Chris Masterjohn, PhD -- Recommendations for Better Sleep

Chris Masterjohn, PhD -- Recommendations for Better Sleep

To sleep well is to fall asleep easily, sleep through the night without waking, and to wake in the morning feeling rested and ready to face the day.

These things, moreover, should all happen at similar times of the day. Having a regular rhythm allows our bodies to prepare for sleep to optimize our internal environment for resting and rejuvenation, and it allows our bodies to prepare for the day to optimize for wakefulness, energy, and success.

If this sounds like your life, you probably don't need to read this post. But if you feel like any of these things could be improved, try following my recommendations and let me know how they work.

1. Get Morning Sunshine At the Same Time Every Day

The quality of your sleep starts when you wake up in the morning. To establish a healthy rhythm, your brain needs a powerful signal that it's daytime, and sunlight is that signal.

Within an hour or two of waking, get at least a half hour of sunshine. Go for a walk, drink your coffee sitting outside in the sun, or choose some other routine that you enjoy. Do it even when it's cloudy. Cloudy skies are a lot brighter than they seem.

I do not recommend replacing going outside with anything. But if you live in an area where it is difficult to get morning sunshine more often than not because of the whether, consider getting a light therapy unit, such as the Circadian Optics 10,000 LUX Full Spectrum Lamp.

It is critical to get your morning sunshine at a similar time from day to day. If you are struggling to maintain a regular sleep pattern, pick a time that you are most likely to be awake on most days. For example, if you get up anywhere between 7:00 AM and 9:00 AM, get your morning sunshine from 9:15-9:45 every day. The regularity of your sun exposure will help you develop a rhythm over time.

2. Eat Enough Food

Hunger can give you insomnia and can wake you up in the middle of the night. For some of us, our appetite naturally guides us to the perfect amount of food we need to eat to sleep well. For many of us, though, it does not. This could be because we are intentionally trying to lose weight faster than our body is comfortable with, or because years of poor eating or restrictive dieting has distorted our sense of appetite, or for any number of other reasons.

If you aren't sure whether you're eating enough food, I'd recommend two things:

  • Estimate your caloric needs with this online calculator.
  • Get a food scale and download MyFitnessPal on your phone (if you also have a need to track vitamins and minerals, though, use Cronometer). Track your calories for a few days and see if what you're eating is close to what the calculator estimated your needs are.

If what you're eating isn't even close to what you calculate, you may be starving yourself, and eating more food might be your surest ticket to better sleep.

If what you're eating is close, you still might not be eating enough. The calculator just gives you an estimate. In this case, I recommend continuing to track your calories. Increase them in 100-calorie increments per day to see whether your sleep improves. While you're doing this, track your weight over time (weigh yourself naked after you pee each morning). If more calories helps you sleep better and doesn't cause you to gain weight, continue at that new level of calories indefinitely. If more calories helps you sleep better but also causes you to gain weight, you may need to gain that weight for the sake of your health. However, before concluding that, I recommend increasing the carbohydrate content of your diet to get more pro-sleep value per calorie. For this, see step 3.

3. Eat Enough Carbohydrate

Carbohydrate helps you sleep in three ways:

  • First, carbohydrate, especially high-glycemic carbohydrate, helps push the amino acid tryptophan into your brain so that it can be turned into melatonin later at night. For this purpose, you can eat the carbohydrate at any time of day.
  • Second, your liver uses stored carbohydrate to maintain your blood sugar between meals. If your liver doesn't store enough carbohydrate, your blood sugar can drop. This could make it difficult to fall asleep or wake you up, depending on when it drops. If you're relatively inactive, you can eat carbohydrate for this purpose at virtually any time of day. On the other hand, if you're very active, your activity levels could deplete the carbohydrate stores of your liver. In that case, you should make sure to eat carbohydrate after your activity comes to a close for the day.
  • Third, carbohydrate suppresses the waking signal in the brain. For this purpose, you want to eat your carbohydrate in the evening.

So, for the most part it's your total carbs that matter, but to the extent the timing matters, try biasing them toward your evening meal.

How Much Carbs?

