Sleep Tips

Should You get Sun Exposure in the Morning?

✔️ Takeaway: humans live and thrive by sunlight. It’s essential to get enough sun/light exposure during the day to signal your brain to be awake and focused. If you don’t get enough light, it can bring your circadian rhythm out of whack. It’ll be more difficult to stay awake during the day… and more difficult to sleep during the night.
Time to read: 6 minutes 23 seconds.

Ask any Dutch person on a sunny day how it’s going and he’ll say:

Well, sun’s shining. Everything’s great!

I never paid attention to it, but a quick look on a sunny day in Amsterdam shows you that everyone is walking on the sunny sidewalk. And avoiding the shade as much as possible.

Turns out it’s actually a great thing to do for your health.

Today we’re going to discuss how sunlight regulates your circadian rhythm.

And 5 ways to get more light exposure in the morning.

Ready? Let’s go.

How does sunlight regulate your circadian rhythm?

Light is an important factor to regulate your circadian rhythm. 

Why? Because all in history our days were regulated by the sun.

If it was dark outside, it was basically impossible to get anything done.

Try hunting when you can’t see the animal.

So over hundreds of thousands of years our species got a rhythm that worked WITH the sun.

In short. We are wired to be active when the sun is up.

And we should chill and sleep when it’s night.

What is wrong in modern society?

Well, we don’t get as much natural light as we did even a hundred years ago.

Many of us are living in boxes. Then taking our box on wheels to go to our work box.

So we don’t really get outside.

Add to that the fact that TOO MUCH sun can cause skin cancer. And we’re a nation of people avoiding the sun even more.

Too much sun is bad. But recent studies are showing that avoiding the sun is a hell of a lot worse.

If you don’t signal your brain that it’s time to wake up, your circadian rhythm can get out of whack.

Activity is supposed to peak during the day. So that you can chill at night.

It’s like an up and down line.

So if you don’t cause that upward peak… your downward peak will also be less intense.

Which then causes stuff like insomnia, worrying at night… or being overactive at night.

All stuff that millions of people are struggling with.

And what about lightbulbs?

When you turn on the light in the morning, you might feel as if it’s incredibly light. Your eyes are still sensitive, so you experience the light as very bright.

So doesn’t this count as a signal to your brain to wake up?

Well, yes. It does.

However, studies have shown that to give a strong wake up signal, the light needs to be at least 1000 lux.

For reference. Walking outside on midday on a bright day, the lux can be high up tens of thousands.

Or even on a cloudy day, you still get a couple thousand lux.

So, lamps are not a substitute. In most cases. We’ll talk about that later 😉

So should you get sunlight in the morning?

The burning question.

Should you get sunlight in the morning? 

The answer is an absolute yes.

By getting sunlight in the morning… you:

  • Signal your brain that it’s time to wake up naturally
  • Set yourself up for good sleep at night
  • Have more natural energy and focus throughout the day

getting sunlight throughout the day is important. But in the morning it’s even more important.

As you’re setting up a good foundation for the whole day.
Added to that, you are also more receptive to the stimulating effects of sunlight in the morning.

But it can be difficult to get enough light in the mornings…

Some common obstacles are:

  • Waking up too late
  • Sun coming up too late in winter (after you’re already at work)
  • Working inside
  • Working from home
  • Taking the metro to work

Luckily, there are a couple of things you can do to make sure you get at least 20 minutes.

5 Simple ways to get 20 minutes of light in the morning

It’s best to see if you can get your sun/light exposure before 9AM. However, if that’s impossible for your schedule, then don’t sweat the details. If you can only get it from 9.30 to 10 AM, then that’s a lot better than no sun at all.

Also, some people say it’s best to shoot for at least 20 minutes. The more the better. However, I understand that’s also not possible for everyone. So I personally aim for anything is better than none.

Even if I can only chill for 5 minutes outside on a busy day, I like to take the opportunity. 

Let’s go to the 3 simplest ways to get at least 20 minutes of light exposure in the morning before 9AM:

#1 Take a walk

Walks are great. They get your blood pumping, give your body some exercise and you can slowly prepare for the day. You get to think about what you want to do, and how you’re going to tackle today’s challenges ahead.

What is also does is get you sunlight. You take walks outside. So you get light.

If you’ve got the time, this is the best way to get active and light in the morning.

Walks have tons more benefits for your optimizing your day/night cycle, but we’ll cover them in other articles.

How to: if you have the time, take a 20 minute walk in the morning before work. You’ll feel energized and ready to take on the day. Plus you’ll sleep better at night.

#2 Maybe you already get it during your commute?

This is one thing many don’t consider: light through the window actually count for light exposure. So if you go to work by car, chances are big that you already get your 20 minutes of light exposure.

That is, if you drive when it’s light. Also, if you travel by train, you need to sit next to the window. Otherwise you won’t get your 1000 lux.

A downside is that traveling by metro doesn’t count. As there’s only artificial light underneath the ground.

How to: if you travel by car or bike to work, then you most likely already get enough light in the morning. Be happy that you don’t need to change your routine 😉

#3 Have a coffee outside

This option is great if you need to be at work in the morning before the sun goes up. You can simply take a break around 9 and drink a nice cup of coffee outside. Or any beverage really. Doesn’t need to be coffee.

That will get you your light exposure and wake you up. 

It’s also a great option if you’re on holiday or just chilling on the weekend. You might not be in the mood for a walk. In that case just chill outside and have a nice warm drink.

How to: if it’s impossible for you to get light in the morning because of work, it’s a good idea to take a break and spend it outside around 8 or 9 AM.

#4 Put your desk next to the window

We just discussed that light through a window counts. So you can just place your desk next to your window.

Studies showed that office workers who worked next to a window got one average 47 minutes more sleep at night than workers who worked not next to a window.

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That’s huge.

If you have the chance to do this at your work, you’d be stupid not to do it.

How to: sit next to a window while you work. Once a while, just look outside for a minute or so, to expose yourself to light. 

#5 get a STRONG light source

If none of the above work for your situation, you can try this.

See if you can find a very strong light source. There are lamps created by Philips I think that you can place in your bedroom to mimic the sun’s light.

They’re not as strong as it would be on a good warm sunny day, but they can come close.

Most of them get higher than 1000 lux.

Also, if you don’t want to buy a special light box for this, you can experiment with stronger LED lamps.

I’ve got one at home and it actually gets above a 1000 lux if I’m pretty close to it. 

It’s so bright that I can’t look at it directly. But I like to sit next to it if I need to wake up early, or if it’s a cloudy rainy day.

How to: if you cannot get natural light in the morning, then see if you can get a lightbox or very strong LED light that offers enough lux.

And please don’t be too cool…

You know those people that just seem to be wearing their sunglasses everywhere they go.

With the least amount of sunshine getting through, they put on their glasses. Or even worse: when there’s no sun at all.

Now you’ve got a great valid excuse to laugh at them.

Not only are they making a fool of themselves by acting too cool for everyone… they’re also depriving themselves of natural light. 

After all, your eyes contain the most receptors that signal your brain that it’s light outside.

And if you’ve made this mistake in the past? Don’t worry. Just use sunglasses what they’re meant for from now on. Only wear them on when you’re driving against low sun, or when it’s really incredibly bright outside that you can’t see a thing without them.

Wearing them in most other situations is unnecessary and often even pretty dumb from a circadian perspective.

Sleep Experiments

Sleep Experiment Baseline (Let Me Know Which Experiment You Want to See)

Takeaway: small experiments are a great way to learn more about your own sleep. I’m measuring my sleep with a sleep tracker to learn what works and what doesn’t. I have several sleep experiments planned. Check the list of experiments, and let me know which one you would be most interested in reading.

Time to read: 8 minutes, 10 seconds.

To measure is to know.

That’s why I’m going to do interesting experiments tracking my sleep. 

You can follow my N=1 experiments. If you like a specific outcome, why not try it for yourself?

Quick links

My sleeping baseline
List of experiments I want to try
I need your help

Introducing sleep experiments

I’ve always been doing experiments. Many of them relate to:

  • following a specific diet
  • changing my workout routine
  • small social things
  • more meta stuff like affirmations and meditation

Most of them I did on an ad hoc basis.

I read that [person who achieved something supercool] does [habit X] on a daily basis.

So I’d be trying that as well.

It was a process of throwing things at the wall, and seeing what sticks.

Here are a couple of the bigger things that stuck around:

  • Intermittent fasting
  • Short daily meditation
  • Journalling before bed
  • Taking walks
  • Listening to Russian language courses while traveling/commuting

There are many more things. Most of them are so ingrained by now, that it’s tough to recollect them.

Anyways, a major change came when I read the short free ebook “16 things you should do every day”.

He makes a case for tracking your habits in Excel.

I read it 5 years ago and started tracking almost everything. From calories to daily behaviours. At the time I was in university and drinking a lot. So it was difficult to open my laptop at the end of every day and update everything.

But now I know how tracking works.

Want to lose weight? Count calories.

Get your spending under control? Track every penny you spend.

Anyways. Back to topic.

I did an experiment a while ago taking ashwagandha every night before bed.

That got a lot of cool reactions on Reddit.

