Relax Like A Pro: 5 Steps to Hacking Your Sleep

I once went almost five days without sleep in 1996 just to see 1) if I could make a week (I couldn’t), and 2) what the side-effects would be.

I was a new neuroscience major at Princeton at the time and hoped to do research with famed serotonin pioneer, Barry Jacobs.

Hallucinations cut my sleep deprivation trial short, but I’ve continued to experiment with sleep optimization and variation as a means of improving performance.

Here are a few effective techniques and hacks I’ve picked up over the last five years from sources ranging from biochemistry PhDs to biologists at Stanford University…

1. Consume 150-250 calories of low-glycemic index foods in small quantities (low glycemic load) prior to bed.

Morning fatigue and headache isn’t just from sleep debt or poor sleep. Low blood sugar following overnight fasting is often a contributing factor. Just prior to bed, have a small snack such as: a few sticks of celery with almond butter, a mandarin orange and 5-8 almonds, or plain low-fat (not fat-free) yoghurt and an apple. Ever wonder how you can sleep 8-10 hours and feel tired? This is part of the explanation. Make a pre-bed snack part of your nutritional program.

1-2 tablespoons of flaxseed oil (120-240 calories) can be used in combination with the above to further increase cell repair during sleep and thus decrease fatigue. It tastes like a mixture of cat urine and asparagus, so I recommend pinching your nose while consuming it — thanks Seth Roberts, PhD. for this tip — or using capsules.

2. Use ice baths to provoke sleep.

Japanese have longer lifespans that do most other ethnicities. One theory has been that regular ofuro or hot baths at bedtime increase melatonin release, which extends lifespan. Paradoxically, according to the Stanford professors who taught Bio 50, cold is actually a more effective signaller for sleep onset, but it could have no relation to melatonin production.

I decided to test the effect of combining 10-minute ice baths, timed with a countdown kitchen timer, one hour prior to bed (closer to bed and the adrenergic response of noradrenalin, etc. won’t allow you to sleep) with low-dose melatonin (1.5 – 3 mg) on regulating both sleep regularity and speed to sleep. The icebath is simple: 2-3 bags of ice from a convenience store ($3-6 USD) put into a half-full bath until the ice is about 80% melted. Beginners should start with immersing the lower body only and progress to spending the second five minutes with the upper torso submerged (fold your legs Indian-style at the end of the tub if you don’t have room). I’ll talk about the fat-loss and sperm-count benefits of this in future post.

The result: it’s like getting hit with an elephant tranquilizer. Don’t expect it to be pleasant at first.

3. Eating your meals at set times can be as important as sleeping on a schedule.

People talk a lot about circadian (circa dia = approximately one day) rhythms and establishing a regular sleep schedule, but bedtime timing is just one “zeitgeber” (lit: time giver), or stimulus that synchronizes this biorhythm (like pheromones and menstrual cycle). Eating meals at set times helps regulate melatonin, ghrelin, leptin, and other hormones that affect sleep cycles. Other “zeitgebers” for sleep include melatonin, light, and temperature. Parting suggestion: Get a sleep mask if you have any degree of light in your bedroom.

4. Embrace 20-minute caffeine naps and ultradian multiples.

Test “caffeine naps” between 1-3 pm. Down an espresso and set your alarm for no more than 20 minutes, which prevents awakening in the middle of a restorative sleep cycle. Interrupting cycles often leaves you feeling worse than no sleep (though some researchers assert your performance will still improve in comparison with deprivation).

For longer naps, test multiples of 90 minutes, which is called an “ultradian” rhythm in some papers, though the proper term should be “infradian” since it’s less than 24 hours. Thomas Edison, despite his vocal disdain for sleep and claim to sleep only four hours per night, is reported to have taken two three-hour naps daily.

Don’t forget to factor in your time-to-sleep. It often takes me up to an hour to fall asleep, so I’ll set my alarm for seven hours ((4 x 90 minutes) + 60-minute time-to-sleep).

5. Turn off preoccupation with afternoon closure and present-state training.

I have — as do most males in my family — what is called “onset insomnia.” I don’t have trouble staying asleep, but I have a difficult time falling asleep, sometime laying awake in bed for 1-2 hours. There are two approaches that I’ve used with good effect without medications to address this: 1) Determine and set a top priorities to-do list that afternoon for the following day to avoid late-night planning, 2) Do not read non-fiction prior to bed, which encourages projection into the future and preoccupation/planning. Read fiction that engages the imagination and demands present-state attention. Recommendations for compulsive non-fiction readers include Motherless Brooklyn and Stranger in a Strange Land.

From fat-loss (leptin release decreases with sleep debt) to memory consolidation, sleep is the currency of high-performance living.

Have you taken time to master it like a skill?