How much carbs do you need? On average, your muscles can store 300 grams of carbs, your liver can store 90 grams, and your body fluids can store 30 grams. If you don't engage in any moderate- or high-intensity exercise, it is mainly your liver's stores that will be depleted throughout the day to maintain your blood sugar between meals. Therefore, I think a sedentary person should start with about 100 grams of carbohydrate. On a mixed diet, your muscles could easily burn through 2-300 grams of carbohydrate if you're highly active. Therefore, I think an active person should consider consuming as many as 400 grams.

Track It!

This is simply a range of what is plausible, not a specific recommendation. The best thing to do is to track your carbohydrate intake with a food scale and the MyFitnessPal app on your phone. Get a sense of what you are eating and compare it to the figures I just gave you. If you are completely sedentary and eating 50 grams of carbohydrate, for example, it is reasonable to think bringing this up to 100 grams could improve your sleep, but you shouldn't need 200 grams. By contrast, if you're engaging in an hour of high-intensity exercise every day and you're eating 100 grams, it's entirely possible that your sleep would improve if you ate 300 grams.

Rather than following a specific number, track what you are eating and determine through self-experimentation what produces the best result.

Increasing Carbs Safely

If you are accustomed to a low-carbohydrate diet, increase your carbs slowly, by 15 grams per day at first. Make sure you're using foods you tolerate well, and if the increase disturbs your digestion or blood sugar, hold it at that level and wait for these issues to resolve before increasing further. If 15-gram-per-day increments work well for you, aim after the first few days to increase by 50 grams per week on average until you arrive at the intake you are trying to test.

What About Protein?

Protein can stimulate the waking signal in the brain, and constantly eating high-protein meals can flood your bloodstream with other amino acids that make it harder for tryptophan to get into the brain. Although I consider carbohydrate intake more important, eating one meal a day, especially the evening meal, that is either lower in protein or uses collagen as it's main protein may also help. Examples of collagen-rich proteins are skin, bones, gelatin, and hydrolyzed collagen powder.

4. Eat Enough Nutrients

Almost any nutrient deficiency can compromise your sleep. Focus on nutrient-dense whole foods. Eat lots of green leaves (several cups worth), a diversity of fruits and vegetables, a diversity of animal proteins, liver once a week, bone broth or fish with edible bones, and a diversity of different starches from different food groups that you tolerate (for example, tubers, legumes, and grains). If you don't eat dairy, you should consider using a calcium supplement to bring your total intake to between 1 and 1.5 grams per day.

I recommend tracking your micronutrients with the Cronometer phone app to look for any deficiencies, especially if you have any dietary restrictions that eliminate certain foods listed above.

5. Avoid Blue Light at Night

The spectrum of sunlight is cooler during the day, with more blues and greens, and warmer at night, with more reds and yellows. Our brains therefore use cooler light frequencies as a sign that it's daytime. They expect three things from our environment before they'll shut off for bed time:

  • A lower intensity of light.
  • A warmer spectrum of light.
  • 2-4 hours of darker, warmer lighting to get prepared for sleep.

I recommend constructing your environment in a way that delivers on all three expectations. Two to four hours before your bedtime, engage in one of these two levels of blue-blocking:

Blue-Blocking Level 1

Don't look at any electronic screens unless you have apps installed to dim the blue light, such as f.lux on Mac, f.lux beta for Windows, Nightshift for iPhone (part of the displays and brightness settings), or Twilight on Android (I don't own an Android but this was recommended to me).

For ambient lighting, use the dimmest lights you have that won't cause eye strain.

Blue-Blocking Level 2

Although level 1 might be sufficient for some people, for many including myself, it isn't. Level 2 involves much more complete blue-blocking.

Here's what you need:

  • Several specially designed low-blue amber-colored light bulbs, such as these from Consider their night light and flash light as well.
  • A pair of blue-blocking glasses. I recommend Swannies on the basis that they are just as effective as the glasses that make me look like a robotic ant and yet are rather stylish.
  • The same blue-blocking apps as in level 1: f.lux on Mac, f.lux beta for Windows, Nightshift for iPhone or Twilight on Android.