So I want to do more of those.

Before that, let’s take a look at my baseline of the last 3 weeks of sleep.

Here’s my baseline the last 3 weeks

After starting a sleep program from HackYourGut, I got a Fitbit Charge 3 as Dave’s recommendation.

If you’re serious about improving your health and sleep, getting a tracker is a must.

I understand the worries about EMF, but here are things I do to minimize EMF exposure.

Average sleep duration

In the 22 days I wore my Fitbit in October, I got a total of 171 hours of sleep. That means that on average I got 7 hours and 46 minutes of sleep. Surprises me actually while doing this calculation.

While going further through my Fitbit data I discovered one hidden graph that already does this calculation. There’s a screenshot below.

I’m Dutch. My Fitbit is in Dutch. Luckily for you, Dutch is super close to English.

REM = REM. Licht = light sleep. Diep = deep sleep. Uur = hour. Week = week. Maand = month.

Average REM 

On average I’m getting 1 hour and 46 minutes of REM sleep. Which is about 22%. Fitbit indicates that for guys my age, getting from 15% to 25% is normal. So I’m at the high end.

Still, I’d love for this to be higher, as REM sleep is great for creative insights. Also, my dreams tend to be fun and I get a few nightmares.

Average deep sleep

Average deep sleep last month was 1 hour and 14 minutes. Which is 15.8%. Fitbit says that the average for guys my age is between 12% to 23%. Here it’s the low end. I would love for this to be higher, though it can also be that the reference group sleeps less.

Your body prioritizes deep sleep. So people who sleep less TOTAL hours, will have a higher percentage.

While they may be getting the same amount – or less – deep sleep.

I want this to be higher. At least 1 hour and 30 minutes would be good. I do wake up quite energetic, but more deep sleep would be very welcome.

Time awake

Fitbit doesn’t give the time awake averages. But on the daily stats I notice that I’m awake for around an hour every night. These are several smaller time periods. Still, it would be nice to sleep more. It’s about average for guys my age though, who are awake for 5% to 20% of their nights.

My girlfriend sleeps less than me, but she’s also awake less at night. While I spend more than an hour in small awakenings, she only has 30 minutes average. And much of that is when she’s just gotten into bed. And before she’s waking up.

Some other things I learned about my sleep patterns

Another great thing the Fitbit does is it tracks your resting heart rate. This is a great indicator of how well rested/recovered you are. So it’s an indirect indicator of sleep quality.

Some other things I noticed in the last 3 weeks:

  • On days where I have a lot of physical activity/walking, my deep sleep is better and I wake up less.
  • Alcohol without physical activity, makes my sleep unrestful. It decreases my REM sleep. It also seems to increase my resting heart rate the next day(s). See the screenshot below for a night after a couple of glasses of red wine.
  • Screens at night (even with blocking red light) can make it more difficult to fall asleep
  • Taking theanine in the morning makes my day more chill, and improves sleep quality.
  • The simple fact of tracking my sleep, makes me more likely to pay attention to the little things that make it better.

I want to verify all these findings by doing more intentional experiments.

List of fun things I want to try

Here’s a list of other experiments I want to try. Since I’m already doing many things to optimize my sleep, I cannot do some experiments adding those in.

For example, I’m already sleeping in a pitch black room. So I can’t check how my sleep improves by getting rid of all light sources.

I can do a small experiment by removing my black out curtains though. It might not be the healthiest thing to do, but it will give a good insight of how the negative effect of light on your sleep quality.

Optimize my sleep

Here’s a list of things I’m not currently doing, and would love to see what the effects are on the quality of my sleep:

  • Meditate before bed
  • Wake up and go to bed at the same time
  • Walk 10.000+ steps per day to see the effect on deep sleep
  • Take magnesium before sleeping
  • Take zinc before sleeping
  • Sleeping without an alarm clock
  • Stop all screens 2 hours before bed (no Flux either)
  • Stop eating 4 hours before bed
  • Take theanine at night
  • Effect of taking vitamin D
  • Effect of fish oil
  • Using a winterlamp in the morning to wake up
  • Sleep with relaxing music
  • Taking a 30 minute walk after dinner

Find out how harmful something is

The following experiments are removing something good I’m already doing. Or by adding in something that might be harmful and I’m not doing.

  • Drinking half a liter of beer at dinner
  • Stop using blue light blockers on my screens
  • Playing video games at night
  • Smoke weed before sleep
  • Taking diphenhydramine for sleep
  • Having notifications turned on at night
  • Drinking a coffee at dinner
  • What happens if I go for a week partying till 4AM? (like in college)
  • Sugary snack before bed

Other interesting stuff

And here are some other things that might be interesting. They can have both effects, I suppose. So who knows what the outcome will be?

  • Waking up at 5 AM
  • Sleeping for 6 hours and a 1.5 hour nap in the afternoon
  • Sleeping without a pillow
  • Sleeping on the floor
  • Following a ketogenic diet
  • Following a plant based diet
  • Following a carnivore diet
  • Cold shower before bed
  • Hot shower before bed
  • Allowing my cat to enter the bedroom at night

Let me know in the comments which one you would like to see most! So I can make a planning of the most interesting ones.

How am I going to measure experiments

These will be N=1 experiments.

Science won’t validate them.

On the other hand, I’ve always loved reading experiment write ups of other people online. And if I physically and mentally feel better doing something – or not doing something – then I’ve made my life a little better.

Same way, if I inspire you to try some of these experiments, and it works, your life gets better too.

Use sleep data from my Fitbit

I’ve done the research and at the moment Fitbit seems to be giving the best sleep data from all trackers. Maybe the Oura ring gets close too. But I don’t like to wear a ring.

I’m wearing my Fitbit every night, so the data gets collected on autopilot.

The data that will be the most useful here will be:

  • Total sleep duration
  • Amount of REM sleep
  • Amount of deep sleep
  • Time awake at night
  • Resting heart rate

2 week experiments

Most of the experiments I want to do for 2 weeks. As that’s a solid timeframe to notice benefits.

It will depend on the type of the experiment though. Some that are harmful, or slightly dangerous, I want to do for a week or less.

This will also give me 2 weeks to get back to normal rhythm every month. So the results won’t mix.

Not completely control my entire life

I’ll do my best to keep a good schedule during every experiment. And not schedule travel through time zones while doing one. So the outcome will be as clean as possible.

I want to keep a log, like with the ashwagandha experiment. So if a party or late night social event messes with my sleep, you’ll read about it.

I need your help

I’ve got a ton of experiments that I’d love to try. It’s difficult to pick where to start. So I need your help…

Go through the list of experiments, and tell me which one you want me to try. Or, if you have ideas of yourself, let me know in the comments.

Sleep Tips

Should You Worry About EMF’s (Electro Magnetic Fields)? Plus 7 Tips to Remove Unnecessary EMF Sources.

Takeaway: EMFs might be harmful. Or not. Science doesn’t have the definitive answer. That’s why you’d do well to remove a couple of unnecessary EMF sources, and then forget about it. Excessive worrying about it will only do more harm to your body.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes, 49 seconds.

A day doesn’t go by you hear someone claim your phone is killing you. Most of us just mentally zone out when we hear those doomsayers again.

After all, even if my phone would be killing me… I’m not sure if I could give it up completely.

Today we’re going to be talking about EMF’s.

Your phone emits them. It’s the main reason why those anti-tech monikers says you should avoid using your phone.

Those claims should be taken with a grain of salt. Though it’s probably not a bad idea to reduce some easy EMF exposure in your life.

What is EMF (electromagnetic force)?

The sun sends out waves that create electric and magnetic fields. Conveniently we’ve called them EMF’s.

So an EMF is a wave that creates an electric and magnetic force.

Now, not only the sun does this. Scientists found in the previous century that also electric power lines were sending out these waves of energy.

Now our lives are basically overrun with appliances that shoot out these fields. Here’s a short list of common appliances that create EMF’s:

  • Microwave
  • Phone
  • WI-FI routers
  • Computers

How does EMF affect humans?

There are 2 types of EMF’s: non-ionizing and ionizing.

We know ionizing radiation is harmful. This is ultraviolet light and X-rays. So sleeping in an x ray chamber wouldn’t be recommended.

But when talking about the non ionizing EMF’s, things become unclear.

A list of things that create non ionizing EMF’s:

  • microwave ovens
  • computers
  • house energy meters
  • wireless (Wi-Fi) routers
  • cellphones
  • Bluetooth devices
  • power lines
  • MRIs

So far the research hasn’t shown that EMF’s are dangerous. 

But, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer says that “EMF’s can be possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

Now, in the last couple of years, many things  have been implied to be cancerous. Living is a carcinogenic, since normal cell division can cause cancer.

However, I believe this claim is better taken seriously.

After all, even though I’m super happy to live in our times, it’s a good strategy to watch out for new things we humans create. Especially when they deliver us super doses of something that’s natural – EMF’s.

One study you should know about compared cancer rates in cellphone users and nonusers. This was back in 2000, so there were people without cell phones 😉

They compared cancer rates in more than 5,000 people in 13 countries and found a loose connection between exposure and glioma a type of cancer that occurs in the brain and spinal cord.

