the part that makes it especially delicious. If you are not getting enough deep sleep in the night, you will not be experiencing the most delicious parts of a night of sleep, even if you slept for a full 8 hours. In deep sleep, your body does a sort of “clean sweep” reset. It is part of what helps you to feel more awake and refreshed during the day.

When you are getting enough sleep you can feel it in your entire body and when you’re not, well, you can also really feel it. Waking up on the “wrong side of the bed” can really put a damper on your entire day, week, or if you really struggle, it can be damaging on your life and health in the long term. A Harvard Health article on the relationship between sleep and mental health explains that, though correlation between sleep and mental states are complicated, it is clear that “sleep disruption…wreaks havoc in the brain, impairing thinking and emotional regulation. In this way, insomnia may amplify the effects of psychiatric disorders, and vice versa.” When we are not allowing our bodies to rest and recover fully we are opening ourselves up to potential harm for our mental and emotional wellbeing. Having a good sleep life “enhances learning and memory, and contributes to emotional health.” Simply put, better sleep means better mental and emotional agility, and who doesn’t want that?

Though the true reason behind our need for sleep is still uncertain, the correlations between getting a good night’s sleep and healthy body function are undeniable. There are multiple theories that suggest why we spend a third of our lives sleeping and there are two that stand out with their empirical evidence and strong correlations.

The first of these theories also posed by Harvard scientists is a Restorative Theory that suggests that “many of the major restorative functions in the body like muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis, and growth hormone release occur mostly, or in some cases only, during sleep.” Additionally, scientists have found that while we are awake, neurons in the brain produce adenosine, which a byproduct of cellular activity. Scientists believe that it is the buildup of adenosine during our waking hours is what contributes to a feeling of sleepiness. It is during sleep that our bodies have the chance to clear away adenosine build up, which leads to a feeling of refreshed wakefulness in the morning.

Getting a proper amount of deep sleep is essential to healthy functioning of our minds and bodies, but unfortunately our time in this low brain wave stage decreases the older we get. It turns out that “the amount of deep sleep you get starts decreasing when you’re in your late 20s, and by the time your reach 50, you’re only getting half as much deep sleep as you once did, even if you’re sleeping just as long,” according to Sound Sleep Health. This decline is unfortunate because less deep sleep appears to at least partially cause some of the negative characteristics of old age such as weakness, decreased mental acuity and not feeling as good when you wake up.

If you are above the age of 50, chances are that you’ve noticed some changes in your sleep life compared to 20, 15, or even just 10 years ago. This is because the amount of deep sleep you get each night dramatically decreases the older you get. Older adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. However, this amount of sleep does not always mean you are getting the most out of your time spent slumbering. An article on www.sleepfoundation.org a poll from the 2005 National Sleep Foundation explain that “there are certain biological changes that make sleep more difficult as we age” including “a shift in circadian rhythm that causes [older adults] to become sleepy in the early evening and to wake up too early in the morning.”

Though we are not suggesting that you sleep until 10am everyday, it is important to understand the role that getting those hours of deep sleep each night are crucial to overall wellness. Below we’ve outlined 25 tips to help increase deep sleep, how to sleep better and fall asleep faster, as well as tips to kick insomnia to the curb.

According to sleep specialist.

April 15, 2020 12:56pm

That time of the month can leave you feeling totally blah. Here’s are some natural ways to treat period pain.

That time of the month can leave you feeling totally blah. Here’s are some natural ways to treat period pain.

A sleep specialist shares 5 top tips that’ll help you get a good night’s rest at any stage in your cycle.

Many women experience sleep issues like feeling fatigued during the day or restless at night during the days before and/or the first few days of their period.

Before ovulation, you may feel less sleepy because oestrogen levels are high. Conversely, after ovulation you may find you ‘need’ more sleep because your progesterone levels are spiking.

How to hack your sleep cycle and get better sleep

Your sleep patterns change with your cycle. Image: iStock Source:BodyAndSoul

“There aren’t different ways to support sleep depending on which part of the cycle you’re in,” says sleep specialist Dr Kat Lederle. Instead, she advises you “take time to listen to what your body really needs”, throughout your cycle.

