Biohacking Blog Series Part 4: The Top 3 Ways To Improve Your Sleep For Greater Overall Health

Biohacking Blog Series Part 4: The Top 3 Ways To Improve Your Sleep For Greater Overall Health

If you’ve been keeping up with our biohacking blog series, you’ll know that ‘biohacking’ refers to various protocols, practices and lifestyle habits that aim to optimise the health of the body and mind. Famous biohackers like Tim Ferriss, Ben Greenfield and Dave Asprey have made the practice into a global community, with millions of people worldwide engaging in ‘self-experimentation’ through nutrition, supplementation, exercise, sleep, and so much more, all in the name of longevity, vitality and unending energy.

In today’s blog, we’re focusing on how to biohack your sleep, which is arguably the foundation upon which all other aspects of health stand upon. We introduced sleep in our previous blog on The Benefits Of Sleep & Why Good Sleep Is Essential, so if you’ve read that, you’ll already have a great understanding of just how important sleep is to our wellbeing, and how there are many parts of modern life that could secretly be wrecking your sleep. If you haven’t yet caught up with our introduction to sleep, we’ll recap why sleep is important in just a moment, before diving right into the tools that can transform your sleep - and therefore - your life.

What Is Sleep and Why Is It Important?

Before we give you the exact practices you need to improve your sleep, it’s important to remind ourselves what sleep is, and how it works….

Whilst for many years sleep was thought of as a state of dormancy and simply like hitting the ‘off’ switch at the end of the day, more modern research shows that some parts of the brain are even more active whilst we’re snoozing. [1] When we’re asleep, the glymphatic system sweeps through the brain to clear away old cells and wastes, which plays a critical role in preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s. [2] During the third stage of sleep (most often known as ‘deep sleep’), the body releases a large pulse of human growth hormone, critical for maintaining healthy bodily tissue, repairing injury, growing stronger muscles and protecting the immune system. Sleep plays a huge role in our ability to learn, process emotions and experiences, maintain a healthy immune system, as well as preventing the onset of diabetes and depression. [3]

So you see, it’s not just whilst we’re sleeping that we reap the benefits of sleep; your quality of sleep impacts every single aspect of your life; from your mood to your weight; your motivation to your ability to focus; your cravings and hormonal balance… Research even shows that lack of sleep is linked to an increase in scrolling through social media and browsing the internet for leisure,[4] so if you want to get more out of life and make some seriously positive changes, it all starts with your sleep.  

In our introduction to sleep blog, we mentioned several key factors that directly affect our sleep, and in this blog, we’ll use these points to guide our biohacking journey to optimal sleep. The key things that impact sleep are:

  • Light & Darkness
  • Temperature
  • Hormonal Balance & Life Stage
  • Nutrition & Supplementation
  • Exercise
  • Caffeine & Alcohol
  • Stress & Cortisol

In order to biohack your sleep, these are the specific protocols for each of these points that’ll move the needle on your quality and quantity of sleep, and we’ll be picking our top 3 to include in this sleep biohacking blog (if we miss your favourite, be sure to check back for out next sleep blog, which will cover even more of the points). Everyone has different lifestyles, so while you may want to tweak our suggestions to suit your unique biology and physiology, the biohacks you’re about to discover are the secret to improving your sleep for good.

1. Light & Darkness

There is a small receptor within your brain called the Suprachiasmaticnucleus (SCN) that senses light and darkness, and relays messages to the rest of the brain and body about what time it is. When the brain and body receive these messages, they alter our behaviour, hormone balance, and ultimately control whether we want to be active and awake, or tired and sleepy. This sensing of dark and light sets our circadian rhythms, also known as the ‘body clock’ or ‘sleep-wake cycle’. Our circadian rhythms run on a roughly 24 hour cycle, with part of that time spent in bright light being awake, and part of that time in darkness being asleep. Having a correctly aligned circadian rhythm (that is, having your body understand that it’s daytime when it’s light outside and night time when it’s dark) is the key to having more energy in the daytime, and sleeping better at night. [5]

Remember however, that the SCN has to sense light and darkness at the right times in order for the body and brain to respond at the right time. One of the biggest causes of disrupted sleep and poor energy throughout the day is disrupted circadian rhythms, partly due to our mismatched relationship to light and darkness, which can prevent the onset of important sleep hormones like melatonin, and wreak havoc with our natural cortisol rhythms too. [6]

The first biohack then, is all about establishing a balanced relationship with light and darkness, and getting the right amount of light at the right time. Here’s the first step to improving your sleep:

Get bright, natural light early in the morning

When we wake up, the body naturally experiences a sharp rise in cortisol, which is beneficial in this sense, and gets us up and out of bed. Once we’re up, it’s important to expose the eyes to bright, natural sunlight as soon as possible, preferably within the first 30 minutes of waking. When we do this, we help keep that spike of cortisol at the right level for that time of day, and we encourage melatonin (the ‘sleep hormone’) to be cleared out of the brain. Upon viewing bright morning light, other hormones like dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline are released, which are all associated with an energetic, motivated and alert start to the day. Research shows that when bright light is delayed in the morning, this can impact circuits in the brain related to mood, and the later we view morning light, the more likely we are to experience depression. [7] Thankfully, studies also show that depression can be partly treated with exposure to early bright morning light, which shows the power of a balanced circadian rhythm. [8]

How much light do I need to re-set my circadian rhythm?