Healthline says the following guidelines should be fine for your EMF exposure:

  • natural electromagnetic fields (like those created by the sun): 200 V/m
  • power mains (not close to power lines): 100 V/m
  • power mains (close to power lines): 10,000 V/m
  • electric trains and trams: 300 V/m
  • TV and computer screens: 10 V/m
  • TV and radio transmitters: 6 V/m
  • mobile phone base stations: 6 V/m
  • radars: 9 V/m
  • microwave ovens: 14 V/m

You can check these with EMF meters. I haven’t yet checked my apartment, but plan on doing this in the near future.

EMF and sleep

Use of cell phones in bed have been linked to insomnia or sleep disturbances. I’m a bit sceptical if this is due to EMF’s, as the blue light from phones wrecks melatonin productions.

Also, if you get an email from your boss about a big project due tomorrow, you’re naturally going to ruminate about that. Instead of nicely calmly falling asleep.

However, you  may be sleeping with your phone on your nightstand. Or maybe even in bed? This will definitely increase your brain’s exposure to EMF’s, regardless of whether you believe that it’s harmful or not.

And if we then look back at those studies with cell phone use linked to brain cancer… I wouldn’t take the risk.

Thought question: what benefits does having your phone close to you give you at night?

And think about it: what does having your phone close to you at night give you? Nothing basically. It only acts as a thing that might possibly harm you and your sleep. So you might as well remove it from the bedroom. Or at least charge it on the other side of the room if you still use it as an alarm clock.

Should you worry?

I’m NOT worried.

Sure, there might be negative consequences, but worrying about it won’t help.

You’d do best to remove all possible high sources of EMF. And then stop worrying.

Sure, you can start living on an island without electricity, but I’d rather not.

The best thing to do is to see where you get a lot of EMF exposure, and then see if you can remove those things.

After all, better safe to be sorry 🙂

Thought question: wouldn’t it be a smart thing to remove the highest sources of EMF, especially if there’s an easy alternative that has other benefits?

My approach to reducing EMF

A quick look around my house showed that the main EMF appliances I’ve got are:

  • Cell phone
  • Fitbit Charge 3
  • Microwave
  • Router
  • Computers

So here’s 7 super easy things I’m doing to reduce EMF. I love these choices, since they literally take 0 – or close to 0 – sacrifice to me. But still remove a lot of exposure.

If I’d get brain cancer in 10 years, and I wouldn’t have done those things… I’d be hating myself so badly.

#1 Charge phone in another room

This is probably the most difficult for most people. Still, you get used to it easily. Just put your charger in your living room, and then start charging it there.

One objection is that you might need your phone as an alarm clock. SOlutions are:

  • Put it on loud and if you’re a light sleeper you still are awoken
  • Charge it just outside of your bedroom so you still hear it.
  • fIf you’re a super deep sleeper, charge it on the other side of your room
  • Get an old fashioned alarm clock. But make sure to cover the lights!

Even if you’re the most pro EMF guy out there, and you sleep with your head in a proverbial microwave, you’d still do well to put your phone somewhere else.

There are so many benefits to this:

  • You’ll get your deep sleep as you’re not awoken by notifications
  • You won’t be tempted to quickly check your email or messages before and during sleep. Which can wreck a good night’s sleep.
  • Less melatonin wrecking blue light exposure
  • No stupid charger light
  • Beat your phone addiction.
  • Be one of the remaining 20% of people who don’t check their phone first thing in the morning.

Time to implement: approximately 2 minutes. You need to walk to your bedroom, take your charger. Find a new place according to charge it. 

#2 Don’t keep my phone in my pocket when not necessary

This one is also about your phone. Since it’s so close to us all the time, it’s the under most suspicion.

Another easy win is to NOT have your phone with your when you don’t need it.

What do I mean by that?

  • Leaving it in the locker when you go to the gym – enjoy more intense, uninterrupted workouts 😉
  • Going for a walk once a while without your phone
  • Leaving it on the table when you’re at home, instead of in your pocket.
  • Putting it in your desk drawer when you’re at work, instead of next to you or in your pocket.

Again, so many benefits to keeping your phone away from you.

I’m not advocating you to be an anti tech monniker, but your phone can be so incredibly interrupting. 

The list of notifications, calls, phantom buzzing etc just goes on and on. Not to speak of that annoying habit of people to check their phone when they’re talking to you.

Your work, social relations, anxiety all will improve if you just have some time every day without your phone.

Time to implement: 5 seconds several times per day. Leaving your phone on the table instead of your pocket is an easy decision. But most people don’t think about it.

#3 Use speaker when calling

I recently started doing this for another reason. My right ear started hurting after a lot of long phone calls. Since I was having them in the evening at home, there wasn’t anyone to eavesdrop. So out of  ear pain I put my phone calls on speaker.

Only just before writing this article, I thought of the fact that it also decreases close contact exposure of my phone with my brain.

The more distance between the brain and the phone, the less EMF will get through.

Again, at first this may seem like an anti-tech monniker advice. But my ear was hurting anyways, so why not kill 2 birds with one stone.

If you’re out and don’t want people to overhear your conversation, sure. Just put your phone against your head. 

Or use headphones.

That might actually be a great idea if you’re on the phone all day for your work.

Just be sure to watch out for the next mistake…

Time to implement: pressing speaker costs you around 0.5 seconds every time you get a call.

#4 Use headphones with a cord

The research isn’t out on this matter yet. The Sound Guys say no. Radiation Health Risks says it’s better to limit our exposure.

It’s another case where I’d rather be safe than sorry. 

And I’ve heard too many stories of friends and coworkers dropping their earplugs in the toilet.

Why I’m sticking to corded headphones for now:

  • I would lose the headphones for sure
  • Most people with bluetooth headphones wear them all the time. Bad for your ears and bad for your social connections. It’s just plain rude.
  • Oh yeah. Almost forgot. You might decrease your chances of  getting brain cancer because of EMF’s.

Time to implement: 0 seconds. Just don’t buy bluetooth headphones.

#5 Turn off continuous synchronizing on my sleep tracker

I’m still not sure what to do here. I’m using a Fitbit Charge 3 to keep track of my sleep. This is important, as I’m running Sleep Investor and need my sleep data for experiments.

However, it does emit bluetooth – and therefore EMF – radiation.

At the moment I’ve done a compromise by:

  1. Having my phone in another room during sleep
  2. Turning off continuously synchronizing

I do not want to be bathed in bluetooth every 10 minutes.

Plus, it makes checking my daily stats, heart rate, steps etc a lot less addicting.

Now 3 to 5 times per day I manually press synchronize and then see how I’m doing. Makes it more intentional as well.

Time to implement: 1 minute to turn off synchronizing. Then it saves you time as you’re looking at your stats less 🙂

#6 Don’t use unnecessary devices

The trend these days is to have all your devices be smart. And I get it. It’s cool to have wifi lamps that you can control by voice. But on the other hand, if you don’t have it, you’re also not missing out too much.

You can get all the smart home stuff if you want. And not worry about EMF’s. 

I’m not using it because my apartment is older, and it would be a hassle to get everything ‘smarter’. Once I move to a modern apartment, I might get all those things. And not worry about EMF.

If you are worried a lot, then it makes sense to not smartify all your appliances 😉

Time to implement: 0 minutes. Don’t buy them.

#7 Keep router away from bedroom

Last one. Also an easy one. Do not put your router in your bedroom. Probably few people have this anyways. But if you do, see if you can place it somewhere else.

If this is not possible, then it’s a good idea to turn off your router while you go to sleep.

Time to implement: 5 minutes to place your router somewhere else. Otherwise 20 seconds at night and in the morning to turn it on and off. Or plug it in a time socket.

Worry… but don’t worry 😉

EMFs and human health is incredibly interesting. If I were you, I wouldn’t take all the claims from the doomsayers and anti-tech monikers to heart.

On the other hand, also don’t take the claims from the pro techies to heart that EMF’s are safe. 

Just remove the main sources of them in your life, and wait till research figures out how harmful – or not – EMFs are.

And if they turn out to be harmful, I’m sure smart silicon valley guys will very quickly figure something out to make them less harmful.

Sleep Tips

How Necessary is it Really to Sleep in a Complete Dark Room Without Any Lights at all?

✔️ Takeaway: making your room pitch black is one of the easiest ways to get more deep sleep and wake up better rested. It literally takes less than an hour to implement it, and the rewards you reap are out of proportionally good.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes, 23 seconds.

Everytime I visit my parents, I sleep like a baby bear. I go to bed at 11PM and at 9AM in the morning I feel as if I’ve awoken from a long winter hibernation.

Why do I sleep so well there?

I asked myself the same question regularly when I wasn’t that interested in sleeping well.

Looking back, it’s incredibly obvious.

My parents live in the countryside, and there’s literally no light in my bedroom there.

Chances are you’ve heard about removing lights in your bedroom, but how important is it, really?

Let’s find out.

A picture I just made of my bedroom at 11.50 AM. Curtains closed.

So is it really important that your room should be pitch black?

If you’re anything like me, you know you should be sleeping in a black room.

I’ve known for years that making your room black is the way to go for deeper sleep.