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How to get a good month’s sleep

Here are Dr Lederle’s best tips for better sleep at any stage in your cycle.

1. Keep a diary

How to hack your sleep cycle and get better sleep

Keep track of your cycle with a diary. Image: iStock. Source:BodyAndSoul

This will help you work out how your cycle is affecting your sleep patterns. “Knowing in advance at what part during your cycle you’ll need more or less sleep can help you plan around this — like scheduling meetings for late morning or saying no to late nights.”

2. Go outside

How to hack your sleep cycle and get better sleep

Head outside for a walk or run. Image: iStock Source:BodyAndSoul

The sun is a great mood lifter and as the double whammy of poor sleep and PMS can negatively affect your mood, make sure you get enough sunlight during the day — especially during self-isolation.

3. Stay cool

How to hack your sleep cycle and get better sleep

Wear light pyjamas. Image: iStock. Source:BodyAndSoul

Night sweats keeping you up? “Wear pyjamas that wick away the excess moisture quickly.”

4. Cut down on coffee

How to hack your sleep cycle and get better sleep

You’ll want to cut down on the coffee. Image iStock Source:BodyAndSoul

“Be mindful of when and how much caffeine you consume. A cup in the late morning is fine,” says Dr Lederle, but try to cut out your afternoon fix.

5. Eat well

How to hack your sleep cycle and get better sleep

Nourish your body with good foods. Image: iStock. Source:BodyAndSoul

The relationship between diet and food is a complex one, but common-sense rules apply. “Make sure you [eat a balanced diet], don’t eat too late and be mindful of sugary foods and alcohol.”

Most people go to sleep in a monophasic sleep cycle for 6-8 hours each night. Polyphasic sleep cycles consist of sleeping several times in a 24 hour period that total between 2-4 hours. You may find that you can operate on less sleep using these methods, but some people can experience negative side effects.

Brain hack weblog High Existence reports that the shorter more frequent periods of sleep experienced with polyphasic cycles trick the body into entering Stage 5 REM sleep immediately instead of the 45-75 minutes it normally takes. This is why, according to High Existence, you can sleep less overall and function without problem.

There are many polyphasic sleep cycles; two of which are illustrated in the image above. The source link below goes into detail of four of them—out of the four I think the Everyman Cycle would be the easiest to adapt as you’d get a 3-hour nap at night and three 20-minute naps spaced throughout the day.

While polyphasic sleep can work well for some, others have experienced side effects associated with sleep deprivation. Blogger Steve Pavlina drew attention to polyphasic sleep when he conducted a 30-day experiment . Pavlina felt that it was a positive experience but went back to a monophasic sleep cycle after 5 months, claiming that he did not get enough time with his wife or out in the sun since he essentially spent all night alone on the internet.

For many people with standard schedules polyphasic sleep is not a realistic option, but if you have a flexible schedule, don’t mind using yourself as a guinea pig despite skepticism about polyphasic sleep , keep your eye on possible negative side effects, it could be worth a try. Share your experiences, if any, in the comments.

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DISCUSSION

Polyphasic sleep cycles don’t ‘trick the body into getting more REM,’ this is oft-repeated junk science. It’s the sleep deprivation that causes the increased REM density- the same thing happens if you stay up until 4 in the morning- and, as you may have noticed, in spite of the compensation, you still feel shitty when you wake up. Non-REM slow wave sleep isn’t there because your body is too dumb to sleep right- slow wave sleep is important for memory consolidation and probably a long list of other things. And if you think light-mediated circadian rhythms aren’t real, talk to someone who works night shift.

I’m disappointed that Lifehacker is taking up space repeating unproven drivel. It makes the world a little worse, and people come here to avoid that sort of thing.

How to hack your sleep cycle and get better sleep

This article is the first in a series I’ll write about how to safely(ish) hack your sleep. I’m a biohacker, not a physician (although I’m married to one of those), and even my die-hard 80 year old antiaging friends who attend Smart Life Forum and look like they’re 60 will shake their heads at some of the techniques that let you sleep less. So, be warned before you read further: the rewards of sleep hacking are many, but the risks are higher than many other biohacking projects. And for God’s sake, don’t try to add massive muscle mass or lose tons of weight while cutting sleep. That’s a recipe for disaster.

