How To Sleep

Posted by: Thaddeus May 04, 2017

It seems so obvious.  Who in the world needs to know how to go to sleep at night?

We just get into bed and go to sleep. Some people think it’s crazy that anyone would have to learn how to go to sleep.

In fact, this class borders on the ridiculous. 



Wealthy people pay a ton of money to lay down in a dimly lit room and practice sleeping! While this seems the ultimate kick in the teeth that anyone with so much money can just pay it to lay down and listen to someone tell them to relax and close their eyes, it’s more than it seems.

Our culture has stressed hard work and ultimately made working late into the night a badge of honor. How many people brag about sending emails at 2am? Have you ever had someone share with proud declaration that they’ve been getting 4 hours of sleep a night so they can work on their business? We spent so long making sleep into something only pot heads and slackers would do.

Well, it’s come full circle. Sleep is now the new status symbol.

We know sleep keeps us healthy. It helps us age more slowly, be more creative, fight cancer and so much more.

And yet STILL, most of us do not get enough sleep.

Sleep is not complicated. The primal way to sleep is not full of hacks and expensive devices but follows a few simple rules.  Adhering to the rules in our modern society is the difficult part.

I Need More Sleep

The fact is that one-third of Americans do not get enough sleep, that’s over 100,000,000 people!!

68% of Americans report having trouble falling asleep at least once a week and even those of us getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep every night often report waking up tired and groggy.

Even if you think you are getting plenty of sleep, you may be missing out on the most important benefits of sleep.

That means you fall asleep quickly and wake up 8 hours later but either feel tired or your body has no done the internal cleansing necessary to stave off disease and maintain health.

Stay Out of the Light

The benefits of sleep are destroyed if you expose your eyes or your body or both to light at night.

Light from our devices, TVs and even the lights in your home, office or city can disrupt your sleep, and the most important hormone your body releases at night to help you recover, rejuvenate, destroy cancer and get the benefits of sleep.

We live in a modern world that lights up our homes, offices, and cities as if it were daylight in the middle of the night. This is not in sync with the way our biology works. 


By the way, many of the photos in this post were produced by a talented graphic designer Samantha Nienow from Red Zest Design for a TEDx presentation I gave on Light Hacking in April 2017 at TEDx Gull Lake in Minnesota. If you ever need a graphic designer for a critical presentation, Samantha is totally amazing!

Throughout history, humans were exposed to changes in temperature. Thus, the temperature of the earth drops at night. A drop in temperature at night helps us sleep and our bodies also want to sleep at a lower body temperature than our waking state. In our modern life, we keep our homes, cars, and offices at constant temperature and never experience temperature changes for longer than a brief few seconds that we take getting into our car and heating it up.

As PrimalHackers, we do what we can to minimize the modern world’s impact to our health, and maximize our lifestyles by living as close as we can to nature. We can’t and won’t all live in the woods in a tent and tribal society in a modern context is not widely available.  Some of us have partners unwilling to move and others aren’t ready to move out to the woods. We have to understand how to fix our sleep in the place we live.  

We want to strive for the ideal

  • Cool sleeping environment
  • Dark sleeping environment
  • Connected to the Earth
  • Away from non-native EMF (electromagnetic frequencies)
  • Immersed in nature
  • Free of stress
  • Surrounded by loved ones in a safe environment
  • Using proper light at night or blocking improper and poor lighting that stresses our biology
  • Free of loud sounds that can stress you and keep you up

Most of us do not meet any of those criteria.

I know we all love our lifestyle and modern convenience, but creating daylight when it’s supposed to be dark is making us sick and tired. This is one of the worst things we could do to our bodies at night. We pound ourselves all day with pollutants in the air, chemicals in our food and unnatural stressors from sitting to poor lighting and then when it comes to rejuvenate and relax at night, we just make things worse.

The way our bodies are designed is that we’re supposed to experience firelight at night or darkness. Firelight does not destroy our sleep or our health when we use this type of light at night. And the infrared and red light from the fire is healing to our body. That radiant warmth you get coming from a fire is the infrared energy that our body uses for health among other things. 

sleep firelight

Mighty Melatonin

There is a reason we can’t sleep well at night. The reason we wake up tired, even though we got plenty of sleep and the reason we’re harming our health at night is because we’re stopping our body’s natural production of melatonin.

The hormone Melatonin is released from our pineal gland shortly after sunset and is responsible for many of the benefits we get from sleep.

Melatonin is a potent anti-cancer agent, helps us fall asleep quickly each night and reduces inflammation and supports our immune system while we sleep.