Here are a few questions for the researchers among you:

-What is the fastest way to pay off sleep debt?

-Can you eat more food — or protein specfically — to compensate for sleep deprivation? To what degree?

-How do side-effects of ongoing melatonin use compare to drugs like Ambien?

-What is the interplay of the hypothalamus and RAS (reticular activating system)?

-Does insulin sensitivity change between waking and sleep cycles? How?

-Can coffee and its effects on adenosine affect sleep depth or length?

Sweet dreams.

###

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338 Replies to “Relax Like A Pro: 5 Steps to Hacking Your Sleep”

  1. … This will sound awkward, but I (a female) masturbate RIGHT before going to sleep, and it has completely cured the terrible insomnia I used to have.

  2. Hey Tim,

    I have trouble with the power/ultra naps.

    I want to take naps after studying, between 11am -1pm to consolidate my memory but find it hard to fall asleep. I can sleep at night, but I cannot take a nap. I will lay for 30 or so minutes at a time and not be any closer to sleeping. The problem seems to stem from my mind drifting off and keeping me awake thinking about completely random, unimportant things. My body is also tense. Do you have any suggestions as to how to get into the state of sleep and take naps quickly “on command”?

  3. Hi Tim, I like your reference to compulsive non-fiction readers. For the last 14 years, I have been a compulsive non-fiction reader. With rare exception, I like to read about business, sports, relationships, health, philosophy, history. I sometimes want to break this, and last year read Godfather 1 and 2 on vacation, and it was the most enthralling experience with a book I have had since voraciously reading Orson Scot Card in high school. I feel like life is full of things to learn, and that a lot of fiction is a waste of time. Maybe I should set a goal of reading the top 100 novels? Dont know.. like that rush of a great read

  4. My very active mind would prevent me from sleeping for hours every night, until I began the following routine:

    1- lie in bed, close my eyes and let my mind go in all directions (10 min)

    2- get up for 5 minutes and write down the thoughts that were prominent (great ideas, worries, things to do, etc.)

    3- drink a small glass of water

    4- go back to bed, close my eyes, get the image of a tree in my head, then starting at my toes, imagine my body parts one-by-one becoming that tree…

    I fall asleep EVERY TIME, usually before I finish all of my toes.

    If you think the whole tree thing is a little nuts, I know that just concentrating on completely relaxing each part of your body one-by-one starting at your toes will work too, but by doing this I would get to my upper body before sleep would come.

    I also agree with Sage that a powerful “release” before bedtime certainly assists with relaxation.

    20-min caffeine naps do work!

    My personal sleep-debt repayment program:

    – 20 min naps (1-2 per day)

    – protein shakes (whey), or high-protein diet

    – drink lots of water

    – avoid: toxins, sugars, fast-foods, chemicals and alcohol the day following a night without good sleep (actually doing this every day should make you feel pretty good- great wine in moderation is an exception of course)

    Sweet dreams!

  5. Tim,

    I’ve been using ice baths for both sleep and recovery from some hard lifting (Charles Staley’s Escalating Density Training).

    I’m am very interested in the fat loss impacts of ice baths you quickly mentioned. Perhaps its time to post on that? Perhaps will it be material for the new book?

    Thanks for everything.

  6. Hi Tim,

    Have you tried this body position to fall asleep very quickly: Lie on the stomach, then transfer some body weight to the right leg and bend the left one (so it’s about 10-30 cm higher than the right one). The right hand is also bent and goes under the pillow or under the head.

    During the years, I have noticed that when I go to sleep in such a way it could be less than a minute sometimes till I am asleep.

    Having a nice dinner a few hours before also helps 🙂

  7. Hi Tim,

    couldn’t help but think of the thing that made a HUGE difference in my own “falling asleep” time and thought I’d tell you 😉

    Have you come across Quantum Touch energy healing?

    The second book is called “Supercharging Quantum Touch” (by Alain Herriott and Richard Gordon).

    I took the live workshop and there’s a Body-Mind-Spirit integration meditation in it, where you essentually visualize yourself surrounded by a sequence of specific colors, one after the other. It’s described well in the book too.

    I had had horrible problems with insomnia prior to taking that workshop.

    On a nightly basis, I would deploy a whole arsenal of stuff, aromatherapy, valerian herb combos, complete dark, earplugs, Steven Halpern sleep-inducing music with subliminal fall asleep messages, melatonin, AND sometimes Sonata, and STILL had trouble falling asleep.

    And then, while we did that meditation in the workshop, I literally fell asleep right there (we were lying on the floor)! So I started doing it every night and often didn’t even get half-way through before I fell asleep, then just picked up where I left off when I woke up.

    Cool stuff. Still use earplugs, but hardly ever any of the other stuff — except for the meditation if I should have trouble sleeping.