I tend to post at 2 in the morning because I have a very demanding day job as a VP level technical evangelist for a large internet security company that just doesn’t allow time for recreational blogging. In Silicon Valley, you have to kick ass in your day job just to keep up with your colleagues. But as biohacker who is obsessed with getting more time and energy everyday, I still blog, and I use biohacking to get an unfair advantage in my career – more time, more energy, and less stress.

Sleep Hacking is Risky

Hacking sleep is one of the many ways to get more productivity out of your every day routine, but it comes with a lot of risk, as explained in this awesome chart. It’s wasteful to go without enough sleep (like almost everyone) while ignoring the simple things you can do to make that sleep count.

If you’re too tired to click that link, the bottom line is that lack of sleep can make you fat, substantially increase your risk of dying, give you cancer, or give you heart disease. It’s much safer to hack your fat, or muscle. I did that first (losing over 100lbs) and THEN I started sleep hacking. If you want to have more time, it is possible to preserve your health, mental function, and energy while trimming sleep.

It’s also possible to break your adrenal function, or your thyroid gland if you go for long periods without sleep. Your body can literally begin to die and cortisol levels spike dangerously high. On the bright side, you’ll feel so foggy and tired that you’ll sleep more and hopefully recover over a period of time. According to Dr. Wilson, the foremost adrenal function physician who twice presented at my antiaging/biohacker non-profit Smart Life Forum, it can sometimes take several years to recover full adrenal function if it’s compromised. It did for me. You can get a copy of Dr. Wilson’s write-up from our 2009 meeting here (and join the nonprofit mailing list for more cool stuff while you’e there).

A good biohacker counters the things that happen from bad sleep fortifying adrenal and thyroid function, and even controlling the blood sugar spikes that happen from lack of sleep. For the last 18 months, I’ve slept an average of five hours per night without gaining weight, and without a drop in mental performance (on most days anyway…). I have a 6 pack, and you can see visible veins in my abdomen, yet I did not exercise at all during this time. I’m adding 40 minutes a week back to my regimen soon, but that’s another topic. All of my antiaging blood parameters (19 vials of blood, every 6-12 months!) show I’m doing well with hacked sleep.

To get sleep data, I’ve tried to use my EEG – the one I’ve used on and off for 13 years to hack my brain – while sleeping, but the annoying electrodes come off, make a mess, and the wires get tangled. It sucks, and even for a biohacker like me, the inconvenience isn’t worth the questionable data.

Nothing can stand in for a good night’s sleep, so instead of discussing how we might scrape by with less sleep, we’re going to help you reboot your sleeping habits so you get the sleep you need (and deserve).

And who wouldn’t want more sleep? We live in a 24/7 world where our jobs can continue after it gets dark and begin before the sun rises again. Even when we’re done with work there are a million-and-one needs and distractions to keep us up well into the wee hours of the night, keeping us from a good night’s sleep. This guide aims to help get your sleep cycle back in order and start getting the rest you need. It’s a long one, so here’s a quick outline if you want to jump straight to any section:

How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?

Everybody’s sleep needs are a little bit different, but most adults should be getting between 7 and

A few things need to be said before we go any further. First, sleep deprivation isn’t a badge of honor. It’s a very American/Protestant-Work-Ethic attitude to believe that being so busy and stretched thin that you must go without sleep is something to be proud of. If you insist that abusing your body with sleep deprivation is virtuous and a necessary part of being a working adult, then you’re not in the right frame of mind to take this advice to heart. Going with little sleep is sometimes an unfortunate necessity, but it shouldn’t be adopted as a way of life or point of pride. (You certainly wouldn’t brag to your friends how awesome you are malnourishing yourself.)

Second, if you read through this guide, take the advice to heart, and still see no positive change in your sleeping patterns, you may very well need to see a doctor. There are a multitude of medical reasons for why you might not be getting a good night’s sleep, including things like sleep apnea . Conditions that interrupt your sleep slowly shave years off your life and decrease the quality of life in the ones you have left. If you suspect you have a sleep disorder, talk to your doctor and see a sleep specialist.

