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The Inner Circle - Issue #5

How to get the best sleep of your life, and the best songs of all time.

Sean Johnson
Sean Johnson
3 min read

This newsletter is for my inner circle. The people whose opinions matter to me the most. It’s where I’ll be more open than normal. Where I’ll share what I’m excited about, what I’m processing. You’re on this list for a reason. Thank you for being in my life.

In this issue:

  • How to get the best sleep of your life
  • The best songs of all time

How to have the best sleep of your life

One of the things I started taking more seriously when COVID started was sleep.
Part of it was the nervousness about the state of the world. Part of it was just my daily and weekly habits creating a downward spiral.

It got to the point where I was getting out of bed and going to the guest room 3-4 nights a week to spare my wife the constant tossing and turning.

So in typical fashion I resolved to fix it by trying as many possible and seeing what sticks.

The following tools, tips and rituals have made the biggest impact for me. Your mileage will of course vary. But hopefully you’ll find something helpful.

In order of expense:

Exercise - Free

When I started workout out again regularly I noticed an immediate impact in the quality of my sleep. Time of day does matter - I find it harder to sleep if I exercise right before bed. After work, before dinner has been my sweet spot.

Hot Bath - Free

After I put the kids to bed, I now take a hot bath most days. Research has found that a hot bath an hour or two before bed can help you fall asleep faster and improve the quality of your sleep - even in the middle of the summer.

Magnesium - $20

Supplementing with magnesium has seemed to help as well - while the evidence is conflicting, several studies have found a correlation between magnesium supplementation and improved sleep quality and duration.

Rise Science - $60

There are a bunch of sleep tracking apps out there (including the one that comes with the mattress I suggest below). But most of them show me a bunch of data I can’t really do anything with. The wearable nut in me enjoys looking at my HRV, etc. But it feels overkill.

Rise is great because it helps me boil everything down to a single number - my “sleep debt.” Generally I’ve found when my sleep debt is good, I feel good. When it’s bad, I feel bad. It’s a much more manageable approach to optimization.

It also shows you how your energy will wax and wane throughout the day, which I’ve found pretty accurate. And yes - I absolutely use the afternoon crash data to justify my weekend naps to my family.

Blue Light Glasses - $75

Blue light from devices has been found to inhibit the production of melatonin. These glasses block the blue light to let the chemicals flow. I got ones from Pixel Eyewear.

Black Out Shades - couple hundred bucks

Our bedroom is on the second floor of our house and looks out onto several street lamps. I realized I was much more sensitive to this light than I thought. We got ours from West Elm, which look lovely and block out 100% of the light.

The Eight Sleep Mattress - $$$$ but absolutely worth it

This is by far the biggest single improvement in my sleep quality.

We tried several mattresses, all of which claimed to stay cool despite having some combination of foam innards. But every night I’d roast.

The eight sleep uses a cover that goes over your mattress, and has a water reservoir next to your bed to pump water.

I was worried it’d be noisy. It wasn’t. I was worried I would feel the water pulsing through the cover. It doesn’t.

It lets my wife and I control our own sides of the bed - she doesn’t like it nearly as cold as I do.

It’s expensive - I’m not gonna lie. But my calculus was I spend a third of my life on this thing. I should be willing to invest in my bed more than most other things.

The only downside to my highly optimized sleep setup - whenever I travel I sleep horribly. If you have any suggestions, I’m all ears.

The best songs of all time

Last week, Rolling Stone magazine released their updated list of the 500 best songs of all time. The previous list was done nearly two decades ago, so the refresh includes a ton of new stuff. The top 10 list changed dramatically as well, in ways that I think definitely reflect a more modern take on what constitutes a “song that matters.”

Unfortunately the only way to listen to it was with Apple Music. So I spent an evening sitting in the parking lot while my daughter was at dance practice recreating it on Spotify. You can get the playlist here. You’re welcome.