The Truth About Sleep Hacks: 10 Ways To Biohack Your Sleep For Optimal Energy (Deep Sleep Optimization, Part 5) | Dr. Michael Van - The Science Of Optimal Human Performance

If you’re able to get enough sleep but don’t feel refreshed in the morning (maybe you’re feeling groggy, tired or flat out sleep deprived) today we are going to dive into the top biohacks you can use to take your deep sleep to the next level.

Now that we have covered the basic aspects of how to optimize your circadian rhythm and environment, how to diminish EMF exposure, and supplements scientifically proven to aid in sleep, we are now going to dive into the biohacks you can use to take your sleep to the next level.
The biohacks we are going to go over today are additional tips and strategies to take you from a good sleeper to an optimized sleeper.

In this article, we are going to go over:

  • Binaural Beats and Nature Sounds
  • Hot-Cold Alteration Therapy
  • Red Light Filters For iPhones
  • Gravity Blankets
  • Food Tricks
  • Meditation
  • Controlled Breathing
  • Mouth Tape
  • Sleep Trackers
  • Advanced Sleep Biohacks

Watch my new video now, or keep scrolling if you prefer to read the whole article…


The Truth About Sleep Hacks: 10 Ways To Biohack Your Sleep For Optimal Energy (Deep Sleep Part 5)



1. Binaural Beats & Sound Therapy

The sounds of nature can be very calming and if you think about it, we as humans evolved to hear nature sounds such as rain, waves, birds, wind, etc. Using nature sounds from apps like Calm and Brainwave work great for this and have been scientifically proven in clinical settings to help with sleep quality1.

Binaural Beats are another type of sound therapy to help reduce anxiety and improve sleep.

Basically, binaural beats are a sound technique where you combine a slightly different sound frequency in each ear to create the perception of a single new frequency tone. For example, if your left ear receives a 300-hertz tone and your right ear receives a 280-hertz tone, your brain will receive the difference and absorb a 20-hertz tone.

Program your binaural beats program for delta waves to help with your deep sleep. Below you can see a picture of the app I use, Brainwave, here for my deep sleep setting. As you can see, I use a nature sound background consisting of medium rain and the brainwave setting is on deep sleep.

The Truth About Sleep Hacks: 10 Ways To Biohack Your Sleep For Optimal Energy (Deep Sleep Optimization, Part 5) - Dr. Michael Van (Michael VanDerschelden)

Brainwawe, the app I use to facilitate my sleep, and the specific “Deep Sleep” settings i use.


2. Hot-Cold Alteration Therapy

Hot-cold alteration basically means going from a hot shower or sauna to a cool environment consisting of an ice bath or cold shower.

We already talked about how hot exposure before bed, like sauna2 or a hot shower, can help with sleep. When you combine it with cold therapy, that can potentially add a little extra benefit. Although initial acute cold exposure activates your sympathetic nervous system, once you become acclimated to cold after repeated exposure, it will actually do the opposite and activate your parasympathetic nervous system3.

This is what you want before sleep.

How To Do It?

You have a few options. If you have access to a sauna, you can stay in the sauna for 15 min followed by a cold shower for 5 min or you can take a hot shower before bed and the last few minutes finish off on the coldest setting.



3. iPhone Red Light Filter

I love this red-light filter trick! If you, for some reason, absolutely need to use your phone at night or just dying to check your Instagram one more time before bed, then have this red-light filter equipped. This is a lot better than just the standard “night shift” feature, which still emits bright and blue light.

Here’s how to enable it on the iPhone:
  • Launch “Settings” from your Home screen.
  • Tap “General”.
  • Tap “Accessibility”.
  • Tap “Display Accommodations”.
  • Tap “Color Filters”.
  • Tap the switch next to “Color Filters” to turn them ON.
  • Tap “Color Tint”.
  • Tap and drag the “Hue and Intensity” slider at the bottom all the way to the right.