How to hack your sleep cycle and get better sleep

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Sleep and performance go hand in hand. Just ask any professional athlete how important rest is to having a good game. Not getting enough sleep can impair your cognitive abilities, and this will show up in your work sooner or later.

When my clients come to me feeling frazzled and burnt out , the first thing I ask them is how much sleep they’re getting each night. Science has proven that seven to nine hours is the optimal amount of sleep needed for the average adult. If you’re not regularly getting enough sleep, you’ll undoubtedly experience the effects of sleep deprivation, impacting your health, sanity, and performance at work.

Do I have your attention yet? Are you still awake?

Here are five hacks to help you get better sleep and better performance at work.

1. Sleep seven to nine hours each night. Let’s cut straight to the chase. If you aren’t sleeping at least seven hours each night, you aren’t sleeping enough. Schedule time in your calendar to sleep if you have to. Consider this a non-negotiable so you can start to have way more energy at work.

2. Put away all electronic devices at least one hour before bed. Turn off your laptop and put your iPhone where you can’t be tempted by it. Put it on Airplane mode if you have to. Just leave all devices out of sight, out of mind, for at least one hour before getting some shuteye. Using these devices before going to bed delays and reduces REM sleep, and compromises alertness the next morning. Over time, these effects can add up to a significant, chronic deficiency in sleep.

3. Reset your sleep cycle. We all have a built-in sleep schedule. This schedule can get thrown off if you’ve pulled an all-nighter or if you’ve done a lot of traveling between time zones on a business trip. It’s important to get it back on track and keep it there, so your body can receive optimal rest.

4. Invest in sleep aid technology. The sleep aid market is projected to reach $80.8 billion by the end of 2020. Cleary there’s a need here. Do your research and see what works for you. The market offers everything from sleep monitoring devices to sleep acoustics and breathing apps. If you have a serious problem, consider consulting with a sleep doctor

5. Meditate before bed. According to this Harvard study , a mindfulness meditation helps to fight insomnia and improve sleep. How often do you go to bed with your mind racing, unable to make your worries about tomorrow’s meeting go away? A way to combat a mind that just won’t quit is by eliciting a relaxation response. First, choose something calming to focus on, like the word “peace.” Second, let go and relax. That’s it. Just focus on the word you’ve chosen and continue to breathe until you drift off to sleep.

Remember, getting enough sleep pays — literally. Take your sleep seriously, and get some shuteye tonight! You’ll thank me for it in the morning, (and your boss will thank you for it later).

When you get the proper amount of rest night after night, you’re able to perform to your full potential. Invest those seven to nine hours of sleep into yourself each night, and start each day with a recharged brain.

“I read recently that lack of sleep can lead to chronic disease and other problems,” writes this week’s house call. “I have kids, a job with crazy hours and personal stress. I struggle to get a great night’s sleep.”

Sadly, your situation has become all too common in our stressed-out, super-busy, hyper-caffeinated, modern world. Among the numerous responsibilities we juggle daily, quality sleep often takes the back burner, and those repercussions show up in our health and around our waistlines.

Inadequate sleep can quickly sabotage your efforts at getting healthy and losing weight. Sleep is a major cornerstone for an energetic, joyful, healthy life. Not getting enough sleep or getting poor-quality sleep adversely affects hormones that make you hungry and store fat.

One study found just one partial night’s sleep could create insulin resistance , paving the path for diabesity and many other problems. Others show poor sleep contributes to cardiovascular disease , mood disorders , poor immune function , and lower life expectancy .

I’ve seen inadequate sleep’s repercussions play out numerous times among patients. One struggled with his weight for many years. He was probably 60 to 70 pounds overweight and often felt extremely tired. His situation became so bad that he had to stand up at his desk at work (this was before a stand-up work station became common) just so he didn’t fall asleep.

I diagnosed him with sleep apnea, an extreme form of sleep deprivation where you wake up several times throughout the night. You can’t sleep, you can’t breathe and as a result, you lack oxygen. You don’t even realize you’re waking up throughout the night.

