The Top 5 Ways to Hack Insomnia

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We’ve all been there. It’s been a long, stressful, yet productive day, and you’ve worked yourself to the limit. For the last few hours of work, all you wanted was to go to bed, but you got the job done. Now, you’re finally home, you’ve eaten a great Bulletproof dinner, and it’s time for bed. There’s one problem – falling asleep is taking too long.

Despite the layers of fatigue covering your eyes and slowing your performance, for some reason, your brain just won’t turn off like you want it to. This is a common problem for many executives and really, just about any hard working person. Luckily, there are ways to keep a restless brain from destroying your sleep. Here are the top five ways to fix a bad night’s sleep.


1. Upgraded Coconut Charcoal

In Step 7 of the personal Upgrade Series, you learned how toxins can limit your performance and how to remove them. One of the reasons people start sleeping better on the Bulletproof Diet is because they’re detoxing. Toxins interfere with your sleep by causing inflammation in your brain. A major source of toxins for many people is bad gut bacteria.

Studies have found a connection between sleep debt and bad gut bacteria in animals. In rats, bacterial infections often travel to the gut, where the toxins can cause sleep deprivation. Other studies have shown that changes in gut bacteria can have a significant impact on learning and memory, probably from the increase or decrease in toxins traveling to the brain. Another theory says that lack of sleep at night causes stress in your probiotics, which causes them to secrete more toxins.

Eating the Bulletproof Diet and taking a high quality probiotic are the best way to optimize your gut bacteria, but sometimes you need a little extra help. Activated charcoal acts like a vacuum cleaner, and adsorbs (even better than absorbing) the toxins from your digestive tract before they can reach your brain and cause inflammation. However, activated charcoal is small potatoes (pun intended) compared to Upgraded Glutathione.

2. Upgraded Glutathione Force

Glutathione is one of the most powerful antioxidants and detoxifiers your body makes. It’s essential for removing toxins, protecting fats from oxidation, and assisting in immune function and brain function. One of the ways it helps you sleep is similar to activated charcoal, although faster acting and more powerful.

Glutathione drastically increases your liver’s ability to bind and remove toxins. Many people have lower than optimal glutathione levels due to stress, infections, poor diet, and other problems. If you’re low on glutathione, your body can easily get overwhelmed with toxins and inflammation. While activated charcoal only targets toxins in your gut, lipoceutical glutathione helps your liver remove toxins that are already in your bloodstream and other tissues. This means you get a more complete detox, and even more profound improvements in sleep quality.

Glutathione doesn’t work when you take it orally because your body digests it before you can use it… unless you take Upgraded Glutathione, which wraps the precious glutathione molecule in a proprietary blend of MCT-based lipids. This allows the glutathione to penetrate the lining of the gut and raise blood levels of glutathione dramatically. This technique is exactly the same one used in advanced pharmaceutical delivery systems, but here we’re using it to bring a natural substance into the body more efficiently. That’s totally Bulletproof!

3. Deep Breathing Exercises

Non-beneficial stress is a terrible waste. Not only does it decrease immune function, shorten your lifespan, and impair sexual performance, it can also destroy your sleep. Perhaps the most common reason people report not being able to sleep is that they don’t know how to clear their mind and stop worrying.

Deep breathing exercises like Art of Living, pranayama yoga, meditation, and other methods can do wonders for helping your brain shut down, recuperate, and prepare for another day of high performance. Another similar but more upgraded technique is HeartMath.

4. HeartMath

While most of us associate an erratic heart rate with stress (or a serious medical condition), it’s not quite that simple. When your body is under stress, the amount of time between your heartbeats becomes steady, consistent, and monotonous. When you’re relaxed, calm, and your heart is in a state called “high-coherence”, the time between your heartbeats is actually different each time. This means you have high heart rate variability, which is correlated with better sleep… and an even a better golf game.

The HeartMath Emwave2 is a small device that helps you to quickly train your heart and brain to work together. It helps you develop high heart rate variability so you can become bulletproof against stress, which improves your sleep and helps you live longer. The great thing about HeartMath is that you can do it almost anywhere, anytime, and it gives you objective data as to how much you’ve improved.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, try a few minutes of HeartMath training with an emWave before bed. Even three minutes can sometimes be enough to put the most tweaked out executives to sleep.

5. Bulletproof Coffee

How many times have you heard someone recommend coffee for improving your sleep? Probably never, right? Well, Bulletproof Coffee is a little different from your average latte.

The high-quality grass-fed butter and MCT oil in Bulletproof Coffee increase your bile turnover, which is a major way your body removes toxins that decrease your brain function and hurt your sleep. In addition, the short chain fats in the MCT oil supply your brain with ketones which help mental function and sleep.