    Note about ice baths… There’s the technique of doing a full body cold water wash with a wash cloth that actually helps quite a bit… Can be done immediately before going to sleep, or even after you’ve been lying awake for a while and want to get to sleep faster, etc. (do let it air dry first though, or dry off what’s left over. It’s supposed to cool the body, obviously). It’s a bit less heroic than the ice bath, but then it’s also less jarring 😉

    Thanks for everything.

  8. @ Tim Ferris

    Timmy! Awesome idea! I’m going to try the ice bath tonight! Already set my cell phone alarm for 9:50pm! (sleep time- 11pm)

    Question: Should I take the melatonin when I get into the tub?

    Other question: WHERE did you come from, dude?!? This site is

    AWESOME!

  9. Here’s a cool way to nod off if you can’t. Try brain wave entrainment cd’s, they are relaxing and will settle your brainwaves into theta of delta – something like 4 cycles per second or less.. and works every time.. just google “brain entrainment, delta” for example..

  10. Tim

    I just wanted to say i love this web site

    I think I been here all day 🙂

    and love the book …

    and I think that you seem like such good guys

    really give hope for single girls :-))

    although you not really from ISRAEL

    anyway love randome!! keep it going

    yifat

  11. Hey Tim,

    Planning your actions for the next day does wonders to calm your mind and let you fall asleep faster.

    That has been the single most effective method for falling asleep. Well, that and reading/watching something until I can barely keep my eyes open, then turning it off and falling asleep within a few minutes.

    By knowing exactly what you’ll do the next morning and/or afternoon, your mind doesn’t wander around and think about what should be done. It’s satisfied that there will be set actions to get planned goals done, so it relaxes.

    Thanks for the other tips, Tim. I’ve always heard about how certain food and ice water before bed can help us fall asleep faster, but you laid the specifics down here. Awesome resource for improving sleep even more.

    Best,

    Oleg

  12. Another thing that can be of great benefit that people often overlook is your bedroom habits.

    Unless you live in a studio apartment, leave everything out of your bedroom except for sleep and sex. No TV, no radio, no book reading, nothing else!

    You will eventually train your brain that when you are lying in bed and the lights are off, it’s either time for sleep or sex (or both ;-P).

    It’s that simple for a lot of people. Other chronic insomniacs may not be so lucky.

  13. Some testimony on the ice-bath method…

    I did a cool bath with just a few cups of ice for ten minutes. When I got out into a 72 degree house, I was cool but not shivering. I had taken 300 mcg of melatonin about 15 minutes previous.

    First of all, just getting under the covers just about knocked me out…that wave of comfort and pleasure from that was pretty powerful. I was fully asleep in less than fifteen minutes.

    The real “elephant tranquilizer” came when I awoke during the night to urinate. When I arose to walk to the bathroom, I was really woozy, and after returning to bed I was back asleep almost instantly, as far as I can recollect.

    I awoke to the alarm in the morning, and I was still pretty woozy, but I’d slept very deeply during the night. I’m going to continue with the experimentation, and maybe try a colder bath.

  14. Tim,

    Read the book, “Caffeine Blues”. It addresses the effect of caffeine on insulin and depth of sleep. This may solve all of your sleep issues.

    After reading this book, I believe one day caffeine will be villainized as much as heroine. That may seem like an extreme comparison but not if you look at the ancillary effects on life that caffeine really causes, ie. poor sleep patterns, hyperness, nervousness, anxiety, etc. resulting in a poor quality of life.

  15. Hey Tim,

    Was wondering if you’d heard of the Zeo (google: Zeo Personal Sleep Coach)…kindof a glorified EEG-esque alarm clock that supposedly helps in measuring sleep cycles.

    Knew you’re into metrics, and was curious if you had any ideas on accurately measuring sleep.

  16. This is an older post – but I ran into this problem and found the perfect solution for me – which won’t work for everyone.

    I’m a very hyperactive person by nature (lots of nervous energy daily). I found that if don’t have an intense workout session very often, then I can’t fall asleep. I perform an intensive workout session I can sleep fine for the next 2 days – taking my normal 1-2 hour “time to sleep” down to 5 mins easily.

    This is how I ended up becoming a powerflifter actually.

    Chris

  17. Hey Tim

    Im a student at college and im just wondering on how i can actually hack my sleep. I’ve actually tried numerous things like raising my BP before sleeping to avoid headaches, it worked for a while but i tend to oversleep and i still get headaches.

    I’m extremely tired at the end of a day and usually wake up after all my lessons have finished lol.

    If i could get some really good tips and hacks to allow me to have a good sleep while waking up early in the morning, then that would be fantastic.