This lack of sleep creates hunger, cravings and blood sugar imbalances that eventually increase pre-diabetes , type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure . Obviously, sleep apnea is a serious situation.

With my help, simply fixing his sleep (using some of the tips below) enabled this patient to lose about 50 pounds. Without changing much else, his sleep apnea subsided, and the weight loss powerfully impacted his health.

As a doctor, I understand how stress can become an issue. I juggle what feels like about 10 jobs. I have kids, a house, many employees and patients, plus I’m rarely home because I often travel for work.

I realized that lack of sleep adversely impacts my health. I know I have to make sleep a priority, so I give myself a goal to get seven or eight hours of sleep every night. By experimenting, I figured out that when I get eight hours of good sleep, I feel much more alert and focused.

Trust me; I know what a challenge that can become. Here are eight ways to achieve a better night’s sleep:

  1. Get on a regular schedule. Going to sleep and waking at the same time each day creates a rhythm for your body. Only use your bed for sleep or romance. Don’t keep a television in your bedroom: Studies show the artificial, bright light can disrupt brain activity and alter sleep hormones like melatonin. Your bedroom should be a quiet, peaceful haven.
  2. Get natural sunlight. Aim for at least 20 minutes of sunshine every day, preferably in the morning, which triggers your brain to release chemicals that regulate sleep cycles. Avoid computers, smart phones, tablets and television one or two hours before bed. You might also try low blue light exposure for about three hours before bed. Low blue spectrum light helps your brain reset for sleep and increase melatonin.
  3. Use an acupressure mat. This helps stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system and create deep relaxation. Lay on it for about 30 or more minutes before bed.
  4. Get grounded. At times, electromagnetic frequencies can impair sleep. I recommend turning off WiFi and keeping all of your electronic devices away from your bed. Create a common area charging station in your home and encourage all your family members to “check in” their devices before bed.
  5. Clear your mind. Everyone knows how something resonating on your mind can hinder sleep. Turning your mind off can become a challenge. Keep a journal or notebook by your bed and write down your to-do list or ruminations before you go to sleep so you can close your eyes and make it less likely for your mind to spin.
  6. Perform light stretching or yoga before bed. This relaxes your mind and body. Research shows daily yoga can improve sleep significantly.
  7. Use herbal therapies. I recommend 300 to 600 milligrams (mg) of passionflower or 320 to 480 mg of valerian root extract before bed. Other natural sleep supplements include melatonin or magnesium . Potato starch mixed into a glass of water before bedtime can also help. Start slowly with one teaspoon and gradually build up the dose. This feeds good gut bacteria and improves blood sugar control while helping you drift into sleep. You can find sleep and other quality supplements in my store .
  8. Use relaxation practices. Guided imagery, meditation or deep breathing calm your mind and help you drift into sleep. Try calming essential oils such as lavender, Roman chamomile or ylang ylang. Many patients get amazing results with my UltraCalm CD .

I’ve found these eight strategies help me get a better night’s sleep; and I encourage you to give them a try. If you want even more ideas, you can get 19 of my top sleep tips here.

If you employ these strategies and still struggle with sleeping, please see a Functional Medicine practitioner who can determine whether things like food sensitivities , thyroid problems , menopause, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, heavy metal toxicity , stress and depression are interfering with your sleep. Consider getting tested for sleep disorders, which I discussed here . If you suspect deeper issues like sleep apnea, I also recommend The 8-Hour Sleep Paradox written by my friend and colleague, Dr. Mark Burhenne. This book dives deep into causes of fatigue and sleep troubles while providing excellent tips and tools for better sleep immediately.

You can improve your sleep, lose weight and feeling better by joining our Eat Fat, Get Thin May Challenge starting 4/28.

Wishing you health and happiness,

Mark Hyman, MD

You really can wake up refreshed.

How to hack your sleep cycle and get better sleep

How to hack your sleep cycle and get better sleep

Waking up feeling groggy is a pretty lousy way to start the day. Getting more deep sleep can help you feel more refreshed, sure. But exactly how do you do that, especially if you’re a notorious toss-and-turner? Here’s how to drop the hectic world of work appointments, social obligations and other stresses and get more deep sleep.

