Easy Ways to Be a Sleep Viking in 2011

You would think being qualified to talk about sleep is a good thing. Often, it’s not.

Just like Robb learned to be strict with gluten much quicker than most, it tends to be those who have the worst problems are who know the most about it. When it comes to sleep, that makes me guilty.

This is because I had epileptic seizures from 16 onward, and kept having them until I got my sleep, stress, and exercise in order. I’m now seizure-free for 10 years (knock on wood)– and always working to know more and improve how I sleep and eat. This is one reason I’m learning about being paleo + ketogenic, why I tried out using a Zeo earlier this year, and also why we made this lovely infographic.

There’s a lot to learn about sleep, just the way there is about diet. It has filled books, including the infamous and difficult-to-read Lights Out. But like the Buddha said about suffering, “When an arrow hits you in the chest, you don’t need to know what it’s made out of. You only need to know how to get it out.”

With this in mind, let’s talk sleep and how to improve it in 2011.

Here are five quick tips for you.

1. Keep to a routine. Your body’s hormones adjust to whatever routine you have, so the more scheduled your life is, the better. Eating at regular times and sleeping/waking up at set times helps you do the same thing tomorrow and next week. This is also psychological– when you see it’s near the time to go to bed, you’ll get sleepy.

2. Along the same lines, set a pre-determined time to stop drinking caffeine every day. I’m narrowing down my hour through trial and error, and it’s sometime between noon and 3pm. 5pm definitely kills me— I toss and turn for hours and sleep horribly.

I’d never know this unless I tracked it. So check it out by keeping a sort of diary about when you’re sleeping and being awake. The Zeo helps with this too (disclosure: Robb and I both received one for free).

3. Lack of sleep is often a symptom of other problems, as well as a cause of yet other ones. Look for the source. Are you working out before bed? If so, quit it. Exercise (except sex, heh) increases heart rate and raises body temperature, making it harder to conk out when you hit your pillow.

Optionally, it could be reading non-fiction that keeps your brain active– some people say you should quit reading fiction at night entirely. Whatever your habits are, set up a system to keep you relaxed at night.

4. I don’t know about you, but I get stressed out just thinking about sleeping. It turns into a vicious cycle– stressed about sleep, so I stay awake, which stresses me out more, etc. I break this cycle with a method I discovered through Viktor Frankl, a holocaust survivor and psychotherapist who wrote an amazing book, Man’s Search For Meaning.

Frankl used Paradoxical Intention to relieve his patients of anxiety by making them try their hardest to be anxious, which ironically prevents anxiety. So do the same thing by trying very hard (lying down and with your eyes closed) to stay awake! It’s surprising and counterintuitive, but it works. :)

5. Finally, stop blue light from entering your house at night. It seems like it wouldn’t help, but many studies show that it isn’t the brightness of light that causes problems, but its colour. Turns out blue light wakes you up, and red/rose light does the opposite. What is the biggest source of blue light in your house? You guessed it: your computer. So download F.lux— it’s free, and based on where you live, it’ll change the colour of your screen at night. Presto!

Good luck and Happy 2011!

Categories: Sleep


Robb Wolf’s 30 Day Paleo Transformation

Have you heard about the Paleo diet and were curious about how to get started? Or maybe you’ve been trying Paleo for a while but have questions or aren’t sure what the right exercise program is for you? Or maybe you just want a 30-day meal plan and shopping list to make things easier? Then Robb Wolf’s 30 Day Paleo Transformation is for you.


  1. Donnie from CC says

    I became a Paleo lifestyle guy about 3 months ago. Before then, I truly slept well. Still do.

    However, I no longer feel like I need 9 hours per night. I sometimes need 8.5 but some nights I sleep 7 or so and feel fully refreshed. I simply DON’T NEED the long hours anymore. It’s like the carbs put me in some sort of weird state. It’s hard to describe but it’s a radical change. (I followed a vegan diet before 3 months ago.)

    • says

      Very interesting. I’ve heard anecdotally from a few people on Paleo that their sleep need is reduced – I think Robb has mentioned this as well. Personally I’ve been Paleo for about 4 months now – no difference in sleep quality or sleep need (I was a pretty good/clean sleeper even before Paleo…). Would be very cool to conduct and experiment on Paleo + sleep and see what happens…

  2. says

    I’ve never had trouble with sleep until lately (as in, the past few months). Don’t know what it’s about yet, but I’m working on it.

    I recently read that thing about trying hard to stay awake, too, so I tried that last night while I laid in bed trying to fall asleep – for, like, two hours… let’s just say Mr. Frankl’s method carries about as much weight as an anorexic hummingbird. It just pissed me off worse.

    (What finally did work, was doing some stretching in the dark and downing some magnesium. Natural Calm, you are my new best friend…)

    • says

      Zeo co-founder here. We designed Zeo with sleeping in the pitch black in mind – you can turn the LEDs off completely and it will track your sleep while letting you sleep!

  3. sv says

    Good post. I just installed f.lux and and really like it – the screen seems like intense and I can relax while I work in the evening.

