How to Hack Your Sleep: The Art and Science of Sleeping
By: Dave Asprey
So you want to get better at sleeping. Understandable, given the increase in pharmaceutical sleep aid prescriptions over the last couple of decades. Some reports estimate a tripling in sleep aid prescriptions for young adults since the late 90s . Transient insomnia affects up to 80% of the population, and chronic insomnia afflicts about 15% .
But those sleeping pills that seem to work so well come with a laundry list of side effects. Even worse? They mask the underlying issue of why you can’t sleep in the first place and stop working the second you stop taking them.
Getting good sleep is both an art and a science – yet the overwhelming majority of people have trouble sleeping, even those who have mastered every other aspect of their lives. Even if you had time to sleep an entire 8 hours a night, would it be optimal, uninterrupted sleep? Would you wake up feeling 100% refreshed?
Indeed, research shows it’s not the number of hours of sleep you get that matters the most – it’s the quality of the hours you are getting. The largest sleep study ever conducted on 1.1 million people shows that it’s quality, not quantity that matters most !
If you’re looking for a more holistic approach to sleep and energy throughout your day, this post is for you.
The basics of a good night’s sleep are free
Whether or not you currently have trouble sleeping, there are several key things you can easily do to improve your current sleep. These are the most basic yet most critical hacks that will help you upgrade both the quality and quantity of sleep so you can optimize your rest every night.
- First, sleep in a pitch-black room. Make it as dark as you can possibly make it. Block all the light sources you can, whether it’s a curtain or just pinning up fabric as needed. Seriously, if you live in a city, you need blackout curtains that don’t allow in all the light pollution. Cover LEDs with black electrical tape.
- Start winding down at least two hours before bed. This means less bright lighting at night, as well eliminating, or at least dimming, computer screens and TVs.
- Third, though it may seem obvious, caffeine is not a sleep aid – stop drinking it by 2:00 p.m. each day, or at least 8 hours prior to bedtime (earlier if you’re sensitive to it).
- Go to bed by 11:00 p.m. when possible because your body creates a cortisol surge after 11 p.m. to keep you awake.
- Don’t exercise within 2 hours of bedtime, unless it’s relaxing yoga or something similar.
These are basics that are easy to implement immediately at zero cost, and they ensure you’re starting off on the right foot – or right side of the bed, rather…
Top hacks for better sleep
Even if you read no further, you can implement just these 5 things to dramatically improve your sleep. This is because they prepare your body for sleep hours by lowering stress and activity levels in the hours prior to bedtime.
- Consider Upgrade Coconut Charcoal when your sleep cycle is disturbed, such as in jet lag. When your circadian rhythm is off, your gut bacteria can make more endotoxins that will slow you down the next day. It makes sense to bind them.
- Use Upgraded Glutathione Force as an antioxidant and to help your liver do its detox work at night.
- Put your phone on airplane mode to avoid EMFs which can disturb sleep. This is surprisingly effective.
- Use the HeartMath Inner Balance sensor or emWave2 exercises to turn off your fight-or-flight response, which lets you go to sleep faster and stay asleep longer
- Only drink Bulletproof Coffee in the morning up until 2 p.m. Test to see if your sleep is impacted by coffee at 1 p.m. or even noon. Different people clear it at different rates. Don’t drink it at all if a cup in the morning hurts your sleep.
- Sleep Mode: This is a product I designed so you will fall sleep faster and wake up feeling more refreshed. It combines bio-identical melatonin which is 100% plant-sourced, L-Ornithine (an adaptogenic amino acid that lowers the stress marker cortisol) and Bulletproof Brain Octane to maintain constant ketone energy during sleep.
Food and sleep
Your brain uses a lot of energy while you’re sleeping for critical resting, healing, and repairing functions. It helps to fuel your brain optimally so it can get its job done! There is a powerful connection between what you eat and how you sleep. Following the full Bulletproof Diet is one of the most important things you can do to ensure better sleep quality over time. Within this spectrum of healthy eating, these specific sleep-focused guidelines will optimize your sleep even more:
- Eat low-mercury fish and seafood at dinner, or take krill oil 2 hours before bedtime: omega-3’s aid in your sleep processes, and krill oil in particular works in the brain because its omega-3 is bound to phospholipids. It helps with my sleep. More fat keeps your energy level stable for longer, and it takes energy to sleep efficiently.
