Few things are more frustrating than insomnia.
You lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, tossing and turning, desperately trying to fall asleep. You try to calm your mind and body but just can’t seem to do it.
What should you think about as you lay awake?
What should you do with the anxious feelings
that build up inside you?
After so many years of sleeping poorly, is it even
possible to sleep deeply and restoratively?
If you wrestle with these questions, you’re in the right place.
I’ve waged my own battle with insomnia (more on that in a minute). I know the devastating effects that it can have on both the mind and body. I’ve also learned how to overcome insomnia and recover my sleep.
In this guide, we’ll look at the science of sleep, as well as specific strategies for overcoming sleeplessness.
Whether you’ve experienced chronic exhaustion and insomnia for years, or just recently started having restless nights, the sections below will lead you to the promised land of beautiful, peaceful, satisfying, deep rest and recovery.
Image: Shows changes in Oura Ring sleep tracking scores bad vs strong sleep. Total Sleep: Amounts to the total sleep I experienced. Efficiency: How well I slept while laying down in bed. REM Sleep: Rapid Eye movement sleep, dreaming state valuable sleep. Deep Sleep: Restorative deep stage sleep. Latency: Delays in how well I shifted into stages. Timing: When I went to bed and when I woke up. *This post will help you understand these markers as we discuss them.
Ready? Let’s go.
I. My Sleepless Story
Most of my life, I never had an issue falling or staying asleep at night.
But when I left my corporate career in my early 30s to become an entrepreneur, the added responsibilities caused my stress levels to immediately jump. Failing projects and difficult financial situations made things even worse, causing increasing negative emotions. Constantly ruminating on negative things lead to serious sleep challenges.
I started relying on stimulants to get through the day and I developed an anxiety disorder. As the anxiety increased, it became tougher and tougher to get through the day.
To top it all off, I was in a relationship where communication had eroded, and I didn’t know how to fix things, which raised my anxiety levels even more.
The combination of all these things pretty much killed my sleep. Every night I’d lay down and my heart would start racing, anxious emotions would fill my body and feed a racing mind. Eventually, it got to a point where I was no longer worrying about the challenges of the day but was entirely focused on whether or not I was actually going to fall asleep and sleep well.
Those anxious nights of insomnia were dreadful. I’d lay awake in bed with my eyes closed, feeling angry and frustrated, dreading being exhausted the next day.
I developed anxiety about the idea of sleeping. Everything I did leading up to sleep would make me more anxious. I’d be extremely careful not to “upset” or deviate from my routine, worried that if I did anything outside of the ordinary, I’d get a bad case of insomnia.
It was brutal, and it felt unbeatable.
But I’ve got some really good news for you: you can beat insomnia.
I’m living proof. I know what it’s like to recover totally, not just to sleeping well but to being totally confident that I fall asleep quickly and easily every night without challenge.
Whether I’m traveling, out late, in bed early, my conscious confidence in my ability to sleep is incredible. After spending hours and hours researching sleep, I’ve learned scientifically proven habits that empower me to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Now I want to share some of those with you. I want you to not only sleep better but have a war chest of tools that will absolutely destroy those anti-sleep demons.
But first, let’s look at the anatomy of sleep and why it’s so important.
II. Understanding Sleep Stages
The American Association for Sleep Medicine (AASM) categorizes sleep into 5 distinct stages. I’m going to focus on the three below and exclude wakefulness and relaxed wakefulness as they are less of what we think of when considering our “sleep.”
Deep Sleep: Slow Wave
REM Sleep: Dreaming
Image source: Ouraring.com Sleep stages
For most healthy adults, this is where you spend the majority of nightly sleep time. It’s a stage of light, regenerating sleep. You experience rest and recuperation as muscles relax. Light sleep happens throughout the night, at no particular time more than another.
Deep sleep is thought of as the fountain of youth. This is a slow-wave stage of sleep where the body and brain do a lot of physical repairs. Your brain’s glymphatic system removes waste and neurotoxins, and your muscles and body recover.
Deep sleep tends to occur more towards the beginning of the night. If you stay up later than usual, you’ll typically see a dramatic drop in overall deep sleep, while earlier bedtimes usually support longer intervals.
Rapid Eye Movement is a powerful stage where our brains file and process the day's learning and memories. It most directly correlates with dreaming and often occurs near the end of the night, right before waking.
It’s generally thought that we want to optimize sleep as much as possible for Deep and REM sleep. The more of those two stages we get, the more physically and mentally rested we will feel.
III. The Critical Importance of Sleep
Sleep is, without question, a key to living greatly. It is the ultimate cognitive enhancing nootropic and physical performance enhancer. It is the best way to treat and prevent disease and health deterioration.
If you get it right, in the right amount and quality, you WILL perform significantly better. You will transform your entire life in all areas. The effects are deep, long-term for your health and disease prevention.
A list of major benefits include:
Improved, Stabler Mood 
Healthier Heart 
Increased Athletic Performance (Strength, Recovery, Response)
Cancer Prevention 
Stress Reduction 
Even if you don’t want to change your social schedule, diet, or implement any number of the recommendations below, simply improving the quality of sleep, when you do sleep is powerful. With even a few of these improvements ratcheting up the quality by small increments can compound the effect sleep will have on the rest of your life.