What is Deep Sleep, Anyway?

Deep sleep is stage three in sleeping, where it is more difficult to wake a sleeper. It’s when you are the most unconscious throughout the sleep cycle. And for children, deep sleep is when growth occurs, explains Bill Tuck, Certified Sleep Science Coach and founder of Tuck.com.

A normal sleep cycle consists of stage 1, 2, 3, as well as REM sleep. Getting through the four stages of sleep takes roughly 90-120 minutes. So if you’re getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep a night, Tuck says, you’re getting into deep sleep about four or five times per night. Any interruptions in the sleep cycle through noise or physical disturbance can cause you to start the process over again. Yes, from the very beginning (so goodbye, deep sleep for now!).

That’s not great, because deep sleep is when the body recovers and recharges moreso than it does in any other parts of the sleep cycle. Plus, it’s the stage of sleep when you have the most memory consolidation, says Ulysses Magalang, M.D., director of the Sleep Disorders Center at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “It’s also thought to be a recuperating part of your sleep [where] you get rid of all the toxins that accumulate in the brain,” he says. “It’s also the time when growth hormones are secreted.”

Because deep sleep is only taking place in roughly 15- to 30-minute increments, it’s smart to adhere to the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep, so you get enough of the deep stuff.

How Do You Know You’re in Deep Sleep?

Well, you won’t know. And there aren’t signs that another person looking in on you would see. Morning can be somewhat of an indicator. “If you did not have refreshing sleep, usually that means that you did not get a deep sleep,” says Dr. Magalang. The only way to know for sure if you went into deep sleep is to monitor your brain waves, which isn’t really doable for the average man, now. So the best you can do is follow the tips for getting more sleep—and help more deep sleep follow.

How to Get More Sleep

Avoid disruptors

“Avoid noise, smoking, alcohol and coffee close to bedtime,” says Dr. Magalang. These disrupters stimulate the body and keep you awake, so, of course, it’ll be harder to get into deep sleep.

Work out

Moderate exercise has been shown to help increase the amount of deep sleep you get, which is important for recovery,” says Conor Heneghan, PhD, Lead Sleep Research Scientist at Fitbit. Just make sure not to exercise too close to bed—aim to work out about three hours before you plan to turn in. (Check out more about the sleep/workout link here.) The endorphins released from exercise and the heightened body temperature they create (your body likes to be cooler to sleep) can impede your ability to fall asleep.

Keep the room dark and cold

Blackout shades can help you feel like it’s night, even if you live in an environment full of light pollution. Keep the thermostat around 67 to 70 degrees F.

Consider getting a sound machine

Block out noise with noise—but one that’s a fan sound or white noise. “Research related to sleep and low-frequency noise suggests that listening to these sounds may enhance a person’s deep sleep state,” says Heneghan. These other products can bias you toward a better night’s sleep as well.

Have a schedule

Maintaining a regular bedtime helps you go into deep sleep. Trying to “catch up” with weekend sleep has consequences; it can disturb the body’s drive to sleep. So keep as much of a schedule as possible to enjoy the restorative benefits of deep sleep.

“I read recently that lack of sleep can lead to chronic disease and other problems,” writes this week’s house call. “I have kids, a job with crazy hours and personal stress. I struggle to get a great night’s sleep.”

Sadly, your situation has become all too common in our stressed-out, super-busy, hyper-caffeinated, modern world. Among the numerous responsibilities we juggle daily, quality sleep often takes the back burner, and those repercussions show up in our health and around our waistlines.

Inadequate sleep can quickly sabotage your efforts at getting healthy and losing weight. Sleep is a major cornerstone for an energetic, joyful, healthy life. Not getting enough sleep or getting poor-quality sleep adversely affects hormones that make you hungry and store fat.

One study found just one partial night’s sleep could create insulin resistance , paving the path for diabesity and many other problems. Others show poor sleep contributes to cardiovascular disease , mood disorders , poor immune function , and lower life expectancy .

I’ve seen inadequate sleep’s repercussions play out numerous times among patients. One struggled with his weight for many years. He was probably 60 to 70 pounds overweight and often felt extremely tired. His situation became so bad that he had to stand up at his desk at work (this was before a stand-up work station became common) just so he didn’t fall asleep.

