You’ve reached week 3 of Metabolic Health Month, where we provide high-impact tips on the four pillars of metabolic health.
So far, we’ve covered food and exercise. Make sure to check those out if you’re interested in their profound effects.
This week, we’re covering the third pillar of metabolic health: sleep.
You’ll learn its effect on metabolic health, plus how you can transform your sleep routine for more energy and better glucose control.
Below is our ultimate guide for hacking your sleep.
How to Hack Your Sleep for Better Metabolic Health
We’ve written before about the importance of sleep and how it affects your metabolic health.
Research shows that sleep deprivation and irregular sleep can cause poor glucose control, elevated insulin, and increased fasting glucose levels [1, 2]. The data are staggering on the long-term impacts .
How can you hack your sleep for better metabolic health? We’ve compiled our top research-backed tips. As with any habit, the best way to approach this is to start small, make it easy, and anchor it to existing habits.
Pick one area you’ll focus on for this week. Once you’ve had success, try another.
One of the best things you can do for sleep is to set your circadian rhythm, and it all starts in the morning.
- Get direct sunlight within 0-2 hours of waking, ideally outside. If you live in a northern area, you can use a lightbox or light therapy device . This will help set your circadian rhythm by triggering hormone production, making you more alert in the morning and more tired when it’s time for bed [5, 6].
- Stop consuming caffeine after lunchtime. Studies have shown that consuming caffeine even 6 hours before bedtime can disrupt your sleep because of how slowly it metabolizes . Cutting off around lunch will ensure the caffeine is out of your system by the time you go to sleep .
- Daily exercise can make for better sleep, with research suggesting morning exercise prior to exercise might incur the most benefits for metabolic health . Combining this with morning sun is an easy way to create a more ingrained habit.
- Aim to finish dinner around 2-3 hours before bed to reinforce your circadian rhythm.
- Darken your living space 2 hours before bed, including dimming or turning off any overhead lights, the ensures the natural release of melatonin, which can be disrupted by light .
For optimal sleep, try to set an intention of sleep by sticking to these habits before bed:
- Eliminate high-carb, highly processed foods in the evening, which can interrupt sleep .
- Avoid screens 1 hour before bedtime. Research shows that using any electronic device before bed worsens a number of sleep measures .
- Develop a consistent bedtime and wake-up time, and try to stay within an hour of that. Work your way up to just a 15-minute variation window, even on weekends .
- Take a warm shower or bath prior to bedtime to fall asleep faster .
- Keep your room dark (with blackout curtains or a sleep mask), one study found that not only does nighttime light impair sleep, but it can also decrease insulin sensitivity .
- Keep the temperature cool, around 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit or 16-19 degrees Celsius [16, 17].
- Try using white a white noise machine or app, which can decrease the time it takes to fall asleep . “Pink” noise also seems to have a robust effect .
If you’ve got these covered and looking for something more advanced, here are two bonus tips to try out.
- A small but promising study on red light therapy prior to bed may improve sleep quality and even athletic performance the next day. More research is needed to confirm this finding, but it may be worth testing yourself .
- One study found that supplementing L-theanine*, an amino acid, may assist with sleep through its relaxing properties .
- Measure it! It can be a challenge to measure which interventions are working. Just like tracking your glucose is key to understanding how sleep impacts your metabolic health, tracking your sleep can show you exactly which habits have the biggest impact on your rest and recovery.
Please consult your doctor before taking any supplements.