Hacking Sleep Part 3, The Corona Chronicles

Meet my frenchie. He is the master of sleep.

I posted Hacking Sleep Part 1 and Hacking Sleep Part 2 around two years ago, and haven’t made any major modifications to my sleeping habits since then. 

Under lockdown, my sleep started getting weird, so I began paying close attention to what was happening. Setting aside the strangeness of lockdown, I realized that every day was basically Groundhog Day – so I could start to turn tiny dials on my day to see how it impacted sleep. 

It seems like sleep issues are affecting a lot of people these days, so I wanted to share a few tools I’ve been using to go from good sleep, to great sleep almost every day for the past several weeks:

  1. Unplug by Motion Nutrition – far and away the best sleep aid I’ve ever taken. Yes have a crush on this product, yes I’ll tell anyone who’ll listen. No, I do not receive compensation for my kind words. When I first started supplementing with Unplug I had the clear sensation that I’d slept WELL during the night. A good, solid night’s sleep, where I woke up refreshed. Far more refreshed than with ZMA (see Hacking Sleep Part 2). This continues to be the case almost a year later. Unplug is just a blend of herbs, so there’s nothing pharmaceutical in there, and like a lot of sleep aids, there’s no 5-HTP, which actually messes with your brain chemistry. Also, you don’t build up a tolerance or a dependency on it like you will with 5-HTP. In case you’re worried, I can sleep just fine with no Unplug, but it’s not that sweet, sweet baby slumber that makes me feel like I’m 20 again when I wake up. Grab a sample pack, see if it works for you. Highly, highly recommended. Update: Motion Nutrition sent me a discount code in case you want 10% off, use this link, or use jasonball10)
  2. Rise Sleep – if Unplug got me through the night, Rise Sleep helped me with my day. It’s a very different take on a sleep app, and focuses on your “Sleep Debt”. For me, Rise calculated that I need 8hrs 15 min of sleep per night to not accumulate Sleep Debt (using 359 nights of sleep data – I use a sleep tracker which I’ll cover in point 3). If I sleep less than 8hrs 15min, I begin to accumulate debt, sleep longer, and I get “credit”. Rise works out your circadian rhythm, and suggests when you should stop drinking coffee, when your productive periods are, and most importantly, when you should wind down and go to bed. I followed the app’s recommendations to the letter the first week and saw my sleep debt drop from 7hrs to <1hr. I can tell you, when you have less than one hour of sleep debt, you feel AMAZING. I mean click your heels in the air amazing. My bed time is 9pm now, which seems crazy, but I wake up between 5am and 6am feeling like I’ve just won life.
  3. Sleep tracking – If you want to get your sleep under control, you need to track it. There are several options you can use- Sleep Cycle runs on your phone, and monitors your sleeping. Personally, I use AutoSleep AND Pillow on my Apple Watch. These give me a fairly accurate representation of how I slept, which then act as inputs for Rise. Rise can “track” your sleep too – by looking at when you last touch your phone and when you first touch it, but that’s all they’re basing your sleep on. I’d recommend something more granular if you’re new to the sleep monitoring space. That said, don’t obsess over the stats too much – REM, light sleep, deep sleep etc are all to be taken with a grain of salt. What really matters is total hours of shut eye.
  4. Sleep mask – This was an unexpected game changer. My bedroom is already cold and dark, but as we near the summer solstice, the sun comes up really early. And that light sneaks in to wake me up extra early. Adding a sleep mask has meant I’ll sleep in at times – clocking 9 or 10hrs of sleep! I happen to be using the Alaska Bear sleep mask, but will likely experiment with other options. If you have any recommendations, feel free to share 🙂

There you have it folks. Hope this is helpful, these tweaks have left me feeling at 80%+ almost every morning, and about once a week at 100% 😀

Good luck!

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