The Human Operating Manual

Sleep Optimization

Sleep Optimization

What follows are suggestions from Matthew Walker, Andrew Huberman, Ben Greenfield, Metabolic Autophagy & The Immunity Fix (Siim Land and James DiNicolantonio) and the Biohacker’s Handbook (Olli Sovijärvi, Teemu Arina, Jaakko Halmetoja). Feel free to pick and choose examples from this list to try improving your sleep quality and sleep schedule.  

Matthew Walker and Andrew Huberman Combined Guide

  1. Stick to a sleep schedule and go to bed when you start to feel sleepy. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. We have a hard time adjusting to changes in sleep patterns. Sleeping later on weekends won’t make up for a lack of sleep during the week and will make it harder to wake up early on Monday morning. Set a reminder or alarm for your bedtime (as opposed to when you want to wake up). 
  2. Exercise is great, but not too late in the day. Try to exercise at least thirty minutes on most days but not later than two to three hours before your bedtime.
  3. Avoid caffeine and nicotine. Coffee, colas, certain teas, and chocolate contain the stimulant caffeine, and its effects can take as long as eight hours to wear off fully. Therefore, a cup of coffee in the late afternoon can make it hard for you to fall asleep at night. Nicotine is also a stimulant, often causing smokers to sleep only very lightly. In addition, smokers often wake up too early in the morning because of nicotine withdrawal.
  4. Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed. Having a nightcap or alcoholic beverage before sleep may help you relax, but heavy use robs you of REM sleep, keeping you in the lighter stages of sleep. Heavy alcohol ingestion also may contribute to impairment in breathing at night. You also tend to wake up in the middle of the night when the effects of the alcohol have worn off. Regardless of whether you remember or not. 
  5. Avoid large meals and beverages late at night. A light snack is okay, but a large meal can cause indigestion, which interferes with sleep. Drinking too many fluids at night can cause frequent awakenings to urinate.
  6. If possible, avoid medicines that delay or disrupt your sleep. Some commonly prescribed heart, blood pressure, or asthma medications, as well as some over-the-counter and herbal remedies for coughs, colds, or allergies, can disrupt sleep patterns. If you have trouble sleeping, talk to your health care provider or pharmacist to see whether any drugs you’re
    taking might be contributing to your insomnia and ask whether they can be taken at other times during the day or early in the evening.
  7. Don’t take naps after 3 p.m. Naps can help make up for lost sleep, but late afternoon naps can make it harder to fall asleep at night. Alos, limit your naps to 90 minutes or don’t nap at all. 
  8. Relax before bed. Don’t overschedule your day so that no time is left for unwinding. A relaxing activity, such as reading or listening to music, should be part of your bedtime ritual. Preferably not an activity that involves stimulating images and blue-light. 
  9. Take a hot bath before bed. The drop in body temperature after getting out of the bath may help you feel sleepy, and the bath can help you relax and slow down so you’re more ready to sleep.
  10. Dark bedroom, cool bedroom, gadget-free bedroom. Get rid of anything in your bedroom that might distract you from sleep, such as noises,
    bright lights, an uncomfortable bed, or warm temperatures. You sleep better if the temperature in the room is kept on the cool side. Your body needs to drop in temperature by 1-3 degrees to fall and stay asleep effectively. Body temperature increases are one reason you wake up. A TV, cell phone, or computer in the bedroom can be a distraction and deprive you of needed sleep. Having a comfortable mattress and pillow can help promote a good night’s sleep. Individuals who have insomnia often watch the clock. Turn the clock’s face out of view so you don’t worry about the time while trying to fall asleep.
  11. Have the right sunlight exposure. Daylight is key to regulating daily sleep patterns. Try to get outside in natural sunlight for at least thirty minutes each day. If possible, wake up with the sun or use very bright lights in the morning. Sleep experts recommend that, if you have problems falling asleep, you should get an hour of exposure to morning sunlight and turn down the lights before bedtime. On bright cloudless days: view morning and afternoon sun for 10 min; cloudy days: 20 min; very overcast days 30-60 min. If you live someplace with very minimal light, consider an artificial daytime simulator source. No, you don’t have to look directly at the sun, and never look at ANY light so bright it is painful to view!
  12. Don’t lie in bed awake. If you find yourself still awake after staying in bed for more than twenty minutes or if you are starting to feel anxious or worried, get up and do some relaxing activity until you feel sleepy. The anxiety of not being able to sleep can make it harder to fall asleep.
  13. If you have sleep disturbances, insomnia, or anxiety about sleep, try the zero-cost research-supported protocols on the Reveri app (for Apple or Android phones) Do the Reveri sleep self-hypnosis 3x a week at any time of day. It’s only 10-15 min long and will help you rewire your nervous system to be able to relax faster.
  14. Avoid viewing bright lights—especially bright overhead lights between 10 pm and 4 am. Here is a simple rule: only use as much artificial lighting as is necessary for you to remain and move about safely at night. Blue blockers (sunglasses or apps like F.lux) can help a bit at night but still dim the lights. Viewing bright lights of all colors are a problem for your circadian system. Candlelight and moonlight are fine. 
  15. If you wake up in the middle of the night (which, by the way, is normal to do once or so each night) but you can’t fall back asleep, consider doing an NSDR protocol when you wake up. Or simply do a “Yoga Nidra” protocol.
  16. Expect to feel really alert ~1 hour before your natural bedtime. This is a naturally occurring spike in wakefulness that sleep researchers have observed. Possibly an evolutionary cue to get home quickly as the sun goes down.
  17. You might consider taking (30-60 min before bed):
  • 145mg Magnesium Threonate or 200mg Magnesium Bisglycinate
  • 50mg Apigenin
  • 100-400mg Theanine
  • (3-4 nights per week Andrew Huberman also takes 2g of Glycine and 100mg GABA.)
  • Start with one supplement and then add one at a time as needed. Some people do not need any supplements, and some people like theanine but not magnesium, etc. so, you have to determine what is best for you. Don’t take theanine if you have overly intense dreams, sleep-walk, or have night terrors. Also, some people (~5%), get an agitated stomach from magnesium supplementation, in which case, do not take it.

