Since a month ago, I started tracking my sleep using the Sleep Cycle app. What motivates this experiment was to see if I could somehow hack sleeps to improve the quality of my sleep. Essentially, I want to know if I can sleep less (but higher quality) and still feel as good as someone who has slept 7+ hours. The short answer is no… lol (or at least very difficult as there are so many factors that affect your sleep). However, this experiment has allowed me to understand more about my sleeping pattern, thus, allowing me to make simple adjustments that could help me improve my sleep quality. I have also experimented with different things that I believe has led me to better sleep at night time, which I will share below.
One thing that I haven’t try but would like to in the future is chiliPad, which allows you to cool down your sheet to an optimal temperature that allows you to sleep better. This device is too pricy for me to get at this point 🙁
Sleep Cycle App
There are 5 stages of sleep, which can be simplified to light sleep (stage 1 – 2), deep sleep (stage 3 – 4) and REM sleep (stage 5), aka the dream state. As mentioned above, I have been tracking my sleep using the sleep cycle app. It does so by tracking my movements through the built-in microphone on my Iphone. Your movements vary between different sleep stage. Within the app, you have the option to set a “smart” alarm clock, which uses the concept of wake-up phase, which has been set to 30 minutes (by default) from your desired alarm time. During this phase, the app will monitor your movements and tries to wake you up when you are in your light sleep stage. Since using this app to set my alarm clock, I haven’t experience any days where I have been “shocked” awake by my alarm!
Another good thing about this app is data collection. It allows me to export all my sleep data to an excel spreadsheet if I ever want to do further analysis on my sleeping pattern. Below is my sleep data starting just over a month ago. Figures in green are the average number over weekday data and figures in yellow are the average number over weekend data. As you can see, I definitely need to work on my sleep schedule during weekdays…
Apple Cider Vinegar + Honey
For the last 2 weeks, I have tried the Tim Ferriss’s “Bedtime Cocktail”, which he got from Seth Roberts, PhD. And surprisingly, it has worked for me and improved my sleep. I woke up less during the night and when I do wake up (combined with the “smart” alarm clock) I was able to wake up feeling fresh most of the time. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I woken up feeling groggy since I started this experiment.
I digged into the science behind it and below is a summary of what I have found:
Honey (specifically raw, unfiltered honey)
- Honey causes your body to release serotonin due to a rise in insulin
- Serotonin, a neurotransmitter known for improving happiness, is then converted into melatonin, which regulates sleep
- Your brain uses a lot of energy (glycogen) when you are sleeping and it first tap your liver glycogen. Honey can build up the liver glycogen, which helps your brain function during the night, thereby increasing the likelihood of a good night sleep
- Raw honey releases insulin gradually throughout the night as opposed to blood sugar “spike” from pure can sugar
- Apparently, raw honey is 22% better at making liver glycogen
Apple cider vinegar
- It contains an amino acid profile that helps combat fatigue, allowing you to feel well-rested upon waking up
- Also improves gut health, regulates blood sugar and reduces cholesterol
Flux Program / Amber-tinted Glasses
Our body has an internal clock in the brain that regulates our circadian rhythm (our 24-hour biological cycle). One of the things that our circadian rhythm controls is the production of melatonin, the hormone that makes us sleepy. Every night, your brain secretes melatonin about two hours before your usual bedtime. However, external factors can affect our circadian rhythm, which in this case, could affect when melatonin is produce in our body, thereby, affecting our sleep “schedule”. One such factor is the blue light. You can get blue light from the sun or any device screens. Getting blue light from the sun during daytime helps us stay alert. However, the blue light that’s emitted from screens are very effective at stopping melatonin production, which reduces our quantity and quality of sleep. In summary, blue light in the evening tricks your brain into thinking it’s daytime, which inhibits the production of melatonin and reduces the quantity and quality of your sleep.
One popular method to counter this problem is to install flux program on your computer. I downloaded it 2 weeks ago and it’s a program that automatically adjusts the colour and brightness of your screen based on your timezone. When it’s evening time and dark outside, your monitor will turn into a faint orange hue colour, which effectively blocks all blue light. Another method is to wear amber-tinted glasses, which are glasses that effectively block all blue light. Studies show that when people use blue-light-blocking glasses, even in a lit room or while using an electronic device, they produce just as much melatonin as if it were dark.