Melatonin and it’s opposite, cortisol, are produced in our body based on the light and dark cycles of the earth. The light and dark are actual biological signals to our body and brain that give us the information we use to determine what hormones to produce based on the time of day.

This is called our circadian rhythm and humans have based their life and health on this rhythm in sync with our planet for millions of years. 

sleep melatonin

Melatonin is thought to help us fall asleep and supports our body in recover and repair during sleep. Cortisol helps wake us up and keep us alert during the day. We do not want to reverse these cycles or produce one of the hormones all the time while suppressing the other.

When we expose ourselves to light at night, we destroy our melatonin. Our bodies need to be in darkness to produce melatonin. 


Light at night signals to our body that its daytime. This signal shuts off our production of melatonin. Now we have lost the benefits of melatonin, we have trouble falling asleep, we wake up tired and groggy, we don’t perform well at work the next day and we lose patience more easily. We’ve also just increased our risk for cancer.

Studies have shown that women who work at night are at an increased risk of breast cancer and men who work at night are at an increased risk of prostate cancer. These are just the only cancers we have so far studied and exposure to light at night is the most likely cause of this. We’re disrupting our natural circadian rhythm.  

Blue Light

It’s not just any light at night that can stop melatonin production and destroy our health. As we noted, firelight, what we would have been exposed to for all human history, does not stop melatonin production.

It’s the blue frequency of light that stops melatonin. 

sleep blue light

Our modern LED and CFL lights are too high in the blue spectrum of light. Our devices and TVs also use LED technology based on high blue light. It’s this spike of blue light at night, and too much blue during the day without the other light spectrums that’s an issue.

The American Medical Association even issued a warning letter against replacing streetlights with LED lights based on their health risks, and both Harvard Medical School and the NIH have released studies linking light exposure at night, and blue light to cancer and other health impacts. 

Artificial light at night is making it harder for us to go to sleep and it’s harming our health!

Firelight does not stop melatonin production. Candles and fire are what our body expects to see, other than total darkness. If you are doing anything in between, you are harming yourself. Possibly we will work out the right frequencies in LEDs to make them useable and compatible with biology, but I’m not holding my breath. We could make the right color LEDs and add infrared to the bulbs and likely we’d still be missing something we overlooked. Most light and radiation from the sun and firelight is invisible. When you mess with nature we tend to overlook things and later find out they were important. Remember, sunlight and firelight is more than just red and yellow light, but also infrared and other spectrums.

If you want to get the benefits of sleep without moving to the forest, living in a teepee and lighting with candles, then check out our

PrimalHacker D.A.R.K. System for Sleep

How would you like the freedom to wake up without an alarm clock!  

I haven’t used an alarm to wake up for over 7 years. Ok, I’ll use an alarm if I have a pre 6am departure to the airport or if I’m in a totally new time zone with an important presentation to give in the morning. Otherwise, never. That’s real freedom to me.

I did it by combining four sleep hacking techniques that totally changed my quality of sleep and allowed me to wake up refreshed every morning. Now I don’t need an alarm and I wake up right when I want to.


There are at least four IMPORTANT ways you can ensure you get high-quality sleep and wake up refreshed and maybe someday, maybe someday soon, do away with setting your alarm.

Welcome to our 4 part D.A.R.K. system for sleep

  • Dark - cut all sources of light
  • Airy - keep your sleeping environment cool
  • Reduce- or eliminate chronic blue light exposure during the day
  • Kill - all sources of blue Light at Night and sounds

Who knows, you may even be able to throw away that annoying alarm clock. I know, bad analogy, everyone just uses their phone now, right? So you can’t throw away your phone, but maybe you can wake up without a blaring alarm in your ear.


The first way to ensure you get to sleep and get high-quality sleep is to keep your bedroom DARK. I don’t mean too dark to read a book. I mean too dark to see your hand in front of your face.

Trust me, that’s how dark your bedroom should be. After getting used to it, you’ll find that sleeping in total darkness is immensely helpful.

This is what walking outside at night may have looked like for most of human history: 



This is what it looks like today:



Even your bedroom is not dark enough



All those little blinky and glowing LED lights turned on all over the place, including the Smoke Detector and the charging light on the Macbook can impact your sleep.  


sleep light


A 2013 study published in the journal of Biological Rhythms showed that even 5 Lux of dim light at night, about the same as in a typical bedroom (with the lights turned out), but 5 times more than moonlight.

Get those lights out of there!  