Chronobiology (Boundless and Biohacker)

Your personal circadian rhythm will vary depending on your chronobiology. Visit to find your chronotype.

Dolphin: Light sleepers and often diagnosed with insomnia. 10% of the population.

  • 6:30am: Wake up and exercise
  • 7:30am: Eat breakfast
  • 9:30am: Have coffee
  • 10am-12pm: Brainstorm and work on creative projects
  • 12pm: Eat lunch
  • 1-4pm: Walkaround the block if you’re feeling tired
  • 4-6pm: Work on intellectually demanding tasks. Send professional emails
  • 6pm: Meditate or do yoga
  • 6:30-8pm: Eat dinner
  • 10:30-11:30pm: Turn off all screens. Take a hot shower/bath. Read a novel
  • 11:30pm: Go to sleep

Lion: Tend to wake up early with lots of energy. By early evening, they’re exhausted. 15-20% of the population.

  • 5:30am: Wake up and eat breakfast
  • 6-7am: Do planning and big-picture thinking. Meditate
  • 9-10am: Have coffee
  • 10am-12pm: Hold meetings
  • 12pm: Eat lunch
  • 1-5pm: Brainstorm and journal
  • 5-6pm: Exercise
  • 6-7pm: Eat dinner
  • 10pm: Turn off all screens
  • 10:30pm: Go to sleep

Bear: Bears’ internal clocks track the rise and fall of the sun. They need a full 8 hours of sleep. 50% of the population. 

  • 7am: Wake up and do a few minutes of exercise
  • 7:30am: Eat breakfast
  • 9-10am: Plan your day
  • 10am: Have coffee
  • 10am-12pm: Work on difficult tasks. Send professional emails
  • 12pm: Take a walk, eat lunch, and take another walk
  • 2:30-2:50pm: Nap or meditate
  • 3-6pm: Make phone calls and send emails
  • 6-7pm: Exercise
  • 7:30pm: Eat dinner
  • 8-10pm: Brainstorm
  • 10pm: Turn off all screens
  • 11pm: Go to sleep

Wolf: Wolves have a hard time waking up and are most energetic in the evenings. 15-20% of the population. 