Bulletproof Coffee is still high in caffeine (that’s a good thing), so you should take it at least six or more hours before bed. Otherwise, it may interfere with your sleep. Many of the people I coach report improvements in their Sleep Cycle scores after using Bulletproof Coffee, and it’s done wonders for me, especially when I’m on the road.


How to Salvage Your Day After A Night of Insomnia

When you’re young, you can sometimes overcome a lack of sleep problem with cheap coffee and enthusiasm. When people get a little older, they usually rationalize being tired as something that’s just “part of the job.” I tried both of these techniques, and neither of them worked for the long term. Biohacking made it clear why sleep was so hard.

Gut bacteria can produce toxins that interfere with your brain function. By taking activated charcoal, you can stop these toxins from reaching your brain and disturbing your sleep. When you take Upgraded Glutathione, you can remove performance-robbing toxins from your bloodstream and entire body. Deep breathing exercises and HeartMath training can help you relax and take charge of stress that’s contributing to your sleeplessness. And finally, Bulletproof Coffee (in the morning) can help to decrease inflammation and nourish your brain function with healthy fats.

Toxins are just one of many causes of insomnia and low quality sleep, so be sure to read the other sleep hacking articles on the site as well.

As a biohacker, I’m always looking for new ways to hack my sleep. What methods have you used to salvage a sleepless night? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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By Dave Asprey

  • Before getting a Modafinil prescription sometimes I would get into a negative feedback loop in which not being able to fall asleep would cause me to worry that I wouldn’t be able to preform the next day which would increase my anxiety level making it even harder to fall asleep. But now I know that even if I can’t fall asleep Modafinil can still salvage the next day which paradoxically makes it less likely that lack of sleep will result in my needing to take Modafinil.

    • matthiasak

      That is a pretty hectic loop. The possibility of using the emwave might help you, if you haven’t tried it. Alongside some techniques for goal setting and working throughout the day.

      I really enjoy some stress management techniques by Leo Babauta at, and would highly recommend checking his stuff out 🙂

      • Gabriel

        Which techniques for goal setting and working throughout the day do you use?

        • matthiasak

          I use pen and paper to write down what it is I am working on and about to complete. That is my list. I dont keep a todo list, but rather a Got Done list.

          If at any time there is something I want to do, I throw it on my calendar at a time I believe I can do it. Not only then can I rest easy knowing that I’ve scheduled it (and thus it won’t keep my mind racing on things I need to do when I go to bed), but I also have already saved all that willpower from making the choice to do something when I put it on my calendar.

          When the time comes to do that task, I have already set aside time to do it and scheduled it into my calendar. All I have to do then is start the task.

          That said, I take breaks in the middle of the day and at the end of it. To feel fulfilled, I always have some kind of personal project that helps me in someway that is tied in no way to doing a task for work. This could be reading a book, listening to an audiobook, or even listening to the Bulletproof Executive podcasts! In the past 2 months, I have read all books by Tim Ferriss, I have been trianing for a marathon, I have started writing my own book, I have built a new version of my website, released some stuff on Github (I’m a software engineer), and even started minimalistic marathon training. On top of that, I started experimenting in the Bulletproof Executive / Paleo 2.0 dietary protocol.

          This is how I am happy and fulfilled in my life. My personal list doesn’t lag behind because I make time for it.

          To make more of that time available, the discussions on brain state are really good. Bulletproof Coffee, for instance, has really helped me churn out most of my work-related tasks in the morning. This leaves me more open time in the afternoon and evening.

    • jaime

      hmm…makes sense.

  • chris3

    This emwave2 looks kind of interesting. Just one review on amazon said it was just a heart rate monitor with a line going up and down telling you when to breath. seems expensive for that.

  • Gabriel

    Great article. Does activated charcoal also capture drugs? I don´t want it to interfere with medication. Thanks.

    • Patrick

      yes, it is often given for overdoses in the Emergency Room

  • Just clarifying but using activated charcoal vs liposomal glutathione should be mutually exclusive right? Will the charcoal adsorb the glutathione if you take them together?

    • jshouse

      You can feel the effects of glutathione almost immediately so I don’t know whether the lipids would protect the glutathione from the charcoal. Be good to know.

  • Chris


    Great stuff. Aside from following the bulletproof diet, drinking bulletproof coffee, and doing the stuff you mentioned here, what would you advise for someone who is welling to spend $500 to upgrade their health and mental performance?

    You have so many great recommended resources here, there is a lot to consider.

    So if I were to really apply $500 to this, what things would you recommend.

    Thanks so much for your great work.


  • anon

    exactly when and how often should we take the charcoal? every night? is it a good idea to take it with food and other supplements?

  • Jack117
  • Just going to throw in my 2 go-to’s here…

    Magnesium 1 hour before bed + yoga by candlelight 30 min before bed does wonders.

