3 min|Dr. Maya Kuczma
4 Biohacks For A Better Night’s SleepWellness, Health, Biohacking
A hack is, by definition, a simple fix to a complicated problem.A biohack is a simple change you can make to address a complicated biological problem. And whether the issue is falling asleep, staying asleep, or both, sleep can be a complicated problem.
Here are 4 simple biohacks to address the factors that may be keeping you up at night:
1. Take Your Eyes OutsideA great sleep actually starts in the morning. There are small sensors in your eyes called receptors. These are connected to an area of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus. This part of the brain regulates our sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm - and responds to daytime light.
The light of the sun signals to the brain that it is morning, and helps to wake our body up. (1) Additionally, getting early morning sunlight positively influences the release of melatonin - the hormone that triggers sleepiness - later that evening. (2) Luckily, we don’t need much light - 5 minutes outside, even on a cloudy day, is enough to begin to create a healthy circadian rhythm.
2. Stop caffeine by 2pm (or 10am, or altogether)Historically, the ‘rule of thumb’ has been to stop drinking coffee 4-6 hours before bed; this is based on the average amount of time our body takes to break down and eliminate half of a dose of caffeine, called the half-life. This means that 4-6 hours after drinking coffee, we still have half the dose of caffeine we drank, hanging out in our bloodstream.
Additionally, our individual differences greatly influence our ability to break-down caffeine, and may result in a much longer half-life. (3) If the half-life is longer, we will need more time for caffeine to leave our body before bed, otherwise it could affect our sleep. Caffeine found in other places, such as in black tea, green tea, chocolate, soda, depends on the same process, and may also be to blame for a sleepless night. Experiment with cutting out caffeine 8-12 hours before bedtime, or go without, and see if your sleep improves over the course of a handful of days.
3. Set a Light CurfewNot all light is created equal - while the light from the sun can help set our circadian rhythm, artificial light can limit our body’s ability to make melatonin. (4) This includes light from our screens, including smart phones, computers, and tv, as well as overhead lighting, lamps, and street lamps. Dark is best - but intensity of light exposure also appears to play a role. (5)
Set a goal to begin turning down your lights at sunset: turn off overhead lights, use low wattage lamps, turn off screens (especially those that you hold close to your face), and ensure that your bedroom curtains are blocking out streetlight. And whenever possible go completely screen-free 1-2 hours before bed.
4. Pack On The WeightWeight gain? No, not quite. We’re talking about weighted blankets. Sleeping under a weighted blanket has been shown to increase time asleep, decrease movement during sleep, and lead to the feeling of a better night’s sleep. (6)
Using weighted blankets has also been linked to a decreased need for sleep medication, and a reduction in pain. (7,8) These effects are connected to the deep stimulation created from the weight of the blanket. This may promote relaxation, decrease our stress hormone (cortisol), and increase the mood boosting neurotransmitters (called serotonin and dopamine). Not sure where to start? Hush.ca has a simple questionnaire to figure out which size and weight may be best for you.