  • 7-7:30am: Wake up with two alarms. Jot down your thoughts
  • 7:30am: Eat breakfast
  • 8:30am: Do a few minutes of outdoor exercise
  • 9am: Plan your day
  • 11am-1pm: Have coffee. Take care of busy work
  • 1pm: Take a walk and eat lunch
  • 4-6pm: Hold meetings and present your ideas to coworkers
  • 6-7pm: Exercise
  • 8pm: Eat dinner
  • 11pm: Turn off all screens. Meditate. Take a hot shower
  • 12am: Go to sleep

Food, Supplements, and Exercise


1. Seek out sleep enhancing food:

Fatty cold-water fish like salmon and mackerel contain high amounts of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, essential nutrients for regulating serotonin and sleep. Stick to more wild and fibrous fruits like kiwifruit. Tart cherries improve sleep by raising melatonin levels. A potent sleep-inducing dinner would be: wild-caught salmon fillets topped with tart cherry sauce or sliced kiwifruit, along with roasted vegetables, for fiber, and a bit of white rice to boost serotonin secretion. For dessert, try a spoonful of coconut oil topped with a dab of almond butter, a pinch of sea salt, and a drizzle of raw honey. Providing a slow release of energy as well as minerals to regulate blood pressure and cortisol levels.

Sandman’s snack (1 hour before bed):

  • half an avocado
  • handful of soaked and crushed almonds and/or pumpkin seeds (Styrian variety)
  • 1 tbsp of unpasteurized honey
  • half a banana (not overripe)
  • a touch of unrefined salt
  • 1 dl of relaxing tea: passionflower, chamomile, kava or valerian
  • 1 tbsp of bee pollen

2. Pay attention to the glycemic content of your food:

If it takes you a long time to fall asleep, consume any high-glycemic index carbohydrates, such as rice, bananas, or baked potatoes, at least 4 hours before bed. Avoid sweet desserts after dinner and instead consume your nightly bar of dark chocolate or bowl of coconut ice cream when you are in a more insulin sensitive state, such as after a workout. Avoid snacking in the late afternoon and evening, and limit dinner carbohydrates to lower-glycemic index sources like dark, leafy greens and sweet potatoes.

A delicious drink to aid digestion, relax an amped up nervous system, and get ready for a restful sleep:

  • 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 tsp. ginger powder, or 2 tbsp. ground fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp. turmeric powder, or 2 tbsp. ground fresh turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 4 whole peppercorns, crushed
  • 2-3 drops organic liquid stevia
  • 1 tsp. coconut oil
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • Place all the ingredients, except for the coconut oil and cinnamon in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down to low. Simmer for 5 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Strain the cooled liquid through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth into a class or mug. Add the coconut oil. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon if desired.

3. Have a light dinner:

Stop eating when you are 80% full and take a 20–30-minute post-prandial walk to aid digestion and control blood sugar. If you do eat a large meal, take a warm/cold shower to cool your body temperature and enhance deep sleep.

4. Consume adequate protein:

The amino acid tryptophan is found in high concentrations in turkey, chicken, red meat, eggs, fish, spirulina, almonds, and pumpkin seeds. Tryptophan is necessary for your body to produce serotonin and melatonin. You can slightly increase the level of tryptophan in your brain by consuming carbohydrates with these sources. They promote the release of insulin, which shovels all amino acids except tryptophan into muscle or fat tissue. As a result, you have more tryptophan in your blood, so the amino acid transporters in the blood brain barrier (BBB) shuttle more tryptophan into your brain to be turned into serotonin and melatonin. You should aim for 0.55g of protein per pound of body weight per day and increase to 0.7-0.7g if you have sleep problems. For a low-calorie option, you can supplement with essential amino acids (10-20g per day).

5. Consume adequate carbohydrates:

If you frequently wake up during the night, you may need more carbohydrates to stop hypoglycemia. A fat adapted person will enter ketosis by the morning so it is better to get some carbohydrates so you can sleep than to worry about leaving ketosis. Unless you are managing a disease like epilepsy or multiple sclerosis.