    • Leila

      Yoga by dim candlelight sounds just lovely. I like to pair yoga with an essential oil warmer, which I often fill with 3-4 drops of frankincense.

    • Guest

      That sounds fine if one isn’t very sick.

  • chris

    I recently got a nightwave sleep assistant, which emits a pulsing blue light to time your breathing to before sleep, and have found it to be helpful. Similar to the emwave, it is based on improving heart rate variability.

  • Wolffy

    I’m a bit confused on when to take Upgraded Glutathione. How long after I eat and can I take anything else with it such as collagen? If I take it during the day, how long after can I eat? Thanks.

  • Kyle

    Hey Dave,
    Thank you for all your free advice, I’ve tried to support your work through buying your amazing coffee. Question for you though, have you ever heard of extreme sleep problems when quitting marijuana after a long time? Symptoms=insomnia and crazy vivid dreams. You are the sleep expert, any tips?

    I appreciate any response!


  • Pingback: Oh my… | Pamela's Paleo Life()


    So does HeartMath provide all the same benefits as meditation?

  • Kyle E

    The best sleep I’ve ever had was from taking GHB. It rapidly puts you into great stage three sleep (not coincidentally where most growth hormone release occurs). It also causes a dopamine rebound, so you get about five hours of incredible sleep and wake feeling awesome. Never found anything remotely as effective. Unfortunately it’s now a schedule 1 drug.

  • Leila

    Hi Dave & Co.

    I’m a recent bulletproof convert and have opted for the Upgraded

    Glutathione supplement.

    Can you please answer some dosing questions:

    1) When (time & how often per day) should we take this supplement?

    2) On an empty stomach or with a meal?

    I assume since Glutathione is so sensitive to digestion that we should take it on an empty stomach in the morning, maybe 30 mins prior to drinking coffee. Is this assumption correct?

    Thank you so much for your guidance!


    • krayziehustler

      According the this site…

      Use 1 serving per day in the morning.

      Best to take on an empty stomach or 20 minutes before a meal.

  • jaime

    The only one of these that doesn’t cost money (and therefore should probably be tried first) is number 3. I’ve never been able to get a lot out of breathing exercises alone. I may not be doing it right but I have given it attention and it seems to not be very effective for me.
    However something interesting happened to me when playing college baseball in 1997. I went to see a “hypnotist” for enhancing my athletic performance. Prior to leading me through visualization of better performance, he relaxed my body from head to toe. “Your toes are feeling heavy and relaxed…Your calves are now heavy and relaxed…” and up to my forehead.
    I listened to the cassette tape that he made of that session every night as I fell asleep. Other than having the best performance of my life that year, I noticed that the number of hours of sleep I needed went down by roughly 2 hours. No joke. And I woke up with more energy.
    Now, I don’t listen to a tape or talk to myself as I fall asleep. It’s more like I bounce from body-part to body-part very quickly, relaxing the body-part and making it feel heavy as I think about it. It takes about 2-5 minutes of this before I’m asleep.
    This is a serious sleep hack that doesn’t cost a thing. Try it. I’d love to hear how it works for you.
    I guess what it says is that most of the time you fall asleep with tense muscles and entering sleep this way is much less effective. Makes sense but its still astonishing how much less sleep you need.
    As far as breathing, I do take some deep breathes prior to doing this but, as I said, focusing on breathing for me has never worked well. It’s like I try to control it and that becomes like focusing on where to put your hands at a party instead of just having fun. You know?

    • CocoJumbo

      The heck, that’s simply yoga nidra…

  • asdf


    there is a typo in the line: and an even a better golf game. under 4. Heart Math

    and the sleep cycle link doesnt work!


  • Sean

    I sleep excellent when I eat a small amount of ice cream before bed. Any comments on this?

    Furthermore I have a question. Why, even after a hearthy dinner, do I almost always get extremely hungry around 11 – 12 pm?

  • Kurt

    Regarding Glutathione, I’ve been supplementing with N-Acetyl Cysteine for a couple of months. N-Acetyl Cysteine is a precursor to Glutathione and regular supplementation is proven to increase Glutathione levels. Additionally, it is must less expensive than Upgraded Glutathione – though I have no idea if it is as effective.

  • Leslie

    I suffered with insomnia for years- since I was a young girl. My insomnia turned out to be related to a magnesium deficiency, which was caused by undiagnosed celiac disease. I finally found relief with topical magnesium chloride spray, which I apply very liberally, on a daily basis. Every so often, I use Epsom salt soaks. Magnesium deficiency is a huge problem in the general population, as well. Not just those who are sick and chronically ill.

