Biohacking Sleep & Insomnia – how to get more deep sleep

You’ve probably already heard of biohacking sleep, and wondering why it is essential and how to do it. It is because the quantity and quality of sleep we get are critical in your wellbeing.

If you are facing hurdles to getting the right quality and quantity of sleep, you are in good company. Here, you are going to discover everything you should know about biohacks for sleep and health.

Let’s get right into the world of sleep and how to make the best of it.

Why Sleep Matters

Many people ignore the importance of sleep and live by the mantra of “stay late into the night, and rise so early.”

Anything below 7 hours of comfortable sleep per day may result in mental and health issues. You want to wake up daily with proper mental and physical health.

Let’s look at why sleep is so important. From the benefits we will highlight below, you will see why you should go to bed early and get enough sleep.

Why Is Sleep So Important 

If you sleep for less than 7 hours per day, you put your body at risk of several diseases. We need to sleep to avoid some of the chronic diseases related to sleep deprivation. (1)

According to the Center for Disease Control, some of the diseases closely related to sleep deprivation include:

  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • And cardiovascular diseases

Other than rest and reenergizing your body and brain, cutting the link of these chronic diseases is another reason you need enough sleep.

Sleep and Work Productivity

Quality sleep makes you more alert when you get to work. If you want to improve your work productivity, having a good night’s sleep is the way to go. You will realize being more active and alert during the day will earn you another good night’s sleep.

Furthermore, sleep is excellent for memory consolidation. A good night of sleep gives your brain a chance to connect with events, feelings, memories, and other sensory inputs. The processing will help your brain process things better and remember them.

So if you need to remember things for your work, get a good night’s sleep.

If you have been taking caffeine during the day to reenergize for work, try napping. Napping has shown to help improve productivity among workers.

After working for several hours, your brain will be tired, hence reducing productivity. Take 45 minutes-1 hour naps after hours of work to replenish your energy and brain activity.

Sleep and Mental Health

There is a deep link between sleep deprivation and mental disorders, such as depression and stress.

Sleep disturbance is considered to be one of the symptoms of depression, while at the same time, sleep deprivation may lead to depression. This is the reason it is crucial to monitor the sleep behavior and patterns of anyone diagnosed with depression.

Sleep has a significant influence on our hormones and body chemicals. Serotonin deficiencies are highly linked to depression. To get this under control, always have 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

Stress management is another reason why sleep is essential. When you lack enough sleep, chances are your body will go into stress mode. Stress hormones are produced in high quantities when the body lacks enough rest and sound sleep.

The thing is, once stress hormones are produced, you will start having difficulty catching sleep.

From this, you see why sleep matters.

Well, seeing how important sleep is not enough. We need to look at how to get enough sleep and how many hours of sleep you need.

How Many Hours of Sleep Do We Need?

Sleep needs indeed vary from person to person.

Statistics by the National Sleep Foundation indicate that an average adult should have at least 7-9 sleep per day. 

So, on average, as you already probably know, 8 hours of sleep is healthy for you. Younger kids and teenagers need more hours of sleep (2).

How Much Sleep is Too Much?

We are always talking about the side effect of getting too little sleep. On the flip side, too much sleep can also have side effects on your body and health. But how much sleep is too much?

More than 10 hours of sleep for adults can result in some health problems.

Also, oversleeping is often caused by health and mental illnesses. So, if your average sleep time per day is over 10 hours, you need to see a doctor. A doctor may help you determine why you oversleep.

How Much Sleep Do You Need By Age? 

As already stated, the amount of sleep we have every night depends on age and several other factors such as health and mental conditions and socio-economic status.

However, there is a recommended amount of sleep by age group. Check out how much sleep each age group needs below.

AgeNewborn- a month old1-12 Months old1 year to-3 Years3-6 Years Old7-12 Years Old12-18 Years Old18+
Hours per day15-1814-1512-1410-1210-118-97-9
How much sleep each age group needs below

Newborn- a month old (15-18 hours a day)

It is usual for newborns to sleep for 15-18 hours a day. They, of course, won’t sleep for 18 hours straight. They sleep in bits of 2 -4 hours. Younger babies will sleep in shorter bits. 

