Optimal sleep habits—Lessons learned

Matej Nemček 🌱🌍
8 min readSep 15, 2020

This might be hard for anyone, but with small increments, you may eventually get there and have nice lucid dreaming for yourself. For Free.

Skimp on sleep, and you handicap your brain’s processing power.

Photo by Ann Danilina on Unsplash

This article is like summary leassons I’ve learned through sleep hacking on myself. With improving sleep, you may access huge benefit, if you have various sleep disorders nowadays. I won’t promise you anything, you need to try yourself 👩‍🔬 I’ve splitted this article in two general sections — physical and mental.

Physical environment — adoption

Photo by Curtis MacNewton on Unsplash

Sleep Schedule — Timing matters

Good sleep starts the day before, it’s called sleep schedule. Try to maintain your sleep schedule. Easy as that. That means go sleep the same time as the day before. This is a mayor key, I guess which worked for me.

Length of Sleep — Does it matter?

In general you want to have at least 6 hours of sleep, but do not oversleep yourself. There is no perfect length one-size-fits-all, but I’ve learned, when I read and learn during that day a lot, my sleep is longer 1–2 hours. You may notice this effect on yourself too. Length depends purely on you, but my best recommendation is to wake up without an alarm clock or any external buzz. Otherwise it could start instant headache from morning as you may be still asleep.

A substantial amount of deep sleep in a night is one reason why we feel fresh in the morning.

I like to sleep a lot. You may see I’ve managed to have a decent amount of Deep Sleep and REM. Recently Garmin moved ~ 1h of my deep sleep to the REM state what I’ve noticed (analytics on background)

Graphs are based just on movement (one-hand) and HR measurements. No brain waves. Mind that.

What gets measured, gets managed. — Peter Drucker

Measure Sleep State — Get a smartwatch or sleep tracker

I think you would be generally surprised how you are doing and see some nice positive change. You may want try that and collecting data points on your sleep.

To quantify our experiment is important to see how much deep sleep you are getting every night. There are sleep stages Light, Deep, REM. You want to get most of the Deep sleep and REM state.

In general, a person needs 7–9 hours total sleep and 1.5–2 hours of restorative sleep per night on average.

Photo by Fran Jacquier on Unsplash

Limit screen time before bedtime

Or any attention grabbers at least 1–2 hours before sleep and do some mentally dull actions, like reading or gardening is perfectly fine!

This is fairly crucial as your consciousness is getting attacked by various visuals and it generates alertness to your brain. Blue light generated from the phone suppresses melatonin levels which are needed to fall asleep.

Cheap hack is to set your screen to grayscale at 7pm. If you have Android, Google made dedicated site to Digital Wellbeing.

Photo by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis on Unsplash

Don’t eat late — eat at least 3–4 hours before sleep.

Yes, generally, sleeping with an empty stomach is kicking your night intermittent fasting and normalize your blood sugar levels and may start autophagy if you don’t do breakfast till noon.

Avoid these before bed time

  • Gluten and lactose — This could be highly individual on everyone gut biome, but I found that my stomach takes while whenever I eat any bread. Burger counts.
  • Sugar — higher Glycemic Index even spikes your resting heart rate and you have nervous and interrupted sleep, probably.
  • Alcohol — Great to make you fall asleep, but breaks deep sleep
Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

Limit daily intake of caffeine — Yerba Mate works best for me

Since ever I guess, I determined, I’m not a fan of coffee as it makes energy spikes and sweating, which I don’t like in the end. I’ve drunk a lot of Club-Mate during the day which is not perfect I guess because high sugar inside (5g/100ml) so I just went with pure Yerba Mate, bombila and hot water (80C). It’s perfect while you travel and work.

Photo by Chase Kinney on Unsplash

Exercise — HIIT every 2–3rd day

This part works for me well. Getting one-day high-intensity intervals for 5–15 minutes in the HR4 zone with afterwards recovery in HR2 works for me. I’m meanwhile on track trying the Garmin Couch plan for Mountain Biking to improve my performance, so far it’s well balanced and may later write a review.

An important lesson here is not to exercise close to bedtime. Your exercise should end at least 3 hours before bedtime.

Photo by Kaitlan Balsam on Unsplash

Lighting — Savana Sunset

I’ve got Philips Hue in all my flat and I’ve managed to set lights on the evening to red/sunset. Your body slowly adapts to this routine and that smart neuron connection in the brain will tell you is about time to sleep soon. That sets your mood and prepares you to fell asleep. Works here.

