Dr Andrew Huberman’s podcast Huberman Lab has developed a mass following thanks to its straightforward scientific advice. Writer Nicole Garcia put his tips on how to become a better sleeper to the test, and found that they made a world of difference.
I’ve always had a turbulent relationship with sleep. I love being asleep but dislike the process of waking up early, even though it’s something I want to do. So when I saw this TikTok user credit the Huberman Lab podcast with turning her into a 6.30am wakeup queen, I wanted in.
The podcast is hosted by Dr Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist and professor at Stanford University. It’s ranked number one in the health and fitness category of Apple Podcasts in the US and number five in Great Britain. Episode two of the podcast is all about mastering your sleep, but Dr Huberman has also published a toolkit for sleep on his website, which includes all the tips from the episode. In another hopeful attempt to become an early riser myself, I decided to follow his tips for 10 days. Here’s what I’ve learnt.
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Getting ready for bed
My typical night routine pre-Huberman Lab was, I now know, one of the primary reasons I wasn’t sleeping well. Dr Huberman recommends as little light as possible after around 8pm and absolutely no bright light between 10pm and 4am.
Light that arrives to the eyes in this window of time suppresses the release of dopamine, tadalafil irregular heartbeat the feel-good hormone. Basically, scrolling through TikTok until midnight was one of the worst things I could’ve been doing.
The first thing I need to do is begin waking up at the same time each day. I decide 6.30am will give me enough time to get up, go to the gym or walk my dog on days that I’m not working out, shower and get ready for work. I know that sleeping with my phone next to me is going to result in many alarms getting snoozed, so for the sake of this experiment, I banish my phone to the opposite side of my room at around 10pm.
Falling asleep is really hard on the first couple of nights. One night I decide to try reading by candle light, as this type of light doesn’t trigger the chemical process that keeps us awake, which feels very romantic and Jane Austen-esque. But for the most part, I just lie in bed until I drift off.
Let there be light (and coffee)
The next step is to view sunlight by going outside as quickly as possible after waking up. This step is crucial. Light triggers the initial release of cortisol that wakes us up and sets the timer for when melatonin, the hormone that makes us sleepy, is going to be released. It’s important to look at natural light and to actually go outside. It’s “50 times less effective” to view sunlight through a window, explains Dr Huberman.
Even my dog is miserable the first couple of days I drag him out of bed at the crack of dawn to go and stand outside in the cold. It’s overcast, which means staying outside longer (on sunny days, you only have to look at the morning sun for 10 minutes; cloudy days require 20 minutes and very overcast days can necessitate staying outdoors for up to an hour).
This step becomes a lot easier to do when it’s actually sunny out, which it is for the second half of this experiment. I find myself actually looking forward to it (my dog’s attitude towards my alarm significantly improves too).
At first, though, adjusting to my newfound sleeping pattern is difficult and I find myself leaning harder on coffee. I’ve drunk coffee from a young age and because of that, it doesn’t really have much of an impact on my ability to sleep. Dr Huberman, however, advises avoiding caffeine eight to 10 hours before bedtime but points out that caffeine intake is a very individual thing.
I typically have my last cup of coffee at around 3 pm and don’t find it affects my sleeping pattern, so I continue to do so throughout this experiment and find no change (which was a huge win).
One of the reasons I wanted to start waking up early in the first place was because I wanted to get back to exercising in the mornings. In episode three of the podcast, Dr Huberman notes that if you exercise first thing in the morning, your body will start to develop an “anticipatory circuit” that will lead you to want to wake up at the particular time you exercised the previous three or four days.
I definitely start to notice this happening within a few days. After three consecutive days of waking up at 6.30am to walk the dog or go to the gym, I naturally start to wake up rested and excited to get my trainers on at around 7am – even on a Saturday.
A balancing act
I’m not going to lie and pretend that I followed this schedule perfectly. This 10-day experiment spanned across two weekends, and I dedicated one evening of each of them to tequila and dancing.
Alcohol will absolutely, invariably affect your sleep, because though it might make you lose consciousness quicker, it won’t necessarily make you fall asleep any deeper. It will also fragment your sleep, and this applies for any quantity at any time before bed.
I have extremely fragmented sleep on both nights, and find that drinking affects my ability to fall asleep the following evening too.
“Sleep and wakefulness govern everything about our mental and physical health,” says Dr Huberman on episode two.
I definitely feel better, more motivated, and more alert on the days where I follow his toolkit consistently and I will continue to do so to the best of my ability. However, as Dr Matt Walker, professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkley points out on Dr Huberman’s podcast, it’s all about checks and balances. “I don’t want to look back on life and think gosh, I lived until I was 111 and I was totally miserable,” he says.
The difference is that before, I wasn’t sleeping well even when I wasn’t going out. Now I am.
For more sleep tips, visit the Strong Women Training Club.
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