Babies do not recognize daytime and nighttime cycle. They have no much of a sleep pattern at all. 

1-12 Months old (14-15 hours per day)

After a month, you will start realizing that a baby begins developing as a sleep pattern. They will even start to sleep for longer hours.

Usually, babies at this age will sleep in bits of 2-6 hours. You will realize that they start sleeping more in the evening and at night. 

1 year to-3 Years (12-14 hours per day)

Children at this age often take a nap once and sometimes twice a day. They will mostly sleep early in the evening, as they have already established a pretty concrete sleep pattern. 

3-6 Years Old (10 – 12 hours per day)

It is healthy for kids at this age to go to bed anytime between 7 and 9 pm. They often sleep up to around 6 am-8 am. Most of the kids at three years still take a nap or two during the day.

However, as they get to 5 years, their tendencies for taking naps reduce. Kids at 5-6 years will rarely take naps, and when they do, the rests are usually shorter.

7-12 Years Old (10 – 11 hours per day)

At this age, kids sleep for an average of 9 hours straight.

Sleeping in bits gradually starts diminishing. Usually, it is attributed to new social life, especially with playmates and school life.

It is normal for kids around this age to go to bed at around 9 pm.

12-18 Years Old (8 – 9 hours per day)

Teenagers need quality sleep, just like they did in their younger years.

It should also be remembered that this age group experiences a lot of social pressure.

Therefore, proper and quality sleep is the best way to manage social stress, and all the activities and school work.

Sleeping for less than 8 hours for teenagers can be overwhelming.

18+ (7-9 hours)

For adults, sleeping for 8 hours per day is healthy and good for mental processes.

Sleep Statistics

According to Sleep Association, 50-70 Million American adults have a sleep disorder.

30% of adults have insomnia. 37% of 20-39-year-olds have reported sleeping for less than 7 hours per day.

Benefits of Sleep 

We have already established how important sleep is. It is now time to explore the benefits of sleep (3).

Sleep is good for a healthy heart

Lack of sleep has a direct link with the deterioration of blood pressure and sometimes the body’s cholesterol levels.

Ever wondered why most stroke and heart attacks occur in morning hours? It is because sleep plays a vital role in the functioning of the heart and blood vessels.

Sleep Reduces the Risk of Getting Cancer

Research shows that people who work late into the night, and late shifts have a high chance of developing either colon or breast cancer.

Research shows that excessive exposure to light stimulates reduced production of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that controls the sleep-wake cycle. Additionally, it known to be responsible for suppressing the development of cancer cells and tumors.

To ensure your body produces the needed amount of melatonin, keep your bedroom dark as you sleep. Also, avoid using gadgets shortly before bed.

Sleep suppresses stress 

When your body is deprived of sleep, stress hormones are produced. So, when you have fewer hours of sleep every night, your body goes into a stress mode (4).

If you have stress, quality, and quantity sleep could be helpful.

Sleeps reduces the level of inflammation in our bodies

Inflammation is often associated with cancer, diabetes, and many other heart-related conditions. When you have fewer hours of sleep, stress hormones are produced. These stress hormones, in turn, result in inflammation in the body.

You can beat this by having adequate sleep every day.

And by the way, did you know that inflammation deteriorates the body as you age?

Sleep Boosts Your Alertness

If your concentration span is reduced, or if you find out that you cannot stay alert for longer like before, chances are you are having fewer hours of sleep.

If you stay awake for 24 hours straight, you may start hallucinating.

Sleep allows our body organs such as the brain to rest and get re-energized. If you wake up replenished, go for an active and engaged day. A productive day will guarantee you a good night’s sleep, and the cycle will continue.

Sleep is Good for Your Memory

If you have less sleep, you will always be fatigued during the day. You may have already realized that you cannot remember things well whenever you are exhausted.

While sleeping, your body is resting, but your brain is not. Your brain processes and reorganizes memories and events during sleep.

So, if you want to remember processes and events better, get enough sleep (5).