Two to four hours before bed, shift to amber ambient lighting. Turn off all your regular lights and turn on all of your low-blue lights. Make sure your blue-blocking apps are set to warm the screen around the same time. Turn the brightness of your phone down to something that is dimmer than usual but doesn't produce eye strain. Keep the Swannies handy for trips to the bathroom, opening the refrigerator, or anything else that might expose you to regular artificial light. If you go out, wear the Swannies.

I find that f.lux warms my computer screen sufficiently but Nightshift doesn't do the same for my iPhone. I use it, but I also wear my Swannies if I'm looking at my phone screen.

Be Consistent With Your Blue-Blocking

The blue-blocking routine only works if you do it consistently. It makes no sense to shift your ambient lighting to amber to give your brain four hours of easing into nighttime mode if two hours in you interrupt that signal with bright blue light from the refrigerator. If you're going to plunge yourself into level 2, plunge yourself into it completely.

You also have to start the blue-blocking at close to the same time every night. Having healthy sleep requires that your body have a well-entrained circadian rhythm, and regularity is key to making that happen. Pick your ideal bedtime and start the blue-blocking 2-4 hours before it. For example, if you want to sleep by midnight every night, make your blue-blocking start at 8:00 PM every night. If one night you fall asleep at 1:30 AM one night, don't worry about it. Just keep your light routine consistent and your sleeping rhythm will eventually fall into place.

6. Psychologically Wind Down

We all need to wind down at night to sleep, and some of us need a routine to make that happen. I recommend one to two hours of anything that will shut off the problem-solving what-do-I-need-to-do-tomorrow part of your brain. To put it another way, you want your brain to switch to nighttime mode. It doesn't matter that much what “nighttime mode” is as long as it isn't full of racing thoughts and wildly spinning emotions. It mainly matters that your mind is immersed in patterns that are fundamentally different from those it associates with daytime.

Try TV shows, video games, paperback books — anything that works. As long as you follow the blue-blocking routine in step 5, you don't need to worry about being exposed to screens.

7. Sleep in Darkness

As human beings who have been exposed to evening campfires and nighttime moonlight throughout our history, we should be able to tolerate some night at light. However, most of us live in environments where there is far more light in the night sky than the moon and stars, and artificial lights tend to be heavier on the green and blue side of the spectrum instead of the yellow and red side. Our brains are hardwired to interpret the cooler side of the spectrum as a sign that it's daytime, so artificial light at nighttime can prevent us from falling asleep.

The simplest thing you can do to block the light at night is to use a sleep mask. Masks that have a cupped shape are better than flat masks at blocking light that can creep up around the curves of your cheeks and nose. The Lonfrote Deep Molded Sleep Mask is only $9.99 on Amazon and highly effective at blocking light.

I also recommend making your room as dark as possible. There are lots of reasons. Your mask could fall off if you move around a lot. You might want to take it off if you feel hot. If you're sensitive, light could keep you up by hitting your skin. And virtually any material lets some light in even if it seems like it blocks everything.

The best way to make your room dark is to use a combination of inside-mounted blackout cellular shades and outside mounted blackout curtains. Unplug any light-emitting electronics that can be unplugged, and cover the lights on those that can't with electrical tape. If needed, do the same in the next room over, or hang opaque material around the outside edges of your bedroom door to prevent light from leaking in. For more details, see my blog post, “How to Make Your Room Pitch Black at Night.”

8. Sleep in a Cool Environment

Your body naturally cools off when you sleep. It's easier for your body to evolve your own heat into your environment if your environment is cool, so if it's too warm your body can struggle to cool off. That struggling can keep you awake. On the other hand, if you're uncomfortably cold, that can keep you up too. So you need to keep it cool, but don't go overboard.

The simplest thing to do is to use an air conditioner so that you can keep the temperature constant at the one you know works best for you. I would start with 65F, but adjust it to the temperature that allows you to feel comfortable in your favorite clothes and bedding. Err on the cool side of comfortable, not the warm side.

You may find that the temperature that puts you to sleep most effectively is cold enough to wake you up early in the morning. If you are able to program your air conditioner, set it to rise a few degrees gradually between 3:00 AM and your wake time. If not, keep an extra blanket near you so you can mindlessly grab it when you wake up and quickly fall back to sleep.