If you can’t remove them from the room completely then use this amazingly technical secret Biohacker trick:

Turn your phone over and place it face down on your nightstand so the light is not entering the room, then grab some black electrical tape (though I’ve been known to use blue too) and tape over the glowing lights (smoke detector light, etc). You’d be surprised how much light all those little LEDs give off.

sleep tape


Next, draw your curtains. Ideally put in blackout curtains. Get rid of all that light pollution from streetlights, headlights, the Jimmy John Neon sign blaring in the window all night making it light enough after sunset to read a book with not lights on in the apartment (There’s an AirBNB I stayed in once that has a bedroom where the wall doesn’t go all the way up to the ceiling and the front facing window, the one facing Jimmy John’s, doesn’t have shades at the top of the window. I will never sleep there again!!).

You can also put a towel up against the bottom of your door if someone is awake and light is leaking through the bottom of your door. Just roll up a towel and place it against the bottom of the door where the gap is letting in light.

Here’s a recent picture of my hotel room in Michigan with all the lights turned off. It’s still SOOOO bright in here!

sleep dark


See that light coming in under the door, from the microwave, this is isn’t even showing the alarm clock, because I unplugged it.

Here’s another picture of a hotel room in California.

sleep dark


ANNNND the curtains NEVER block out all the light. This is at 9pm in the winter, it’s supposed to be DARK, but it looks like the middle of the day out there and it’s shining into my room and messing with my biology.

sleep dark


Here’s my room after I used electrical tape and put a rolled up bath towel in front of the door.

What? You can’t see anything? Exactly. 

sleep dark


You can see I missed the eye hole in the door. I took care of that with tape later on but wanted you to know this was the same California hotel room I showed a picture of earlier, totally light hacked.

Check out this video on how to black out your own hotel room showing you step by step how to do it, you can use the exact same tricks in your bedroom at home.

These steps will set you on the path to an alarm free life.

Don’t think that just because you can fall asleep with lights on that you are fine. Lights destroy your production of melatonin and this will have a biological cost to you. Never underestimate the power of light!


         Have you ever taken a warm bath or shower before bed?

It feels so good to get under the covers when everything is just all warmed up. Especially in the winter.

Sometimes, you might even curl up in some warm pajamas under a nice heavy blanket.

What if I told you that the shower and pajamas could be affecting your sleep and making it harder for you to function the next day?

Sorry, pajama lovers.

  • Airy - keep your sleeping environment cool

Today we’re talking about the Airey part….which means keeping your environment cool.

Our bodies naturally drop in temperature before sleep and keeping your room cool will help that process and make it easier to fall asleep.

The body’s circadian rhythm causes our core temperature to drop to it’s lowest point at night during sleep. Sleep is more likely to occur when the body is cooler than warmer. It’s true, the temperature of your sleeping environment impacts the quality of your sleep. There is a specific temperature range that has been shown ideal for the highest quality sleep. 

So what’s the ideal temperature range for sleep?

60-67 Fahrenheit.

What can you do?

  • Set your thermostat to lower the temperature at bedtime to 60-67 degrees. Personally, I found that 64 degrees in the winter is as low as my wife will let me go.
  • Sleep Naked - this article discusses why sleeping naked is better for you and might just lead to more sex too :). What do you think, did men do all the research for this article?
  • Wear socks. Wearing socks can help your body stay at an ideal temperature while feeling warmer, since the rest of you is naked, of course.
  • If you shower or bathe before bed, turn the water to cold for a minute before getting out. That seems like a lot to ask, but it really, really works. If that’s a stretch for you, cool off after stepping out of the bath by stepping outdoors before you dry (especially awesome in the cold of winter). If even that isn’t going to happen then letting your body cool down significantly before you get dressed or get into bed will help.
  • Get a Chili Pad. If your partner wants the bed, and room, hotter than you like, here’s a great tool you can put under your sheet to keep you cool while you sleep. You can set the temperature of that pad, cooler or warmer depending on what you need without changing the room temperature. Tim Ferriss swears by it.
  • Get a box fan. Any fan will do, but I love old school box fans. The white noise cancels out nighttime noises of your house or apartment and the breeze keeps your room and body cooler. I use mine all year round, but in the summer they are especially nice.
  • Cotton sheets are best. Cotton is lightweight and breathable.
  • Sleep in the basement. As long as your basement is clean and free of mold, it’s usually cooler than any other part of your home. I have a bedroom in my basement that gets lots of use. It stays about 60 degrees, and feels cold at first, but I always sleep like a baby down there.
  • When I travel, I can’t always set the hotel thermostat to cool. In that case I usually just set the temperature to 65, knowing it won’t cool because the adjacent rooms are keeping it too warm. I then open a window, even in the winter. The fresh air is wonderful and the heat kicks on if it cools below 65.