Sleep is Good for Your Weight Loss Journey

Are you doing everything to lose weight, but cannot see any changes? The reason could be you are not getting enough sleep. It is a universal thing that a healthy diet and exercises are all you need to lose weight. However, enough sleep is also part of the weight loss journey equation.

Some researchers have found that people who sleep for lesser hours are more likely to be obese or overweight.

Sleep has an impact on the regulation of hormones in your body.

For instance, Leptin and Ghrelin are hormones responsible for the regulation of appetite.

Minimal seep interferes with the release and spread of these hormones, helping you regulate your cravings for high-calorie foods.

Napping is Good for Your Brain’s Functioning

If you continuously take coffee to reenergize yourself, you may want to try napping. Napping is more effective and healthy for your brain. Take short breaks during the day, take some naps, and watch how smarter you get.

Sleep Lowers Risk of Depression

Serotonin deficiency is linked to depression. Sleep regulates the release, the working, and the spread of some of the crucial body hormones.

Serotonin is one of the hormones affected mainly by sleep. Lack of enough sleep often translates to a deficiency of serotonin.

To avoid the risk of falling into depression, get 7-9 hours of sleep every day.

Sleep Allows the Body to Repair and Replenish Itself

The modern-day life exposes the body to some harsh conditions. Some of the harsh conditions that the body perseveres during the day include:

  • Ultra-violet rays
  • Industrial fumes
  • Stress
  • Excess lighting

When at rest, your body will take the opportunity to repair itself. While sleeping, your body produces more proteins than when you are awake.

Proteins are the key element for building body cells and initiate a quicker repairing of the body.

Hormones and Sleep

When it comes to sleep, people rarely think of hormones.

All we think about is getting sleepy, and finally letting our body rest. The truth is, some hormones affect our sleep.

If you are wondering how to improve deep sleep, look at the roles of these hormones (6).

Melatonin 

Melatonin also goes by the name sleep hormone. The brain releases melatonin in response to light changes. The hormone works as the body’s natural clock for sleep. It is the hormone dedicated to telling the body when it is time to sleep.

The brain usually releases melatonin when it is dark. So, to get to sleep, it is ideal to be in a dark room.

When Melatonin is released, the body gets into drowsiness. You begin to feel less alert once melatonin is released to the bloodstream. The level of melatonin in blood starts to drop when the light of the new day sets back in.

Leptin

Leptin plays a central role in the regulation of appetite, calorie-burning, and metabolism. In simpler terms, Leptin is the hormone that signals your brain whenever you are full, and when it should start burning calories.

When sleeping, leptin levels are at its maximum in your body. As such, hunger levels are reduced, and the trigger to burn calories is minimized.

When you are deprived of enough sleep, you will have minimal leptin levels in your body. This way, you will have an increased appetite and slow metabolism, which often results in weight gain.

Ghrelin

Ghrelin is another hormone that plays an essential role in sleep regulation and metabolism. The purpose of Ghrelin in the body is the opposite of the role of Leptin. Ghrelin informs the body when you should eat, and when it should stop burning calories. It alerts your body to know that it is time to start storing calories as body fats.

Consequently, the levels of Ghrelin decrease during sleep. Sleep requires less energy than being awake. Lacking adequate sleep will increase the levels of Ghrelin in your body. Your body ends up thinking you are hungry and demanding for more calories.

So, to maintain a healthy weight and sufficient body metabolism, ensure you have enough sleep.

Cortisol 

Cortisol, produced by the adrenal glands, is popularly known as ‘stress hormone.’ The role of cortisol is to reduce inflammation and regulate body metabolism. A release of cortisol results in an increase in blood sugar levels and blood pressure. This physiologically prepares the body for physical activities.

For the circadian rhythm, the cortisol level in your blood is often at its highest in the morning hours. Cortisol helps you stay active all through the day. As cortisol declines as the days go by, melatonin levels in the blood spike.

Human Growth Hormone (HGH)

Over 75% of Human Growth Hormone is released when you sleep. The pituitary glands produce HGH. It is a crucial hormone in the functioning of the endocrine system. HGH is instrumental in the body repairing function that happens during sleep.