9. Sleep With Silence or White Noise

Try ear plugs or a white noise machine. I don't have any experience with the latter, but I can say that if you avoid ear plugs because you hate the way they feel when they crush into your pillow, try Mack's Pillowsoft Silicone Earplugs. These form to just the shape you need and gently stick into place without creating any pressure. You can use them 4-5 times until they lose their stickness or get visibly dirty, at which point you throw them away and use a new pair.

I've been using them for almost three years now. I first started when I moved into an apartment with a clanky radiator that would wake me up at night. I don't have that problem any more, but, once you go Mack you never go back, right?

However, they might not work for you if you have long hair, since they are a little sticky and can stick to your hair if you sleep with it down.

10. When You Wake Up to Pee

Ideally, if you follow the steps outlined above, especially #2 and #3, you'll rarely wake up in the middle of the night. If you do, though, consider the following strategies for falling back to sleep:

  • Practice 100% blue-blocking on the way to the bathroom and back.
  • Use an abbreviation of your nightly psychological winding down routine to wind down again if your brain gets revved up.
  • If you are voraciously hungry, ignore all the advice about not eating at night and eat. Experiment with what works best. Carbs, calcium, and salt might be especially helpful. You can start following the advice not to eat at night once your sleep gets better.

There might be specific nutritional issues involved as well. For those, see my video, How to Stop Waking Up to Pee.

Putting It All Together: Make It A Rhythm

Good sleep isn't good if it doesn't come in the form of a regular rhythm.

Imagine that your brain has optimized 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM as your sleeping time. You get great sleep whenever it falls into that window, and mediocre sleep at best outside of that window. You sleep in that window on weekdays, but then you sleep from 4 AM to 11 AM on the weekends. Each weekend, only two hours of your sleep fall into the optimized window and 5 hours fall outside of it. That's ten hours of sleep that could have been great but weren't.

Consider an even worse scenario. Your sleeping pattern is so irregular that you essentially have no rhythm. Even if you fall asleep upon laying down, and even if you sleep eight hours every night, if there's no pattern to it, your brain can't optimize a window for sleep at all because it never has any idea when the sleep is coming. It can't optimize a window for being awake either, because it is similarly clueless about when wakefulness is needed. No matter how much sleep you get in this scenario, none of it is good, let alone great.

So what do you do if you don't have a rhythm? Providing that you are following the food guidelines in steps #2, #3, and #4, lead with light.

Many people recommend you lead by carving out specific time for sleep at night. This works great if your problem is you don't give yourself the time for sleep. But I think it's a bad idea if your problem is that you can't fall asleep when you try. Forcing yourself to fall asleep can give you insomnia.

Many people recommend you lead with an alarm clock that wakes you up at the same time every day. I don't recommend this for two reasons. First, I don't believe anyone should wake up to an alarm clock unless they absolutely have to in order to meet their social responsibilities. An alarm clock is designed to wake you up when your body has not yet decided that it has had enough sleep, and it's likely to wake you up during a suboptimal time within your sleep cycle. Second, the primary regulator of your circadian rhythm is not the state of being awake or asleep. It's light. If you wake up to dim lights and stay inside all day, setting your alarm for 6:00 AM isn't going to do much to give you a proper circadian rhythm.

Instead, observe the variation in your existing sleeping patterns. Judge an ideal time that allows you early exposure to direct sunlight on a consistent basis. For example, if you wake up in a 2-hour span but are always up by 9:00 AM, get your sunshine at 9:15 AM every day.

Do the same for your blue blocking. If you fall asleep some time between 10 PM and 12 AM, start your blueblocking 2-4 hours before 10 PM. In other words, choose a time between 6 PM and 8 PM to start the routine, and stick to it.

Light is the single most important regulator of your circadian rhythm. Think of it as light hygeine. Just like brushing your teeth and washing your hands, it's a piece of basic maintenance that you do every day.

Secondarily, try to make your physical activity, social environment, and eating patterns rhythmic as well. These aren't anywhere near as important as light, but they help reinforce the effect of light.

Build the rhythm in the cues you feed your brain, with light as the most important of them all. Better sleep will follow.