Dr. Matthew Walker, professor of neuroscience and psychology, and the author of Why We Sleep, says that at least 30 to 40 minutes of exposure to light in the morning is important for setting the body clock correctly. Other research suggests however, that if it’s a bright sunny day, you may only need 5 to 10 minutes of light exposure. If it’s a cloudy and overcast day, most research shows that around 30 minutes is necessary for the body clock to fully re-set. [9] To get your morning dose of sunlight, aim to get outside within 30 minutes of waking; depending upon the weather and the amount of time you have in the morning, this time could be spent walking or jogging, sipping your tea in the garden or on the balcony, or simply sitting indoors by an open window. Well known podcasters Tim Ferriss and Andrew Huberman are even known to spend several minutes skipping rope whilst facing the sunrise in order to stack two circadian rhythm-balancing practices in their morning routine.  Note that wearing sunglasses or blue blocking glasses will prevent the SCN from properly sensing morning light, and that sitting next to a closed window will also prevent the proper balance of light waves from entering your eyes, so if you can do so safely, get outside!

How bright should light be to re-set circadian rhythms?

If you wake up before the sun rises, it’s still beneficial to switch on indoor lights to help your brain and body become more alert. If you live in an environment with long periods of darkness however, or you know you’re going to be spending most of the day indoors, a light box can help. Daylight is almost always at least 10,000 lux – on a clear Spring morning you’ll usually be exposing your eyes to 10,000 lux, whilst at noon in the middle of a sunny Summer day, the light levels are often over 100,000 lux. Compare this with the amount of light in your home or workplace, which is more likely to be between 25 to 700 lux. If you know you’re not getting outdoors enough or you’re unable to go outside in the morning, a 10,000 lux light box can be an effective biohack for re-setting your circadian rhythms. Studies show that for those experiencing depression or seasonal affective disorder, exposure to a 10,000 lux light box for 30 minutes can be effective. [10] To discover the light levels in your environment, use a light meter, which you can buy on its own, or which can be downloaded as an app.

Avoid bright lights and favour darkness to improve your sleep

Whilst the blue light waves that dominate morning light are beneficial for wakefulness, they’re severely detrimental to good sleep. The trouble is, that our modern lives are full of blue light. Blue light signals to the SCN that it’s daytime, so if we’re surrounded by blue light at night, this can not only disrupt our sleep; it can also throw off our circadian rhythms and affect other important hormones. Here’s how to block out the blue light and improve your sleep:

Ironically, our eyes are actually more sensitive to light at night than in the morning, so it becomes even more important to consider how bright your indoor lights are after sunset. One of the ways you can actually decrease the sensitivity to light however, is by viewing late afternoon or sunset light. The light waves present at sunset communicate to the SCN which time of day it is, and further help to establish what time it is within our circadian rhythm, so if possible, head out for a quick walk in the late afternoon, or watch the sunset.

In the evening, be aware of how many screens and lights you’re surrounded by. Research shows that exposure to even 250 lux at night is more than enough to delay the onset of melatonin secretion, [11] and our bodies need melatonin to be secreted in order to drift off to sleep. Switch off bright overhead lights or dim them right down. Opt for lamps instead, or even candlelight, which can be as low as just 3 lux (of course, make sure you can still safely see where you need to go in your home!). Television screens, phones, laptops and tablets all also give off bright blue light, so either use apps such as f-lux, which can adjust the display colour temperature to match the time of day, or other devices that can turn the phone screen completely red, which has less impact on the circadian rhythm. Another popular way to biohack your sleep is by wearing blue light blocking glasses; the high quality glasses effectively block disruptive blue light waves from entering the eyes, therefore allowing you to go about your evening without wrecking your sleep. Be aware however, that it’s still beneficial to turn down the lights, as any bright light will disrupt sleep.

blue light blocking glasses

When you get to bed, ensure your room is dark, either with the use of blackout curtains or an eye mask, as exposure to light between 10pm and 4am can disrupt sleep and even contribute to depression. This is true even with a dim nightlight, so try to tape over any small lights and that brightly lit digital alarm clock on the bedside table. [12]