Reduce Chronic Exposure to Blue Light (h2)

Chronic exposure to blue light is one of the most overlooked health hazards in our modern life.

68% of Americans report not getting enough sleep during the week.

We think Blue Light from processed indoor lighting and devices is one of the main causes and is the next health danger of this decade!

Some experts think the change to LED and CFL in our homes and offices will cause an entire generation of blindness. It's not just harming us, it's harming the next generation as well!  


sleep light


We are Outdoor Creatures Living an Indoor Life

We spend over 90% of our time indoors. As we strive for energy efficiency and begin to outlaw halogen and incandescent lighting, we are moving toward LED and CFL lights.

Processed light from LED and CFL along with computer and phone screens have a large spike of blue frequency light as compared to other lighting sources.

Because we spend so much time indoors we're exposed more than ever to just this narrow band of blue frequency light without other frequencies we’d experience under natural sunlight.




Exposure to Blue Light like that energy efficient LED light you just installed, your iPad, phone, TV, or your beloved Netflix:

  • Causes the brain to stop producing melatonin in 99% of adults, making it difficult to fall asleep.
  • Doubles our chances for poor sleep making us tired in the morning.
  • Even if you “fall asleep” while watching TV, your brain doesn’t produce melatonin for 90 extra minutes, causing you to get the equivalent rest of only 6 hours per night!
  • Disrupts circadian rhythm and is associated with everything from cancer to heart diseases to obesity.

Damn. After learning all this, I had to go back and take out those expensive LED recessed lights and put the halogens back in. Health is worth more to me than saving some money.

Go D.A.R.K.

Welcome to Part III of our D.A.R.K. system for sleep.

  • Dark - cut all sources of light
  • Airy - keep your sleeping environment cool
  • Reduce- or eliminate chronic blue light exposure during the day
  • Kill - all sources of blue Light at Night

Today we’re Reducing our chronic exposure to blue light in order to stop a host of future problems, sleep being just one.

We Live Indoors

If we were spending our time outdoors, we would be exposed to Infrared, red, purple, blue and many other colors of visible and non-visible light.

In effect, the sun balances blue light with many other frequencies and colors.

Processed indoor LED and CFL does not normally include the infrared and other important spectrums.

A new article in Corporate Wellness Magazine titled “Can Blue Light Making You Sick?” notes that too much blue light could be causing diabetes, obesity, depression, and other modern diseases.

BUT Infrared and near-infrared light can help heal our cells from the blue light damage. Sunlight balances blue and red and includes a host of other benefits including entraining proper circadian rhythm, creating vitamin D and more.

Soooooooo indoor lighting is too high in blue light, and that causes damage to our cells and our eyes without the healing balance of other light spectrums that we'd get from natural sunlight. It also slows down our mitochondria causing us to have less energy.

Now let’s be realistic, we’re still going to look at our phones and TV’s at night. It’s hard not to! Fortunately, all you need to do is block the Blue light emanating from those screens.

  • Install f.lux or Iris on your computer and tune out much of the blue light.

sleep irissleep iris


Just wearing these glasses 1-2 hours before you go to bed gives you the equivalent of 1.5 extra hours of sleep.

This really is the bio-hack of the century for people who have trouble falling asleep, yet don’t want to give up their TV!

Kill Blue Light

Killing all sources of blue light at night.

Blue light at night is the enemy of Melatonin, that hormone that helps you fall asleep and obtain the benefits of sleep.

Remember, I want you to wake up every single morning FREE of any alarms.

You really have two choices here and I fully support both of them.

  1. You can live in the woods, away from any light pollution and literally shut off your power at night. I really do know people who do this. They turn off the power to the entire house. Then use candles to read books.
  2. Or, you can continue to live in the modern world and find a way to block all that blue light.

The #1 best way to do this is just to put on a pair of blue light blocking glasses. There are many brands available now that this information is becoming more well known. From Dave Asprey’s True Dark Glasses to Carbon Shades to the $8 Uvex glasses on Amazon you have many choices. All of them block the harmful blue light that robs your melatonin at night.  

We’ve been wearing both the Uvex and the Swannies. Uvex are best worn at home as they’re not very stylish. Swannies are best for wearing when you go out. Not only do they look amazing, and come in many styles, but they BLOCK blue light from any source.

