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😴 Improving sleep

Written Aug 3, 2023. Discuss on Hacker News.

I'm a very light sleeper: if one variable in my environment isn't perfect (noise, temperature, mattress, moving partner, ..) I will surely wake up and sometimes take a long time to fall back asleep.

That's amplified by living out of Airbnbs and rented furnished flats: I can't consistently control all factors.

According to Apple Watch & Oura I spend 15% of my nights awake, meaning to get my 7h30 of sleep to feel rested + considering time winding down reading, it's 10h+ total in bed. That sucks!

Every couple nights, I'll wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to fall back asleep until 1 to 2 hours later.

So here is a list of things I tried to improve that efficiency and reduce the time I spent awake during the night.

Everything is anecdotal as I don't really trust both the Oura and the Apple Watch to be accurate.

I also bought a 20$ infrared camera to see how some of those factors affect my tossing around and night wake ups.

(By the way, checking the sleep cam recording timestamps seems to confirm that the Apple Watch is more sensible & precise than the Oura, but sometimes identifies tossing as wake ups.).

Things I tried

Legend: 🟢 = Good ; 🔴 = Bad ; 🤔 = Slightly better or Placebo


Impact on sleep onsetImprovement on insomnia / wake upsMorning feelingNotes
Stretching / Yoga🟢🟢🟢NoneGood aid to fall back asleep during insomnias
Mouth-taping + "breath right" sticks🔴🟢🟢Persevering as nose breathing is supposed to be much better.
Yoga Nidra / NSDR🟢🤔🟢After a bad night in the morning, does seem to slightly make me feel better.
Heavy Sport🟢🟢🟢🤔🤔
Eating < 7pm🟢🟢🤔🟢
Reduce drinking after 5pm & eating less saltyNone🟢🟢 or 🔴🔴🟢🟢Can be big win if I don't wake up at all to pee (rare) or big loss if I wake up at 6am instead of 3am, won't be able to fall back asleep.
Falling asleep on my back🔴🔴🟢🟢While I do toss & turn a lot during the night, falling asleep on the back instead of front does seem to be slightly better.
No caffeine after 2pm🟢🟢🟢🟢


Impact on sleep onsetImprovement on insomnia / wake upsMorning feelingNotes
Fan / white noise🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢Not always practical
A/C at < 19c or natural room temp at < 17🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢
Firm mattress🟢🟢🟢
Proper bedding quality🟢None🟢
Airpods Pro + brown noise🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢Saves nights in noisy environments but battery doesn't last the night so had to buy 2 pairs.
Sleep mask / black-out curtainsNone🟢🟢🟢🟢
No overhead lights on after sunset, little screens🟢None🟢
Regular sleep/wake schedule🟢🟢None🟢🟢

(My baseline health is: I eat pretty well, exercice almost every day, breathe clean air & am not too stressed generally.)


Impact on sleep onsetImprovement on insomnia / wake upsMorning feelingNotes
Melatonin 1mg🟢🟢BadNone or 🔴🔴Can help a bunch but If taken in the middle of the night to fall back asleep, will feel it in the morning. So I never take it after 2 am.
L-TheanineNone🤔🤔Need to A/B test. more
Magnesium L-threonateNoneNone🤔Hard to say if placebo.
Weed🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢🔴🔴Morning brain fog & addiction, but best insomnia aid I found.
CBD Oil🟢🤔🤔After a few days of using I don't feel the effects anymore.
Phenibut🟢🟢🟢🟢🟢Probably has bad adverse affects.
GABA + Glycine🤔🤔🤔

Although I don't think I have sleep apnea, I know I need to get around to do a full sleep study.

If you're in the same boat and have tried other things, please let me know!

Edit: bad math & added no cafeine