How Do These Work For You?

If you try any of these recommendations, let me know how they work in the comments! Or, have a better idea? Share it in the comments!

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  1. I have noticed an effect from minerals and electrolytes. Too much salt keeps me awake. I also have more sleep problems if I do not get calcium-magnesium; ratios of these matter. This is probably an individual issue as I am hypothyroid and have weak adrenals. Vit A helps my adrenals (reduces allergies) but too much interferes with sleep.

  2. My challenge is that I am super tired after 8:00 pm when my yawning drives the family nuts. I settled on a bedtime of 10:30pm, then I sleep 3-4 hours and the rest of the night, if lucky, I sleep on and off to 6 am. It is the “falling asleep again” that is the biggest challenge. Tried short naps and that does not work either. 30 min of Yoga Nidra in the afternoon helps somewhat (but not if before bed-time). Stopped all caffeine (incl kombucha, chocolate, coffee, etc) after 12noon and that helps a bit to keep the mind less active when I wake up. Podcasts are my go-to when sleepless at night. Dark room does not work if the house does not have A/C and windows need to be opened. Use eye-mask but it gets hot. Pretty frustrated! Thanks for all the great info you put out. Any other ideas welcomed.

    1. I have the exact same problem, not even sleeping pills helps, i sleep 3-4 hours then wake up and are awake 3-4 hours then sleep again so fuck anoying

      1. I would like to share with you 2 things that have help me a lot recently. My sleep is not totally perfect but it is a lot better than before. First, I started to use a CBD lotion before bed on my body (specially where I’m holding tensions, shoulder, lower back, temples and jaw joints). Second, I started going once a week (after dinner) for a magnesium float tank session. It is helping me with my magnesium level and relaxation (calming the mind).
        I also heard that the carnivore diet is help people sleep through the night. I haven’t tried this though.

  3. For about the last five years, my sleep has been as follows. I go to bed at ten consistantly, but wake up after 3 to 4 hours. I get up and eat breakfast, watch TV for an hour, them go back to bed and get up whenever. I get a total of 5-7 hours. I’m not tired during the day. (Have been tryng Glycine as you suggested, but doesn’t help alter the pattern above.) Nothing changed five years ago to explain this pattern. All conditions have been the same for maybe fifteen to twenty years.
    Is there any downside to such a sleep pattern?

    1. I had the same problem for 10 years. I had been doing, and continue doing, everything Chris recommends. Then a week ago I stopped all caffeine at 1 pm, drank no alcohol, made sure I took no naps, and finished eating by 6:30 pm for a 10 pm bedtime.. Wow! I have slept through the night every night since. I have had two nights where I did struggle to fall asleep but once asleep I stayed there. And my deep sleep as measured by the OURA ring skyrocketed from 10 min per night average to 2 hours average.

  4. Any suggestions for someone with narcolepsy? I’ve had it since I was 12 but I wasn’t diagnosed until age 28 (I’m now 35). With narcolepsy, my nighttime sleep has never been restful and it was filled with vivid dreaming and waking many times each night. I have never woken up feeling rested. Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) occurred all throughout the daytime hours. Being put on a medication that puts me into a deep sleep has helped me finally feel rested but I’d love to get off this medication or at least take less of it. Lately, I have read and incorporated so many things to improve sleep. Most have helped but I still struggle to stay asleep. My body will sleep for 1.5 -2 hours then wake up and I’ll take my sleeping medication. If I didn’t have this medication I’d struggle with insomnia the rest of the night. I have been eating a ketogenic diet for the last two years and it has almost eliminated my EDS. I feel quite alert during the day but I’m worried that this way of eating isn’t truly good for me. Any ideas that might help me get better nighttime sleep?

  5. Hi Chris,

    I’ve been having a tough time sleeping since I transitioned to a high carb diet; have since backed off from carbs quite a bit, but still haven’t quite gotten a full nights sleep. I would frequently urinate, and have a dry mouth some nights. My thoughts are too much cortisol are keeping me up, and sending
    Me to urinate. Do you have any suggestions?

  6. Chris,
    Do you think certain materials used in manufacturing of mattresses is of concern to one’s sleep and general health? Is there a brand or type of mattress you would recommend?