The hormone is also good for the growth and development of children.

Besides, it is also essential in the maintenance of a healthy body.

What are the 5 Stages of Sleep? 

It’s often thought that sleep is a passive period that involves inactivity.

Sleep is very systematic and comes in 5 stages. The 5 stages of sleep fall into two main categories; Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) (7).

REM involves rapid movement of the eyeballs beneath your eyelids. The eyeballs are usually still when it comes to NREM.

The first stages of sleep are discussed below:

Stage 1

This is the transition phase between sleep and being awake. It is an NREM phase. Here, your body is partly conscious and partly unconscious.

Muscles jerk in stage 1 of sleep shifts the body back to consciousness.

This stage shifts the body into light sleep.

Stage 2

This is also an NREM stage.

Approximately 50% of night’s sleep is spent on stage 2. Heart beating begins to slow, and the body temperature drops too.

The sleep here is light. This stage is characterized by muscle relaxation.

Stage 3 and stage 4

Stage 3 is a deep stage of sleep. Waking up from it is difficult.

If someone is slow and groggy after being woken up, they probably were in stage 3 and 4 of sleep.

These stages are what is called deep sleep.

Stage 4 is characterized by the release of hormones that rejuvenate the body, repair the muscles, and control growth and development.

Stage 5

This is the stage of sleep where REM is experienced. The brain here is active with different activities and waves, which result in dreams.

The limbs remain immobile, while the brain is at its peak. This stage is so crucial because it boosts brain activity during your sleep.

Dreaming is most often associated with REM sleep. Loss of muscle tone and reflexes likely serves an important function because it prevents an individual from “acting out” their dreams or nightmares while sleeping. Approximately 80 percent of vivid dream recall results after arousal from this stage of sleep. REM sleep may also be important for memory consolidation.

Physiological ProcessNon-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM)Rapid Eye Movement (REM)
Brain activityDecreases from wakefulnessIncreases in motor and sensory areas, while other areas are similar to NREM
Heart rateSlows from wakefulnessIncreases and varies compared to NREM
Blood pressureDecreases from wakefulnessIncreases (up to 30 percent) and varies from NREM
Sympathetic nerve activityDecreases from wakefulnessIncreases significantly from wakefulness
Muscle toneSimilar to wakefulnessAbsent
Blood flow to brainDecreases from wakefulnessIncreases from NREM, depending on brain region
RespirationDecreases from wakefulnessIncreases and varies from NREM, but may show brief stoppages; coughing suppressed
Airway resistanceIncreases from wakefulnessIncreases and varies from wakefulness
Body temperatureIs regulated at lower set point than wakefulness; shivering initiated at lower temperature than during wakefulnessIs not regulated; no shivering or sweating; temperature drifts toward that of the local environment
Sexual arousalOccurs infrequentlyGreater than NREM

Physiological Changes During NREM and REM Sleep. From: 2, Sleep Physiology, Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem.
Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research; Colten HR, Altevogt BM, editors.
Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2006.

How to Improve REM Sleep

REM sleep is good for the wellbeing and functioning of your body. Some of the activities you can do to improve the quality and quantity of REM sleep include:

  • Exercise daily
  • Take less beverages
  • Manage your stress
  • Create a regular sleep and wake time

Biohacking for Sleep-Tips for better sleep

If finding a restful night’s sleep has been elusive, biohacking could be the way to go.

 Biohacking for sleep entails biologically influencing your body into sleep. Biohacking for sleep will help you get quality sleep, and stay alert without needing caffeine doses.

Some of the best biohacking tips for sleep are;

Optimize Your Bedroom and Invest in Bedroom Items

A clean and well-optimized bedroom can help you sleep better.

Keeping your bedroom clean will help you feel more comfortable.

Besides, your beddings and bed should also be comfortable.

Keep it Clean

If you are having trouble catching sleep, it could be because your bedroom is not clean.

A messy bedroom can affect your sleep more than you can think. Tidy up the clothes and place them where they belong.

Ensure your room’s floor is clean and with zero clutter.

No Clutter and Dust

If your bedroom is full of boxes and piles of stuff such as pillows, they could be affecting your sleep.