    Cheers Tim, love what your doing with the book, Best book i’ve ever read

    Saab

  18. All:

    I tried ordering a sleepmask and ear plugs from MaskCraft.com and never received my order. It’s been almost 4 weeks now. I’ve tried emailing and calling their support and haven’t gotten anyone on the other end.

    Is this a real company????

    (Buyer beware…)

  19. @Sebastian! I feel for ya, man. You are not getting real sleep. Find a sleep clinic, no matter how many days it takes you. Restless legs? Sleep apnea? Five other probs? I don’t know. But you need someone who does. And a diagnosis. My problem was apnea. I lost the best job I’ve ever had, I could hardly walk, I was depressed, and I was passing out all the time. When I got my treatment machine I found out what I’d been missing; four hours on that machine ( I always needed to sleep nine) was better than ten hours without. I’m sure it saved my life. Good luck!

  20. I’m no stranger to the sleep / no sleep topic.

    I’ve done 81 hours of no sleep … without drugs, of course. So not quite your 5 days but enough to get a taste for some of the changes that occur.

    That being said, I’m often quick to fall asleep and often can be refreshed on just 5 hours of sleep especially if it’s after a detox (which works GREAT for energy bursts and better sleep).

    I completely agree with the fiction vs non-fiction at the end of the night. In the morning, I’ll start off with high energy music to kick into gear, then I usually put on some “non fiction” (ie: education DVD or audio on whatever topics XYZ)… that works great to get me into thinking and productivity. But at night, doing either (or certainly both) of those would mean no sleep for hours.

    Power naps I’m big on. 10, 15, 20 mins though I never set an alarm. Often I’ll “wake” 10 minutes later and am to this day still surprised how much more awake I can feel.

    Some great tips here Tim!

  21. Tim,

    I’ve seen this asked in the comments but without any suggestion from you or anyone else…

    I too have trouble falling asleep, so when drinking an espresso and trying to nap the caffeine kicks in before I get anywhere near falling asleep. By the end of the day this seems to be leaving me more ‘strung out’/’sleep deprived’.

    As someone who takes time to fall asleep, do you have a solution? A suggestion?

    I have had several other barriers to getting proper sleep (such as five children in ten years, the youngest still only three), and work two businesses, so I would find a power nap to be quite valuable.

    Thanks,

  22. I have a great sleep tool. They come with names and a tremendous list of responsibilities…in my case they are Hayley and Keira, my 13 month old twin girls.

    Prior to the girls entering my life, I enjoyed what I thought was a busy life. Now, I have learned to prioritize everything from food planning to exercise sessions. I am busy from 6 am until 8 pm and then I veg out on the internet or read a book.

    Then I have a small meal like the one Tim discussed, some tea and I head off to bed at 9:30. I read until 10:15 and turn the light off and wake up in the morning to the sound of two children either crying or laughing at 6:00.

    Prior to their arrival, I could hardly sleep because I wasn’t busy enough through the day. By busy I mean cooking healthy meals, packing lunches, cleaning, playing with the kids, walking the dog, going to work, and repeating the cycle.

    Now I sleep like a baby and have vivid dreams. I don’t have to take an ice bath, but a cold shower in the morning keeps me energetic for hours!

  23. Choose firm mattress or mattresses that reduce tossing and turning. We usually wake up tired and groggy because we toss and turn as we sleep. Consider investing on memory foams with at least 4 pounds of density. You get better back support, your weight is well-distributed and your sleep posture can be corrected.

  24. I would have found this site quite interesting if I had it back then when I had a sleepless problem. I will still put your advice into practice. I am sleeping better now but nothing is wrong in wanting to sleep like an angel, so I will definitely try it.

  25. I do fall asleep pretty easily, but sometimes I wake up at 1-2 am and can’t go back to sleep before 5am.

    I noticed a connection to drinking alcohol (red wine), however not always. At the moment my speculation is drinking red wine before dinner (poring the wine while preparing dinner) causes this type of insomnia for me, while have a glass of wine with or after dinner does not seem to interfere with my sleep!

    Anyone noticed that pattern?

  26. Not much chance of me jumping in one of those ice baths Tim 😉

    My experience was my insomnia getting in the way of functioning normally during the day and unfortunately the more I wanted to sleep….the less I got. Controlling my cortisol levels has had the best result by far. High cortisol levels have the effect of keeping you awake……your cortisol levels rise 30 mins before waking apparently. Rhodiola has been the best for me personally in controlling my cortisol levels and my sleep patterns. Worth a shot if you’re having the same trouble.

  27. Obey Circadian rythm, Eat and got to bed(doesn’t matter if you don’t fall asleep) at set times. As soon as sun goes down at your geographic region, try not to use any iridescent technologies like bright cell phones,TV and computer.

    If unavoidable download flux : http://www.stereopsis.com/flux/ for your OS

    very very useful for those nocturnals among us.