I diagnosed him with sleep apnea, an extreme form of sleep deprivation where you wake up several times throughout the night. You can’t sleep, you can’t breathe and as a result, you lack oxygen. You don’t even realize you’re waking up throughout the night.

This lack of sleep creates hunger, cravings and blood sugar imbalances that eventually increase pre-diabetes , type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure . Obviously, sleep apnea is a serious situation.

With my help, simply fixing his sleep (using some of the tips below) enabled this patient to lose about 50 pounds. Without changing much else, his sleep apnea subsided, and the weight loss powerfully impacted his health.

As a doctor, I understand how stress can become an issue. I juggle what feels like about 10 jobs. I have kids, a house, many employees and patients, plus I’m rarely home because I often travel for work.

I realized that lack of sleep adversely impacts my health. I know I have to make sleep a priority, so I give myself a goal to get seven or eight hours of sleep every night. By experimenting, I figured out that when I get eight hours of good sleep, I feel much more alert and focused.

Trust me; I know what a challenge that can become. Here are eight ways to achieve a better night’s sleep:

  1. Get on a regular schedule. Going to sleep and waking at the same time each day creates a rhythm for your body. Only use your bed for sleep or romance. Don’t keep a television in your bedroom: Studies show the artificial, bright light can disrupt brain activity and alter sleep hormones like melatonin. Your bedroom should be a quiet, peaceful haven.
  2. Get natural sunlight. Aim for at least 20 minutes of sunshine every day, preferably in the morning, which triggers your brain to release chemicals that regulate sleep cycles. Avoid computers, smart phones, tablets and television one or two hours before bed. You might also try low blue light exposure for about three hours before bed. Low blue spectrum light helps your brain reset for sleep and increase melatonin.
  3. Use an acupressure mat. This helps stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system and create deep relaxation. Lay on it for about 30 or more minutes before bed.
  4. Get grounded. At times, electromagnetic frequencies can impair sleep. I recommend turning off WiFi and keeping all of your electronic devices away from your bed. Create a common area charging station in your home and encourage all your family members to “check in” their devices before bed.
  5. Clear your mind. Everyone knows how something resonating on your mind can hinder sleep. Turning your mind off can become a challenge. Keep a journal or notebook by your bed and write down your to-do list or ruminations before you go to sleep so you can close your eyes and make it less likely for your mind to spin.
  6. Perform light stretching or yoga before bed. This relaxes your mind and body. Research shows daily yoga can improve sleep significantly.
  7. Use herbal therapies. I recommend 300 to 600 milligrams (mg) of passionflower or 320 to 480 mg of valerian root extract before bed. Other natural sleep supplements include melatonin or magnesium . Potato starch mixed into a glass of water before bedtime can also help. Start slowly with one teaspoon and gradually build up the dose. This feeds good gut bacteria and improves blood sugar control while helping you drift into sleep. You can find sleep and other quality supplements in my store .
  8. Use relaxation practices. Guided imagery, meditation or deep breathing calm your mind and help you drift into sleep. Try calming essential oils such as lavender, Roman chamomile or ylang ylang. Many patients get amazing results with my UltraCalm CD .

I’ve found these eight strategies help me get a better night’s sleep; and I encourage you to give them a try. If you want even more ideas, you can get 19 of my top sleep tips here.

If you employ these strategies and still struggle with sleeping, please see a Functional Medicine practitioner who can determine whether things like food sensitivities , thyroid problems , menopause, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, heavy metal toxicity , stress and depression are interfering with your sleep. Consider getting tested for sleep disorders, which I discussed here . If you suspect deeper issues like sleep apnea, I also recommend The 8-Hour Sleep Paradox written by my friend and colleague, Dr. Mark Burhenne. This book dives deep into causes of fatigue and sleep troubles while providing excellent tips and tools for better sleep immediately.

You can improve your sleep, lose weight and feeling better by joining our Eat Fat, Get Thin May Challenge starting 4/28.

Wishing you health and happiness,

Mark Hyman, MD