Dust is one of the causes of stuffy nose and sometimes a congested chest. You cannot sleep well when your nose is stuffy.

Always clear out dust from your window seals, bedroom furniture, walls, and even wall hangings. Ensure the bedroom is always free from dust.

Wash Your Beddings Including Pillows

Ever asked why you sleep better in hotels than in your bedroom? It is simple, because the beddings at the hotel are freshly washed. The National Sleep Foundation says that 7 out of 10 people sleep better when the sheets are freshly washed.

Always keep your beddings clean. Frequently clean your sheets, covers, and pillows.

The environment we sleep in affects how well we sleep, and even how fast we fall asleep.

Use the Best Feng Shui for Bedroom

Feng Shui is part of a Chinese Geometrical arrangement in the room. Start using the best Feng Shui to optimize your bedroom for sleep and watch yourself sleep better.

Some of the best Feng Shui tips you should incorporate in your bedroom today include (8):

  • Having a super king-size or king size mattress and bed.
  • Keep your bed in the middle of the room, and out of the doorway.
  • Use blinders to maximize the flow of air in the bedroom.
  • Go for soothing, neutral and calm color tones.
  • Set a bedside table on both sides of the bed.
  • Get rid of electronic devices in the bedroom.
  • Choose low-light bulbs and candles.
  • Get rid of mirrors especially on the side of the bed.
  • Leave the drawers and doors closed when not in use.
  • Keep your bookshelf out of the bedroom.
  • Have a solid headboard bed.

Invest in Quality Bedroom Necessities

Another reason you could be having trouble sleeping is your bedroom items. First things first, your beddings must be good quality and comfortable.

First, finding the right mattress could go a long way in changing your sleep patterns. The mattress you use could be the difference between tossing all night and sleeping like a baby.

Secondly, a pillow could also make a difference. If your pillow is so puffed up and hard, it could be why you keep waking up at night. Find a flatter and fluffier pillow.

Thirdly, a blackout curtain is something else you need to invest in. Nothing comes close to the embarrassment of trying to sleep, yet the street lighting keeps seeping into your bedroom. All these extra light may be the reason you cannot sleep better. Find good blackout curtains to obstruct any light from getting into your room.

Fourthly, a noise machine could help you sleep better. Nose from people, moving cars, and just the city, can prevent you from catching sleep.

Purchasing a noise machine will help you even out all this noise and help you sleep better.

To prevent noise from outside, you may also opt for soundproof windows.

A lot of people use a fan as their noise machine. So, for those ridiculously hot nights, your fan can double up as a noise machine.

Other bedroom necessities that can help you sleep better are a good pair of pajamas, a humidifier for improving air quality in your bedroom, earplugs, and sleeping masks. These will guarantee you a good night’s sleep.

Light Exposure

Light exposure, directly and indirectly, affects your sleep.

The presence of light directly makes people have a difficult time falling asleep. It indirectly influences the sleep pattern by shifting the biological clock on preferred seep time.

Align your circadian rhythm with the natural day and night cycles

Aligning your Circadian rhythm to natural days and night cycles will help you have a better sleep.

The circadian rhythm repeats over 24 hours.

Schedule your daily activities when there is natural light, and your sleep when it’s naturally dark.

Expose Yourself to blue light in the morning

Exposure to blue light in the morning hours is good for the sleep-wake cycle.

Exposure to light will hinder the production of melatonin, which induces sleep. To remain alert during the day, take advantage of blue light in the morning hours.

Eliminate Blue Spectrum Light in the Evening

Blue light hinders the production of melatonin.

With minimal melatonin, you will have problems falling asleep.

Avoid devices such as phones, digital watches, and computers shortly before going to bed. They hinder the proper production of melatonin.

Exercise and sleep

Making exercises part of your daily routine is excellent for sleep.

Regular workouts improve deep sleep.

Furthermore, exercises leave you tired, with an urge to rest. It, therefore, increases the amount of sleep you have every night.

Food and Sleep

What you digest has the potential to either give you better sleep or make things worse. So, always be on the watch out on what you consume (9).