    Avoid white light, use indirect dim warm CFLs in the evening. Cones and rods in the retina are also responsible for regulating melatonin. Blue light = alert.

    Warm yellow range = relax. dark = sleep.

    If you can relax in a candle lit room before you sleep. or at the fireplace.

    Wake up to the morning light and birds. Not being poetic here. We are wired to this timing,lights and sounds.

  28. The most effective sleep aid I’ve found is:

    1. turn off electronic screens two or three hours before bed;

    2. turn off the lights inside your house;

    3. spend the hour or two before sunset outside. (Even better if you’ve been in the sun for 20-30 minutes at some point during full sunshine.)

    I found this out camping, not surprisingly. But for me the above steps seem to replicate the important features of being outdoors that helped me feel sleepy at dusk even though I routinely stay awake until 6am at the computer.

    If you live in a city with lots of street lights, sorry – this won’t work.

  29. Oh. Something else that has been helping me feel sleepy when I need or want to use the computer a lot: proper posture.

    There is so much written about posture elsewhere I won’t go into it except to say: yoga mountain pose — a string pulling on the crown of your head — like a classroom skeleton — feet firmly rooted.

    I set my laptop on top of a dresser (on textbooks if necessary) so that the monitor is at eye level when I’m standing in perfect posture. Then I set mouse and, ideally, a separate keyboard at elbow level using TV trays and more textbooks.

    I feel much more energetic, engaged, and alive using the computer while standing. But after an hour or two of standing, my feet get tired and I want to sit or lie down.

    Even if I spend most of the day on the computer (no gym time and only one hour of walking), inserting half-hour to hour-long standing sessions makes it easier to fall asleep at night.

  30. My wife uses a cd player playing books on tape. She puts a generic book, one you don’t need to concentrate on, and plays it so low that you can barely here it. She uses sony soft earbuds – she keeps them in all night with no problem. If she wakes up she just starts the track over – has been working like a charm after years of sleepless nights.

  31. Try a “sunrise alarm clock”. It mimics the sunrise which tells your body to gradually wake up, as it was designed to do. This prevents you from waking up in the middle of a sleep cycle and you wake up feeling refreshed – rather than the panic-mode often induced by beeping alarm clocks. You can get these clocks with a back-up beep to prevent over-sleeping, but once you are used to this clock, you will wake up sometime during the sunrise phase (which can be set anywhere from 15-90 minutes).

    The clock can also be used in sundown mode – terrific for when you are worried about getting to sleep. Again, it works with your body’s natural responses. It can be from 15-90 minutes as well – I like using it while reading. It prevents me from staying up half the night when I’m reading something good, or when I have worries on the brain.

  32. freshly pressed flax/linseed oil tastes fantastic!! delicious, sweet, and has a slight buttery, nutty flavour. it tastes like “a mixture of cat urine and asparagus” when its off/rancid. rancid flaxseed oil is ideal for mixing oil paints or as wood varnish. flaxseed oil stays fresh only a few days and has to be stored in a cool + dark place and is too fragile to be stored on shop shelves for months. i get my freshly pressed oil from the farmers market.. please dont waste your time eating rancid oil- even with your nose pinched. urghh.

    +thank you for the great website.

  33. Tim! Awesome article. I am really into sleep hacking. I am actually a big fan of powernapping.

    As a med student, I would love to do research on sleep. In fact, we have a big sleep study at my University. So great things can happen (and will, hopefully).

    I was wondering, do you have any scientific article to back the icebath thing up? I am definitly going to try it, but I don’t completely understand what is happening. Just wondering!

  34. Anyone with tips how conveniently buy/store/time bags of ice? Im not sure I have freezer room. Is just a cold bath without ice affective?

  35. Tim (or anyone)

    I’m in the market for an espresso machine for my creative power naps and was wondering what you guys use / recommend.

  36. I have found (I often work on 4 hours sleep and spend the day loading airplanes and then dancing in clubs) small meals/snacks with carbs seem to keep me going – even things like Snickers – and not heavy ones as it will drain energy promoting more fatigue (think Thanksgiving).

    To fight the onset of fatigue I have had great results with dessicated liver pills, a supplement once used alot by old time bodybuilders. It doesn’t give me energy as much as extend whatever energy level I have and fights the crash.

    For mental alertness, as caffeine rarely does it (due to overuse of Hydroxycut years ago) I find Siberian Ginseng/Eleuthero root to be helpful in that. I never got anthing from other Ginsengs. I hope that helps

  37. On page 287 you write “Is there any reason why humans can’t emulate giraffes?”

    Well, giraffes have a much lower brain to body ratio than humans (our brains consume about 20% of our oxygen & blood to operate). Less than 6 hours of sleep per 24 hour time periods has been clinically shown to be detrimental to humans immune systems.