2. Temperature

The human body has evolved to wake up when the temperature rises, and go to sleep when the temperature drops, and the temperature of your bedroom can be a direct influence on your quality and quantity of sleep. Research shows that the best bedroom temperature for a good night’s sleep is around 18.3 degrees Celsius, which may vary a little depending upon personal preference. Body temperature naturally dips during sleep, and a cool bedroom environment is a good way to help support this natural process. Studies show that a higher core body temperature is associated with a decrease in restorative slow-wave sleep [13], and insomnia can even be related to body temperature being at the improper level to facilitate good sleep. Here’s how to use temperature to improve your sleep:

Make Your Bedroom Cool To Improve Your Sleep

Ensure your bedroom is comfortably cool at night; this can be done by opening a window, using a fan, or even air conditioning set to the sleep-supportive 18.3C. Your bedding will also make a big difference to your core body temperature throughout the night; natural fibres like wool are breathable, yet nylon and polyester tend to trap heat beneath the blanket and can even cause excessive sweating. Some of the top biohackers even suggest investing in bedding that shifts temperature throughout the night to facilitate the dip and then gradual rise in temperature that will support deep sleep and a naturally refreshed wake up time. Search for the Chilipad or Eight Sleep, which are both proven investment-worthy biohacks.

To help cool your body down in preparation for bed, avoid vigorous exercise within 2 to 3 hours of bed time, and instead of a cool shower opt for a warm bath. Upon stepping out of the bath, the hypothalamus in the brain triggers the body to quickly cool down, which in turn is a signal for the brain to release the sleep hormone melatonin. You can learn more about using cold exposure to affect sleep in our biohacking blog: The Benefits Of Cold Exposure. Alcohol is also best avoided within the several hours before bed, as this can cause a rise in body temperature too.  

Adjusting your mealtimes can also make a difference to body temperature during sleep. Research shows that eating a large meal 60 minutes before bed causes a rise in body temperature, and a delay in sleep-onset, decreased sleep efficiency, and increased night time waking. [14] Finishing your last meal at least 3 hours before bed is a reliable way to prevent sleep issues and improve your quality and quantity of sleep.

3. Nutrition & Supplementation

As well as light, the time we eat in the morning is also an effective way to re-set circadian rhythms. Whilst many people prefer to delay breakfast, research shows eating within an hour of waking is actually a great way to help rebalance your body clock, as well as stimulate metabolism. A high protein and low carbohydrate breakfast can support the body’s natural peak in cortisol that we benefit from in the morning, as well as keeping blood sugar levels balanced and preventing sugar cravings. Opt for a breakfast of eggs and avocado, or a snack of Greek yoghurt and nut butter. Here are more ways to biohack your sleep using nutrition and supplementation:

Research shows that consuming carbohydrates with your evening meal can improve sleep by stimulating the release of tryptophan in the brain, which is then converted into serotonin, which helps relax the body and facilitate sleep. Serotonin is also necessary for the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, and when consumed in a balanced meal, whole-food carbohydrates can help keep blood sugar levels balanced, and prevent night time waking. [15] Great sources of carbohydrates to include in your evening meal include potato and sweet potato, rice, fermented sourdough, root vegetables and starches, beans, and low GI fruits such as baked apples can serve as a wonderful dessert to support better sleep. Whilst it’s beneficial to consume your last meal at least 3 hours before bed, remember that going to bed hungry and experiencing a blood sugar dip during the night can also be disruptive, so if it benefits you, a balanced snack of fruit and cottage cheese, ½ a banana and almond butter, or some berries and magnesium-rich dark chocolate can all be beneficial desserts or small bedtime snacks. Try our Stress-Busting Adaptogen Smoothie recipe, or the Magnesium Rich Chocolate Pudding to help you wind down and sleep well.

magnesium rich chocolate pudding

A more specific nutrient known to help improve sleep is glycine, which can be found in bone broth and gelatine. A study in which one group was given a dose of glycine before bed and the control group weren’t, the group that consumed glycine reached ‘slow wave’ or ‘deep sleep’ faster, and experienced better quality of sleep.[16] Other sources of glycine include red meat, seeds, turkey, chicken, pork, peanuts and salmon.

