This podcast episode by Tim Ferriss is packed with useful information on sleep optimization. Ferriss is renowned for his best-selling series of Four-Hour books (Workweek; Body, Chef), and his podcast is consistently on the top of “best of” lists.
In this episode, he compiles sleep tips and hacks from four world-class performers from very different fields: world-class fitness trainer Charles Polinquin; ultra-endurance athlete Amelia Boone; comedian Mike Birbiglia; and, longevity expert Peter Attia.
Here is a short list of the most notable items that were mentioned:
Charles Poliquin: Sleep Supplements + Work Less, Recharge More.
Charles Poliquin is a fitness trainer star and a global leader in the health and fitness industry. His sleep hacks include: before bedtime he takes magnesium threonate, which is also known as a memory and cognition booster. “I take six capsules at bedtime”, he says. He also mixes in theanine.
From a lifestyle perspective, when asked about the things he regrets, he says “the biggest mistake I’ve ever done was to work far too much”. He shares that, for years, he would work excessively and only sleep three hours a night. Not surprisingly, that took a big toll on his quality of life.
He takes his work-life balance very seriously now, prioritizing his family life and one week per month to read and rest. “If you want to understand the concept better, I strongly suggest you read The One Thing and The 4-Hour Workweek,” Charles says.
Mike Birbiglia: Things That Help Your Sleep
A talented comedian, actor, producer and writer, Mike Birbiglia talks about sleep advice and his experience with REM behavior disorder—a sleepwalking condition that once made him jump from a second floor hotel room window. He tracks his sleep quality with a FitBit, which helps him to proactively fine-tune his sleep. He also listens to the podcast Sleep with Me, hosted by Drew Ackerman. This is a one-of-a-kind bedtime story podcast in which Ackerman usually talks in meandering circles in a way that is very effective in putting people to sleep.
For Birbiglia, the biggest thing is a simple but perhaps difficult one: to get off social media. It’s not helpful for being productive and winding down before bed.
Amelia Boone: Pushing The Body To The Limit
Dubbed “The Queen of Pain,” obstacle racer and ultrarunner Amelia Boone is the most decorated woman in ultra-endurance sports. She does all this in her free time. During the week she is also a full-time attorney at Apple.
Amelia’s relationship with sleep is atypical, to say the least. Even after races like the World’s Toughest Mudder 24-hour race, she doesn’t sleep much after the race (sometimes for days). “My body is so physically exhausted, but my mind is still so ‘on’, like on overdrive, that I just can’t sleep”, she says. It is commonly said that exercising is a good way to improve your sleep quality. But Amelia has learned that too much exercise can have the opposite effect.
Peter Attia: Supplemental Ketones
Attia is focused on the science of longevity and optimal performance. He talks about his intense exercise routines when he was young, playing hockey, and later as an ultra-distance swimmer. Though not related to sleep, he also gives a very clear explanation of the mechanics of a ketogenic diet in our metabolism.
Tim’s Own Tips
His challenge is primarily withfallingasleep. Here is what he does:
- Uses a white noise machine (he uses Marpac Dohm)
- Makes the room as cold as you can tolerate (for him this is 65 degrees fahrenheit)
- Goes to bed at the same time every night (he goes to bed by 11pm)
- He uses N-acetylcysteine (NAC) and lithium orotate (5mg)
- He has experimented with polyphasic sleep, which means fragmenting your sleep into shorter periods with interspersed rest.
What Can All This Mean For You?
Our motto (or one of them) is: you can’t fix what you don’t know. And the best first step to knowing about our sleep habits—and whether they’re healthy or not—is to measure them.
Many smartwatches and fitness trackers come preloaded with sleep tracking capabilities these days, but even jotting some times down in a simple notebook can help us to know how regular our falling-asleep and staying-asleep patterns are.
Then, you can experiment with some of the tricks shared here. Perhaps try a white-noise app (many are free) to help with falling asleep. Or play with the room temperature and see if that helps. Keep tracking how your sleep is affected, and soon you may be on the path to healthier habits.