    I am not a scientist or doctor, (I’m a college student who is hurting for more time, I haven’t even read the entire book yet) but don’t humans require the whole process of going into & out of REM sleep?

    I wish & hope that I am wrong, but I can’t help but be concerned about the accuracy, validity, & reliability, of the ‘Uberman’ sleep suggestion.

    Does anyone have a response to this?

  38. Thanks for this article.I have a sleep hack myself that i learned from living in japan for 3 years. I learned the power of taking a bot bath just before bed by accident. I was visiting a hotel in Japan that had an adjascent Japanese “onsens” (the japanese word for hot springs”). After returning to my room, we would have a small snack and i would always inevitably get very drowsy and fall asleep with no problems. Well, flash forward a few years. I was having sleep issues, probably due to stress from working on my sleep mask business (oh don’t tell me about the irony). Anyways, i was desperate to get back to sleeping well again, so i tried the hot batch technique. I took a hot batch at night, got a book and jumped into bed. I did this for several nights coupled with a sleep mask, and a light snack and i was able to sleep every time. I’m not sure why this worked but it does. I sometimes take a 3 mg capsule of melatonin at night if i had a really really stressfull day. It’s good for relaxing you fall asleep without that groggy feeling in the morning. Thanks again……

  39. Tim,

    I’ve had good results from hypnosis. Not only for relaxation, but also for physical performance goals. I decided to enter an ultra marathon this year, and used information from 4 Hour Body for my training, concentrating on minimum effective dose type training. This is ideal for ultras, as the traditional methods (more miles) are very time consuming!

    So it was relatively straightforward to build up the physical side of things, but I wanted to be sure that the mental element was covered too! Endurance events do test the will, and I have found two things useful. Firstly, my sport scientist friend told me of a recently discovered “bug” in our software.

    Have you ever reached the finish line or end of a journey and felt completely done in? Like you could not go another step? Yet, if you HAD to, if you really NEEDED to reverse your journey, you could. The mind seems to overly focus on the target you have set, and insist you can’t exceed it. It is a false ceiling on your physical performance. So the first thing I do is focus not on the end of the race, but the end of the day, and plan the things I’ll do past the finish. Crossing the line, I just keep on going.

    Second is hypnosis. I use the recordings and apps of good friend Andrew Johnson. http://j.mp/iB1Js7 In particular, “Boost your confidence” which I listen to every night for 7 days prior to race day. On race day I find that I am positive and can easily handle negative thoughts, even when working hard or under stress.

    The results for me? I did my first ever Ultra last weekend, having never run a marathon before. I placed 154 out of 379 starters. 71st in my class (Male Vet) out of 165.

    I hope this helps others about to tackle a challenge!

  40. hi tim

    when i first start cold/ice bath my skin used to red and stay cold for a while, now its alot less red and warms up faster, does that mean anything?

    thanks

  41. Tim

    I’ve been enjoying 4HB the last few days and have reached SLEEP. I haven’t been able to find a clear answer, but would you know if polyphasic sleep would be sufficient for a more-than-average active lifestyle? I kickbox twice a week, do various cardio including sprinting and swimming, as well as lift 3 times a week. Polyphasic would allow for more study and activity, but would it allow for enough proper rest for repair?

    Any thoughts would help.

    Thanks

    Jack

  42. some are probably thinking: ice bath before bed will keep me up all night but as tim says

    “it’s like getting hit with an elephant tranquilizer. Don’t expect it to be pleasant at first.”

    great words tim

  43. Great post Tim! 5 days is a crap load of time without sleep. I usually break down and sleep for 18 hours after going 2 days without it. I personally resent sleeping and try to keep it to a minimum, so thanks for the interesting tips and theories.

  44. I am embarking on a 30-day polyphasic sleep schedule as of today, and chronicling it all at howtohackyoursleep dot com. It’s much like you suggest here, but more regimented, and allows for even more free time, in theory. There is also a slight Tyler Derdanesque risk to the whole venture, which I’m okay with. 🙂

    Look forward to your thoughts!

  45. Has anyone figured out how to deal with Middle of the Night Insomnia? The blog post and book really only deal with Onset Insomnia. I wake up at 4 am every morning…

  46. After reading your post I realized my I had to address my frequent wake up headaches. My husband complains I snore, so I went to my doctor and he ordered a set of neck and head xrays and to drop weight. I also mentioned having trouble controlling my body temperature. As crazy as it sounds, thyroid problems seem to run in the family and this genetic time bomb might just be rearing its ugly head, so I a getting that checked as well because my weight issues could also be due to this.

    I have never had sleep problems, so I will take your info into account and start the cold showers, and although I have also woken up with headaches after bingeing on ice cream and desserts before going to bed, or overeating protein, I will try the light snacks you mention.

