How to Hack Your Sleep Cycle: The Fundamentals


Image from Kelly Short

How to Hack your Sleep

Ever have trouble sleeping? Are you tossing and turning some nights, but not others? Do you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night to go pee? How about waking up at 2 or 3 am and not being able to go back to sleep?

If this sounds familiar… Keep reading

This is post is about the fundamentals necessary for engineering a great night of sleep.

If you want to lose more weight, recover from exercise faster, be smarter during the day, than you should also be concerned with getting the most out of your sleep.

Let’s not waste any more time talking about the importance of sleep as everyone from our first grade teacher to our grandma has told us about getting a good night of sleep.

Fundamental 1: Dark

This one is simple, you want your room that you are sleeping in to be as dark as possible. If you can see your hand in front of your face at night, then the room is too light. Let me reiterate this point, you do not want to be able to see your hand in front of your face. This means no TV, LEDs, night lights or ambient light.

The room must be pitch black.

I recommend Eclipse Fresno Blackout Window Curtains. They do a damn good job.

Note: You must take into consideration that if you have not slept well in a while the first couple of nights with the blackout curtains could be interesting. You will probably sleep for a few more hours than you intended to. This is normal. So make sure you set an alarm in case you have an important meeting.

Fundamental 2: Cold

Another simple answer. You want your room as cold as you can tolerate. Cold has a wide variety of health benefits. Improving sleep is one of them.

Aim for anywhere in between 50-65 degrees Fahrenheit (Celsius would be a sauna :)). Once again, as cold as you can tolerate.

Fundamental 3: Stress

This is where things get a little more interesting. If you have had a stressful day, it can be really hard to get some shut eye even if the previous two conditions are met.

We have all been there tossing and turning trying to fall asleep.

Personally, I use a biofeedback device called the Emwave2 to deal with chronic stress. It is an awesome device that you can use to calm down your nervous system and get back to a great night’s sleep. I will talk more about this device in future blog posts.

The EmWave2 Biofeedback device. This one is a game changer!

Other great options include breathing exercises, halotropic breath work, The Holosync Solution Awakening Prologue and meditation. They are all good, try them all.

Common Problems and More on Stress

Nothing ruins a good night of sleep quite like stress, which can come in a variety of forms. For the purposes of this post, we’ll focus on the nervous systems stress response.


Stressed Out Nervous Systems… Which one?

  1. The Parasympathetic system is responsible for stimulation of “rest-and-digest” or “feed and breed” activities that occur when the body is at rest, especially after eating, including sexual arousal, salivation, lacrimation (tears), urination, digestion and defecation. This is the nervous system that would be activated during longs periods of chronic stress especially at work or in relationships. 
  2. The  Sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for stimulating activities associated with the “fight-or-flight” response. This would be the nervous system that gets activated when you see a bear in the wild.


Using your sleep symptoms to determine which nervous system is activated

Stress out Parasympathetic Nervous System?

  • Constant fatigue
  • Inability to sleep through the night
  • Constant fatigue + an increased sleep demand
  • Getting up to pee every 1-2 hours
  • The 4am wake-up call  (this can be earlier if you go to bed at a decent time)
  • No fat loss despite caloric deficit
  • Losing muscle, not fat or looking skinny fat
  • Low sex hormones/drive, low thyroid function, high rT3

Your Sympathetic Nervous system:

  • Can’t Fall Asleep when you lie down
  • Feeling tired and wired
  • Mind Racing while you are trying to sleep

The Fix

I have dealt with the same issue a bunch of times in my life.

The fix has always been the same as well.
Step 1: Back off the chronic exercise or whatever is stressing you out. If it is work, take some time off. That annoying friend who is an emotional vampire, move one. Instead of doing more intense or long duration exercise, do more relaxing exercise, such as taking a walk or yoga.

Step 2. Practice meditation or heart rate variability training. This will teach you to turn off the stress response.

Step 3. Make sure that you are eating enough high quality and nutrient dense food, especially high quality fats and proteins.

Step 4. Reduce the amount of blue light you expose yourself to before you go to bed. Blue light suppresses melatonin and throws off your bodies natural sleep cycles.

Step 5. Spend some time outdoors in the sun, hanging out with people that make you laugh.

Putting it all together

Obviously, there are many other things that one can do to sleep better including supplements, timed nutrition, exercise etc.

But this is strictly about the fundamentals which are: Dark, Cold and relieve stress.

Try it out and let me know how it goes… Comment below.



WEHR, T. A. (1992), In short photoperiods, human sleep is biphasic. Journal of Sleep Research, 1: 103–107. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2869.1992.tb00019.x

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In my typical paradoxical fashion, here is AC/DC with You Shook me All Night Long :)

About Ben Austin

My friends call me the illegitimate love child of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill Nye. I’m a bodybuilding-yogi-science loving-foodie bringing an engineering approach to lifestyle design. Join me as I analyze the systems that go into optimal mental and physical performance and explore the stories and tactics of people who set the standard for the rest of us.
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