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In the same way that a computer hacker can reprogram an operating system to work differently, you can do the same thing to your own body.It’s called biohacking, baby, and it’s all the rage right now. Now if your first thought was, “bio….huh?” you’re not alone. It’s a somewhat nerdy concept probably made even nerdier when an MD starts talking about it. So allow me to explain… Biohacking, a technique popularized by “The 4-Hour Workweek” author Tim Ferris, simply involves taking your health and well-being into your own hands and making small tweaks to the areas that need improvement. Over time, collecting detailed research and information about how these changes either work or don’t work can lead you to the right solutions. Why? Because what you measure improves. Using medical, nutritional, electronic, or mind-body strategies, you can essentially “study” yourself back into good health. Think of it as a form of DIY clinical research. You record your progress, your successes, and your failures. You do research. You make charts. You take notes. And like any good scientist, eventually you come up with a sound theory. Biohacking can be applied to nearly any aspect of your well-being, but today I’d like to share some of my favorite biohacks for better sleep. For best results, you might want to introduce these changes one at a time, recording how your sleep changes with each new adjustment:
- Get rid of the snooze pills. The shocking truth about sleeping pills is that they barely work. Sure, they allow you to fall asleep faster, but at a high cost: they can cause memory loss, daytime sleepiness, and brain fog – not to mention they’re addictive. Clear them out from your medicine cabinet and allow your body to get back into a sleep cycle that isn’t artificially induced. Take notes on how you feel during this process.
- Lights out. Get rid of bright lights from your cable box, phone, or other electronics. Also, lower the heat. A dark, cool bedroom is the ideal place for quality sleep. To be a true biohacker, record how your sleep corresponds to various levels of light and different temperatures.
- Try a few helpful supplements/herbs. For my patients that have sleep problems, I usually recommend 0.5 to 3 mg of melatonin each night. You can also try rubbing a dab of lavender essential oil on your temples, hands or feet before bed, as it’s a naturally calming, soothing fragrance. Don’t enjoy the smell? Biohack with other essential oils, like chamomile or peppermint, until you find one that makes you mellow.
- Stress less. This one can be tricky, but one of the best biohacks for better sleep is finding out what will make you the most calm before you hit the sack. Is it a warm bath? Reading from an inspirational book? A cup of tea? De-stressing will lower cortisol levels, which will help you have a deep, restful night’s sleep. Make a chart of how you feel when you wake, how many hours of sleep you got, etc., as you implement different stress-busting bedtime rituals.