The Truth About Sleep Hacks: 10 Ways To Biohack Your Sleep For Optimal Energy (Deep Sleep Optimization, Part 5) - Dr. Michael Van (Michael VanDerschelden)

Now you can enable the shortcut to get there quickly. Here is how:

  • At the bottom of the “Accessibility” options screen select “Accessibility Shortcut”, then select “Color Filters,” as shown in the left image below:

The Truth About Sleep Hacks: 10 Ways To Biohack Your Sleep For Optimal Energy (Deep Sleep Optimization, Part 5) - Dr. Michael Van (Michael VanDerschelden)

Now, you can enable and disable this red-light filter simply by triple-clicking your phone’s home button, at any point.

For android phones, you can google the shortcut. This isn’t going to help you sleep better per se, but using and activating this filter will help you use your phone at night (somewhat) guilt free.



4. Gravity Blankets

My wife and I just upgraded to an Eastern King mattress, and we were looking for the perfect comforter.

After doing research and with my new fascination with sleep, we came across therapeutic weighted blankets. These are engineered to be around 10% of your body weight to help you relax by activating your parasympathetic nervous system. It does this by simulating the feeling of being hugged or held on to. According to the marketing of these blanket manufacturers, this can help increase serotonin and melatonin and decrease cortisol, all together improving your mood and promoting restful sleep.

I can only speak for my experience with this type of weighted blanket so far. What I love the most is the snugness feeling and the feeling of being “secure”!



5. Eat Kiwis

The Truth About Sleep Hacks: 10 Ways To Biohack Your Sleep For Optimal Energy (Deep Sleep Optimization, Part 5) - Dr. Michael Van (Michael VanDerschelden)

Eat kiwis before bed? According to the research, absolutely!

Studies show that kiwi consumption an hour or 2 before bed helps improve sleep onset, duration, and efficiency in adults4. There are a couple of characteristics that may make it a strong sleep-promoting food:

its high antioxidant levels and its high serotonin levels.

Recently I’ve been experimenting with a smoothie consisting of cold processed micellular casein and kiwis in the evening. The casein gives me slow-digesting protein that my muscles can absorb during the evening. The kiwis give me antioxidants and vitamin C, a precursor to collagen for recovery and repair. I also get the serotonin, a known neurotransmitter that helps with sleep.

Just be mindful that not everyone can tolerate whey or casein!



6. Meditation

I will be the first to tell you I have little experience with meditation, having never done it consistently. I have done sessions focusing on my breathe utilizing Headspace and Calm apps, but never anything serious.

With that said, the research is undeniable in its benefits and I would be remised if I didn’t add this…

Mindfulness meditation has been shown to improve sleep quality in multiple clinical populations with sleep disturbances5. It looks like mediation works by downregulating the stress response, reducing circulating stress hormones and activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Meditation also seems to normalize melatonin production.

Regardless of the specific technique, it can set your body up for relaxation and set you up to get your mind stress-free before entering deep sleep. Many people who have done meditation consistently say how it has probably been the single most effective activity at controlling the mind and relaxing the body during the day.

It’s really hard to dispute this and I think in the future I am really going to focus on putting higher priority on this practice.



7. Controlled Breathing

This is similar to meditation. For instance, slow and deep breathing activates your parasympathetic response while rapid and shallow breathing activates your sympathetic response, leading to a release of cortisol and other stress hormones.

A good technique I like to use is the 4-7-8 breathing technique developed by Dr. Andrew Weil. This is a great technique that combines controlled breathing with counting and is particularly effective when your mind refuses to shut down at night.

It is also a potent remedy for anxiety because it calms the nervous system.

Here’s how to do it:

Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth. First blow out all the air in your lungs. Once all air is out, breathe in quietly through the nose for a count of 4. Hold it for a count of 7. Then blow out the air through your mouth with pursed lips making a “Woosh” sound for a count of 8. Repeat this for 4 breathe cycles.