But the problem is that we don’t know HOW necessary it is.

It’s the main problem with looking for solutions on the internet.

You look up how to sleep better.

You get thrown a 100 tips at your plate. Now enjoy figuring out what you should focus on.

Improving your sleep is not rocket science. There are a couple of things that are incredibly important.

Plus there are some things that cost you an hour or less to set up… and bring you benefits for years to come.

Making your room PITCH BLACK is one of those things.

Let’s dig into history to find out how exactly this stuff works…

Let’s go back a couple thousand years

If we go back a couple thousand years, people lived with the sun. In the morning you would wake up when the sun came up. And at night, you’d stop what you were doing when the sun went down.

Humanity did have some artificial lightning in the form of fire. So in most societies you probably wouldn’t go to sleep right away after the sun went away. But since wood wasn’t always available, it’s a good guess people weren’t staying up till 2 at night. Unless you’d have guard duty.

Now go back 200 years

Now we go back 200 years. It is estimated that if you were living 200 years ago in a civilized area, you’d get approximately 9 hours of sleep.

Sure, there were more types of light, but still not nearly as much as today.

Things changed when the lightbulb was invented and light became more accessible everywhere. Now suddenly it seems like we’ve won the battle against the night.

Productivity goes up everywhere, and people get more time to chill at night. More time to read. More time to enjoy friends and family. More time to do things that are not conducive to good sleep.

Light fucks up your sleep

In the last couple of decades, things have become even worse as far as lightning is concerned. Now we’ve got a little screen with us at all times that emits light that blocks melatonin production: Smartphones. What this means is that when your eyes receptors get exposed to blue led lights, your brain gets the signal that it’s daytime.

This is bad news. Since your circadian rhythm depends on simple cues to know when it’s time to wake and be active – or sleep and slow down.

Therefore you need to be careful what you expose yourself to.

Getting your circadian rhythm back in order is a biggie for a lot of issues, but it’s too big to talk about in this post.

Unnatural light at night is a big one though.

So let’s assume you’re a body. You’re carefully regulated by light to know when to be active or not.

Hundred thousands of years of evolution shaped you in a way that when it’s dark…. You go into rest mode.

Now science comes along and creates artificial light.

It’s 11 PM and after a long day you’re tired. But the light in your house tells you that it’s still 6PM.

What to do? Should you be active or rest?

Now, if you’re young and are generally healthy, your sleep drive will win. But if you’re a little older, have sleeping issues, or just want to optimize your sleep… it’s a super easy win to get rid of all the light

That way you won’t confuse your body with mixed signals.

What happened to my deep sleep after I got rid of all the lights in my bedroom?

Recently I started measuring my sleep. To measure is to know, and it’s super interesting to see how much REM and deep sleep I get.

Before a little light used to enter my bedroom. I had black out curtains, but they were not completely blacking out all light.

This is a night how I’d sleep before.

Here’s a screenshot of how a regular night looks now:

This is not an isolated case. Can you see that I get more deep sleep? And a longer stretch in the beginning of the night?

Another benefit is that it’s easier to fall back asleep after an awakening.

You know that feeling when you wake up in the middle of the night, and there’s light coming in? You suddenly become aware of your environment and start thinking. 

Without any light. E.g. pitch black, there isn’t anything to take your attention. So what I’ve noticed is that it’s much easier to quickly fall asleep again after these short awakenings.

Your mileage may vary, but if it’s something you struggle with… it might just be an incredibly easy solution for it 😉

Extra benefit: apart from more deep sleep, I also noticed it was much easier to fall asleep again after short awakenings at night.

Go on a pitch black adventure quest

So how do you go on a quest to make your room super dark? There are 3 simple steps. First you need to get rid of the electronics, then install dark curtains and finally do a check for the remaining light sources.

Kill electronics

Led lights emit the most wakeful type on the light spectrum. Especially if it’s white or blue. But others also need to go.

Take a good look around your room and make a list of how much electronics you see.

Best time to do this is when it’s dark, as you see them better.

Here’s a short list of common electronics:

  • Phone charger
  • TV
  • Laptop
  • Tablet charger
  • Humidifier
  • Music box

You really don’t need any of these electronics in your bedroom. Better to get them all out in your living room. 

Extra benefit: the less electronics you have in your bedroom, the less chance they will distract you from your sleep. Less light + less distraction = double whammy of better sleep.

Upgrade with pitch black curtains

The main source of light in bedrooms is street light. Especially if you live in a city, chances are you’ve got quite the influx of light.

It’s also easy to fix. Most furniture or DIY stores sell super black curtains. Otherwise, you can also buy them online.

I’m sure they can be found crazy expensive, but I’ve had great results from regular cheap ones. Around $50 if I remember correctly. And taking into account how costly sleep deprivation is, NOT getting black out curtains is more expensive than buying them.

Say you invest $50 in black out curtains. 

As a results you get 10 to 20 minutes per night more deep sleep. Now you feel more rested in the morning.

This makes you more clear minded at work. And you get a couple of small things done more every single day.

After half a year, your boss notices you’re getting more done than your colleagues.

Someone higher up is leaving, and now there’s space for someone up and coming.

The position pays $10.000 more per year, and your boss picks you.

That’s an increase of 20000% on your original investment of $50.

Talk about a high ROY investment in your sleep 😉

Anyway, the point is to illustrate that it’s a little thing to do, but can actually have a big impact on your life.

Good sleep is just a matter of doing a lot of little things correctly, and having a dark room is one of them.

Install black out curtains. You won’t regret it.

Extra benefit: installing black out curtains will make it easier to get enough sleep in summer. When the suns comes up at 5 in the morning, you won’t be woken up.

Slay the remaining light sources

Now your room should be much darker already. But. Chances are that there’s still a lot of remaining light.

After I installed black out curtains, there was still a lot of light coming around the curtains. Sure they worked. Only, they didn’t cover all the light entrances.

So I took an old plaid and covered the light coming from the top.

Beautiful? No.

Effective? Yes. 

My girlfriend had to laugh a lot when she saw this solution. She enjoys everything being beautiful and nicely organized, but I haven’t heard her complain either. Point is, good sleep is more important.

You might find some other places where there’s still light. See if you can remove it. Or otherwise hide it by putting a towel on it.

Extra benefit: you get to practice your creativity 😉

Happy sleeping

Alright that was it. Go take 20 minutes today and remove all your electronics from your bedroom. After that order black out curtains. When they arrive, install them and see if there’s any light remaining.

Go and remove that. Or put a towel over it.

If you’ve never slept in a completely dark room before, you’re going to be in for a cool experience.

It maybe a bit weird at first, but it will definitely help you sleep better.

Going to bed feels even more natural to me now, and I just feel calmer in bed. I also fall asleep faster.

Removing light is one of the few things you can do to improve your sleep massively that only take about an hour maximum to implement. You’d be a fool not to take advantage of this simple method 😉

Sleep Tips

Why I love to Dream About Work

✔️ Takeaway: if you like your work, dreaming about it means your brain is actively processing information. During REM sleep new information is mixed and matched with older knowledge to create novel solutions. If you dream about work, be on the lookout for a creative solution to a work-related problem.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 36 seconds.

“Fuck, I missed the deadline to submitting that presentation to my client.” was the first thought when I woke up in the morning.

Raged out of bed.

Check my watch.

Wait a second.

That presentation is due tomorrow…

It was all a dream.

A dream about work…

Sound familiar?

Why I’m always happy to dream about work

You might feel weird when you dream about work. But it’s not as bad as you may make it out to be. On the contrary… I’m always happy when I’m dreaming about sending emails, writing new blog posts or even missing an important deadline.

When I was working on the website of an IT recruitment company, I also occasionally dreamed about getting more leads… updating code to increase lead sign ups doesn’t sound too inspirational, but it never felt stressful.

My girlfriend usually wakes up earlier at 6.00 Am. This gives me about 1 to 2 hours to get back to sleep. I’ve always noticed that this hour is my most dreamy hour. It’s fun to to have sweet dreams about flying, going on holiday, or being Harry Potter. But it’s even more fun if you know that those dreams are actually helping you advance your career.

So why would you be averse to work dreams? I get that if your work isn’t fun, you’re not going to like even more time thinking about it.

Yet, if your work challenges you, gives you plenty of control and freedom to give your own input…. Dreaming about work is an great thing.

REM sleep and creativity

Before we answer why it’s such a nice thing, let’s first dig into the science surrounding dreams.

Dreams happen during the REM stage of your sleep.

REM sleep is a lighter form of sleeping, where your brain resembles being awake.

The name is an acronym and means rapid eye movement“. Cause your eyes move rapidly from side to side.

But the main gist of what happens is this:

During REM sleep, your brain is mixing and matching information. It adds new information from the previous day to information in your long-term memory.

Little example: Im an avid gym goer. I’ve been doing it consistently for the last 6-8 years. And through this consistency, I’ve made a ton of progress. I know that progress there doesn’t come from 1 workout.

Let’s say I’m also working on improving my health. I’ve decided to quit caffeine. After 2 days of quitting, I haven’t noticed any benefits. I’m still feeling shitty because of the caffeine withdrawal. I’m on the verge of saying fuck it and getting back to fountains of black gold in the morning.