Now that we have a deeper understanding of what sleep actually is, let's talk about what you can do to noticeably improve your quality of sleep!
IV. Priming Your Mind For Sleep
Despite the observation that makes sense to us consciously, when we sleep our minds do not turn off. In fact, they work in different ways on different aspects of our psyche. Although you’re no longer conscious, your unconscious and subconscious minds are accessing, processing, and working quite actively in sleep stages.
Image Source: Masterfile.com Royalty free
The unconscious mind is powerful and stores many of our habits and beliefs. As you experience weeks, months, or even years of poor sleep your mind creates limiting beliefs that poor sleep is common for you. When you start internalizing that you will not sleep well, deeply, or throughout the night it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
To break this pattern you must start stating and imprinting new beliefs, that may feel quite unbelievable. I outline this process in detail in my book, but a brief primer would be to zero in on two of the most common sleep issues most individuals encounter: struggling to fall asleep and not sleeping well throughout their rest.
By stating, better yet, writing down 3-5 affirmations, 3-5 times each just prior to bed in the present tense you can begin to inscribe new belief patterns:
“I fall asleep quickly, easily, peacefully, and happily.”
“I sleep deeply and soundly all throughout the night, awakening bright and refreshed.”
“Falling asleep comes easily and naturally to me.”
“When I lay down calmness and relaxation washes over me.”
The best part about priming your mind is that you don’t have to actually know how to myelinate your brain! Your body already knows what to do, it’s your consciousness that’s holding it back. These affirmations set the intention for you to consciously attune to your body’s needs and give it permission to do it well.
"Affirmation without discipline is the beginning of delusion." Jim Rohn
Very few people will take the time and commit regularly to re-writing limiting beliefs consciously. This is why very few people change. But I can tell you first hand this is one of the most powerful ways you can begin to solidify new belief systems. Especially when you’re conquering challenging insomnia and sleep struggles. Practice this ritual nightly for 2-3 weeks and I would bet you’ll see a shift without any other changes.
I outline more of the science behind this and the right and wrong ways to do this in my book below. Much of sleeping well is about convincing your unconscious mind you’re safe, and that it’s okay to fall into a deep sleep without resistance. Once it’s primed and has internalized this belief, you will see your insomnia diminish quickly.
V. Priming Your Body For Sleep
You’re biologically encoded to sleep well. If you “live well” and hack ways to be more ancestrally consistent with how we’ve lived for millions of years, you will naturally sleep better. I cover a more exhaustive list in my book but these below will help the vast majority of individuals.
Our bodies run a rhythm. One of the most challenging but most important things to consider with optimal sleep quality is to regularly and consistently go to bed at the same time. Many high performers set a sleep time alarm, instead of a wake up alarm.
Modern humans have lost touch with nature. In centuries past, one of the very first things we experienced was direct light from the sky. This light more directly reaching our eyes and skin triggers our body’s natural clock. It clearly signals to the natural cycle that the day has officially begun.
Do physical movement early in the day and preferably outdoors. Our ancestors often walked for miles, regularly tracking, hunting, sprinting. Now many of us rarely do this even monthly. The morning walk can be a powerful 1-2 punch. In fact, an outdoor walk has become one of the most potent recovery and refreshing modalities I’ve found.
Getting a healthy dose of physical activity daily (even if it’s just a brief walk) will play a role in improving sleep quality.
The sun provides an incredible amount of energy and life for our planet. Humans evolved to experience sunlight directly.
There are tremendous benefits to experiencing sunlight. Skin doctors have been trained to protect the skin from sun at all costs, even if it means wrecking health in other areas. In fact doctors have classified UV rays from the sun as carcinogenic! Unfortunately, they are zeroing in on melanoma and the burning effects UV radiation may have without taking into account everything else the body gains from this powerful nutrient.
Getting a healthy dose (not burning but being outside 30-60 mins every day) of sunlight every single day actually does more good than harm for your overall health and will greatly improve your sleep quality. In fact, some studies even show it reduces your overall risk of skin cancer.
Our bodies are electrical systems, with the electron-transport chain being the primary way our cells generate ATP (their energy). Our heart runs on electrical impulses, our brain neurons fire electrical signals. Our ancestors slept on surfaces much more closely connected to the earth and grounding force.
Grounding is an electrical term that relates to when you are able to connect to a solid source of earth ground to neutralize and send back excess electrical build-up. By grounding, it allows the built up surplus charge and electrical energy to be neutralized and sent back to the earth rather than build up. Walking barefoot on earth, even for 5 mins can greatly improve this.
Watch What You Consume
The things and when you eat and drink have a significant impact on your quality of sleep.  In general, you should try to avoid eating anything after sunset. Eating later will sabotage your hormones and throw your sleep out of whack.