    Thank you for your posts

  47. Hey tim!

    Thanks to mr.Rogan i ended up reading both of your books and changes have been made! I have a concern about this ice baths though , is ice really necessary? in your 4hbody book, you talk about the minimum amount required , could that apply to cold water vs ice baths? … http://www.coldtub.com/?content/ice-baths/cold-tub-vs-ice-bath.html

    Hope to hear back from you, or at least one of them outsourcing kind assistants!

    Keep up the good work.

    Ps: its 11pm here, i will start my oscar wilde books, take care tim!

  48. About an hour before bedtime, we started a nightly relaxation routine that includes reading, taking a bath or anything else that can be considered soothing. Completing all exercises at least three hours before bedtime and not looking at screens before we go to sleep, which of course stimulates your brain. We implemented this for me, my wife and my children which has helped all of us and made all the difference in the world. It also helped with their concentration and school work. We even made sure to stay on these schedules during summer break and which has helped to make it a part of their everyday lives.

  49. Ice -bath and wine

    Hi there, I ve tried the ice bath yesterday, – problem being that in spite of ice bags I could not get the temperature to below 17 C, which I guess does not make an “ice bath”.

    Which brings me to another point, if someone could help please: In 4 HB, some suggestions are down to ‘micrograme’, while others are surprisingly unspecific: I.e., – What is the SUGGESTED TEMPERATURE for an ice bath Tim?

    Likewise when speaking about wine. What’s ‘2 glasses”? In some people’s lives that’s 2 standard units and in others’ double that.

    Any suggestions anyone? THanks! 🙂

  50. Nice post. I was checking constantly this blog and I’m impressed! Extremely useful information particularly the ultimate section 🙂 I take care of such info a lot. I was seeking this particular info for a very lengthy time. Thank you and good luck.

  51. I’m interested on how to relax like a pro. I’m 20 years old and I’m having a hard time to sleep. Thanks to this post It helped me alot.

  52. Interesting – Just wondering why almond butter for sleep and not any other nut butter? Is there a particular reason to use almonds?

  53. These tips seem very helpful and I’m eager to try all of them out. I’ve been having a difficult time sleeping for the past few months and I think I may already have insomnia. Getting to have enough sleep is really important to me because I get drained and burnt out easily if I don’t. Thanks for this post. Hopefully I’ll get my sleep back.

  54. I have been implementing your tips since I saw you on Dr. Oz and they have helped a lot. The only thing I haven’t tried is the ice bath. Might try that when summer rolls around. We do keep the house cool at night during the winter – at 57. I find I sleep much better in a cool room with blankets than keeping the heat up. Saves money too.

  55. I am 22 years old and have been yawning all day long have having sore/tired eyes. I am sleeping 8-12 hours a day and find it hard to stay awake 10-12 hours! Im going to implement this for a week and if I don’t see improvement I will make a sleep doctor appointment.

  56. Benny lewis, explains that you can sleep just 5-6 hours and do a siesta for 20 minutes in the afternoon (like after lunch).

    He says you should try it for 2 weeks before getting adapted to it.

    What do you say about this? do you also use this method or you think you shoiuld sleep more if possible?

  57. I also suffer from difficulty falling asleep and these are great tips. What has helped me recently is: no screen time 1-2 hours before bed, esp. portable devices; brief yoga and meditation practice seems to chill me right out; and if I have any energy left, actually reading some (challenging) non-fiction, i.e. Jane Jacobs Cities and the Wealth of Nations…after about 10 pages I’m done for. Fiction, however, I can stay awake all night for!

  58. What’s the ideal weight of ice or water temperature for weight loss?

    In the book and on CBS, you suggest 20lb and on AskMen you say 30lb. And are there diminishing returns after 3 times a week?

  59. Hello Tim,

    I’m a sleep tech. Was watching this talk http://youtu.be/4qwP74XpaFU?t=42m22s at 42:22; that you’re talking to devices makers about getting EEG data. I think I have an idea that might get you something excellent for people to get REAL accurate sleep data for their reports. It involves DIY methods on the cheap, models being sold for those who don’t want to play with wires and an open source platform.

    Let me know if you’re interested.

  60. Hi Tim, thanks for the post. I tried all of these in the past to improve my sleep and by far the technique that worked best is to use yellow glasses before going to bed. It completely changed my life and I’ve been recommending them to everyone with great success. Detailed explanation below.

    From an evolutionary perspective, Nature made us sleep in the night to avoid falling prey to animals which we could not see. So light regulates our sleep cycle: we are awake with light and fall asleep without it.

    We have three light receptors in the eye: red, green, and blue, which is why those are the primary colors. It’s only the blue light and the blue receptor that control the sleep cycle, probably because the sky is blue and that is the most abundant color during the day.

