Sleep Hacking Awesome: High Performance Day after 2.5 Hours of Sleep

sleep hacking
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This is another entry in the sleep hacking series where I review ways to sleep less while increasing performance and longevity.

I did an experiment a couple nights ago that literally blew my mind…well, almost literally anyway. On any night, I can get as little as 3 hours of sleep and function just fine the next day (and the day after!) if I carefully manage my supplements the following morning, but 3 hours is pushing it, and it will usually cost me the next morning – I feel groggy and just not Bulletproof.

Due to some air travel and a deadline, I only had time for 2.5 hours of sleep (I went to bed at 4:30 am, and my lovely children usually wake me up at 7:00 am).

Since I already have a huge collection of brain hacking and biohacking toys, I broke out a programmable cerebro-electrical stimulator, also known as a Russian sleep machine, or “electrosleep” device. CES devices have been around since 1949, when Russians first deployed them on space missions. Before bed, I set it to run a current across my brain (a carefully shaped, controlled microcurrent) that put my brain into a deep, 1.5 Hz delta state for a half hour as I slept. I forced myself to get more deep sleep than I’d otherwise have had.

The results? Even though I had only 2.5 hours of total sleep (and just 5 the night before), I woke up full of energy and feeling as if I’d slept an un-hacked 7+ hours. After waking up, I did another 15 minutes of a 40 Hz Gamma state and experienced one of the most productive days I’ve had in weeks.

I didn’t take any Provigil, a “wakefulness promoter” used by more than a few executives – especially for jet lag, or very long meetings. I’ve used it regularly to increase performance and focus when needed, but never once exceeded the prescribed dosage. It’s much less harsh than Adderall and other amphetamine-class drugs because it’s not a stimulant.

Anyhow, I was *sure* I’d need some Provigil to wake up. Instead, the single cup of Bulletproof coffee I have in the morning (fortified with brain-friendly, healthy fats like grass-fed unsalted butter and  Brain Octane Oil) was all I needed to feel awesome. Let’s take a moment to define awesome.  I didn’t feel awesome, like “I can’t wait to file my expense reports today.” Instead, I felt awesome, as in “I can’t wait to climb a mountain while writing a NY Times best-selling nutrition book and delivering a keynote speech on cloud computing … while juggling.”

Introducing Cranial Electrical Stimulation (CES)

In this post, I talk about how you can end insomnia without drugs by using Cranial Electrical Stimulation. CES is a pretty big deal, such a big deal that the FDA got behind it and approved it, that’s right it’s FDA approved!

In this double-blind study, a CES device and its effects were studied and tested on subjects with insomnia. The experiment lasted 2 years and the results were amazing. Sleep habits were actually improved consistently in test subjects with insomnia, subjects reported being able to fall asleep with little difficulty and to awake feeling moderately to very well rested. Though the test was on a small scale and much more testing needs to be done to get a conclusion, the trend cannot be ignored. If you think you might be struggling with insomnia this sleep hack is worth looking into.

If you are an insomniac, CES is shown to be a safe and effective treatment for insomnia (click here for a long list of CES references). I am not an insomniac; I can go to sleep within 3 minutes of lying down – thanks to years of meditation and breathing exercises (and biohacking/biofeedback). CES also treats anxiety and drug addiction (particularly heroin) although fortunately, those are not things that apply to me!

There’s also an app for that

This is pretty hard-core biohacking because I’m running a (safe) current across my head.

One of my favorite techniques and a favorite app of mine is the Sleep Cycle app, it can actually track you while you are sleeping, which is useful because its hard to pay attention to how well your sleeping, because you’re asleep! It also tracks your stages of sleep and tells you the exact hour you fell into deep sleep and how long you were able to stay there.

This app was a game changer because it allows you to quantify sleep like no other app could. It also helps you understand how your workouts and food intake might impact how well you sleep. It also archives all of the information and shows you a very detailed graph on how your sleep fluctuates depending on what you did that day.

Other techniques, like optimizing wake time via the Sleep Cycle app, using the Inner Balance app, are “softer” forms of sleep hacking.

For completeness, I’m using a NeuroTrek Digital Pro CES machine, which costs about $800 if you can find one. It’s the most programmable CES machine out there, but it’s discontinued, and the new model isn’t available.

Check out Bulletproof Radio

Dan Pardi is a sleep expert and understands sleep on a mitochondrial level. He believes that most people are actually using melatonin the wrong way because most people don’t really understand what it’s meant to do. He also talks about the definition of insomnia – not as a sleep disorder – but as a condition that arises with outside interference like stress. Check out the episode here: Daniel Pardi: Date Rape Drugs, Napping, & Jet Lag.

Sleep is one of the more important cornerstones of the Bulletproof lifestyle. It impacts your happiness, your ability to focus, and to lose weight. Lack of sleep has been shown to cause Alzheimer’s, all sorts of different types of cancers, and depression.