6. Limit your saturated fat intake:

Low to moderate saturated fat during the evening meal. Don’t overdo it or you’ll feel like you have a brick in your stomach.

Food Intake and Circadian Rhythms (Metabolic Autophagy)

An average person in the Western world tends to spend most of the day in a fed state, leaving no time for the body to heal itself. Some people can even eat right before going to bed, sleep for about 7-8 hours, and start eating immediately after waking up. This prevents them from ever entering into fasted conditions that are so vital for longevity.

Cortisol, the stress hormone, is also highest in the morning. It starts rising at about 5-7 AM and peaks around 8 AM so that we could have the energy to get out of bed. At this point, cortisol is actually beneficial because it ignites the body’s fat oxidation mechanisms and initiates the circadian rhythm. However, it’s not a good idea to be eating anything with elevated cortisol. Instead, the best thing to do is to postpone it by at least a few hours.

During the daytime, insulin production is much greater than at night. Blood sugar control is also best during the earlier parts of the day and worse in the evening. This makes perfect circadian sense, as blue light in the evening promotes insulin resistance and weight gain. Part of the reason has to do with how the circadian clocks in all of the organs and cells switch on and off synchronously at the same time of the day.

Resistance training also makes the body more efficient with the food you consume. The best time for heavy physical exercise like lifting weights according to the circadian rhythm is in the afternoon around 4-6 PM. That’s when your coordination and strength tend to peak. Having a workout and then eating afterwards should have no significant negative side-effect on your long-term health or body composition.

There are different things that can offset the food circadian rhythm without having to break the fast. Drinking water and things like coffee also stimulate certain metabolic processes in the liver which can then set off the liver’s circadian rhythm. You don’t need to be eating a lot of calories to trigger the circadian processes or to affect it. The same is with light – even just a tiny bit of blue light at night time can already suppress melatonin production and inhibit your sleep quality. 

If you eat too much food too close to bedtime, then your gut is going to have to spend extra energy on digestion. This can make you sleep worse, preventing your brain from going into deeper stages of sleep. During the night, the body would naturally start to cool itself down as to preserve energy and go into repair mode. However, eating and digesting food raises your core temperature, which takes away energy from the repair processes. It can also cause bloating, constipation, weight gain, and other digestive issues because in order to break down food and digest it, you need to produce a lot of stomach acid and enzymes.

If you eat a ton of food and then lay on your back for the coming night, then you may get acid reflux, you may stop producing hydrochloric acid, which may stop all digestive processes as well. While you’re sleeping, the food will then start to sit there and you’ll only start digesting it when you wake up the next morning. This will make you feel like you’re in a food coma because (1) you didn’t get enough deep sleep, (2) you’re still digesting the food from the night before, and (3) certain foods may have begun to ferment in the small intestine, especially fructose and carbohydrates, because they got stuck there for the entire night, which then can cause leaky gut and brain fog.

In conclusion, light is more important of a circadian signaler than food but you definitely don’t want to eat a lot of food right before going to bed. The optimal time frame to stop eating for the night is 2-4 hours. Having food right in the morning isn’t ideal either and you’d like to postpone your fast by at least a few hours after waking up. It doesn’t matter what kind of a fasting window you follow as long as you avoid eating immediately after opening your eyes, having dinner too late, and snacking all the way up to going to bed.

To make yourself sleep better, have a nice ketogenic dinner with some good protein and fat, such as butter or coconut oil. However, don’t eat too much protein, as it can spike your insulin. This will increase blood glucose and keeps you up at night. Keep it moderate. Carbohydrates can also promote sleep by promoting serotonin production. On carb refeeds, the spike in insulin and following crash will actually make you sleep better. Best options for that are sweet potatoes and rice.