  7. Radio frequency radiation (from Wi-Fi, cell phones, cell phone antennas etc) reduces melatonin. (abstracts below). I started sleeping only three hours a night on the two days a week I worked in an office right next to a Wi-Fi router. When I moved a few more yards away from the router, my sleep went back to normal. However, I still have other electrohypersensitivity symptoms. I have not personally used any wireless devices for years. Microsurges of RFR also get on electric wires. Meters to measure both types of RFR can be found at the emfsafetystore.

    Electromagn Biol Med. 2011 Dec;30(4):219-34. doi: 10.3109/15368378.2011.587930.
    900-MHz microwave radiation promotes oxidation in rat brain.
    Kesari KK1, Kumar S, Behari J.
    Recently, there have been several reports referring to detrimental effects due to radio frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) exposure. Special attention was given to investigate the effect of mobile phone exposure on the rat brain. Since the integrative mechanism of the entire body lies in the brain, it is suggestive to analyze its biochemical aspects. For this, 35-day old Wistar rats were exposed to a mobile phone for 2 h per day for a duration of 45 days where specific absorption rate (SAR) was 0.9 W/Kg. Animals were divided in two groups: sham exposed (n = 6) and exposed group (n = 6). Our observations indicate a significant decrease (P < 0.05) in the level of glutathione peroxidase, superoxide dismutase, and an increase in catalase activity. Moreover, protein kinase shows a significant decrease in exposed group (P < 0.05) of hippocampus and whole brain. Also, a significant decrease (P < 0.05) in the level of pineal melatonin and a significant increase (P < 0.05) in creatine kinase and caspase 3 was observed in exposed group of whole brain as compared with sham exposed. Finally, a significant increase in the level of ROS (reactive oxygen species) (P < 0.05) was also recorded. The study concludes that a reduction or an increase in antioxidative enzyme activities, protein kinase C, melatonin, caspase 3, and creatine kinase are related to overproduction of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in animals under mobile phone radiation exposure. Our findings on these biomarkers are clear indications of possible health implications.
    PMID: 22047460 DOI: 10.3109/15368378.2011.587930

    Int J Radiat Biol. 2015;91(11):898-907. doi: 10.3109/09553002.2015.1075075.
    Eight hours of nocturnal 915 MHz radiofrequency identification (RFID) exposure reduces urinary levels of melatonin and its metabolite via pineal arylalkylamine N-acetyltransferase activity in male rats.
    Kim HS1, Paik MJ2, Lee YH1,3, Lee YS4, Choi HD5, Pack JK6, Kim N7, Ahn YH1,3.
    We investigated the effects of whole-body exposure to the 915 MHz radiofrequency identification (RFID) on melatonin biosynthesis and the activity of rat pineal arylalkylamine N-acetyltransferase (AANAT).
    Rats were exposed to RFID (whole-body specific absorption rate, 4 W/kg) for 8 h/day, 5 days/week, for weeks during the nighttime. Total volume of urine excreted during a 24-h period was collected after RFID exposure. Urinary melatonin and 6-hydroxymelatonin sulfate (6-OHMS) was measured by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), respectively. AANAT enzyme activity was measured using liquid biphasic dif-13 fusion assay. Protein levels and mRNA expression of AANAT was 14 measured by Western blot and reverse transcription polymerase 15 chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis, respectively.
    Eight hours of nocturnal RFID exposure caused a significant reduction in both urinary melatonin (p = 0. 003) and 6-OHMS (p = 0. 026). Activity, protein levels, and mRNA expression of AANAT were suppressed by exposure to RFID (p < 0. 05).
    Our results suggest that nocturnal RFID exposure can cause reductions in the levels of both urinary melatonin and 6-OHMS, possibly due to decreased melatonin biosynthesis via suppression of Aanat gene transcription in the rat pineal gland.
    Radiofrequency identification; melatonin; pineal gland; rat
    PMID: 26189731 DOI: 10.3109/09553002.2015.1075075

  8. Any suggestions to combat sleep apnea, other than c-pap, which I tried and did not tolerate. A urologist commented that nocturnia, needing to urinate frequently at night may be linked to sleep apnea. Makes sense, get woken up by my own snoring, need to pee, sometimes 4 or more times a night. I do agree that a higher carb evening meal helps, when I eat mostly low search, higher water content fruits and veggies at night my urine output is much greater. I’m trying an evening meal of a large sweet potato, will try over salting it.