The Best Supplements For Sleep

Whilst there are endless supplements touted as being the ‘miracle pill’ for better sleep, we’re going to focus on five favourites, because these are the truly tried-and-tested and backed by research tools we know work. Before we do however, here’s why you shouldn’t supplement with melatonin; Melatonin is a hugely lucrative market, worth millions of dollars, yet taking it can disrupt our own melatonin rhythm, and is only recommended for short-term use if used at all. In children, long-term supplementation has been shown to delay puberty and disrupt hormones [17], and sleep expert Dr. Matthew Walker even explains that when it is taken, melatonin has only been shown to increase sleep duration by 3.2 minutes, and sleep efficiency by 2.2%. Here are better supplements to improve your sleep:

Magnesium Bisglycinate: There are many types of magnesium, but bisglycinate has been shown especially helpful in improving sleep onset. Magnesium is also important for relaxing the body and brain, and preventing muscle cramping, which can disrupt sleep. Current research also suggests magnesium can help with insomnia, and magnesium bisglycinate is considered the safest option for correcting long-term deficiency, or for those with demanding training schedules. Magnesium deficiency is incredibly common in many populations today, so to help improve your sleep, add magnesium bisglycinate to your night time sleep supplement stack. Buy magnesium bisglycinate here.  


Reishi Mushroom: Known as ‘the mushroom of immortality’, reishi is not only a powerful way to protect the immune system, but also helps facilitate good quality sleep too. Research shows reishi can improve the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, improve the quantity of sleep, as well as the amount of time spent in deep sleep. Being a natural compound, further research suggests that the accumulative effect of taking reishi over a long-term period increases states of deep sleep, and that it increases sleep-promoting neurotransmitters in the hypothalamus that regulate sleep-wake cycles. Reishi can be taken in capsule form or as a powder, mixed into warm milk before bed. It has a slightly bitter taste, so add a tsp honey to sweeten if you like. Buy Mushroom Complex here.

Ashwagandha: Research shows that ashwagandha can help people get to sleep faster, spend more time asleep, and experience better sleep quality. A popular adaptogen that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, ashwagandha helps reduce cortisol and supports the nervous system, and after taking, participants in an actigraphy-based study described their sleep as being 72% better. [18] Much like reishi, ashwagandha can be taken in its capsule form, or mixed into warm milk for a relaxing evening drink. Buy ashwagandha here.


Apigenin: it may sound like something only a biohacker would come across, but apigenin is actually simply chamomile flower extract. Long-studied for its ability to improve sleep in participants with insomnia [19], it binds to receptors in the brain that naturally trigger muscle relaxation and sedation, [20] and can decrease cortisol by around 47.5%. [21]

LLS Calm capsules: A powerhouse of ingredients that support good quality sleep, the Calm capsules contain a blend of magnesium, ashwagandha, l-theanine, chamomile, 5-HTP, lemon balm, lavender and valerian extract, which all work together to reduce stress, calm the nervous system and promote deeply restful sleep. If stress and anxiety is preventing you from falling asleep, this is one of the best supplements to help improve your sleep, and it conveniently already contains all the benefits of ashwagandha, apigenin and magnesium too. Buy LLS Calm capsules here.

Key Takeaways: How To Biohack Your Sleep

So, now you know how to use light and darkness, temperature, nutrition and supplementation to improve your sleep, let’s round up the key takeaways to start working with today, for a better sleep tonight:

  • Get plenty of bright light in the morning; 5 minutes if it’s a bright and sunny day, or 30 minutes if it’s cloudy. Use a 10,000 lux light box if you’re unable to get outside much or if you suffer from S-A-D.
  • Turn down the lights, use lamps, and wear blue light blocking glasses at night. Use blackout blinds or an eye mask in bed, and remove even small light sources from your bedroom.
  • Ensure your bedroom is comfortably cool at night; around 18.3C. Take a warm bath about 2 hours to 90 minutes before bed to facilitate the release of the sleep hormone melatonin as you cool down afterwards. Consider investing in a Chilipad or Eight Sleep mattress so you can control the temperature of your bed.
  • Finish your last meal at least 3 hours before bed, but if you feel hungry close to bedtime, consume a balanced snack with carbohydrates such as ½ a banana and almond butter, or fruit and cottage cheese.
  • Consume whole-food carbohydrates with dinner to improve sleep, such as potato and sweet potato, rice, fermented sourdough, root vegetables and starches, beans, and low GI fruits such as baked apples.
  • Consume glycine in the evening regularly to improve sleep; sources include bone broth, gelatine, red meat, seeds, turkey, chicken, pork, peanuts and salmon.
  • Improve your sleep with the supplements that seem best for you; if anxiety and stress are causing you sleep issues, the LLS Calm capsules may help reduce stress and improve your sleep. Reishi can also be stirred into warm milk for a sleep-supporting bed time drink.
  • Maintain a routine! Remember that our circadian rhythms run on a 24 hour cycle, and the body clock works best when it has a routine.

Stay tuned for our final instalment on how to biohack your sleep, which will include the specifics on caffeine, alcohol, exercise and some effective stress-reduction techniques to optimise your sleep.


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