Foods that help with Sleep and Anxiety

Foods rich in Tryptophan go well with better sleeping habits. Tryptophan helps improve the secretion of melatonin and serotonin.

Some of the tryptophan-rich foods that will quickly send you to sleep include bananas, fish, warm milk, honey, eggs, and seeds.

Other foods that could help you sleep better and deal with anxiety include almonds, chamomile tea, kiwi fruits, walnuts, and tart cherry juice. Also, having carbohydrates snacks an hour before bedtime could help.

When you Eat Matters

The cons of eating an hour to bedtime include slow metabolism, increased appetite, heartburn, indigestion, and a spike in acid levels. All these results in poor sleep.

You should eat or snack three hours before bedtime to have better sleep.

Limit caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, chocolate, sweets

You already know how alert caffeine can make you. Caffeine takes hours to be broken down. The coffee you have in late afternoons can keep you awake into the night. You may want to avoid caffeine four hours before bedtime.

Most chocolates have loads of sugar and caffeine, which will interfere with your sleep pattern.

Alcohol and nicotine affect REM sleep. You may want to avoid those hours before sleep (10).

Take Sleep Supplements

If you are having trouble sleeping, there is no harm in taking sleep supplements. They are prerequisites to better sleep.

Melatonin

Melatonin is produced naturally by the body as a response to darkness. However, if you have trouble sleeping, taking melatonin supplements could help.

Melatonin supplements will help improve your sleep-wake cycles. This will help you develop a regular sleep pattern.

When you have a strong sleep-wake cycle, your body will respond by improving your metabolism, digestion, appetite, energy levels, daytime performance, and mood.

Magnesium Glycinate

The Glycine in Magnesium glycinate will help calm your brain and muscles. Also, it helps improve sleep as it calms anxiety. Actually, the Magnesium element in Magnesium glycinate has proven to be effective in fighting insomnia among older people.

Adaptogenic herbs like Reishi and Ashwagandha 

Ashwagandha is commonly used to relieve stress. Stress is one of the reasons a lot of people do not sleep well.

Other than relieving stress, Ashwagandha can be used as a sedative. It results in sleepiness and drowsiness.

Reishi is a mushroom-like herb that helps the body chill and calm down. It also helps support the body’s sleep cycles.

Tryptophan

Tryptophan reduces the amount of time you take to sleep. If you have problems falling asleep, Tryptophan is your supplement.

Create ‘before I Sleep’ routine

Creating a ‘before I sleep’ routine will help your body develop a proper sleep-wake cycle. Incorporate the following tips into your schedule for better sleep;

Lower Body Temperature

A cool room, and not a cold one, will help you sleep all through the night. Ensure you remain cool an hour before bed. Also, ensure your bedroom is cool. 65F is good for a restful sleep.

Go to bed and wake up at the same time

When was the last time you woke up without an alarm? Sleeping and waking up at the same time daily will help you develop a desire for sleep. Your body will develop a regular pattern and will have no problems falling asleep.

Practice Meditation

If you are experiencing insomnia, try meditating before sleep. Meditating helps shift several physiological activities in your body, which in turn induce sleep.

Meditation increases the production of melatonin and serotonin and decreases blood pressure and breathing rate.

Breathing Exercises for Sleep

Breathing exercise will help you relieve stress and anxiety. The exercises also help your body relax for bed.

Try abdominal breathing, which entails taking deep breaths in the abdomen rather than the chest. Such exercises will help you sleep faster.

Final Thoughts

It has become a cliché hearing the advice of getting our beauty sleep. The truth is, sleep is way more important than just beauty and cosmetic advancement. Sleep plays a big role in your mental and physical wellness. Practice the above biohacks to improve your sleep-wake cycle, and for the wellbeing of your body.

  1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325353
  2. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/sleep-requirements
  3. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/benefits-sleep-more
  4. https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsfs.2019.0092
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3768102/
  6. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/women-hormones-sleep-problems
  7. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/sleep-101
  8. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/feng-shui-for-your-bedroom
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5015038/
  10. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/sleep-deprivation-effects-on-memory