    So an easy way to stay awake in a long road trip is to have small blue lamps in the car, and an easy way to get better sleep is to wear yellow or amber glasses that remove the blue. I use them one hour before bed each evening, fall asleep faster, and sleep better. It is important to keep the yellow glasses until you turn off the light, otherwise the hormonal system stops producing melatonin and needs some time to start again. This medical experiment revealed that amber glasses help to sleep better, and amber works better than yellow:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20030543

    I also found that they help with jet lag: if you fly eastward and want to spread a 5-hour jet lag over several days, you can use the glasses in the evening for one hour before bed two days before, two hours before bed the day before, then two hours after bed the day after, and one hour after bed two days after.

    Any yellow glasses that cut out the blue will work. It’s low-tech and costs under $15 (e.g., SolarShield or UVEX).

  61. The reason why you have trouble falling asleep at night is because you take espresso at 1pm! Don’t take any caffeine before noon if you are sensitive to caffeine! The half life of caffeine is 6 hours, so even after 24 hours, you still have 12.5% left in your system.

  62. I do not sleep much due to an intrusive thoughts which I have almost no power to stop and the things I do online. I will try your advice . Thx.

  63. Never before heard of a steam shower enclosure up until I stumbled on this incredible website, so pleased

    I did really would like one now and finances permitting will be buying one pretty soon

  64. I’d be pleased to know more about your take on seeding the gut. I listen to many of your podcasts over & over. Applying many of your writing concepts to music composition. Thx.

    Steve

  65. Has anyone had any luck getting off sleeping pills? I am currently taking clonzapen and am having a very difficult time coming off of them. I have tried Valerian root with mild success. Any tips would be greatly appreciated.

    Cheers,

    Jose

  66. Sleep is so important! With all of today’s busy people running around on stress and whatever else they have to deal with – how does anyone sleep? As a fellow lack of sleep sufferer – I recently learned about magnesium and it has helped IMMENSELY. I am able to focus on the important things and not worry about what I need to do at 3 am in the morning.

    Here is an article that I hopes help you as much it helped me:

    http://www.vivamagonline.com/sleepless-in-canada/

  67. TIM: I love the blog! I love the can-do attitude and willingness to try whatever will work to live the most successful and vibrant life!

    So, obviously strategy and planning are key to success with sleep. I’ve had the hardest time mastering my own sleep schedule over the years, mostly feeling completely zombie-like when my alarm goes off in the morning.

    I’ve found that waking up was easiest when my food-consumption was also at it’s best. I tried a Whole-30, essentially a Paleo diet minus all sugar, and found the high protein intake (and general lack of crap) paired with the scheduled regimen to drastically help my sleep schedule. While on the program I got up at 6am everyday feeling pretty well and never really had a problem snoozing my alarm.

    Doug Bertram– I’ve also tried an alternate sleep cycle, opting for the “Everyman Cycle,” consisting of a 3hr nap and then three 20-minute naps spread evenly throughout the day. I could only manage it for two weeks with a few friends of mine. It was great while it lasted but my biggest hurdle was hitting naps on time. My job is fairly flexible compared to many, but because of the nature of working with others, I found it difficult to navigate nap-times consistently.

    Still on the trail, though!

  68. Great insights TIM,

    Hacking sleep is one thing for me the struggle has always been getting to sleep and I found a wonder to solve my problem.

    Meditation

    It has changed me from an insomniac to someone who can sleep on the road. Not only that but the quality of my sleep has increased too.

  69. Another trick for swallowing nasty tasting liquids (flax oil, fish oil, etc.) with minimal icky taste: get an oral syringe, 5 or 10 ml size. Put your dose in the syringe, then lay the syringe on your tongue, fairly far back (not to the gag point, of course), then gently squirt the liquid past your tongue to the back of your mouth, and swallow. Makes it easy to take doses that would require lots of capsules to achieve, and you also save money ’cause the bulk oil is cheaper than the capsules. Many pharmacies carry oral syringes (especially compounding pharmacies); some even have bottle adapters or tubes that make it easy to pull the liquid into the syringe. Bring your bottle so they can give you the right size adapter.

  70. Tim, have you thought about researching lucid dreaming techniques? Roughly 1/3 of our lives is spend sleeping, would be great to be able to control dreams and with your systemic approach you could be the one to bring it to the masses.

  71. Hey Tim,

    Try the 4-7-8 breathing excercise when you have trouble falling asleep. Works wonders on me. Just google “4 7 8 sleep”

    Greetings from Sydney,

    Art

  72. Tim, you wrote about taking 200mcg of Huperzine-A in the Huffington Post. I normally take 1.5mg of Melatonin. Can I take both together? It would help in something?