    Magnesium: The Most Powerful Relaxation Mineral Available by Dr. Mark Hyman

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  • ok

    Ok, now I’m sure that this site isn’t “really” free…
    The topic is “5 ways to avoid a bad night’s sleep”.
    * 3 of them (2, 4, 5) are selling a product only available from the owner of this website.
    * The other 2 (1, 3) are just saying how better is to use the website branded product… Brainwash…

    • Axl

      off course he’s promoting he’s products… that is what this site is for. Wouldn’t it be weird if he had stuff on here to buy but never talked about it. and btw, this blog got like one million other FREE tips that have nothing to do with his products. you paranoid illuminati-believer…

  • Ben Austin

    I think we should also add to the list, to avoid too much blue light before bed. I personally use blue light blocking glasses an hour or two before bed and I sleep like a champ.

    • lucb202

      Good point, Ben. As I learned recently ( the artificial light before bed–especially from our all too popular electronics–suppresses our melatonin production which regulates our wake and sleep cycles. That suppression can lead to drastic diseases down the road.

      • Lucb202,

        The blue blocking glasses help mitigate some of that risk, but it is not a perfect solution.

        I have to spend long hours on the computer, so I really don’t have a choice sometimes. I guess finding hacks to live in a modern world is what this website is all about 🙂


  • justice

    I wish this was more than “buy this, buy that”! I was very engrossed with The Bulletproof Exe. Before it beame a brainwashed selling tactic!

  • Cagetiger

    I was having a lot of trouble sleeping and now am a bit better but have trouble with my work schedule to keep a proper routine. I will be working on getting a proper routine and cleaning up my diet also but I did see a naturopath and he did clean up my gut issues a bit also he noticed a irregularity in my heartbeat. I also have some anxiety issues which sometimes impedes my progress and also need to cleanup my lifestyle smoking/drinking late nights. Any tips or suggestions would be much appreciated I will be going back to school in a month and starting my own business at the same time so I will need to be quite disiplined and make some serious lifestyle changes.


  • Ashley McAuley

    Liposomal glutathione only raises blood levels of glutathione. Actually having all the cells in your body increase the amount that they produce is much more effective, especially when it comes to brain health (like sleep and much, much more). If increasing intracellular glutathione sounds of interest, I highly recommend checking out the science behind RiboCeine, which is vastly more effective than either NAC or wrapping glutathione molecules in MCTs. It’s bioavailable; once inside the cell, the ribose goes to make ATP, and the cysteine (the limiting amino acid in GSH production) goes to make glutathione. Then real detoxification can happen inside the cell, where it matters most.

  • Alex

    For my free-dive training I learned to practice my breath ups and breath holds before bed. It helps put your body right to a pure relaxation. The feeling you get once you loose fear of the deep sea and dive down
    with complete awareness to everything happening to your body as it
    slowly but surely runs out of oxygen is a feeling that is hard to
    The first very noticeable thing you realize is the
    complete silence of everything but your mind! Once you learn to shut off
    all your ego BS talking in your head you will notice the feeling
    of water rushing over your body. As a free diver you want to create as little
    drag as possible so your kicks propel you further with less effort. As
    you get deeper you have to equalize your ears which is crucial otherwise
    your eardrums will get injured. With time the only problem with
    equalizing is the loss of a little bit but crucial amount of oxygen. Now
    the complex and very mind controlled state begins where you feel the
    loss of blood in your hands and feet as the blood rushes to your center
    with the phenomenon of blood shift. You loose feeling in your
    extremities all while the build up of co2 starts to give you the feeling
    of needing to gasp for air. You shut that uncomfortable feeling off
    knowing it’s not your lack of oxygen, your still nowhere near oxygen and
    your lungs are starting to compress from the 2 atmospheres of pressure
    now the two hardest parts of the dive are the start of diaphragm
    contractions which is the signal of your half way point. This is scary
    at first but not to worry it’s just a sign of where your at. Now for the
    best! Think of the best pump you have ever felt lifting where the
    lactic acid builds up and your just in a good zone knowing your doing
    something good! Well the feeling kicking back up is like that because at
    this point your running out of your true energy source of oxygen and
    each trust up is needed to get more life but with each kick you must
    stay calm and focused. Once you break the surface you exhale fully and
    slowly followed by 5 full inhale and exhales which will be the best
    feeling of the world as the oxygen flows back through your veins! This
    all seems very physical which it is but the true bliss happens when you
    realize how much your mind is in control of everything! Imagine getting
    an anxiety attack 60ft under water… We’ll you really can’t because you
    will learn how to control your thoughts more and more with each dive
    and until your in control you won’t make it too deep:p learning to tune
    in to all of my body has made me feel more alive then I have ever felt
    before! I have gotten my breath hold to 3minutes and 34 seconds and can
    say confidently I’m at a new level physically and mentally!

    FYI BULLETPROOF COFFEE was needed before every dive!