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!