Now I have a good night’s sleep, and during REM the caffeine problem gets matched with my gym consistency experience.

1 + 1 = 3.

“Hey, maybe you should give it a couple more days. Be consistent. And then you’ll start to feel a lot better, maybe?”

This sounds obvious. But it’s during REM sleep, that your brain connects the dots.

So whenever I dream about work, I know that my brain is actively trying to solve work problems.

You must have a couple of things at work, that are not going well. Maybe you’re not getting the amount of sales you need for your bonus. Maybe you’re trying to butter up your boss for that promotion.

Hey, maybe you’re eyeing after the girl from HR, and trying to figure out a way to get to know her without it messing up your career? 🙂

In order for you to get the reward from solving those problems, you need…

Creativity is what you’re after.

To be successful at work, you need to find creative solutions to problems. That’s the only way you’re going to get paid a good salary. Or if you’re in your own business, to earn a good living.

If you’re getting paid to follow other people’s orders, and not add anything new to your job. then there will be a cap on your maximum salary.

The people that add new value and propose new solutions to problems, are the ones that get paid a lot of money. The simplest way to be more creative and have a higher problem-solving capability, is to have more REM sleep.

So if you’re serious about your career, earning money, and basically making something of your life… then you better make sure you get your REM sleep at night

2 Tips to increase REM sleep

Studies have shown that you mainly get your REM sleep at the second half of the night. So here are two simple tips that you can implement to get more REM sleep, for more creativity at your job:

Sleep longer

Below you can see a graph of how I slept a couple nights ago. As you can see I do get more REM sleep the second half of the night. So, what would happen if I would wake up 2 hours earlier? Of course, I would lose at least 20 to 30 minutes of REM sleep.

If you are currently sleeping less than 8 hours, you almost surely are not getting enough REM sleep that you need. So this is the first thing that you need to start working on. I recommend you go to bed earlier. Or see if you can skip several unnecessary morning tasks . This way you’ll be able to get more REM sleep to dream about work 😉

More REM sleep tip: you get the bulk of your REM sleep in the second half of the day. So the longer you sleep, the more ‘creativity’ sleep you’ll get. Also, waking up much earlier then usually can therefore decrease your amount of REM.

Skip the alcohol

I love to have a couple of drinks. But I also know that alcohol can have serious ramifications, if I use it at the wrong time or too much. Especially for sleep, alcohol can have serious consequences.
While you fall sleep faster, it will also decrease the quality of your deep sleep in the first half of the night. And later on it tears your REM sleep to shreds.

  • Don’t drink throughout the week
  • Behave yourself on the weekends (anything after the 6th drink is often unnecessary and worsens your nights anyways)
  • Drink earlier! That way your body will have cleared the alcohol by the time you’re going to bed.
  • Skip the late night shoarma. Don’t give your body more to process than the debauchery you’ve just gone through.

More REM sleep tip: alcohol makes it more difficult for your brain to get REM sleep. Try to drink earlier or skip the alcohol completely if you want to get more REM sleep.

Creativity is your superpower in 2019 and beyond…

In the book deep work Cal Newport says that one of the main superpowers in 2019 and beyond, is your ability to find new solutions to challenges. If you can help a thousand people with a $100 problem, your potential earnings to be $100.000.

Every big company that is making tons of money, can only do this because they’re solving big problems for a small amount of people. Or small problems for a huge amount of people.

I don’t have Netflix, but they’re a good example of solving a small problem for millions of people. Before Netflix there was limited selection of good series. You had to wait till a specific time of the week to watch it. And you couldn’t binge watch them, unless you illegally downloaded them.

Netflix solves all these problems, for just $10 per month.

You’re likely not going to create the new Netflix, but remember that whatever you do… people are willing to pay handsomely if you can solve their problems. You boss included.

So next time you wake up in the morning from a nice dream about spreadsheets, clients and software tooling… please put a big smile on your face. You’re getting ahead of all the competition in your sleep 😉

P.S. did you know that your brain turns off the part for rational thought in REM sleep? Even more opportunities for solving problems!

Sleep Tips

Ultimate Power Nap Guide: Improve Your Health, Productivity & Focus


Napping is for old people.

I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

How many times have you heard that? Ever since Arnold Schwarzenegger told everyone to “sleep faster if you’re in bed for 8 hours” or Donald Trump saying “How does somebody that’s sleeping 12 and 14 hours a day compete with someone that’s sleeping three or four?”, people have been trying to take time for sleep and use them for *productive* means.

Is it really a good idea to sleep less to be more productive? Does napping not work anymore?

No, not at all. Getting enough sleep is more important than ever and napping still is a great way to be more productive, alert, creative and healthy. The people who can get by on 4 hours of sleep are genetic outliers—and if you’re reading this, you probably aren’t among them.

What does this mean for productivity hackers and health enthusiasts?

It means that if you’re looking to live a healthy life—a productive life—that sleeping less is not one of the magical things you can do to achieve that.

Every hour of sleep that you miss has consequences in regard to your focus and functioning. And the sleep debt you’re creating might even never be repaid fully.

It’s really a shame that we as a society have so much distractions that sleep falls along the sideway.

I get it, life is hectic and most of us are juggling so many balls (health, work, friends, family and hobbies), that it’s tempting to sacrifice those ‘useless’ hours in bed.

Not to talk about Netflix who officially claimed sleep as its main competitor.

One look around the metro in a big city in the morning shows that we’re on our way to becoming a sleepy caffeine-driven zombie nation…

What if you could take advantage of this?

You know… the ones who actually get enough sleep, wake up with energy, full focus for the day and actually thrive in our hectic society.

In this guide, I’m going to show you how to use powernaps to get more out of life.

Getting more out of life is NOT a matter of doing more things in the 24 hours you have each day. It’s about doing the right things…

Power naps are a valuable weapon in your arsenal

Naps are one of the few things in life that don’t cost much time—and have tremendous benefits for your health and mind.

You can lay down for 20 minutes after lunch (when you’re not productive anyway) and wake up ready to go with full energy.

The only thing that’s keeping most people back is the old beliefs that napping is for old people, that real adults should be able to get through the day normally.

So we throw more coffee at our sleepiness.

For my own life, my afternoons and evenings are so much more rewarding and productive if I take a nap after lunch. It’s just 10 to 20 minutes, and it clears my mind and gets me ready for the second half of the day. Taking a nap gives me a reset for the day, a second chance.

If you picked up this guide, you’re miles ahead than the majority of people out there. Not many people know how to nap properly. They try it for 2 days, oversleep their nap, become incredibly groggy, and claim that napping just doesn’t work for them.

Napping might be the most powerful ‘skill’ for boundless health

Getting good sleep is one of the biggest factors for great health. If you know how to get enough sleep—whether that’s only at night or with naps—you are set up for a life of health and focus.

Put simply, if you know how to get enough sleep, your cells repair themselves faster, you become less sick, have more energy and even less chances of dying.

If there would be a supplement that costs 20 minutes to prepare and in return you’d get:

  • Better focus
  • Higher productivity
  • More creativity
  • Less chances of heart disease
  • Healthier organs
  • Better hormone balance
  • And more energy

Wouldn’t you buy it immediately? That is exactly what a quick powernap can do for your life.

Sure, sleep won’t cure all your problems. Not getting enough will surely make you less able to cope with them.

What you’ll learn in this guide ( + short overview )

In this guide, I’m going to explain HOW to become more focused and healthy through using naps.

We’ll go over the 10 benefits that napping has for. Both the long-term effects, as well as the immediate benefits that having a quick nap has on your mind.

Then we’re going to discuss the 7 different lengths of naps and how they affect you.

After that, we’ll take a look at the 5 steps you must take to get the most out of your powernaps (and how you can fall asleep FAST).

In the final chapter, I’ll guide you step-by-step through which nap is the most suitable for you and how you can get started with it right away.

The best part about napping is that it doesn’t cost much time, it’s pleasurable and it has so many countless benefits that are hard to get any other way.

Sounds awesome?

Let’s get started!

Chapter 1: Ten Ways Power Napping Makes You More Productive and Healthier

Since sleep is one of the important things in your life, there are countless benefits to getting enough shut-eye time. What if you don’t get enough? In that case powernaps are here to help you.

Below you’ll find 10 of the most important benefits of taking a quick nap. The great thing is that napping is both good for long-term health—and you’ll also experience immediate benefits from taking a sleeping break.

They say that there are no free lunches, but the closest thing we’ve got as humans is the powernap.

It’s important to notice though, that many of the benefits of powernaps come from helping you to catch up on sleep that you didn’t get through the night. Although many studies also found that napping does have additional benefits, even if you already got enough sleep at night.

Immediate benefit #1: Increased productivity, alertness & concentration

Looking for an easy way to get more out of your working day? NASA has done a study on pilots who took a nap of 26 minutes each day, and found that this nap improved performance by 34% and alertness by 54%.

Even if you don’t have as much responsibility as an astronaut on the job (who doesn’t?) these findings are pure gold.