Happy sleep hacking everyone!

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By Dave Asprey

  • bsrubin

    I’ve got a Fisher Wallace Cranial Stimulator ( sitting next to my bed. I’ve been meaning to try it out – similar technology to what you are using. The advice on the Fisher is to use it BEFORE bed – not during – to enhance sleep quality and reduce time to sleep. Will need to crack it out!

    • f2jilani

      Did you play around with it yet?

  • Kevin Beckford

    OMFG!!!!! Are you telling me that Larry Niven’s ‘Russian Sleep Sets’ exist? I thought it was part of Known Space and forgive me for babbling, I have wanted one of these forever! Gracias, caballero. Now I will be unstoppable.

    • Mike Dillon

      Yay I’m not the only one googling this stuff because of those stories

      • Michael Levine

        That’s hilarious. I was just reading Ringworld again and thought to search for this…

  • Dave Asprey

    Yes it does! I used mine for an hour last night at 4hz, low theta as I went to sleep. Most of the time I focus on physically regenerative deeper levels, like .5-1.5hz. Happy sleeping Kevin! From: Posterous [mailto:

  • Zingbo

    Looks like the maker of the neurotrek is coming out with newer version soon and taking order for the old one which he will let you trade in for the new one:

  • Kevin Beckford

    Much appreciated!

  • ArmiLegge

    Great work as always Dave!I’d love to hear more about how this can be used to improve athletic recovery. Maybe an experiment with some hard workouts and how you recovered after a sleep phase would be cool.I bet this could be useful for improving Polyphasic sleep. My main problem has always been trying to get to sleep in the middle of the day, but this might be an interesting toy to try out.Thanks for sharing another awesome tool in your sleep hacking arsenal.Armi

    • Dave Asprey

      I find that if I want to add muscle, I need to sleep about 2 more hours a night to do it. Haven’t found a good way to reduce sleep for the long term like I do now while increasing recovery. I can reverse damage with less sleep, but building new mass just seems to need more sleep. Or injectable growth hormone, but I’m too young for that.

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  • EricH

    Hey Dave, I was wondering if you have heard anything about the new version of the Neurotrek Digital Pro. I thought about getting it since its only $500 compared to the older models price of $800 but i havent really seen any reviews on it. Just wanted to know if you’ve heard anything about it, because I trust what you say alot more than the testimonials on a sales page haha.

    • f2jilani

      Did you end up ordering the new one yet?

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  • Your link, click here for a long list of CES references, appears to be broken and I would very much like to read on

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  • Seashelle

    Hi, I’d love to try some kind of CES machine, and it looks like the Neurotrek Pro is indeed discontinued and various forums have said that the Neurotrek 3 you can find on the internet is unfortunately a sham. What is the next best device that you would recommend? There’s the Fisher Wallace, AlphaStim, and others on the market. However, which one would provide the most benefits in terms of sleep optimisation? And what are the important factors when it comes to these devices? Electrode location? Frequency? AC or DC? Can you please provide a recommendation on what you would have bought if the Neurotrek Pro you are using is not available? Thanks!

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  • Dashie

    Is it hard to make a CES device for someone who has some robotics and programming training? Are there any open source instructions on making one? I’m guessing it would cost a lot less to make at home.

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  • Charles Wallace

    If anyone is interested , I’m selling a NeuroTrek Digital Pro, teh same as Dave uses, on eBAy.

    • Baris Harvey

      Are you still selling your device?

  • CuriousDude (?)

    There’s research that delta wave music improves memory while played during sleep.. Is it possible to induce the same effect without the current?? i mean our brains should be able to shift into the same wave length. Its just a bit unsettling to try electrical current across my brain.. lol i kinda need it for a while.. 🙂

  • sai prasad

    in yoga there’s quite an easy technique to go into deep sleep for 2 hours and still be fresher than usual the following day.

    • Merch

      What exactly would that be?

    • PlayStation4Life!

      Teach us please, rather than just saying it.

  • If i could eliminate one thing from my daily routine, it would be sleep….

    Anyone else using a CES machine and have feedback?

  • Mike Bledsoe

    Great post Dave, you actually convinced me to buy one. I bought the doubled frequency oasis pro(also programmable). I think that you hyper productivity may have been the result of the device putting you into a “flow state.” The first time I used gamma on mine, I experienced the same effect. Every time I program in a new gamma level I usually get the same effects. I have read that gamma is one of the primary brain wave states in the flow state. Do you think this is possible?

  • Fasil K K Cholakkara

    I go for sleep 2 hours late every day then last night. Alarm after 7 hours. So For me a day is 26 hours. and when everyone have a 13 days, i will live only 12 day according to my biological clock. Any scientific research append on this kind of sleep cycle.