    1. Do you have large volumes of urine or small amounts urinated frequently? The large amounts at night (nocturnal polyuria) can sometimes be managed with nsaids or aspirin because the cause of nocturnal polyuria can sometimes be overproduction of prostaglandins. Google nsaids /aspirin and treatment of nocturnal polyuria. Another cause of nocturnal polyuria can be heart-related. This is a possibility if you have edema (fluid accumulation) in lower body when upright during the day. And then when you lie horizontal at night the fluid is able to return to the circulation and the kidneys excrete the excess. See a doctor for this. There is also a newly approved medicine based on synthetic anti-diuretic hormone normally released by the pituitary gland. See a doctor if interested.

    2. Unfortunately I have not studied sleep apnea carefully yet. I’ll post about it when I get a chance to.

      1. Some things I have tried that might help others: I have very mild sleep apena. Got a cpap and definitely sleeping better, so don’t rule out trouble breathing (one clue to breathing difficulty is a tendency to grind teeth) . Also, I can only sleep on my back because side sleeping causes all sorts of shoulder and hip pain. I think this causes me to wake up after about 4.5 hours because my body craves a change in position. Though I really don’t HAVE to pee, I just do so I can move. Getting back to sleep is sometimes a problem, so I started listening to Yoga Nidra by Jennifer Piercy. . I have also experimented with CBD ( and GABA. These two things help quite a bit for getting back to sleep later (I take them right before going to sleep). Next, I’m going to try glycine and then Qualia as reviewed by zack arnold: Ep22: on
        Maybe some of these hacks could help others. Thanks for all your help Chris!

        1. I know this is a reply to a rather old posted comment. However, in case someone else has the side sleeping pain issue, what I find helps a lot is a small pillow between my knees. I prefer to sleep on my side and the pillow absolutely eliminates hip or other pain, for me.

      2. I know this is an old comment, but just jumping in to say it’d be great to get your thoughts on apnea, specifically non-obstructive apnea, the kind which occurs alongside disorders such as long covid or ME/CFS.

  9. Hi Chris, Thank you for this great article. I would like to disagree on one thing though. The use of LED in any circumstances is very dangerous to our health (mental, retinal and hormonal health). I have learned about it in this interview with Dr. Mercola and Dr. Wunsch on the Dangers of LED Lights Instead I replace one of my bedroom light and a small table lamp on my bathroom counter with an amber incandescent light bulb (an himalayan salt night light will also do the trick). If I venture out of the bedroom during my nightly ritual I wear my blue blocking light glasses.
    Thanks for you work,

  10. This came at the right moment. For a couple of weeks i’ve been struggling with difficult to sleep. Having many muscle cramps. Specially on the left leg. Any tips on how to ease it? Tried magnesium but usually it makes it worse and make me even more alert at night.

    Been trying to tweak the diet and check if adding carbs would help. Still figuring out.
    Not sure if it’s something with the spices. Pepper. Or evwn the cheese.

    Well. Insights are welcome

    1. Look at calcium, potassium, and the possibility that you need body work or strength and conditioning of that muscle, and maybe measure urine pH.

    2. I have the same problems when taking magnesium. Calcium helps me sleep but it also makes me stiff. 🙁

    1. I have systemic mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS) that includes mast cell releases (histamine especially) in the early morning (plasma histamine appears to peak at night. See As a result I’d wake with various grades of anaphylaxis, the symptoms of which included heart palpitations, tinnitus, facial flushing, spiking blood pressure, peeing large amounts of dilute urine and abdominal cramps. I was able to calm all that down with a white noise machine (Marpac). If I forget to turn the machine on, the mast cell episodes return. So in my case — I’m sure not everyone will experience the same calming effects — white noise is anti-inflammatory and presumable anti-stress, because stress does trigger me also.