    One point to share about getting to sleep: Natural Calm Magnesium Citrate is an incredible sleep aid. I’ve had chronic insomnia for years and in the last year or two I was fluctuating between Zopiclone (marketed as Imovane in Canada and Lunesta in the US) and benzodiazipenes. Not a happy road to go down! I have found that the Natural Calm is as effective as the sleeping pills and no side effects or addition potential (ok, actually I AM addicted to a good night’s sleep. Can’t go a day without it. I guess I’m a chronic… [grin]) )

    So if you’re having chronic, long-term issues getting to sleep and want an alternative I strongly recommend the Natural Calm product. Sleeping pills have their place and are an important tool for medical emergencies. But no good comes from long term use. I think it’s better to get a dose of a necessary mineral and a good night’s sleep at the same time. And no side effects.

    Keep up the good work.

  4. Sound says

    Robb, I know you recommend sleeping in a pitch dark room,
    but what about the lack of morning light when using blackout

    • says

      Hi Sound –

      Great question because this can wreak havoc (as it did for me) if you’re not careful.

      Light in your bedroom will affect your sleep quality, so you shouldn’t be worried about not getting the light exposure while you are sleeping.

      When you wake up, however, you want to expose yourself to as much light as is reasonably possible – anything from opening the curtains, to 15 minute walks, to morning light therapy should get you going in the right direction.


      • Sound says

        Yes! Cool. I agree.

        I’ve been digging around and found a relevant study called “Light Affects Morning Salivary Cortisol in Humans”.

        “In the early morning, we demonstrated a temporary increase in salivary cortisol levels after awakening, while light exposure resulted in a ±35% further increase in cortisol levels. Cortisol levels 20 and 40 min after waking were significantly higher during 800 lux exposure than during darkness.”

        “These results demonstrate that light conditions in the early morning have a strong impact on the morning-cortisol peak, but that evening cortisol levels are unaffected by light.”

        Cortisol in the morning is said to give a good jolt of energy while increasing alertness.

        Keep in mind normal bulbs are usually below 800 lux.

        I am still unsure if exposure to light right before waking up has any additional benefit though.

      • Meghan says

        Oooh, thanks. I was just jumping on here to ask this same exact question. I’m reading Lights Out right now and working on adjusting my sleep little by little but unfortunately I can’t sleep whenever I want because of work. Especially in winter when the light goes at 5pm. This morning, when my alarm went off, I stumbled to the window and lifted the shade. It seemed to help me wake up to have the light pouring in, even though it was still weak sunrise-light.

        My next change is to lower the temperature of the house to 67 or 68 before bed. I woke up too hot two nights in a row.

  5. Glen McFarlane says

    Robb, the Zeo has been also recommended by Tim Ferriss. The Zeo website states that it is not available for international shipping. Is it known when the Zeo will be available?

    • Sound says

      Amazon.co.uk will ship it to many countries in the EU.

      If you are considering buying, I recommend checking out some reviews at Amazon.com first.

      Another thing that put me a little off was the vague reasoning for having to replace the sensor every 90 days.

  6. Squatchy says

    I’ve been using F.lux for a while now ever since someone in the comments recommended it. It seems to help when using the computer at night. It feels like the screen doesn’t keep me as awake and “on” at night, and feels better on the eyes as well. It free and uses very minimal computer system resources. I’d definitely recommend it.

  7. Andrea says

    I love Flux! Except when … y’know … I’m needing to stay up and my rosy computer light is putting me to sleep … we can be stubborn creatures. But at least I’m AWARE that it’s all red and not blue.

  8. Kyle says

    I’ve read in some places about electronic devices
    disturbing your sleep. Retrogradations were to have everything
    unplugged and no electronic devices within 10 feet of your head.
    Would be interesting to see if having an electronic device on your
    forehead has negatively impacted anyones sleep quality? In my
    experimentation unplugging everything and getting electronic
    devices away from my head have had inconclusive results so far.
    Although getting everything away from my head has made me less
    likely to say dang I cant sleep let me check facebook on my phone
    real quick…

  9. says

    Very nice post, I also think that exercising is good and helps to fall asleep quicker. I would recommend swimming to everybody who suffers insomnia.

  10. says

    F.lux is incredible. I discovered this app a few months ago and have since installed it on every computer I use. It’s a real lifesaver when on the computer in the evening.

  11. Tim Walsh says

    Hi Robb
    I’m just about to move into a new house and the bedroom needs re-painting. Are there any colours that I should avoid that aren’t too sleep friendly? Any colours that help with a good nights shut eye?


  12. Joe A says

    I dunno about U guys….But I force myself to sleep 8 8hrs and I feel groggy like I slept 8 years!

    I have OSA and Sleep with a CPAP machine….I seem to need less sleep with that thing strapped to my face.

    Falling asleep is typically not an issue for me…Walking UP and feeling rested is. I dunno what to do..I have had sleep doctors tell me to keep at it. Also I find when I sleepn 8 hrs my wakeup Blood sugars are higher then when I sleep 5-6 hrs.
    Any Suggestions? I wake up feeling crappy until I have a Shower, Coffee and my Victoza Shot.

    According to my CPAP Machine my AHI is quite low. ~ 1.2

  13. Mark J Marcinik says

    Should not Paleo type principles be applied to human sleep needs? Our sleep cycle evolved with the cycles of the stars and the moon ( blue light) and I’d bet that the sun woke us up in the morning. I’m amazed that anyone would have a computer or TV in their bedroom. I don’t have any shades on my windows or alarm clocks. I fall asleep when I hit the bed and I wake up when I have had enuf sleep.

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