  • Tryptophan: When it accumulates in your blood it crosses the BBB and is converted to 5-hydroxytrytamine (5-HT), a precursor of serotonin. 5-HT is also a precursor to melatonin in your pineal gland and causes lethargy and drowsiness. Sources like whey protein can increase tryptophan levels up to 130%. If you eat the recommended protein and carbohydrates, you shouldn’t need tryptophan supplements, but if you do, take 1g to improve sleep.
  • B-complex vitamins: Your body produces vitamin B3 (niacin) from tryptophan. It may be beneficial to take supplemental niacin so that the tryptophan you consume is used to synthesize more serotonin instead. Vitamin B9 (folate) and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) also help convert tryptophan into serotonin. Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) helps synthesize melatonin; supplementing with B12 is particularly important for vegetarians because it is primarily found in animal foods.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium helps convert 5-HT into N-acetyl-5-hydroxytryptamine, a precursor to melatonin. The most absorbable forms are magnesium citrate, glycinate, taurate, and aspartate, although magnesium that is bound to malate, succinate, or fumirate is also effective. 200-500mg. Consuming more than 1500mg per day can result in loose stools.
  • Zinc: Zinc deficiency reduces melatonin levels. Perhaps this is why athletes tend to be zinc deficient and swear by ZMAs (zinc monomethionine aspartate, magnesium aspartate, and vitamin B6). You can get zinc from shellfish and black ant extract.
  • Melatonin: Chronic use can result in headaches, nausea, daytime drowsiness, and even nightmares. 0.3-12mg to improve sleep. A more natural way is to take 0.3mg micro dose at night or increase tryptophan levels.
  • L-theanine: Found in green tea leaves but can be taken as a supplement. It can reduce stress and increase relaxation without causing drowsiness, most notably when combined with caffeine. L-theanine crosses the BBB in about 30 minutes and improves mental relaxation without loss of alertness by acting directly on the central nervous system (CNS). Once it crosses the BBB, it reduces SNS activity, improves post-stress relaxation, lowers blood pressure, and reduces cortisol levels and anxiety. 100-200mg to start with. With caffeine, 1:4 caffeine to L-theanine ratio (100mg caffeine: 400mg L-theanine).
  • Vitamin D: Deficiency is strongly associated with musculoskeletal pain and hormone deficiencies. Chronically low levels are associated with poor sleep and may contribute to obstructive sleep apnea and associated cardio vascular disease. Risk factors for low vitamin D levels include dark skin tone, obesity, limited sunlight exposure, pregnancy, chronic anticonvulsant use, chronic steroid use, intestinal malabsorption syndromes, and genetic inability to properly synthesize vitamin D from sunlight. Typical doses range between 2000-4000IU per day and should always be taken with 100-150mcg of vitamin K2 to limit the risk of high blood calcium levels.

Preparing to sleep

Stay Hydrated: Consume trace mineral drops, trace liquid minerals, quality sea salt (such as Colima sea salt), and plenty of water. This will help control appetite that sleep deprivation notoriously causes.

Caffeinate Smart: Don’t overconsume.

Move It: Reset your internal clock by getting outside in the sun, light aerobic exercise, whether it’s yoga or a quick walk. Regular exercise for 20-30min daily helps balance the daily rhythm and significantly improves sleep quality.

  • Pain in the muscles and connective tissue may cause insomnia. Try acupuncture, massage, sauna, yoga, and stretching. Take relaxing baths (e.g. with magnesium chloride in the bath water during evenings).

Blue spectrum light (450-490nm): Movement, light, and vitamin D will realign your circadian rhythm and eliminate some of your sleep deprived anxiety. If you do this in an overnight-fasted state, it will enhance your fat-burning capabilities for the rest of the day. During the day, especially after waking up, is an important factor in maintaining one’s alertness and circadian rhythm.

  • Use a full spectrum light therapy lamp.
  • Spend time in sunlight. 15-minute walk daily, set up workstation near a window.
  • Avoid the use of sunglasses during the day that block blue spectrum light. It may start melatonin production early.

Eat Right: When you are sleep deprived your leptin levels will be high and your ghrelin levels will be low. Eating refined carbs and fats will make you more tired. Eat foods high in protein, low in fat, and low on the glycemic index. Protein increases the production of orexin, a hormone that keeps you awake and alert.

Buffer Immunity: When sleep deprived, your immune system function declines and levels of pro-inflammatory compounds increase.