By wearing blue blocking glasses at night you can:

  • Still watch TV and not ruin your sleep.
  • Work long into the night on your computer, no problem!
  • Not have to replace those energy and life-sapping LED lights you (ahem..I) just installed.
  • Live in this wonderful modern 24/7 world, without messing up your sleep!

Swannies look like this:

sleep swannies


Most people try to fix their sleep by spending $3,000 on a bed ($20,000 if you want a top of the line Samina bed), however that is such a small part of the equation. It’s what you do BEFORE bed that counts.

Swannies will block blue light before you sleep for only $69….which is only 2.3% the cost of buying a new bed.

You can buy a pair here today –> RIGHT HERE  

We love Swannies so much because they are the ONE pair of sunglasses we can wear at night that not only look good but have people begging to try on. I wear them to martial arts in the winter when I train past dark.


sleep swannies


When we’re at home, we use our Uvex, which cost only $8 and can also help you sleep. 


sleep glasses


Yup, sexy, I know.

The Bulletproof Executive Dave Asprey just released his own set of blue light blocking glasses. His are called TrueDark and come in two flavors: Daywalker and Nightwalker. The Daywalkers block blue light and can be worn indoors. The Nightwalker block blue and some green light and are to be worn at night. I personally like the wrap around of these glasses to block light from the sides, but sadly do not like the style for wearing them out for a night on the town.

Pick the pair that you feel is best, but GET A PAIR of blue blocking glasses to block the dangerous blue blocking light at night and save your health and your sleep.

Grab a pair of earplugs and stop the extraneous noise that is waking you up and disturbing your sleep. 

The PrimalHacker Way

If you want the absolute best way to support your biology and hack your sleep, then do it using nature. 



Get sunlight in your eyes as soon after sunrise as possible.

Turn out all your lights after dark.

Stop using devices.

Light with candles.

Go to bed shortly after dark.

We know this isn’t for everyone, but maybe you can do it just one night a week to start out. It’s really quite fun and might just lead you to a whole new level of sleep. Sunlight in the morning helps you sleep better that night. It’s also an important missing nutrient that many of us lack in our diets. We call it Vitamin S.

Because we’re also hackers, we know we can’t living in our naturally inspired cocoons every single night. So we take advantage of blue light blocking glasses on our faces and blue light blocking apps on our devices when needed. There are other ways to protect yourself when bathing in processed light.


When we’re out and under artificial light at night, we try to keep it as dim as possible. Some people aren’t as affected by bright light at night. My friend always turns up the lights at night to see better and it just makes me cringe. I get stressed. I like to dim the light or turn it out altogether. It makes me feel more relaxed and even gives me a greater sense of silence and connection at night.


Light signals come from the environment into a receptor in our eyes and change the way our brains function. But these signals can also be produced from light on our skin. Truly, light is a biological signal. If we want to ensure we are getting the “DARK” signal at night, cover up your body.

Our bodies use light as a biological signal. When indoors and exposed to artificial light, cover up. As much of you as possible, including your head, should be covered against the artificial light at night.

Only 2 studies I could find have been published on light at night on the body and not in the eyes. 1 study showed light shined behind the knee caused problems with sleep while the other study showed the opposite

As a PrimalHacker, we should be mimicking nature. In nature, moonlight and firelight do not mess with our melatonin or circadian rhythm, but artificial lights do. Avoid artificial lights on any part of your body and in your eyes.

If you must be under light at night, minimize, cover and dim. 


sleep hacker swannies

You can look like a cool hacker, even if you don’t even know how to hack a banana off a tree. 



Go D.A.R.K.

Welcome to Part III of our D.A.R.K. system for sleep.                           

  • Dark - cut all sources of light
  • Airy - keep your sleeping environment cool
  • Reduce- or eliminate chronic blue light exposure during the day
  • Kill - all sources of blue Light at Night

About the Author


Chris began his journey outdoors foraging medicinal and edible plants, hiking, hunting and camping in the woods around his childhood home in central Indiana. After spending a few years inside a windowless office he knew he needed to be outside and started working outside as an ironworker building tall commercial buildings all around the Midwest. After a serious accident that resulted in numerous injuries to internal organs and trauma to his brain he began to study and research ways to heal himself and make sure his body and mind was operating at peak levels. After experimenting on himself and helpingfamily and friends to do the same he realized that optimal health and performance through biohacking and ancestral health was one of his biggest passions and decided design his life around this.

PrimalHacker is the combination of those two passions. Chris loves spending time in the woods with his four boys, foraging, practicing martial arts and exploring ways to improve all aspects of health and performance. He is a certified Bulletproof Coach from the first ever class of coaches and a certified holistic health practitioner.

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