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Dr. Andrew Huberman’s Sleep Routine: What to Know

Dr. Andrew Huberman is a neuroscientist known for his research on vision. He’s recently gained popularity by breaking down complex neuroscience topics for the general public. In his podcast and newsletters, Dr. Huberman drops some valuable tips on how to get better sleep.

About Dr. Andrew Huberman

Dr. Huberman is a neuroscientist and professor at Stanford School of Medicine. His research is mainly focused on the study of vision, but he is also involved in developing tools used by the military, athletes, and technology industries to enhance neural plasticity, mitigate stress, and optimize sleep.

Sleep problems are a global epidemic. In the U.S. alone, there are 50 to 70 million people living with sleep disorders. Many people are looking for a solution to improve their sleep.

This is one of the reasons The Huberman Lab podcast is so popular. It consistently secures the top position in the science, education as well as health and fitness category.

Dr. Huberman’s tips for better sleep

Dr. Huberman shared some practical tips on how to get better at sleeping. Here's a list of his recommendations, along with the scientific explanations behind them.

1. Get sunlight exposure

Dr. Huberman recommends getting sunlight exposure within 30 to 60 minutes of waking up and again before sunset — but why is this important? Our body naturally craves the sun, and there’s a valid reason behind it. Sunlight plays a crucial role in synchronizing the body’s circadian rhythms.

Circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that occur within a 24-hour cycle. Sleeping at night and being awake during the day is an example of circadian rhythm.

Humans have a group of nerve cells that form a structure called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). The SCN is located in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. The SCN controls the production of melatonin, a hormone that causes sleepiness. When light enters our eyes, specialized cells in the retina detect the light and send signals to the SCN. The SCN, in turn, coordinates various biological processes based on the information received.

Exposure to sunlight in the morning, especially in the first hours of waking up, helps suppress the release of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep, while increasing alertness. Conversely, the absence of sunlight, particularly at night, triggers the release of melatonin, signaling the body to prepare for sleep.

Dr. Huberman suggests catching some sun in the afternoon as well. He points out that the sunlight during that time has a lower wavelength. Sunlight contains blue light, which can interfere with melatonin release and disrupt sleep. As the day goes on, the sunlight shifts to include more red and orange hues with a lower frequency. These are less likely to disturb melatonin production. So, getting some sun in the afternoon can help signal to the brain that bedtime is approaching.

When night comes, it’s best to stay in the dark. Exposure to blue light from electronic devices can interfere with the release of melatonin and disrupt sleep. That’s why Dr. Huberman recommends avoiding bright lights at night, particularly between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m.

2. Have regular wake up and bedtime hours

Research shows that keeping a consistent sleep schedule by waking up and going to bed around the same time every day can have several benefits for overall health and well-being.

Consistent bed and wake times help regulate the body’s circadian rhythm. In other words, it becomes easier for the body to understand when it’s time to be awake and when it’s time to sleep.

A structured sleep routine gives the body a better chance to get enough sleep that aligns with its natural sleep-wake cycle. This lead to feeling more rested and refreshed. Of course, make sure to get 8 hours of sleep each night in addition to sticking to a regular sleep routine.

Another important tip, especially for those who struggle with insomnia, is to only use the bed for sleep and sex. When a person spends a lot of time in bed engaging in activities such as reading, watching TV, or scrolling on their phone instead of sleeping, the brain starts associating the bed with wakefulness rather than sleep. As a result, it can become more difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.

3. Avoid caffeine before bedtime

Caffeine is found in coffee, energy drinks, supplements, foods, and medications. Its chemical structure is very similar to that of adenosine, a chemical compound responsible for slowing nerve cell activity in the brain.

When people consume coffee or other caffeinated foods or drinks, caffeine travels to the brain and binds to adenosine receptors, blocking them. As a result, this inhibits adenosine's usual effects, leading to increased alertness.

Drinking coffee to stay awake can contribute to difficulties initiating and staying asleep. This situation can create a vicious cycle of sleep loss and caffeine reliance. Based on a systematic review, it is suggested to stop consuming coffee at least 8.8 hours before to prevent decreases in total sleep time.

4. Avoid naps longer than 90 minutes

A short nap is an effective way to overcome daytime fatigue and stay alert, but for that purpose, naps must be kept short.

That’s because the depth of sleep increases as the nap continues, reaching its maximum after approximately an hour. If an individual wakes up during this deep sleep phase after an hour, they might experience reduced functioning due to sleep inertia.

However, a 20-minute nap circumvents this issue since it allows the person to wake up during a lighter stage of sleep. Evidence shows brief naps (15 to 30 minutes) can deliver many health benefits, including:

  • Boost workplace performance
  • Enhance physical performance
  • Lower the risk of heart disease
  • Improve cognition
  • Relieve stress
  • Improve well-being

On the other hand, longer naps (>90 minutes) have been associated with adverse health outcomes such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Higher frequency of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Increased risk of type 2 diabetes

5. Reduce alcohol consumption

Alcohol consumption, even in small amounts, can negatively impact a person's sleep quality. While alcohol is commonly perceived as a sedative and might initially help some people fall asleep faster, it can disrupt the overall sleep cycle and lead to poorer sleep quality in the long run.

Alcohol is a sedative, making individuals fall asleep faster, leading them to enter deeper stages quickly. However, as night progresses, this can create an uneven distribution between slow-wave sleep (SWS) and REM sleep. Consequently, sleep quality is compromised, resulting in shorter sleep duration and more frequent sleep disruptions.

6. Consider taking dietary supplements

A balanced diet usually provides the necessary nutrients for quality sleep. However, not everyone can get all the nutrients they need through their diet alone. In these cases, dietary supplements can be helpful. Dr. Huberman recommends these supplements to anyone looking to improve their sleep quality:

  • 145 mg magnesium threonate or 200 mg magnesium bis-glycinate. Magnesium is a mineral found in the body. Low levels of magnesium are linked with poor sleep quality. Research suggests that taking magnesium supplements could potentially improve sleep for some people.
  • 50 mg apigenin. Apigenin is a flavonoid found in many vegetables and plants, including chamomile. Apigenin has calming and sedative properties that may induce relaxation and improve sleep.
  • 100400 mg theanine. Theanine is an amino acid found in tea leaves and some mushrooms. Research suggests that theanine may influence several neurotransmitters within the central nervous system to promote relaxation and facilitate sleep.

7. Keep the bedroom dark and cool

Creating a cozy sleeping environment is essential for ensuring a restful slumber. This includes various factors, such as keeping the bedroom dark enough to prevent melatonin suppression and choosing a comfortable mattress and bedding.

Room temperature is also important. Experts suggest that the best temperature for sleep is around 65°F (18.3°C). Dr. Huberman recommends keeping the room cool and using blankets to cover yourself if needed.

The suggestions provided by Dr. Huberman are grounded in scientific knowledge and can help improve the quality of sleep for many individuals. However, if sleep difficulties persist despite following these recommendations, it is advisable to consult with your doctor.

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