Most people experience an afternoon-slump, in which concentration drops and you find yourself looking for 10 minutes at a paragraph, with continuous re-reading without getting what’s written.

Another study at Stanford among 49 physicians and nurses who worked the night shift found that they benefitted from a 40-minute nap (on average each participant slept for 25 minutes). The results? “Fewer performance lapses, reported more vigor, less fatigue and less sleepiness

If both these professions with an immense responsibility benefit from taking a nap at work – why shouldn’t you?

Further reading

Immediate benefit #2: Improve learning & memory

Have you ever experienced the following scenario? You’re learning something difficult (playing the piano, coding, crafting or any other skill-based activity), and it’s just not working out. You call it a day and come back the next day—only to find that after a good night’s sleep what was difficult yesterday is now second nature.

That’s the power of sleep on memory and learning.

A study from Saarland university tested the memory recall of 41 participants. They were asked to learn single words and word pairs. After that half of the group took a 45-60-minute nap—the other half watched a DVD.

Guess who had the better memory recall? The students who took a nap remembered on average 5 times more words than the control group.

Everyone can benefit from learning new information and skills—your job and livelihood may depend on it.

Further reading

Immediate benefit #3: Stop information overload

A friend of mine is a doctor who has his own clinic. He swears by taking a nap every afternoon. Why? Because he needs to take in much information about each patient, assimilate that with his own knowledge, make a diagnose and recommend what to do next.

If he doesn’t take his nap, he’ll find that he loses focus around 3 to 4 and can’t focus on listening well to the patient. In his job, this can have huge consequences.

A Harvard study found that naps have a restorative effect on visual test results. Subjects were asked to do 4 visual tests (9AM, 12PM, 4PM and 7 PM), and found that those who took naps required less time on the later tests.

Humans are information processing machines, so it makes sense to get the most out of this ability, right? Taking a nap will help you take in more information, and you’ll make better decision as a result.

Further reading

Immediate benefit #4: Relieve stress & boost your immune system

What’s more relaxing than taking half an hour for yourself during a busy day to recharge? Power naps have been shown to physiologically decrease stress markers in the body.

One study found that in 11 healthy man, 30 minutes of sleep restored biomarkers of neuroendocrine and immune health to normal levels after a night of limited sleep. Neuroendocrine is a hormone that’s responsible for the fight or flight response.

Stress hormones are through the roof if you only get limited sleep throughout the night—and taking a nap can reverse some of these negative effects in the body.

It can be difficult to fall asleep—or take time away from your day—if you’re already stressed. But the decrease in stress will allow you to come back calmer and fresher.

Further reading

Immediate benefit #5: Elevate your mood

Winston Churchill said that sleeping during the day gave him 2 days in one day. And I agree, who doesn’t love a good nap? You get a new chance at the day, and if your morning didn’t go as planned, you can try again after taking an afternoon nap.

Now science has also shown this mood-enhancing effect of naps. The study found that, even for people who generally get enough sleep they need very night, napping may lead to considerable benefits for mood, alertness and cognitive performance.

So if you’re feeling grumpy, why not lay down for 20 minutes? You’ll awake with a fresh perspective and good mood.

Further reading

Immediate benefit #6: aid creative insights

The story goes that Salvador Dali used to take naps in his chair with a key in his hand. Next to his chair is a plate upside down. When he’d drift off to sleep, he loses the control over his hand muscle and the key drops on the plate.

It’s in this moment that he got is most creative insights.

He wrote about this moment in his book the 50 Secrets of craftsmanship:

“The moment the key drops from your fingers, you may be sure that the noise of its fall on the upside-down plate will awaken you, and you may be equally sure that this fugitive moment when you had barely lost consciousness and during which you cannot be assured of having really slept is totally sufficient, inasmuch as not a second more is needed for your physical and psychic being to be revivified by just the necessary amount of repose.”

We’re not master painters, but we can learn a lot from this. Have you experienced this state Dali talks about? I do know when I take a nap, the creative juices start to flow in my head. If I take a long nap I forget them—if I have a micronap, like Dali, then when I wake up I still remember.

In this hectic world we can all use an extra dose of creativity to help us overcome obstacles. The great thing about the Dali nap is that it doesn’t even take much time.

Further reading

Long-term benefit #1: Lose weight

The short-term benefits of napping are nothing to scoff at. Taking a powernap becomes even more impressive when you look at all the long-term benefits as well.

For example, naps are one of the most important things you can do for your health and weight loss.

Losing weight is all about eating less or burning more calories. Another component is stress. You’ve probably experienced cravings or hunger when you’re stressed out?

WebMD says that stress and tiredness can make your brain’s reward center more active—so you’ll start looking for something that feels good. Many turn to food in this case.

Sleeping enough will make you less stressed and less tired. If you can’t get enough at night, then taking a nap is s surefire way to combat stress and fatigue—so the chances of finding yourself at the office snack machine at 3.30PM decreases as well.

Further reading

Long-term benefit #2: Good for heart health & prevent a stroke

Which lucky people haven’t lost anyone close (friends or family) to a heart attack? Few. Data from 2012 showed that 28% of Americans over age 40 are taking cholesterol lowering medicines.

It’s one of the silent killers in our society, next to cancer and Alzheimer.

Now, I don’t want to put napping here as a miracle solution, since there are obviously many other factors in play for stroke and heart health, but midday naps are associated with reduced blood pressure and fewer medications.

The study checked 386 middle aged patients (average age 61) and found that—after taking into account factors such as age, gender, BMI, smoking, alcohol and coffee intake—that afternoon nappers had on average 5% lower systolic blood pressure compared to those who didn’t sleep.

Another study in Greece, where the siesta is still part of the culture, among 23,000 adults, found that those who took siestas showed a 37% reduction in coronary mortality rate.

It seems to me that we can learn something from the Mediterranean siesta habit. It’s a free way to reduce heart attacks and lower blood pressure.

Further reading

Long-term benefit #3: Prevent cell damage

Being sleep deprived not only hurts your ability to focus. Research has shown that sleep deprivation literally causes damage to cell in the liver, lungs and small intestine.

Luckily, the study also found that recovery sleep was effective in restoring the balance and decrease cell injury.

Which means that if you’re having a late flight scheduled, and only can make 4 hours of sleep—you can catch up with that by taking a longer nap.

Further reading

Long-term benefit #4: Boost testosterone

Just as with some of the previous findings, a lack of sleep has a detrimental effect on testosterone production in men. Not getting enough sleep decreases the production of testosterone in men.

On study in aging men found that there’s a correlation between amount of sleep and testosterone levels. Men who slept for 4 hours had around 60% less serum testosterone than those who slept 3 hours more (7 hours).

Why is testosterone important? It’s responsible for wellbeing, weight loss, muscle mass retention and having low testosterone relates to overall risk of mortality in men.

A lack of sleep can also cause problems for women with hormones, and a power nap can help to restore the balance.

Further reading

What does this mean for you?

With all the benefits surrounding powernaps, it’s one of the few things that you can do that only takes a small investment of your time and has dozens of incredibly benefits.

On the concrete side, it means that you can lose all the guilt that you might have when taking a nap.

I’m still working on this – and it’s getting better – I feel it a little when I’m taking a nap. For some reason napping is associated with older people. When you’re an adult, you should be able to cope with the stresses of life without *needing* a nap is still the current thinking.

Also, there are quite some practical things that impact your naps. Such as timing of your nap, how to fall asleep quickly, and what to do if you’re working in an office and can’t just go off and take a powernap.

In the following chapters we’ll discuss those—beginning with the different lengths and types of naps…

Chapter 2: How Long Should a Nap Be? (And Which Types of Naps Are There?)

There are different types of naps—depending on duration each offers a different use for you. Below you’ll find the main 7 types of naps that you can choose.

The type you’ll want to take depends mainly on the amount of time that you have. It goes without saying that it’s tough to fit a full sleep cycle nap of 90 minutes into your lunch break at work.

Sleep Related

7 Weighted Blanket Alternatives That You Can Make at Home

A sense of calm. Less anxiety. Falling asleep faster. Relief for restless leg syndrome. Not to speak of all the parents who rave how a weighted blanket ease the symptoms of their child with autism. There are many more benefits that you can get by sleeping under a heavy blanket.

Weighted blankets are a valuable weapon in your quest to get good sleep. But they can be quite expensive. $50+ for a blanket? It’s normal.

So before you take the leap to buy one – please first try one of the following weighted blanket alternatives  to mimic the feeling. It might already be enough for you to reap all the benefits.

My (short story) with weighted blankets

I’m immensely grateful I don’t have a serious (sleeping) disorder, such as clinical insomnia, autism or ADHD. 

But I do notice the difference between winter and summer blankets. I love summer – but if there’s one thing that always troubles me is that it’s harder for me to fall asleep. Why? Because instead of my thick regular winter blanket I’m sleeping under a thin summer one. Sleeping under a thick heavy blanket has a special feeling to it and makes it easier to fall asleep. 

What I’m doing now each summer, is take an old blanket that is pretty heavy – but still gives me enough airflow. So it’s heavier than a regular summer blanket, and still cool enough to sleep well. 