Photo by Motoki Tonn on Unsplash

Breathworks — 4–7–8

You may hear about meditation just before sleep time and I can confirm it really helps. It has a few positive effects, generally, it’s lowering your

  • resting heart rate — that’s good to have a longer lifespan
  • respiration rate — less your breath, calmer you can be
  • stress levels over the day — you can single task more efficiently

Sleep Routines

This is a good starter to get you into rails of those who want great sleep and nail you to your routine. With my partner, we’ve learned whenever it’s time to go the bed, so we brush tooths together and do breath works sometimes.

Photo by Thanos Pal on Unsplash

Bedroom optimizations

My bedroom is my sanctuary. It’s like a refuge, and it’s where I do a fair amount of designing — at least conceptually.

— Vera Wang

Mattress — this is quite hard and very individual by weight. In general, get something you are comfortable, but don’t get too soft and not too hard. In general thick mattress (20–30cm) would do the job.

Acoustic panels — As I previously wrote, I have tons of acoustic panels and I put them to the bedroom walls. I felt improvement over the first night. As my body is sensitive to various vibrations I felt like in a floating tank. Pure silence and hear nothing. Have you ever visited recording studio?

No mobile devices in the bedroom — You should keep your bedroom without any electronics (unless it’s electric blinds), just fresh air intake, just like in old medieval times. Maybe light.

Electric blinds — I think one of my best investment so far. Into electric blinds which rose at 6am little and then half hour later go full up. It wake you up naturally. At 7am I’m usually getting up self, depends on my body clock, sometimes I sleep till 8am.

Air temperature — This should be somewhere between 15C-18C with lot of fresh air.

Plants — snake plants or aloe vera may do the trick to bring little more oxygen in the room while you are sleeping.

Blindfold and earplugs

If you are blue light-sensitive and sensitive to any noise, you might want this to try yourself. For me earplugs worked well, just could not get along with discomfort in my ears. So I got a lot of acoustic panels in the bedroom and I feel like sleeping in the recording studio. Just silence. Even I live near the train depot I don’t hear whistles echo anymore.

Sex before sleep

‘Sex’ is as important as eating or drinking and we ought to allow the one appetite to be satisfied with as little restraint or false modesty as the other.

— Marquis de Sade

In general, sex just before sleep improves deep sleep states and in women helps also boost estrogen. I think lot of readers already figured this out. Obivous fact.

💊 Supplements

Anything that consists of magnesium and melatonin may be good and improve sleep levels. Just mind that you should take it at least half hour or best hour prior sleep time.

Deep Sleep from Ahead Nutrition

I’ve been testing a few vendors for “deep sleep” pills and this won my heart so far. Rich in Zinc and Magnesium, Melatonin, Lemon Balm extract with Passionflower blossom extract.

I can recommend to experiment with amino acid L-tryptophan and 5-HTP. L-tryptophan is direct precursor of serotonin.

Mental upgrades for sleep health

Do daily reflection

If you reflect on the things you did right, on your successes, that allows you to celebrate every little success. It allows you to realize how much you’ve done right, the good things you’ve done in your life.

— Leo Babauta

Every time before your sleep routine starts, you may want to feel good and ask yourself:

  • What were the three amazing things that happened today?
  • What’s one, two, three thing(s) I learned today?
Photo by Yeshi Kangrang on Unsplash

Reframe negative experiences

Our key to transforming anything lies in our ability to reframe it.

— Marianne Williamson

I always follow the exercise above with this question:

What’s one thing you could have handled better today?

This exercise is designed to help prime you to act in accordance with the best version of yourself. You know, the loving, caring, intelligent, centered, strategic person you are.

When you reframe a negative experience by visualizing yourself acting as your highest self, the brain begins to create neural pathways that will be available to you when a similar scenario puts you to the test. — Dr. Stephanie Estima

Reflection and visualization prime you to get it right next time.


I gathered all lessons for last few months I’ve put sleep quality and lowering heart rate on my target as I felt its my primary way how to regenerate my brain (costs you 8 hours every night) and get better results at some things.

In return I can be great learner, have improved mood levels, lowered body weight, be stress-resistant, single task over multitasking, improved my bike performance, overall life-quality improvement and health benefits.

If you liked my thoughts, keep in touch, my DMs are open.

Want to continue?

If you liked this article, you may find one I wrote on solely on lowering resting heart rate. May be similar to you. Good sleep goes with low heart rate in hand.