Tim Ferriss is an author, entrepreneur and self-proclaimed “human guinea pig.” Known for taking experiments to the extreme in practically every domain, he’s earned an incredible following. His podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show, has won “Best of iTunes” consistently since 2014, with over 150 million downloads.
Ferriss was a relative unknown until the launch of his first book in 2009, The 4-Hour Workweek. He hacked his way into bestseller lists, working with bloggers, influencers and running competitions (among many other tactics).
He’s incredible at self-experimentation and constantly testing theories and methods to understand what’s the difference that makes the difference.
That skill led him to publish two more books in the 4-Hour series (4-Hour Body and 4-Hour Chef) and eventually “Tools of Titans,” a book based on the interviews of inspiring people, entrepreneurs and world leaders on his popular podcast.
Sleep is one of many areas that Ferriss has tinkered in, and he has all sorts of tricks up his sleeve to beat insomnia and improve sleep.
The Japanese live longer on average than Westerners in Europe and America. One theory behind this is that regular ofuro — hot baths before bed — increase melatonin release, thereby helping ensure they live longer.
Ferriss didn’t fancy trying that, so instead he experimented with putting a few bags of ice into a bathtub — until the ice was around 80 percent melted — and sitting in it for 10 minutes. He also recommends a low dose of melatonin (1.5–3 mg), to help regulate sleep. He suggests easing into this, to avoid shocking the body. However, the results are worth the discomfort: “like getting hit with an elephant tranquilizer, even if the melatonin is omitted. Don’t expect it to be pleasant at first.”
While downing an espresso and then having a 20-minute nap in the middle of the day (ideally between 1–3 pm) might sound crazy, it works.
“Down an espresso and set your alarm for no more than 20 minutes, which prevents awakening in the middle of a restorative sleep cycle.”
Since the effect of coffee usually doesn’t kick in for at least 30 minutes, you’ll feel an extra jump start when you wakeup.
It’s crucial to find the right night temperature for your body. When the ambient temperature is already warm, the aim should be to ensure your bedroom is cool enough to sleep, generally around 60–67-degrees (15.5–19.5ºC).
If it’s cold for you, Ferriss recommends using socks to tweak how you feel until you find a temperature that is right for your body. Testing socks of different thicknesses is an easy variable to change for tweaking heat loss.
Ideal temperature is highly individual and a narrow range, so be persistent with your experiments until you find what’s right for you.
What you eat has a direct impact on how well you sleep. Tim recommends a meal “of at least 800mg cholesterol (4 or more large whole eggs) and 40 grams of protein” within 3 hours of bedtime. Read more: how long it takes to digest various foods.
Tim’s go-to tranquilizer beverage is simple: 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (he uses the brand Bragg) and 1 tablespoon honey, stirred into 1 cup of hot water. While seemingly quirky advice, this tip was given to Ferriss by the late and great Seth Roberts, Ph.D. Read more about why this works on Seth’s blog.
Ferriss discovered that low blood sugar is one of the main reasons you can have a decent 8–10 hours of sleep and still feel like rubbish the next morning. He suggests a pre-bed snack of almond or peanut butter on celery sticks, along with “1–2 tablespoons of flaxseed oil (120–240 calories)…which eliminates at least 50 percent of feel like shit 1–3 [am] awakenings.”
Ferris says he sees the top 1% of performers are more and more putting sleep as their #1 priority for the day.
For many, prioritizing sleep means creating a consistent evening routine. In his video describing his own practice, Tim talks about how he winds down at the end of his day.
You can find several other recommendations in his books, iTunes podcast and blog. If you are new to Tim Ferriss, his theories, tests and writings are well worth exploring; whether you want to lose weight, increase performance or get a better night’s sleep.