How To Sleep Deeper, Wake Up Earlier & Become Superhuman
“Mom… 5 more minutes” sound familiar?
I love to sleep. In fact, I love to sleep so much I think this is the main reason I got out of the military and eventually started my own business.
I am one of those people that set their alarms earlier just so I can hit snooze three or four times… at least I was.
Is Snooze Slowly Killing You?
Maybe “kill” is too strong of a word, or maybe it’s not. But let’s define killing you.
Have you ever noticed when you hit snooze you wake up more tired, get less done, have a foul attitude towards life, and are generally just not at your peak performance?
Have you noticed this effects your business, fitness, and most importantly your relationships?
Or the fact that you get the recommended allowance of 7 to 9 hours recommended by just about everyone… but never feel fully rested.
This is how I felt, and how I’ve felt for years.
I would work to get more sleep and never feel one hundred percent. Sure there were rare occasions, but typically I had to use copious amounts of coffee and exercise just to feel like myself.
And maybe you really don’t get much sleep… don’t worry I have some answers for you as well.
But have you ever noticed how some people are just naturally wired to be early risers. Yes, we love to hate them, but what if you could not only become an early riser. But, get to sleep easier, get more restful sleep, and of course become superhuman.
You see on December 2011 I started using a piece of software to monitor my sleep cycles. At first I was simply curious.
But over the past six months I have learned some incredible things about myself, how sleep works, and how to maximize all aspects of sleep. To sleep less, sleep deeper, wake up early, increase growth hormone, and double my productivity.
But let’s back up for a moment… why do we sleep anyways?
I wondered this myself. Well as far as we know there is no biological reason for sleep. We just know that we can’t live without it.
One of the biggest myths is that we need 7 to 9 hours of sleep. But this misses the big questions. What type of sleep?
I’m sure you’ve experienced those nights where you are in bed and sleep for 8 hours, but wake up feeling drained, like you are in a fog.
Then you know there is a big difference between clocking hours in the bedroom, and getting good sleep.
It’s Quality, Not Quantity
A lot of people could actually be getting TOO MUCH sleep and not even realize it. This is what I discovered after six months of closely monitoring my sleep cycles.
But one thing is for sure… we are all different in this regard. Our sleep requirements vary from person to person. In fact, 1% of the population are truly superhuman and only need two hours a night to function perfectly.
(If you are in that 1% this blog post is not for you.)
If we look at how the sleep cycles work we will see that restorative sleep happens in the first few stages of sleep.
What is Quality Sleep?
Have you ever said this… “I’ll just sleep in this weekend.”?
This has been my theory my whole life. I figured I could overcome my feeling of tiredness by catching up over the weekend.
But for some reason it never seemed to work for me. Even if I laid in bed till 10am, I would wake up feeling groggy.
Sure, coffee would fuel me for another three to four hours. But it was artificial and I was tired of being envious of those chipper bright eyed and bushy tailed people. Those people who make me want to pop them in the nose first thing in the morning.
Come’on you know what I’m talking about. When the gears haven’t started to turn yet and you’re just pissed at the world for there being sunlight.
But I digress…
How Does Sleep Work?
For the longest time the smart people of society thought when we went to sleep we powered down. Our brains and body would just relax for the time we were in bed.
What’s really interesting though is it’s the exact opposite. Our brains light up like a Christmas Tree and begins to go through different phases through out the night.
Both your brain and body are working through the night, but are doing different things in each phase.
Some phases are more for the body to heal and rejuvenate.
While others are where we assemble memories and learn.
This is a key concept to grasp because it holds one of the keys.
Let’s dig in…
The Mechanics Of Sleep
Our brains are constantly generating “brain waves”. Brain waves essentially tell us how active the mind is at any given time.
There are very consistent patterns that can easily be detected with an EEG (electroencephalogram).
There are two types of brain waves; high and low.
High brain waves are very active looking like a very quick jagged line, while low brain waves look like the waves of an ocean and are slower.
Now during the day we are using high brain waves, beta brain waves, which is accessing mostly our conscious mind. This is the stuff we are actively thinking about right now… Like a purple monkey
The Stages of Sleep
Now when do go to sleep it has five distinct stages during each cycle. A cycle lasting anywhere from 60 to 100 minutes which varies person to person, and even night to night.
This stage uses Alpha and Theta brain waves. This is still a high brain wave, and you may think you are still awake.
You remember this stage. Just think back to high school history class.
During this stage your body relaxes, heart rate decreases, and the mind wonders.
This is the transitional stage of sleep.
In this stage our brain is working hard to power us down. EEG’s show a lot of burst of brain activity during this phase, which doctors guess this is the brains effort to get into the low brain waves.
Even if you wake up during this phase you still may claim you were awake. Or “I was just resting my eyes”. Uh huh.
Stage 3 & 4
These stages are where our brain waves get slooow. Hopping around from the delta to theta waves our brain is now officially sleeping.
The body now goes to work to repair tissues by increasing blood flow.
If your alarm wakes you up during this stage. You are essential doomed to have a terrible day; headache, grouchiness, and lack of focus to follow.
