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How I Killed Jet Lag and Got More REM Sleep Too

zeo while grounded
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This post is about a very unlikely but very effective technique to increase performance. I predict it will be remembered as one of the more elegant biohacks of the decade for its simplicity and its broad effects. It could also be ignored completely, but I’m betting on Quantified Self data to make it hard to ignore. The technology is called electrical grounding or “earthing.” Before you (yes, YOU – the engineers) tune out, which is what I almost did, read the rest of this post. That’s all I ask.

In 2005, I was flying from the West Coast to Cambridge, England every month because I was an executive for a startup based there. Even with Virgin’s awesome seats, the jet lag from flying east was painful. I could kill it with a variety of chemical techniques and more complex nutritional approaches, but it was inconvenient and sub-optimal. I had heard about the idea that if you grounded yourself by walking barefoot on grass for 20 minutes, it made jetlag go away. I laughed at the idea.

I know that raising body temperature by exercising in the morning is effective for resetting circadian rhythms, so I tried doing yoga in the park by my hotel, barefoot. What an incredible difference! I did not experience the negative effects of jet lag at all. I figured it was the yoga, and tried yoga indoors on the next trip doing the same series at the same time of day. It did not have effect. After a few trips, I confirmed for myself that grounding worked for reasons I didn’t understand. I used it, but I didn’t tell anyone because I already have a reputation for weirdness given my butter-eating and collection of electrodes that only sometimes appear in my board meetings. You can only go so far and retain your credibility, or so I thought. I just kept grounding as one of my secret tools for being bulletproof.

What it does

A few months ago, I read about a cable systems engineering entrepreneur turned biohacker who figured out that electrically grounding himself had all kinds of positive effects. Being retired and rich, he funded some small studies that were published in the Townsend Letter among other places. Grounding increases resilience because it speeds recovery, lowers inflammation, and normalizes cortisol.

I get a lot more REM sleep when I’m grounded, according to my Zeo. I have no idea why my Zeo seems to think I wake up that often; I don’t. In fact when I’m asleep, it takes extreme interruptions to wake me.

Why Earthing Works

The theory is that our bodies develop a positive charge that is slowly dispelled when we touch the earth. The earth itself has negatively charged electrons that balance the positive charge we accumulate when we’re disconnected, which happens because we are almost always electrically insulated from the surface of the planet. Over time, this positive charge builds up, depletes our energy, and promotes inflammation and disease. (Or so the theory goes)

Buffoonery like this says basically, “It doesn’t work because it can’t,” or “It doesn’t work because we don’t know why it does.” The Quantified Self approach destroys those objections. It’s easy to ground yourself, and test the biological effects. It’s also easy to blind-test yourself so you can’t know whether the grounding wire is plugged in properly or not. My wife could tell with 100% accuracy when it was plugged in just from how her skin felt.

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I won’t travel without my grounding mat because it helps me to kill jet lag while I’m sleeping. My mind is clearer on it too. The mats plug into the ground line in any normal outlet in your house. There’s one touching my feet as I type this post!

If you want to experiment, you can make your own mat with aluminum foil and a wire, which is what I did.

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  • Tony

    Dave, earthing has been around for the last decade. Clint Ober, Dr. Sinatra, and many others have been espousing the grounding benefits for a long time. It seems you are insinuating in the post as though this is your discovery. I myself have been using grounded bedding for the last 3 years. Why did you not mention the inventor or provide a link to his stuff?

  • Dave Asprey

    I totally didn’t invent it; I was just an early adopter who chose to “test it and decide” rather than the more typical “that’s dumb. it can’t work” approach! Sinatra got it from Ober…I just figured that anyone who wanted to google for “earthing” would find all the info they needed, so I put it in the post. I also linked to Ober’s work in the Townsend letter, which is more credible than his book to most readers of the blog.

    Trust me, when I invent things, I’m way more public about them than this!

  • Matt G.

    My ego feels bruised that I don’t get credit for telling you about it on Twitter a few weeks ago. LOL… I guess you were already hip to it.

  • http://armilegge.com Armi Legge

    Athletes have been using this for a long time and I always thought it was placebo effect. I swore it off as bunk, but now I’m very intrigued.

    Do you think it could be useful for everyday use. Do you think that regular earth is still superior to the mat?

    I’ve often laid in the grass and felt much more relaxed than in bed, but never really understood why. Besides being in nature, the pretty sky, cool breeze, etc. There always seemed to be something more.

    I’ll have to try this one out Dave :)

    -Armi

  • virginie

    Hello,

    Thanks for introducing this technique. Would there be any potential side effects ? How often do you use it and in which circumstances, aside from killing jet lag ?