You can watch a full demonstration here:


8. Mouth Taping

Although it sounds weird, taping your mouth at night is a great strategy to prevent mouth breathing and force your body to breathe through your nose. While this may sound a bit bizarre, it is actually a very effective strategy for proper breathing with a number of health benefits as shown below:

  1. Decrease heart-rate and blood pressure and improve blood oxygen levels: This helps with deeper sleep and less snoring.
  2. Asthma and allergy relief: The nose serves a function of warming, filtering, and moisturizing air.
  3. Dental Health: Mouth breathing dries your mouth, which can result in an environment that harms the oral bacteria. This leads to dry mouth, which can put you at risk for cavities as the teeth are now devoid of the protective saliva. Did I mention mouth breathing also destroys your breath?
  4. Relaxes the Body and Mind: Mouth breathing activates the sympathetic response, while nose breathing activates the parasympathetic response.
  5. Nitric Oxide: We produce around 25% of the nitric oxide in our sinuses, but this only occurs when we breathe through the nose. This helps decrease blood pressure and arterial inflammation and increases sleep quality and memory.



9. Track Your Sleep

The Truth About Sleep Hacks: 10 Ways To Biohack Your Sleep For Optimal Energy (Deep Sleep Optimization, Part 5) - Dr. Michael Van (Michael VanDerschelden)

I think tracking your sleep is a great tool because you see firsthand the effect of the different lifestyle hacks and interventions are having on your sleep quality and quantity. For example:

• Did that afternoon coffee interrupt your sleep?

• Did you find that morning exercise make your sleep better but evening exercise makes it worse?

• How long does it take you to actually fall asleep (sleep latency), and what is the proper time to bed to get a full eight hours of sleep?

All these questions can be guided by the sleep tracker you chose to utilize.

There are many sleep trackers out there, and as mentioned before in parts 1 and 2 of this Sleep Optimization series, I use the Oura ring. I find it the most convenient thing to wear almost all the time as it is similar to size and weight of a wedding ring.

It is not perfect, however. It uses algorithms that don’t actually measure your EEG, so accuracy on certain parameters can be a little off. For example, this study shows that REM sleep seems to be over-exaggerated and deep sleep under-exaggerated6.



10. Advanced Biohacks

This section consists of more advanced biohacks that I don’t have a lot of experience with. ‘More advanced’ also generally means ‘more expensive,’ so take these advanced strategies with a grain of salt. Even though I don’t have a lot of experience with the following (if any), I have seen people using them, but generally they tend to be more of the advanced biohackers out there like Ben Greenfield.

  1. Dreem Band: The Dreem device is designed to help you sleep better while collecting a wealth of data about your sleep, such as your brain waves and heart rate.
  2. Whole Body PEMF (Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields): An example of this is the BioBalance Mat that you can lay on for the entire night.
  3. Low-Frequency Whole Body Vibration: Low frequency vibration helps induce sleep, just like how get sleepy in cars when driving long distances.




I give myself, like the sleep doctor himself Dr. Matthew Walker, a non-negotiable 8 hour sleep opportunity every night.

As Dr. Walker explains:

“That’s not because I’m trying to practice what I preach… If you understood what I know about sleep and all-cause mortality as well as most disease processes, you would realize I’m being nothing short of utterly selfish in my preservation of an 8 hour sleep opportunity. I don’t want to die young and I don’t want sickness and disease in my life.”

My number one goal is optimal human performance in every phase of my life.

And to use another quote from Dr. Matthew Walker:

“There is no physiological system in the body and no operation of the brain that isn’t wonderfully enhanced by sleep when you get it or demonstrably impaired when you don’t get enough”

You have just learned about some amazing sleep hacks that have been shown to increase sleep quality.

If you feel like you need additional support besides the previous tips we discussed in the Sleep Optimization Series, give them a try. I find that they really help getting a great night sleep. This means, of course, that I am setting myself up for ultimate regeneration and recovery to function at my very best the next day.

Again, these biohacks will help you get an optimized, deeper sleep, and as you know this will give you INCREDIBLE energy and mental clarity during the day!




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