  • Take 1000mg of activated charcoal to flush circulating toxins out of your system
  • Place 4-5 drops of oregano oil under your tongue to protect yourself from foodborne and airborne bacteria.
  • To reduce inflammation, take 1000mg of curcumin after a poor night’s sleep.

Nap Right: Don’t nap beyond 20min as it will transition you into deeper sleep states, that will result in grogginess.

Going to Bed

Relaxation and stress relief

  • Relieve stress with heart rate variability training before going to bed.
  • Use a spike mat to improve circulation in the skin and release endorphins and oxytocin which help you to calm down and relax.
  • Practice breathing exercises.
  • Listen to relaxing audio tracks.
  • Have sex.
  • Go to a sauna.

Opening up your respiratory tract

  • Learn to breathe through your nose.
  • Use a nasal strip or a nasal spray to keep your respiratory tract open.
  • Use a Neti pot for nasal cleaning.
  • Improve the air quality in your bedroom.

Sound and light stimulation

  • Binaural beats with headphones.
  • Create a natural soundscape with a computer or mobile apps.
  • Light stimulation with red spectrum light that induces melatonin production.


  • Earplugs
  • Pressure regulating earplugs for airplane travel.

Blocking out light

  • Eye patches or sleeping masks
  • Blackout curtains

Electric stimulation. Proven to have an effect on the production of GABA and serotonin

  • Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation “electro sleep”

Lucid dreaming

  • Write down a sleep diary
  • Try self-suggestion right before going to bed; and reality checks during dreams.
  • Wake yourself during a lucid dream and try to remember your dreams.
  • So-called sleep herbs such as Artemisa vulgaris, Heimia salicifolia, Synaptolepsis kirkii, and Huperzia serrata may support the practice.

Wake Up Naturally

  • Unpronounced soundscapes during the night (nature and traffic) reduces the stress response in the morning. Create a gradually developing soundscape that emulates nature waking up.
  • Use a wake-up light that imitates sunrise.
  • Wake up later. Use an app to check your sleep stages so you aren’t waking up during an N3 stage.
  • Stressful experiences and thoughts about a mounting workload can increase stress response. The night before, write wandering thoughts and 3 most important things you need to do. After that, consider meditation.
  • Kickstart the adrenals with table salt and an inverted body position. Ingest 1/2 a liter of water mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of salt within 15min of waking up.
  • Inversions, a handstand or headstand, to improve circulation in your body and to boost your adrenal glands.
  • Yoga, jogging, or stretching.
  • Try a warm shower or bath, finished with a cold shower (closes pores).
  • Vibration plate, jumping jacks, or mini trampoline to increase blood and lymph circulation.

How to Tell if You’ve Recovered

  • Measuring your heart rate variability is a great way to know the state of your nervous system – are you more sympathetic or parasympathetic dominant. There are many chest traps and devices out there that you can use to measure this. 
  • Looking at your physical strength and balance will also indicate the state of your nervous system. If you’re weaker than you were before then you haven’t recovered and it would be better to have an easier recovery style workout before hitting it hard again. If you struggle to maintain balance or suffer from brain fog, then you’re also under-recovered. It takes about 48-72 hours for your muscles to recover and grow but your nervous system can take up to 5-7 days, so you have to be very careful with how intense exercise you do.
  • Time yourself for 20 seconds and during that time you tap your finger on the table as fast as you can. You get a score which should tell you how recovered you are. Keep in mind that you have to do this over a longer period to establish a baseline of where you’re currently at and you have to do it at the same time of day as well because your readiness will fluctuate between the morning and evening.
  • Tracking your mood and overall sense of well-being in a simple journal are the easiest ways of doing this. You score yourself on a scale of 1-10. 10 being I can run through a wall with no problems and I’m super-motivated. And 1 would be that you’re hospitalized in a bed. Lack of motivation can also mean you’re still tired from your previous workout. Of course, there’s a difference between just being lazy and actually having adrenal fatigue but you have to test and experiment, keep track of your numbers and then develop this intuitive knowledge about your body.

