Christian Genco


This article is a draft.

For my entire life, I struggled to get up before 10am

I justified it to myself as just being a night owl, and that I could never change, but I figured out how to change it. (Jordan Peterson quote)

It seems insurmountable, but I did just a few simple things consistently and now I wake up without an alarm between 6 and 7 every day feeling fantastic and awake

I've struggled with sleep my entire life. I grew up homeschooled, so I didn't have the structure of school to give me consistent times to wake up and go to bed. It was normal for me to stay up past 4am for most of my childhood.

When I did start going to school, I struggled to get to bed at a time early enough to get me enough quality sleep, so I spent most of the week sleep depriving myself and tried to catch up on the weekends by sleeping in past 2pm.

College was a little bit better beacuse I had a semblance of a schedule that I could control, but it was dotted with all-nighters and sleep deprevation.

After college, I had total freedom (I've been self employed since graduating), and nights lying in bed for several hours before falling asleep haven't been unusual. It's torturous.

TODO: Why We Sleep ideal sleep schedule

Insomnia: sleep efficiency < 85%, or delay of more than 30 minutes in sleep onset

You need 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and should get that in at least 8.hours / 0.85 = 9.4 hours in bed.

Sleep impacts everything I do: a good night of sleep that ends in waking up refreshed and alert early in the morning is the most consistent predictor for me of a good day, so I've put a lot of thought into how to improve it.

Recently I had a breakthrough in curing my sleep onset insomnia and poor sleep heigine. Now when I lie down I fall asleep consistently in 24 minutes. I spring out of bed naturally without an alarm clock feeling amazing.

I feel cognitively more capable. Literally every part of my life is better.

Sleep seems to be the most important physical factor in productivity for me.

Sam Altman

TODO: consequences of poor sleep from Why We Sleep

Here are things I've done that have moved the needle on my quality of sleep.

  1. manage your thoughts: journal before bed; give yourself time to think during the day, meditate

It seems insurmountable, but I did just a few simple things consistently and now I wake up without an alarm between 6 and 7 every day feeling fantastic and awake

What is sleep? #

Sleep stages: Non-REM stages (N1, N2, N3, N4; 75-95%), and REM (Rapid eye movement; 10-25%) measured by a hypnogram EEG

A sleep cycle includes all 5 stages and lasts 90-100 minutes; 4-6 cycles per night

Men 20-29 spend 21% of sleep in slow-wave, men 40-49 spend 8%, and 60-69 only spend 2% in slow wave. We don’t know why.

1. Track your sleep #

You can't improve what you can't measure. I don't think a killer sleep tracker exists yet (sleep is a hard thing to measure by proxy of heart rate and movement), but a few usable trackers are:

You could do it with a sleep diary, but it's hard to trust that. Record: _ times entering and leaving bed _ time you fell asleep _ sleep onset latency (how long it took to fall asleep; time_asleep - time_entering_bed) _ sleep efficiency = duration*asleep / duration_in_bed * number and duration of awakenings in the night _ final awakening _ napping _ subjective ratings of the quality of sleeping _ how sleepy you feel during the day _ any external factors from the night that impacted sleep (ex: did you wake up because of a loud noise?)

Dreem 2 is the best consumer-available tracker on the market. Use the code GENCO for 10% off.

Everything else on this list depends on you being able to quantify how well what you did affected your sleep, so start tracking before you do anything else.

This opens up testing! Do you think CBD oil might work for you? Now you can test it and know definitively.

2. Set a time to go to sleep and wake up, and stick to it #

You cannot be mentally healthy without a routine. You need to pick a time to get up - whatever time you want, but pick one - and stick to it. Otherwise you disregulate your circadian rhythms, and they regulate your mood.

—Jordan Peterson, You need a routine

If you notice (from your sleep tracker) that it's taking you a long time to fall asleep, go to bed later until you're really tired, and wake up at the same time.

If you have trouble physically getting out of bed, bribe yourself with something you really want to do, but only let yourself do it for a set amount of time after you wake up. Right now, my routine is to get up at 9:15am, and I let myself play video games until 10:30 if I've gotten ready and exercised.

