It's easy to think that you can compromise on sleep and make up for it later, but research suggests that just one night of bad sleep can have a significant effect on your metabolic health. Transforming your sleep routine can help you experience more energy and better glucose control.
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.
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.
5 tips to help set your circadian rhythm
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. Research suggests morning exercise before eating 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. This will help reinforce your circadian rhythm and also prevent disrupted glucose levels during sleep, since you are naturally less insulin sensitive at night.
- Darken your living space 2 hours before bed. This includes dimming or turning off any overhead lights. Having a dark space at night ensures the natural release of melatonin, which can be disrupted by light .
7 tips to improve your sleep hygiene
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. These foods can trigger large glucose spikes at night and 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 before bedtime to fall asleep faster . A quick session in the sauna may also help the body relax and release melatonin.
- 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. The ideal temperature for sleeping is around 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit or 16-19 degrees Celsius [16, 17].
- Try using white a white noise machine or app. Having ambient sounds playing in your sleeping area can decrease the time it takes to fall asleep . “Pink” noise also seems to have a robust effect .
3 bonus tips
If you’ve got these covered and looking for something more advanced, here are a few bonus tips to try out.
- Try red light therapy. 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.
- Supplement with L-theanine*. One study found that supplementing L-theanine*, an amino acid, may assist with sleep through its relaxing properties .
- Track your sleep. 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.