Sleep Positioning

Back Sleeping

This position promotes symmetry the most by equally distributing stress throughout the body and compresses joints the least. However, it can contribute to sleep apnea and snoring, can place more stress on the lower back, and be uncomfortable for people with pre-existing poor posture. Place a pillow under your knees to allow your lower back to flatten. This position can alleviate tension.

Place the pillow so that it supports the small of your neck. There should be complete contact of your neck on the pillow and no contact with the backs of your shoulders. Neck Nest is a recommended pillow. Also, a zero-gravity bed.

Esther Gokhale’s method of stretch lying:

  1. Lie down on your back
  2. Bend both knees and plant your feet on the bed hip-width apart
  3. Prop your upper body up on your elbows
  4. Slightly lower yourself onto the bed one vertebra at a time
  5. Place your hands behind your head and slowly elongate the back of your neck
  6. Pull your shoulder blades away from your ears and down toward your feet
  7. Straighten out your body and allow your legs to relax to the sides

Side Sleeping

Hip alignment can be corrected by sleeping in a straight and neutral position. If you have wide shoulders or hips it may put too much stress on one side though.

Place a pillow between your legs to stop rotation and offload stress. There should be complete contact of your neck and no pillow contact on the back of the shoulders. A slight bend in the knees is fine, but avoid the fetal position. Remain elongated if possible.

This position encourages glymphatic fluid drain, exchanging cerebrospinal fluid for interstitial fluid to clear waste from the brain parenchyma. During sleep, when the brain is relatively quiet, the volume of its interstitial space expands, allowing efficient waste removal (such as amyloid plaques).

Stomach Sleeping

Just don’t. Unless you want a neck injury, a sore jaw, or a hyperextended low back.

How Sleep Affects Immunity (The Immunity Fix)

  • Sleep improves T-cell functioning, which are basically killer cells that eliminate intracellular pathogens and viruses. During sleep, T cells are able to stick to infected particles more easily and then remove them. Stress and wakefulness inhibit this process, which is why highly stressed individuals are more susceptible to infections like the common cold. Basically, short sleep mirrors physical stress.
  • Sleep deprivation reduces natural killer (NK) cells. A single night of sleep deprivation reduces NK efficiency by 75%. This weakens the body’s ability to respond to invaders. In fact, it’s found that poor sleep reduces the effectiveness of vaccination by negatively affecting antibody function. On the flip side, sleep enhances antibody synthesis and responsiveness to vaccines.
  • Sleep promotes cytokine production. Cytokines are small proteins involved with cell signaling and immunomodulation. They’re released during sleep to tag infectious particles that should be removed and support host defense. Cytokines like IL-6 or IL-1 regulate sleep and promote sleepiness. Studies show that decreased IL-6 during daytime promotes good sleep. On the flip side, microbial products and cytokines increase NREM sleep and suppress REM sleep, thus weakening the adaptive system function.
  • Sleep regulates response of antibodies also called immunoglobulins. They’re used to neutralize pathogens that are tagged as antigens or foreign substances. Additionally, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced whenever you don’t get enough sleep.
  • Sleeping is important for the adaptive immune system, which works like an immunological memory. Basically, sufficient sleep helps the body remember how to respond effectively to infectious agents and how to fight them. Memory consolidation occurs primarily in REM and slow wave sleep, which also affects immunity.
  • Melatonin acts on both the innate and specific responses of the immune system via combined mechanisms, that mainly involve the modulation of cytokines and the production of oxidative stress. Responsiveness to age-related inflammatory assaults is very much dependent on melatonin and deep sleep. Melatonin can suppress one of the main inflammatory enzymes in cancer called cyclooxygenase-2 (COX2).

Sleep deprivation has some serious consequences on overall health, such as increased blood pressure, higher stress hormones, cardiovascular disease and irregular heartbeat. It also has a big effect on developing metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance. Just four nights of sleeping about 4.5 hours reduces whole body insulin sensitivity by 16% and increases fat cell insulin sensitivity by 30%.

Poor sleep is implicated with developing neurodegeneration. Not sleeping well enough promotes the spreading of toxic Alzheimer’s proteins. A reduction in deep sleep could even be a sign of early dementia.