I’ve also done the research and found 7 other low-cost alternatives for heavy blankets. I’ve organised them from super easy to more difficult to create. So you can keep things as easy and simple for you as you like.

Quick recap of the benefits of weighted blankets

Check below if there’s anything you may struggle with or lack in your life. If you tick the boxes of one or more, why not do a 7 night experiment with one of the following alternatives? The biggest risk is you’ll sleep better!

  1. Helps manage autism symptoms
  2. Manages OCD
  3. Panic disorder
  4. PTSD
  5. Eases pain without drugs
  6. Promotes calm
  7. Boosts sleep quality
  8. Helps with restless leg syndrome
  9. Improves ADHD
  10. Reduces stress and anxiety
  11. Feels like a big warm hug!

Check the sources down the page for references!

7 Weighted Blanket Alternatives

#1 Pile of blankets

This is the easiest way to see if weighted blankets might work for you. It might go without saying: if you want to experience the feeling of a heavy blanket, why not try sleeping underneath several regular blankets? You probably have more than 1 blanket, right? So try putting them on top of each other and see if that helps.

For example, if your normal blanket weighs 1.5 pounds, and you want to try a weighted blanket from 15 pounds – then you need to put 10 blankets on top of each other.

If this sounds like a lot of effort, don’t worry. In many cases, just stacking 2 or 3 blankets on top of each other will already have its desired effects.

This is the easiest alternative to weighted blanket, so why  not try it out tonight?

#2 Heavy or tight clothing

This is another cheap option to quickly try out. It’s accessible to everyone and who knows – it might just help you enough to sleep better.

If the main aspect of weighted blankets for you is that you feel as if you’re being tightly hugged, then you could try wearing heavy or tight clothing.

This can also be an option if your partner doesn’t want to sleep under several regular blankets (alternative #1).

If you regularly sleep in pyjamas, you can add a heavy winter sweater to it. Or some extra pants.

The only downside of this method is that you will sleep a lot warmer than if you were to try any of the other methods. You can offset this by sleeping with a light blanket, keeping the room temperature colder than normal or sleeping with the windows open. Or, my favorite, to sleep with your feet NOT under the blanket. You’d be surprised how much heat your feet can lose if you expose them to the air.

#3 Wool blankets

Wool is warm. It can be itchy. A blanket made from wool is also heavier than regular blankets. So it makes sense in this case to take the wool blanket and put it on top of your regular blanket. 

This way you’ll feel the pressure better, without all the itchiness. 

#4 Use dumbbells to pull your blanket down

Now, if you’re mainly looking for the pressure and tight feeling, then this method works great. All you do is take 2 dumbbells and put them on the side of your blanket. This works best if you’ve got a blanket that’s wider than your bed, as you can put the dumbbells on the floor. 

If you don’t have dumbbells lying around at home, than other heavy things work just as fine. The reason why this method works, is the dumbbells stretch your blanket so that it adds pressure to you.

It might be a bit of a hassle in the beginning to get the stretch right, but you’ll quickly learn how it works best for you.

#5 Add weight to your blanket

If the previous options sound a too warm for you. And the 4th one isn’t heavy enough,then you can consider the 5th option. It’s simple. Just add something heavy to a regular blanket. Here are some ideas:

  • Marbles
  • Beans
  • Clothes
  • Towels

Anything that’s heavy, not sharp, and can stay there for a longer period of time. I even saw one site suggesting putting books into it. While that would certainly increase the weight, it wouldn’t be evenly distributed. Not to speak about the uncomfortable!

#6 Equestrian blanket

I personally wouldn’t pick this option, as you would need to wash it 20 times before the horse smell would get out of it. But if you manage to get a new one, that hasn’t been used, you can try sleeping underneath a horse blanket.

All you need to do is get an equestrian blanket and put it on top of your regular blanket. Otherwise it might be too uncomfortable. And be sure to wash it if you didn’t get it 100% new!

#7 DIY Weighted Blanket

If you’re into creating things yourself, then you can also decide to make your own. One quick look at Etsy, will show hundreds of creative people doing just that. I haven’t tried this myself yet myself, but I can imagine that if you take a normal blanket – and add marbles or beans to it (anything heavy and not sharp goes), it would make a great alternative to weighted blanket for a lot less money. Check this incredibly helpful video how to make your own DIY weighted blanket.

Seven night action plan

I’m always disappointed with those super informational posts you often find on Google that have absolutely no recommended actions in them. That’s why I strive to end every post with an action plan. So here’s my 7 day plan to sleep better without buying a weighted blanket 😉

  1. Check the 7 alternatives and give each one a check that you have the materials for at home.
  2. Do you want pressure and warmth? Pick 1, 2 3 or 5 (and fill with towels/clothes)
  3. Do you want just pressure without overheating? Pick 4 or 5 (and fill with marbles/beans)
  4. Try each available variant for you for just 5 minutes. Which one do you find the most comfortable?
  5. Choose that alternative and try it for 1 week. Does your sleep get better? Do you experience an improvement in your symptoms?
  6. If yes, congratulations! Enjoy your newfound better sleep.
  7. If not, don’t worry! Try one of the alternatives and do another test week.

There you have it. 7 weighted blanket alternatives and a 7 night action plan with exactly 7 steps. I wish you good luck with this experiment and sincerely hope it helps you improve your sleep.

Got experiences with weighted blankets? Found a mistake in my article? Just leave a little comment and I’ll get in touch with you!

Scientific literature & sources

For those of you who want more information, here’s some articles I used as sources:

And here are some helpful scientific articles written about weighted blankets. I’d say the research is still in its infancy, but shows promising results:

Sleep Related

How Long Does it Take for Melatonin to Work?

Melatonin is the most popular sleeping supplement in the world. It’s estimated that around 1.3% of all Americans take melatonin. That’s 3.1 million. One common question is how long does it take for melatonin to work? After all, you want to fall asleep soundly and – preferable quickly – after taking melatonin.

Today we’re going to discuss how long you’d have to wait to feel the melatonin effects. But we’ll also talk about other factors that influence this, whether or not you can make it work faster.

Also, for those that say that they do not feel the effects of melatonin: it’s possible that you are, but are doing other things that hinder the melatonins effect from fully taking place. We’ll talk about those in the end.

How long does melatonin take to work?

Here’s the short answer:

In general for most people, it takes about 30 minutes to start feeling the sleepy effects.

However, there’s a range for different people. You might feel it after an hour, whereas I tend to get sleepy after 20 minutes.

This is because after you take melatonin, the supplement needs to go through your digestive system. Then it needs to be taken up into your blood and cross the blood-brain barrier. That’s only when it can start to have its effects.

Quick dissolving vs slow-release melatonin

Look, melatonin is sold in 3 different release tablets/gums:

  • Quick dissolving
  • Slow release

Now, these names imply already what type of effect they have. Most people do fine with the regular variant. But there can be instances when you’d prefer a quicker effect – and times when you’d like to have a slow release.

For example: you regularly take slow release melatonin around 10.30 at night. And you wake up at 7.30. Only today you need to work overtime. You only come home at 11, but you’re not sleepy yet. In this case it might be a good idea to take a quick dissolving tablet.

Other factors that influence how long it takes

Just like with any other supplement that goes through the digestive system before it works, there are many other factors that influence uptake. It goes without saying if you just had a large meal and then pop your melatonin, that it won’t work as fast as if you’d taken it on an empty stomach.

Here are some other factors that determine how long does it take for melatonin to work:

  • Body weight
  • Dosage
  • Age
  • Empty stomach

Can you make it work faster?

In general I’d say you cannot make melatonin work faster. The reason for that is because many factors are outside of your control. You cannot change your metabolism.

What you can do however, is optimize the process. But that needs some planning and forethought.

If you take regular (quick dissolving) melatonin and you do not have a large meal in your stomach, then you’ve already optimized the uptake of melatonin for 80%.

Some people might argue that you can take MORE melatonin to make it work quicker. But research has shown that for melatonin more doesn’t have an effect. It’s recommended to start at the lowest dosage of 0.3 grams and then see if it has an effect.

The placebo effect can also help

If you’ve taken melatonin many times throughout your life, even the act of taking the pill can already make you feel more sleepy. I certainly experience this and the moment I take melatonin, I quickly start to become tired.

My body and brain are conditioned that they’ve associated melatonin with falling asleep quickly and sleeping for a long deep sleep.

So in this case, I might be off to dream land already after 10 minutes. Even though the melatonin technically isn’t working yet.

Does it matter? I don’t think so. Melatonin is supposed to help you sleep better. So it doesn’t matter which road it takes as long as it accomplishes the goal.

Maybe something else is stopping you from sleeping?

One common problem with melatonin is that its effect is subtle. With a bit of willpower or outside circumstances it’s not that difficult to override its effect.

When you take melatonin, it pushes you subtly into the direction of sleep. If you then take this push, get ready for bed and lay down, it will be easier to fall asleep.

However, if you keep on watching a scary horror movie and get a cup of coffee – you’re probably not going to feel sleepy.

The stimuli from the coffee and the movie will be stronger than the subtle push of the melatonin.

So in this case you yourself might be the limiting factor for how long it takes.

how long does it take for melatonin to work
If this is you at 2 AM in the morning, you might be stopping melatonin from working correctly.