- Some clients do very well with adding up to 1 Tbsp of Upgraded Brain Octane or Upgraded XCT oil before bedtime, blended into herbal tea as a way to provide fat to the brain for stable energy during sleep. Try it to see if it works for you. This hack is compatible with the next one.
- Try up to 1 Tbsp of raw honey before bed on an empty stomach. Your brain uses liver glycogen (carb storage) at night, and raw honey replenishes this supply and can create stable glucose levels for hours. You can take it with Brain Octane so your brain can burn glucose (from the honey) and fat (ketones from the Brain Octane) while you sleep.
- Other clients have improved sleep by taking 1-2 tablespoons of Upgraded Collagen protein before bed. If you are short on amino acids, the enzymatically processed protein does not require digestion the same way that normal proteins do.
- Reminder: Only drink Bulletproof® coffee before 2:00 p.m. or less than 8 hours before bedtime! Coffee is awesome but it doesn’t make sense to ruin your sleep with it.
Putting everything food related together, the exact protocol for the above steps looks as follows:
- 1 gram of krill oil
- 1 Tbsp of Bulletproof Brain Octane (best) or Bulletproof XCT oil
- 1-2 Tbsp of Upgraded Collagen protein or 1-3 teaspoons of raw honey
You may not want to do everything all at once the first time because you won’t know which part worked best; isolate them and try them out one by one. We’re all a little different, so a personalized bedtime plan makes sense.
Supplements and sleep
If you are looking for additional natural supplements and home remedies to improve your sleep quality, there are several potent ones I’ve written about to try. Here are my favorites:
- Valerian: a powerful herb for sleep, insomnia, and anxiety (Warning: It smells bad and leaves me groggy in the morning. Don’t use it every night.)
- Passion flower: an herbal supplement that acts like Valerian, but less intense
- Kava Stress Relief tea: (like chamomile on steroids)
- Magnesium or other forms except for Magnesium Oxide (brush your teeth after drinking; it’s acidic)
- 5-HTP: stimulates more natural melatonin production, which makes you sleepier
- Sleep Mode: a completely natural supplement that supports deep, restful sleep.
How to track – then hack – your sleep
Download my favorite iPhone sleep app, called SleepCycle, in order to track your regular sleep patterns. You just put your phone on your mattress, under your top sheet, and set the alarm. It will track your sleep quality using the microphone on your phone, and wake you feeling more refreshed at the top of a sleep cycle. I would pay $100 for this app. Do it for at least a week, so you get a sense of your baseline sleep quality.
Important: Make sure you put your phone on airplane mode so you don’t cook your head with RF.
Once you’ve tracked your sleep, you’ll have the data ready to hack your sleep – this ensures you know what you’re doing is actually working, and you can make adjustments along the way based on both how you’re feeling when you wake up, as well as what the numbers are telling you. Once you have your baseline, you can experiment with the sleep hygiene, supplements, and food hacks above, or you can try these: Here are a few more of my favorite sleep upgrades to try:
- Install easy plug in lights that don’t put out any blue spectrum. These are the ones I use at home. I turn off the overhead lights and turn these on an hour before bed. They help the kids (and me) get ready for sleep and make the house seem candle-lit.
- Pair these with electromagnetic field (EMF) filters to cut down on these fields that interfere with deep sleep (seriously!)
- Use acupuncture points to help deep sleep: a large body of evidence shows how well this works!
You’re not alone if you’re looking for the easiest way to put yourself into deep sleep without resorting to drugs or counting sheep, and for fast, measurable relaxation for your body. I’ve been sleep hacking for a long time and discovered an effective technology based on ancient practices. I now use it often and travel with it.
Enter the Bulletproof Sleep Induction Mat. It looks like a large pillowcase crossed with a porcupine, but it’s so much more – it can help you get to sleep and stay asleep, while reducing your muscular aches and pains. This is an acupressure mat specifically designed to quickly induce sleep and stimulate muscle relaxation. It is bigger and longer than typical acupressure mats available, featuring more powerful acupressure points, organic and toxin-free materials, and a travel-friendly design. It has no toxic foam insert, making it toxin-free and easier to take on a trip.
Simply lying on it for a few minutes will cause a surge of endorphins, a wave of relaxation you can feel, and it helps to create very deep sleep that you can often see on the Sleep Cycle app.
- My Improve Your Sleep series goes into way more depth on the topics above.
- All my sleep hack articles are listed here.
- This book and this book offer sleep hacks you won’t find anywhere else. Full disclosure: I wrote them.