I already thought I practiced good sleep hygiene: I tried to keep my bedroom only for sleep. I had a TV in there, but it was only there because it was my old living room TV and I never used it. I kept it dark at night and have tracked my sleep for several years with Sleep for Android. It measures my movement in bed and tries to estimate what sleep phase I'm in, how much deep sleep I got, and how long I slept. I figured out my minimum is about 7 hours of sleep and that's what I target.

But still I always seem to have trouble with sleep, especially waking up. I usually need five or so alarms to go from "unconsciously snoozing" to "barely able to walk out of the room" levels of awakeness.

I was reading a book that talked about some of the latest research on sleep and the best sleep hygiene practices. One of the things the book talks about is sleeping in a pitch black room and reducing blue light at night.

My apartment has extremely bright, cool blue LED streetlights outside. They suck. Even with all my blinds closed it's so bright inside that I can easily walk around the whole apartment at night with all my lights off.

I also love cool blue lights. So much so, that I programmed my Hue lights to come on cool blue at night and just get dimmer. I have extremely bright cool blue PAR30 lights in the kitchen to let me cook in the evenings with basically daylight levels of brightness.

I think it goes without saying that any screens I use were the same way, no night shift/flux/whatever. Orange screens are ugly.

Reading the book and its well-cited evidence, I decided that the research was pretty hard to continue ignoring. I would try it and see how much of an effect it would have.

You sleep a third of your life and it does have a huge impact on your health. So I've also decided that it's worth spending the time to read a couple books about sleep as well, and there are some really informative books out there. I've listed them at the end.

So far I've made these changes:

  • Bought blackout fabric and completely covered the bedroom window
  • Made Hue lights switch from cool blue to very warm color temperatures at sunset
  • Turned on night shift / f.lux on all my devices, set to come on at sunset
  • Integrated Home Assistant rules with my sleep tracker and alarm, so that the bedroom lights fade in to max brightness right before I should wake up
  • Moved the rarely-used TV out of the bedroom and into the kitchen area
  • Covered the LED of every remaining device in the bedroom (including the smoke detector) with light-reducing stickers
  • Moved several storage bins of rarely-used items to the bedroom to fill up the empty space and discourage me using it

Now at night it looks like I live in a delapidated Cheetos factory. My devices look like the screens are broken or have terrible burn-in. My bedoom looks like a shut-in hoarder lives there who shuns the sun.

But I can go lay down in my bedroom in the middle of the day, close the doors and turn off the lights, and it's black. Completely dark. I can't walk around at all. I may have kicked the cat trying to do so.

If I sit in the dark for 20 minutes or so, I can start to barely see tiny specks of glow around the edges of the fabric. I actually was startled at first by a glowing object in the corner of the room. Turns out, the wristbands from CyberArk Impact glow in the dark!

Moving the storage bins into the bedroom may seem like an odd choice - but I've only got 800 square feet of apartment to work with, and my bedroom is a pretty large chunk of that. If all I'm using the bedroom for is sleeping, I might as well use the remaining space efficiently. Plus a bunch of boxes of rarely used winter clothes, cables, etc are just about the most boring thing you can put in a room.

All of this was completed around August 22, 2018. Currently I'm just seeing how it's going but I'll try and note any big effects or changes I add, especially as I start reading the books.

Books on my reading list

  • The Twenty-four Hour Mind, Cartwright
  • The Promise of Sleep, Dement
  • Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep, Randall
  • Sleep: A Very Short Introduction, Lockley
  • Sleep Smarter, Stevenson This book reeks of pseudo-science

August 22, 2018
I started with a 13 hour sleep deficit based on the past 14 days. In other words, over the past 14 days I should have slept 98 hours. Instead I slept 85 hours. That's pretty bad for me, especially since 7 hours is an average. Often I will sleep for 8 hours.

The lights and screens have been set to warm light for a couple days now. Today I put in the blackout fabric and "completed" the bedroom. I tried laying down in the black room in the afternoon to see how dark it was with the sun out, and I immediately began feeling a little sleepy, which was a good sign..

I started feeling sleepy around midnight, which is extremely early for me. Could be due to the sleep deficit though. By 1 a.m. I could barely stay awake - I was trying to finish the Home Assistant rules so that by the time my alarm goes off, the lights do too. That's kind of important, as it's much easier to wake up in a bright room.

I went to bed tired, but it took about 45 minutes to fall asleep.

August 23, 2018
I woke up to my alarm in the usual way with a couple snoozes after 7.5 hours of sleep. The Home Assistant rules kind of worked, but not as well as I'd have liked. Needs more tweaking.

There was one very dramatic change though: I dreamed.

All my life, I've rarely dreamed. I dream a couple times a year, and when I dream its memory is gone within minutes of waking up. All I can remember after is "I think I had a dream?" It's never been worth having a dream journal because of how infrequent the dreams are.

The first night with the blackout fabric and I have a vivid dream that I actually remembered for several hours. Huh. I've dreamed before sometimes when I take an afternoon nap, so I don't know if it's the light that's the difference. It could be a better quality of sleep? I'm looking forward to seeing if it continues.

August 24, 2018
Had a dream again. Don't remember it as vividly as yesterday, but still.

September 3, 2018
I decided to cut my caffeine intake dramatically. Most days I'm between 500 and 1000 mg/day, with the average being somewhere in the middle. I've started tapering my caffeine to around 200 to 300 mg/day, and have restricted it to only morning and early afternoon.

September 8, 2018
I switched out my bathroom's light bulbs to very warm LEDs. This is notable because I usually am exposed to these lights right before bed as I'm getting ready for sleep. Because there are six of them, they are not Hue bulbs and hence don't get dimmed like the other lights. I always felt awakened by those lights previously, now it's a lot better.

September 14, 2018
To further reduce my light exposure at night, I got some motion-activated night lights for the bathroom. Now I can get up at night to go without turning any lights on.

September 17, 2018
My sleep duration is averaging about 7.4 hours per night. I'm falling asleep earlier. I wake up much easier. I'm finally positive on sleep deficit, at least for the past month. It's pretty much a success, and most of the work I barely even notice now, like the warm lights. The lack of caffeine makes me tired very early during the day, but those effects should be temporary as I return to normal sensitivity.