You can see melatonin as the navigation in your car. If you follow its instructions you’ll get to where you want to go faster.

But if you don’t, and go in random directions (or opposite), you might not even end up at your destination (sleep). Or it may take you two times as long.

Here’s a list of things that will hinder how long it takes for melatonin to work:

  • Exposure to blue light in the evening
  • Stress
  • Cafeïne
  • Other exciting stimuli

Also, if you’re simply not tired yet, the push from melatonin can be not strong enough to make you tired. For example, I could take all the melatonin I want at 11AM, I am probably not going to fall asleep (unless you count my 2PM power nap!)

Conclusions melatonin timeline

If you take melatonin, you’ll likely feel the sleepy effects in about 30 minutes. It can be as early as 15 minutes if you’re sensitive and took it on an empty stomach. Or it can be as long as 1 hour if you have a tolerance and just ate.

Important to note is that there are some things you can do to stop melatonin from working. Things such as coffee, blue light exposure or other exciting things may cancer the push melatonin gives you towards sleep.

Sleep Related

Signs That It’s Time to Seek Help for Your Sleeping Disorder

There are many things you have to do stay healthy. So many, in fact, that it’s sometimes difficult to stay on top of them all. That long list includes eating a balanced diet, getting plenty of exercise and managing stress. All of those are difficult if you can’t get enough sleep.

It’s the keystone of well-being without which all the rest comes tumbling down, posing a major long-term threat to the 60 million Americans who suffer from insomnia each year. If you’re among them, you’re right to be worried, but don’t let that cause you to toss and turn at night any more than you already do.

There are measures you can take at home to improve your chances of getting a good night’s slumber, such as keeping your bedroom as dark as possible, showering at night and drinking chamomile tea before bed. It may even be as simple as buying an air purifier or humidifier (be sure to do some online research for a model that works for your family before making a purchase, though — How to Home is a good place to find reviews on home goods). But what if all that doesn’t work? It may be time to see a doctor. Here are some warning signs that you need medical attention.

General Fatigue

Feeling tired every now and then is perfectly normal, but it shouldn’t last for days on end. Before you peg insomnia as the obvious culprit, be sure there isn’t something else to blame, such as a mood or anxiety disorder. Viral infections and diseases such as anemia and hypothyroidism also cause excessive tiredness.

Weight Gain

There’s more to it than just being too tired to go the gym because you didn’t get your Zs. It turns out that sleep deprivation disrupts the levels of hormones that regulate hunger, causing you to crave calorie-dense foods even though you’ve already eaten enough. What’s more, that leads to fat deposits around your waist, increasing your risk of type 2 diabetes.

Repeated Illnesses

According to research cited in an article by the Valley Sleep Center, even a small reduction in the amount of sleep you get can result in a weakened immune system, thus leaving your body more susceptible to infection from viruses and bacteria, increasing the likelihood that you’ll fall sick. Flu season can be particularly dangerous.

Difficulty Concentrating

This is often accompanied by lapses in memory, trouble finishing tasks and an inability to stay organized, and they’re all linked to a lack of sleep. Your brain remains active while you snooze, removing waste products from its cells. When that doesn’t happen, you feel “foggy” the next day and unable to think clearly.

Feeling Overwhelmed

It’s a vicious circle. Stress keeps you awake at night, and then you feel tired the next day and find it difficult to perform at work. That leads to even more stress until it all spirals out of control into a full-blown anxiety attack. Left unchecked, the process can result in serious mental health disorders.

Problems at Work

You can probably see where this is going: your job becomes increasingly more difficult as you struggle to think your way through daily duties, all the while dealing with stress that keeps building and building. If you’ve called in sick one too many times, that also does damage to your reputation in the company.

Relationship Issues

The explanation for this should be fairly obvious, but it’s also bolstered by science. Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, found that not getting enough shut-eye can result in not being as “engaged [with] and [appreciative] of your partner the next day,” reports Everyday Health. The result? An awful lot of strain in couples.

Dozing Off While Driving

This should be the last straw. Research shows that people with difficulty falling asleep are 2.4 times more likely to die from an injury sustained in a motor vehicle accident. What isn’t mentioned is how much more likely they are to kill someone.

Hopefully, things haven’t gotten this far, and you can end sleeplessness on your own. If many of these warning signs apply to you, don’t be ashamed to ask for help from a professional. You need and deserve it.


This is a guest post from Julia, a retired board certified nurse practitioner from There you’ll find tips that she has developed to help you be your own advocate in seeking medical care, dealing with insurance companies, and how to make sure you are contributing to your own health and well-being. Her best advice? Befriend your doctor!


Image via Unsplash.

Sleep Related

Cushion Firm vs Firm: Which Is Better for Which Type of Sleeper?

cushion firm vs firm

Mattresses come in all sorts of sizes and shapes. So it can be difficult to learn which mattress is the best choice for you that today we’re going to discuss different firmness types in mattresses. So you learn which type is better for you, if you’re suffering from back pains, or want your mattress to be comfortable. The main focus of today’s article will be cushion ferm versus firm.

On the surface both terms may seem similar, but there are slight differences in how they are produced. And more importantly, how they feel when you sleep on it. What exactly? Find out…

What’s the difference between cushion firm and firm?

Firm is the most firm option that most mattresses give you. It gives the most support – but has a harder feel.

Cushion firm on the other hand, still offers the same support as a firm mattress. With the difference that it’s a bit softer. So the majority of people will find it more comfortable to sleep on than a complete firm mattress.

Sometimes cushion firm mattresses are also referred to as medium firm mattresses. That’s because they’re in between firm and soft.

Which is better for you?

A firm mattress is a mattress that usually has a small layer of foam on top to soften the mattress slightly – while keeping the necessary firmness from the lower layers for support. This a good choice for you if sleep usually on  your back, but also for stomach sleepers.

Many people with back problems also like to sleep on a firmer mattress, as it offers more support and they don’t sink into the mattress. This can take the spine out of balance and you might wake up with back pain.

A cushion firm mattresses better if you sleep on your side, as you need to sink more into the mattress. A too firm mattress for side sleepers can feel uncomfortable. Also, many couples tend to prefer a cushion firm mattress, in case both partners need to compromise.

Despite that firm mattresses are generally better for back and stomach sleepers, you can still sleep well on a cushion firm mattress on your back and stomach. If you sleep in a mix of positions, then I highly recommend you get a cushion firm mattress.

Cushion firm mattresses are often made like a regular firm mattress, but with extra cushioning added on top to make it feel softer when you sleep on it.

Cushion ferm vs firm

So here’s a quick recap of what we discussed in the previous paragraph about the differences between cushion firm vs firm:

  • Cushion firm: great choice for couples, side sleepers and people who sleep in a mix of sleep positions
  • Firm: solid choice if you only sleep on your back or stomach, or if you need extra support for your back.

Mattresses that offer both

The great thing with many modern mattresses, is that you can customize them. Now, the materials used are often not customizable, but you do get the choice to choose between cushion firm vs firm. So if you like a specific brand of mattress, you can choose the right firmness that suits your body and sleeping pattern.

One important thing to mention is that cushion firm is also often just called medium. So it’s neither soft nor firm. So bear that in mind as many mattress companies don’t use the exact cushion firm term. Which might confuse you if you’re looking for a specific mattress with that terminology.

Even if you’re not completely sure which of the two firmness types you prefer, there are a couple of options:

  • You can go to a mattress store and try out different mattresses with different firmnesses. This will allow you to get a physical feeling with each type and will make it much easier to make the right choice. The downside of this is that you won’t get a complete image of it by laying on the bed for 5 minutes while talking to a salesman.
  • The other option would be to do your research online (or go with your first hunch after testing it out in the store). Then when you’re looking for a mattress, make sure that they offer a trial of at least 30 days. This will allow you to check if the mattress is correct for you. After all, you get at least 2 week’s sleep on the mattress and you’ll learn exactly if you comfortably sleep on it or not.

If you already have bought a mattress and find that it’s too firm (or not firm enough) there are a couple of things you can do to change the firmness.

The first thing is to check your warranty. maybe it’s still possible to exchange the mattress for another one with a different firmness.

Some companies also offer you a mattress topper if the mattress is too firm for you. Which brings us to the nex point. You can get a mattress topper to soften the sleeping surface. This will make it more comfortable and you’ll sleep better.

Final thoughts cushion firm vs firm

The main differences between cushion firm vs firm are that firm is good for those with back issues, who sleep on their stomach or back. Cushion firm (or medium) is better for couples (who need to compromise on what’s best for  both), side sleepers or if you sleep in a variety of positions.

Most mattresses can be bought in different firmnesses, so you can easily shop around and you’re not confined to a specific brand.

Also, if you’re unsure what you prefer, you can go to a mattress store and try some mattresses there. Alternatively, order a mattress online that has a sleeping trial of at least 30 days. This will allow you to test it at home and then make an educated decision if this is the right choice for you.

P.S. want to buy a comfortable mattress that offers different types of firmness? Check out the Nectar mattress – if you buy now you get $125 off and 2 FREE pillows! More information here.