Caffeine has a half-life of 6-12 hours, depending on your body type and metabolism. This means that if you drink an 8oz mug of 120mg caffeine in coffee at noon, there will still be 65mg of caffeine in your body 12 hours later. The later in the day you consume caffeine, the more trouble you’ll have sleeping.
Alcohol also has a negative effect on sleep, suppressing REM and limiting the overall quality. If you’re going to drink, try to do it earlier in the day, limit consumption, thoroughly hydrate, and move later in your day to help metabolize and return your body closer to baseline prior to sleeping.
Although you don’t want heat during sleep, any sort of heat exposure during your day - sauna, bath, shower, etc. - can aid in detoxification and fluid flow. It helps in detoxification through sweat and also flushes fluid to improve circulation. Overall this also acts as a hermetic environmental stressor when done in healthy amounts to enhance overall vitality and sleep quality. Numerous studies have been done to show the health benefits of sauna and regular sweating and how it improves overall health.
Being able to live environmentally comfortable 24/7, 365 is a luxury our ancestors didn’t get. I love being able to control my apartment and the temperature I experience hour by hour, but it’s just not ancestrally the way we were designed.
Many of us may have forgotten that our environment constantly cooled for our ancestors as they slept through the night. Adjusting your thermostat (especially if you have NEST) to drop the temperature throughout the night is one of the most powerful hacks to aid your biology in sleeping better though the night.
Have you ever been camping and slept amazing? One of the biggest factors from studies signaling sleep is not the light but the actual temperature.
That said, cold exposure is something our ancestors likely experienced regularly, and it shows some serious health benefits. Exposing your body to cold temperatures will improve deep sleep significantly. It will also trigger glutathione production in the body naturally.
Using a chest freezer, I built my cold plunge. You can find the exact walk through of that process on my channel. I usually do the cold plunge up to my neck for five minutes and notice deeper, longer sleep. Submerging my entire head in for 15-20 secs each time I jump into the plunge seems to refresh my whole body.
Cryo using cold water seems to show better recovery results for most, but the evidence isn’t entirely conclusive. It certainly seems like crossing icy streams and lakes of cold waters fed by glaciers and cold rivers are more ancestrally consistent than encountering air below -170F shirtless for 3-4 mins. In either case, the point is cold exposure is powerful at improving sleep.
If this is not easily accessible, you can still take cold showers and take cold baths from time to time. For cold baths, just empty out that freezer ice maker in a bath of the coldest temperature. As much as I hate the experience and shock of the feeling it initially tolls on my body, the effects and benefits are clear.
If you’re a chronic light sleeper and feel like you’re seriously lacking in recovery and deep sleep, I can’t recommend cold water immersion strong enough. Showers (at least 60 secs) will help, but baths and plunges will create much more improvement.
Want Access To Everything I Know About Sleep Optimization?
If you implement the seven strategies listed above, you will see a noticeable improvement in your sleep.
But honestly, they’re just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sleep optimization. After combing through thousands of pages of research and testing many different strategies, I’ve learned the exact steps to take to ensure I get the right amount of the highest quality sleep every night.
No more insomnia. No more struggling to fall asleep.
Image: High sleep quality scores from Oura sleep tracker. Notice the high levels of Total, REM and Deep Sleep as well as high %.
I want to share all that I’ve learned with you so that you can experience the same deep, restorative sleep that I do every night.
In my book Sound Sleep: The Mental and Ancestral Sleep Game Mastered, I compiled EVERYTHING I know about sleep. In it, you’ll learn:
How to condition your mind for sleep (nobody talks about this!)
How to win the mental game that happens each time you lay down
A powerful strategy for reprogramming harmful beliefs that sabotage your energy
The profound connection between affirmations and sleep
How to focus your mind and energy so that you feel calm and relaxed
What you should think about as you fall asleep
The impact coffee, alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine have on your sleep
How to optimize room temperature for ideal sleep
The ideal light conditions for optimal sleep
How to choose the right mattress
When your last meal of the day should be
And much, much more
Whether you struggle with insomnia or simply want to improve the quality of your sleep, this is the book for you.
Sleep is such an undervalued part of our health and modern society. It is one of the biggest levers to optimal human performance, both physically and mentally. It is our natural way to recover and heal. It is when we process our thinking and flush toxins from our brains. It is a place where our mind synthesizes and activates creative problem-solving.
Optimizing sleep has improved all other areas of my life. Honestly, I can’t even do justice to how great these improvements have been.
How would optimizing your sleep change your life?
What if you were able to get the same quality of sleep in 60% the time?
What would you do with an extra few hours in your day?
What could you accomplish with 20% more sharpness, memory, cognition?
How would that higher cognition change your life?
What would your physical goals look like if you recovered 40% quicker?
What if you could reduce inflammation by 25%?
How would you feel if you were able to fully reset with ease?
When you sleep deeply and soundly, like you were meant to, you truly can experience all of these things. To say that your life would be better is a dramatic understatement.
If you’re tired of being tired…
If you’re ready to be done with insomnia…
If you’re ready to reclaim your sleep...
If you want to experience a deeper, longer, more restful sleep, get your copy of Sound Sleep: The Mental and Ancestral Sleep Game Mastered.