Continuous wakefulness for 4 days has been shown to raise inflammatory markers like IL-6 and TNF-alpha. Sleeping 4 hours a night for 10 days increases inflammation and pain ratings. Both 88 hours of wakefulness, as well as 10 days of sleeping for just 4 hours per night, increases C-reactive protein, an important biomarker of inflammation that increases cardiovascular risk. Even restricting sleep from 8 hours to 6 hours for 8 days heightens pro-inflammatory cytokines.

Core temperature, cytokine production, mental faculties, cardiovascular functioning and white blood cells all express themselves rhythmically. Some immune parameters peak during the day whereas others do so at night. Here are the key points:

  • During sleep your stress hormones like cortisol are low and repair hormones such as growth hormone (GH) and melatonin are high. Prolactin, GH, and melatonin support the immune system through pro-inflammatory signals that produces cytokines. On the flip side, norepinephrine or adrenaline has anti-inflammatory effects, which is supposed to make you energized during daytime. Inflammation during the day can make you tired, immobile, pain sensitive and lethargic.
  • Inflammatory responses to infections peak during sleep. It’s actually beneficial because of producing cytokines and other immunomodulating processes. They create a positive feedback loop that initiates the adaptive immune response. However, it can also be detrimental. If you inject lipopolysaccharides into mice while they’re sleeping, their mortality rates are much higher (83%) than if you inject them during the day (10%). That’s because the body’s focusing on maintenance and repair during sleep as opposed to defense and responsiveness.
  • Immune rhythms are regulated by circadian clocks. Clock genes control up to 8% of the transcriptome in immune cells, antigen presentation, phagocytosis and heat-shock protein signaling.
    • T-cells show a diurnal rhythm and peak during rest time. They begin to decrease in the morning as cortisol starts rising.
    • Cortisol directs T cells to migrate into bone marrow during the active period via CXCR4 expression.
    • Lymphocytes also accumulate in lymph nodes during nocturnal sleep. They help to initiate adaptive immune responses.
  • The connection between autophagy and melatonin is linked to the circadian regulation of metabolic functions like cholesterol biosynthesis, growth hormone release, beta-oxidation and gluconeogenesis. It is thought that the regulation of these functions is coordinated with autophagy to optimize the supply of nutrients for storage or oxidation. That would occur during times of least metabolic activity i.e., while fasting and sleeping.

Caloric restriction or intermittent fasting can reverse the rewiring of disrupted circadian rhythms, thus alleviating the side-effects of aging. This effect is caused by the upregulation of autophagy, NAD+ and sirtuins that affect the body’s circadian clocks. Sirtuins detect cellular energy balance and modulate the circadian epigenome. SIRT1 is the main sirtuin gene that controls circadian rhythms and connects it with cellular metabolism. SIRT1 also delays aging and extends lifespan in mice. Enhanced SIRT1 activity can have widespread health benefits in humans as well.

The main signaling factors that control the circadian rhythms are light, temperature, magnetism, movement and food.

  • As you get older, melatonin production starts to decrease. It’s thought that the elderly do not get as much sleep as younger people because of this drop in melatonin production. Interestingly, nutrients like magnesium, zinc, active B6, folate and vitamin C are needed in the brain to make serotonin and melatonin. A reduction in these nutrients in the brain may thus reduce the production of brain hormones, worsening mood, sleep, circadian rhythms and immune function.
  • Too much blue light at the wrong time can damage your mitochondria and promote insulin resistance and it may even cause insomnia, depression and increase inflammation.
  • Results showed that exposure to room light before bed suppressed melatonin in 99% of subjects and shortened the period of elevated melatonin during sleep by about 90 minutes. Exposure to room light during the usual hours of sleep also suppressed melatonin by over 50%.
  • Research has shown that the more time you spend on electronic devices during the day, and especially at night, the longer it takes to fall asleep and the less sleep you get overall.
  • Morning AM light is needed for producing melatonin at night by increasing a protein in the brain called POMC (Proopiomelanocortin). UV light hitting your skin activates a gene p53, which upregulates the gene encoding POMC. In other words, getting a little sunlight in the morning may help to set your circadian rhythms and improve your sleep and immunity.
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