3. Manage your light #

manage your light: dim lights at sunset, red light blocking glasses and no screens two hours before bed, sunlight as soon as you wake up

TODO: impact of light on melatonin

TODO: Light/melatonin management: blue light blocking glasses, get early sun and exercise, circadian rhythm and adenosine cycles

Several hours before bed, limit your exposure to blue light. Most of the things I do to be useful to society involve looking at screens, so I wear blue light blocking glasses starting at around 9pm.

These fancy blue, violet, and green light blocking glasses are more expense, and probably better.

No screens at least an hour before your bedtime (earlier is better). This has the added benefit of getting you to focus on something that's not the addictive-cycle Skinner's Box apps you're probably using on your phone. If your device of choice supports it, install f.lux to filter out blue light at the source.

Get your bedroom completely dark. You shouldn't be able to see your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Get blackout curtains, and cover any LEDs on electronic devices you can't move out of the room with black electrical tape.

If blackout curtains and taping up lights are impractical (like when traveling), get a really good sleep mask.

Get sunlight as soon as you wake up

simulate a prehistoric sunset

4. Physical comfort #

Nice bed, pillow, temperature (chilipad), humidity; do you feel uncomfortable in any way? Fix it.

Sensory deprivation #

Eye mask, ear plugs, blackout curtains...

Temperature #

Comfort: bed, pillow, temperature (chilipad), preparation H

Get your bedroom cold enough that you don't kick a leg out. Tim Ferriss noticed many of the successful people he interviewed in his book Tools of Titans use a chilipad to precisely lower the tempature of their beds, including Sam Altman.

5. Control your mind #

Download Headspace and do the sleep module

journal all thoughts before bed

meditate once per day during the day to practice clearing your mind

6. Control your diet #

don't eat four hours before bed cut out all caffeine and sugar, but experiment with having caffeine early in the day.

7. Control your body #


Sit back in your chairs and put your feet flat on the deck. Knees apart, your hands limp on the inside of your lap. Now, close your eyes and drop your chin until it rests on your chest.

Let's breathe slowly, deeply, and regularly. Take all the wrinkles out of your forehead. Relax your scalp. Just let go. Now let your jaw sag-g-g. Let it drop open. Now relax the rest of your face muscles. Get the brook trout look on your face. Even relax your tongue and lips. Just let them go loose. Breathe slowly.

Now, let's go after the eight muscles that control your eyes. Let them go limp in their sockets. No focus, just let them go limp. Breathe slowly.

Now drop your shoulders as low as they will go. You think that they are low, but let them go more. Did you feel the muscles in the back of your neck go limp? When you think you are really relaxed, let them go even more.

Now, let's relax your chest. Take a deep breath. Hold it. Exhale and blow out all your tensions. Just let your chest collapse. Let it sag-g-g. Imagine you are a big, heavy blob on the chair, a jellyfish. Breathe slowly. When you exhale, release more and more of your tensions.

Let's go after your arms. Talk directly to your arm muscles. First, talk to your right bicep. Tell it to relax, go limp. Do the same to your right forearm. Now to the right hand and fingers. Your arm should feel like a dead weight on your leg. Repeat the relaxation process with your left arm. Breathe slowly.

Your entire upper body has been exposed to relaxation and a warm, pleasant feeling comes over you. You feel good. A sense of well-being invades your body.

Now for your lower body. Talk to your right thigh muscles. Let them go to a dead weight on the chair. Let the meat hang on the bones. Go through the same routine for the right calf muscles. Then all the muscles of your right ankle and foot. Tell yourself that your right leg has no bones in it. It is just a flabby, heavy weight on the deck. Repeat the process with your left thigh, calf, ankle, and foot.

At present you are all relaxed physically, or think you are. For a little insurance, let's take three deep breaths and when you let them out, blow out all the remaining tensions, one . . . whoosh, two . . . whoosh, three . . . whoosh.

Relax and Win via The Art of Manliness

The nuclear option: CBT-i #

Instead of sedating yourself with ambian or alcohol...

Sleep restriction therapy #

An Algorithmic Solution to Insomnia: 20 minutes Watch Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Techniques for Retraining Your Brain | Prime Video: 20 minutes

What is Insomnia and How to Cure it with Cognitive Behavior Therapy - YouTube: 20-30 minutes

Sleepy hygeine #