And of course we all know about…
Stage 5: REM (Rapid Eye Movement)
In this stage of sleep our eyes dart back and forth rapidly. This is when we begin dreaming.
Now you would think our brain waves keep getting lower, but they don’t. Instead while dreaming we have very similar brain waves to when we are awake.
This is where scientists believe learning occurs. The subconscious begins stirring the pot of memories, recent experiences, problems and weaves them into a nice concoction of brilliance.
FACT: Babies spend 50% of the night in REM sleep.
These stages all happens several times each night in what’s called…
A sleep cycle can be anywhere from 60 to 100 minutes and we can experience 3 to 5 cycles in an average night.
But I want you to take a look at this chart. This is a typical night of sleep.
What you should take note of is how in the beginning the deep sleep cycles are longer, and as the night wears on they get shorter and shorter.
Here’s the point. Sleep gets lighter and less recuperative the longer you sleep.
You will also notice the duration of the sleep cycles change throughout the night. I know this for a fact because I’ve been tracking mine for six months.
The first two are typically longer than the remaining.
Let’s break this down further…
Here is what the typical break down of the different sleep phases look like.
But this is for the average person, and I am assuming you are sick of average. You want rested, recuperated, and energized right?
The average person is only getting 25% of their sleep in the Deep Phases. That means the “doctor” recommended sleep times are only giving us 2 hours of recuperative sleep.
Sleeping more doesn’t do anything but make that pie chart above look worse.
Lack of deep sleep is what causes all those nasty sleep deprivation statistics. You are drowsy, unfocused, have headaches, and may find it impossible to concentrate.
So what’s the answer?
Well, we can sleep less and still not be getting the quality sleep.
We could sleep more and not be getting the deep sleep required.
We need too…
Hack The Internal Sleep Clock
Our internal clock is dictating when and how deep we sleep. This holds the key to being able to take back control of your sleep.
And it all lies at the heart of the Circadian Rhythm. But what in the heck is that?
Your body’s temperature is not 98.6 degrees all the time, this is an average. In fact, your daily temperature looks something like this.
Here’s the cliff’s notes on the Circadian Rhythm. Pay close attention.
Our temperature rises in the early morning hours, drops a little mid day, and then rises into it’s peak temperature at night. Then it begins to drop once we go to bed.
If our body temperature is not working properly we cannot produce the necessary hormones to feel alert, energized, or to get to sleep.
This is the main reason someone is an early riser. They have a very healthy Circadian Rhythm. Their temperatures rise and fall at the same times each day like clockwork.
So here’s the problem. If your temperature is too low or too high it can totally screw up your chances of deep sleep or easily waking up early.
So far we have learned two very important facts.
1) Our body recuperates most during the deep sleep phases. Typically only 25% of our sleep in in the deep phases, and the longest phases happen in the first three to four hours of sleep.
2) Our internal clock is run by temperature. Warm in the morning wakes us up, cooler at night helps us sleep deep.
So how exactly do we sleep deeper, wake up earlier, and become superhuman?
Well remember how I mentioned that I have been tracking my sleep cycles for the past six months?
Six Months Of Research
This is what I discovered. Let’s take a look at some of my charts.
In the beginning my sleep cycles looked pretty terrible. Nothing like the charts found in the studies or text books.
I actually wasn’t getting enough sleep at this point. I was staying up way too late and not getting into my deep sleep till hours into my sleep. Can you relate to this?
As you can imagine I felt horrible.
The line beside the 7 is when the Sleep Cycle application was supposed to gracefully wake me up. The period after this was me continually hitting snooze
At this point I committed to getting more sleep. Because more sleep is always the solution right?
Even with an extra hour and a half of sleep per night I was still not waking up feeling recharged and still had to force myself out of bed.
I had been making some adjustments to my diet, exercise and sleep routine. I was starting to see healthier sleep cycles. But I was still feeling tired and struggled to wake up. Notice I still was using snooze.
This is when I really started to figure it out. I was using my sleep system (I’ll share it with you in a moment) and beginning to see the difference in my rest.
I was getting into deep sleep very quickly and was naturally waking up alert. This was unheard of for me.
Now at first glance you may be thinking… wait a minute you woke up during the deep sleep cycle. But since I’ve implemented my sleep system I am actually now naturally waking up before the sleep cycle can wake me.
In fact, I am waking up alert and ready to take on the world.
And I have retrained my internal clock to work for me instead of against me.
But there is one secret that you cannot see in these charts… my daily power nap.
The Power Of A Nap
We’ve already learned that we get more benefit from the first sleep cycle we enter. How would you like a way to get an extra sleep cycle crammed in half the time?
This is where the power nap comes in and here in lies the super power.
It’s called the Hypnogogic Nap. It’s when the mind is at peak creative output right before it reaches the second stage of sleep.
I am sure you have had those moments when you lay down and try to sleep and then your subconscious is like, “I don’t think so, I just conjured up some brilliance you need to get your ass out of bed and write this shit down. Otherwise I will delete it from your memory banks forever.” What your subconscious doesn’t swear? (Guess it’s from all those years in the Navy.)