  11. I agree that Nightshift isn’t as good as f.lux, but the iPhone has another feature that gives the screen a red tint, which I find to be much more effective. Probably not the best for watching videos, but if you’re just reading or texting, it works well.

    That article also shows you how to set it up such that you can triple-click the home button to turn the feature on/off.

  12. What about dreams? I have very vivid dreams that seem to be at full intensity just as I wake up . I wake up tired (and have a cascade of downstream negative effects that I can reliably predict coincide with that.)

    1. I have narcolepsy and vivid dreams are one symptom. They are called hypnagogic hallucinations if they happen when entering sleep and hypnapopic if they occur before waking.

  13. I wake up pretty much every night to use the washroom and I put on an eye mask when I crawl back into bed. I find it very effective.

  14. Been doing all these things for approximately two years (thanks to you, Dr. Mercola and Mark Sission)… also heeded the advice of my favorite biomechanist (Katy Bowman) to transition to sleeping on the ground. My sleep (and mobility) is better than it’s ever been at age 40+…. never wake up to pee and I feel completely refreshed the next day.

      1. Not sure if that was directed at me, but if it was, I meant (still mean) that my whole tribe and I literally sleep on the ground and it’s amazing. Even when we go on vacation, we sleep on the ground… there’s no going back. I have a super thin wool pad (100% native material) to provide a more Ancestral setting (I don’t think our Ancestors selpt on hardwood) but that’s it.

        The following is from our Ultimate Ancestral Sleep Guide (

        Sleep on the ground. Our bodies were never meant to be disconnected from the electrons of the Earth, and they were certainly never meant to be cradled in a modern-mattress cast. At least consider building a little bed out of Earthing materials like my tribe does. Haven’t you ever wondered why you feel so good when you go camping? Or why you wake up a stiff Rick at home? Check out Katy Bowman if you don’t believe me; she is a biomechanist and author of the book: Move Your DNA. She sleeps on the ground. She got us sleeping on the ground.

        To be certain, our early ancestors didn’t sleep on mattresses; however, if I were to advise one on the best mattress to purchase, it would be made of all native, natural materials such as a thin wool mattress with no flame retardants, no chemicals, no synthetic things. I’d proudly point you in the direction of Holy Lamb Organics because they’re bedding materials are amazing!

  15. Learn to suppress excitement for upcoming Chris Masterjohn podcast. Best hope I have for better sleep.

  16. Any suggestions for when there are two people sleeping in the same room and they need to get up at different times? Thanks for sharing your wealth of knowledge.

    1. Be as quiet as possible when the other person is sleeping. Keep the things you need from the room in the other room. Like, your clothes for the next day, put them in the other room so you don’t have to get anything from the bed room. Use an amber flashlight so no one turns on a blue light when getting up.

  17. Yes, the morning light works for me. If my sleep patterns get off, setting an alarm for the wake-up time that I need followed by being outdoors soon after resets them far better than just trying to fall asleep at the desired time. Unfortunately, that means I’ll be tired for a day or two but I’ve found that’s what I need to do. At home in the evenings, I find that the angle of the light seems to matter. I turn off lights that are directly overhead, but table lamps don’t bother me (and they’re usually dimmer and warmer). Beyond morning light, if you really want to cement in a circadian rhythm, try exercise first thing in the morning. It teaches my body to wake up ready to go, full of energy, at exactly the same time each day, and makes me very tired at the right time each night.

    1. I also find ashwagandha very helpful, but the Sensoril version if trying to calm or sleep! Also reishi, but has to be high quality, and best I’ve found for sleep is reishi spore powder on amazon, only $1.50 shipped for 20g!!!!

  18. Plus, some of us have to be somewhere before the sun is up. In CA on the west coast, I have to leave by 5 a.m., so need to get up by 4 a.m. How do the recommendations differ if rising before light is a given on most days?

    1. Go out at the same time for a break every day. Whatever they let you — 15 minutes if needed, at, say, 9 AM, or whenever, just try to be as consistent as possible.

  19. Need to address us old folk. Up to maybe 60, I slept soundly through the night. Now, beyond 70s, I sleep soundly for 4 hours, then awake frequently. Apparently, it’s not unusual for sleep patterns to change with aging.

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