But this magical transitional period between phase 1 and 2 can unlock your creative juices and give you rest during the day when the body has a natural temperature dip.
Not only is this a perfect time to give your subconscious a problem to work on, but this is the perfect chance to cram in an additional sleep cycle.
You have to be careful not to let your nap last too long though. Everyone is different. I find 20 minutes is just right. Others find it’s 30 minutes. 15 to 30 minutes is typical.
Think naps are just for babies? Think again. Look at all the famous nappers in history.
John F. Kennedy
After his morning exercise John F. Kennedy would take a 1 to 2 hour nap. Now the Mrs. always joined him for those “naps” so I am sure it wasn’t all spent napping
The president I grew up seeing on the boob tube. Like Kennedy, he was a napper. Although during his presidency this was not seen as a sign of strength, but proof of his incompetence and elder years. He was known for always having an afternoon nap in his schedule.
From the brilliant mind of Thomas Edison came many inventions we could not image living without today. But Thomas Edison loathed sleeping, in fact he boasted about how little he slept. What was his secret? Naps… lot’s of naps.
He slept only 3 to 4 hours and night, but would take several naps through out the day.
One of my favorite painters next to Vincent van Gogh. Known for his dream like paintings and often leveraged the power of the Hypnogogic Nap.
Leonardo Da Vinci
I love Leonardo Da Vinci’s work. He was the epitome of the Renaissance Man; painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, botanist, and writer. His brilliance was unquestionable. Da Vinci’s night time sleep was very erratic. His secret? Several naps per day.
You will notice some of the most brilliant minds in history took naps. You should too.
How To Hack Your Sleep
Ok here’s how we’re going to do it.
1) Sleep deeper. We need to force the body to get into the deep sleep phase earlier and do all that recuperation in the first hours of our sleep. Our goal is to get the ratio of our deep sleep higher than 25%. 30 to 40% is ideal.
2) Sleep less. Yes, you read it correctly. We are going to slowly cut back our sleep to eliminate the time spent hitting snooze or in the unproductive last cycle. This subtraction will help with our deep sleep ratio.
If you are already getting less sleep than you need, then we will focus on quality (deeper sleep).
3) Take at least one 15 to 30 minute nap per day.
4) Regulate our body temperature so that is corrects your Circadian Rhythms.
5) Get more sunlight! In fact, this is the number one thing you must do from this day forward
Most of us are sun starved. We work in an office and only get a fraction of the suns rays. Getting sun light is how our bodies create vitamin D and trigger our bodies to stop releasing Melatonin.
If you think you look cool with sunglasses all the time… think again. You could be preventing yourself from getting some much needed sunlight.
Light (not UV) that reaches the eyes stimulates the hypothalamus in your brain, which is connected to the pineal gland, which is what controls the secretion of melatonin.
Melatonin (the vampire hormone) is the main hormone that regulates our sleep. If you have elevated Melatonin during the day you will feel drowsy, unfocused, and most likely become very unproductive mentally.
Now on the flip side, you can get too much light. So if you are one of those lucky people to live in a warm climate year round with lots of sun, then the sun glasses are a good idea.
The other component is temperature. By using some tricks we can regulate our temperature at the right times to help get our Circadian Rhythms back in shape.
Sunlight helps this as well, since light in the eyes starts the process of raising our temperature in the morning.
But we need to do some key things at specific times to really optimize our sleep.
6) Create a Sleep Chamber
The Sleep Chamber
Ok it’s not really a chamber, but it sounds a whole lot cooler than “bedroom”.
In order to make the sleep system I am about to share with you what really works. You MUST have a sleep chamber; a sanctuary at night.
There is no getting around this. If you don’t have an effective place to sleep, it will be very hard to get consistent deep sleep cycles.
Here’s the essential components of a “Sleep Chamber”
1) Absolutely NO light. Not a pin prick of light.
You may not realize this, but our skin can detect light.
Get black out curtains, unplug the unneeded electronics, put tape over blinking lights. Do whatever it takes.
(Optional) Wear a sleep mask.
2) Thermostat. I highly recommend investing in a good Thermostat for your house or apartment that will allow you to customize the temperature depending on the time of day.
Cooler at night, warmer during the day.
3) The Bed. This should go without saying, but in order to really get good rest your body needs a restful place to lay.
I am a big fan of the Beauty Rest products by Simmons. I think the Sleep Number Beds are big piles of dog poo… just my opinion.
Get a good bed.
4) Pillows and Blankets. 300 thread count sheets and a good blanket to keep warm is all that is required.
The more comfortable you are the easier it will be to fall and stay asleep.
5) Don’t use the sleep chamber for anything but sleep. No working, no Facebook, no eating.
You need to keep this area sacred for sleeping. You need a place to go that you associate with rest and relaxation.
I Can Make You Sleep
So here it is. The Ultimate Sleep System.
Along with working to crack my personal sleep code, I’ve been working to get back in shape.
Just wait till you see what I’ve discovered.
Make sure to comment below.