    Virginie

  • Dave Asprey

    @Matt – LOL I still appreciate you twittering me about it!

    @Armi, I sleep on one of these and notice overall improved resilience, especially less aches and pains. I don’t quantify them as it’s a waste of time; we’re all equipped to know if our bodies are hurting a lot or a little. It’s equivalent to walking on grass if you use a grounding rod; plugging in to the round hole in your wall outlet works but is less preferable.

    @Virginie, You’re welcome. The biggest side effect is slight tingling feelings for the first few days of sleeping on a mat as your body balances out its electrical charge. I didn’t feel it, but my wife reported it for 2 nights. It probably wasn’t a placebo because I didn’t tell her what to expect while sleeping grounded. She actually rolled over and said, “I don’t know if I can sleep on this thing. I feel tons of energy and I am tingling all over.”

  • Yuan Huang

    Hey there, been following your blog for a while. Very interesting findings.

    I use ZEO too (36 days of data so far), I find that hyperzine A pill does help me boost my REM% to 35% +, I am wondering if there are any side effects… (haven’t felt any, but doesn’t mean there aren’t any)

    second thing is from your ZEO chart how come your DEEP is only 1%? I also find out that if your REM achieves above 35%, your DEEP reduces too (to 14%) and light sleep % never changes, they always stay around 50%

    Thanks,

    • Dave Asprey

      Yuan, that’s interesting. I used to be a big fan of huperzine, but as my brain performance got more dialed in, I had to back off on all the cholinergic stimulators like huperzine. Too much acetylcholine leads to muscle tension, especially in the jaw. If that’s happening to you, look at huperzine or other choline-derived supplements. I have no problems when I get my choline from lots and lots of raw egg yolks though. I think my zeo was low that night because I was getting extra REM. I also tend to get my best deep sleep (delta) from a CES machine, which is not compatible with the zeo (ie I can’t wear them both at once).

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  • http://www.facebook.com/eliza.izzy.o Eliza van Gerbig

    It’s been my experience that having spent the week largely infront of a computer, heading out to my garden (or even better, out of the city) and getting my hands in the soil is hugely regenerative.

    I would not have thought about it helping with jetlag although I’ve also heard taking a shower after flying helps ground you as well–all pointing to the electrical energy in our bodies.

    You might be interested in The Body Electric – written in 1998, it’s still a great read.

  • http://www.invitesite.com/ Helen Driscoll

    I study a form of applied kinesiology called Energy Medicine (Donna Eden) – from a 10th degree black belt in Kung Fu. He has a number of other high belts — yet he studies Energy Medicine with Donna. The post above is similar to one of their grounding tricks for jet lag. Donna uses a stainless steel spoon (any carbon steel works) for rubbing the entire arch of both of your feet. When you get back on the ground, you just rub the spoon back and forth over the entire arch of your foot for about 30 seconds. Doc (the MA guy) uses a disc of highly carbonized iron the same way. This may get on the plane more easily than a spoon :)
    You can actually muscle or energy test for when your polarity is off. There are some other low tech high impact tricks that are a bit more involved. You can flush and trace your meridians (ie Chinese medicine) as you move through time zones.
    Each of your meridians have a strong and weak time, which changes every 2 hours. For example, bladder time (bladder meridian, which rules nerves) is from 3 – 5 pm. Generally everyone’s sleepy or dull time. If you flush your meridians every day, you get a major boost of clarity and energy. Sort of daily self-accupunture. But spooning feet and a few other EM drills and I haven’t had jet lag in years.

    • luke

      Donna,

      How do you tell if your spoon is stainless steel?

      Where can I find a highly carbonized piece of iron?

      What are your other EM drills?

      I have the worst jet lag imaginable, and have searched the world over for a cure. Been earthing non-stop for 5 years. My jet lag laughs in the face of being grounded. No help at all.

      Anyone help?

      Thanks!!

      Luke

      • http://www.invitesite.com/ Helen Driscoll

        Dr. jack Kruse says to take your shoes off while in your seat and put your feet on that metal bar under the chair in front of you. It’s connected to the body of the plane, which is grounded.

        Spooning video here (Prune Harris demonstrates and explains)
        http://youtu.be/6hY2ZBfrp6k

        Donna Eden believes that passing through all the time zones so quickly when you fly, screws up your body’s rhythms (Chinese medicine puts each meridian within a 2 hour window – for example, between 9 and 11 am is spleen time.)

        a chart here: http://www.pemf.com/en/resonance/organ-clock.html

        You can use the EM current in your hands to ‘drag’ the energy along each meridian and flush and trace it while you are in the air, to help push your body into the next time zone. But usually I just do a full 5 minute drill, trace meridians, and spoon my feet when I land. Donna and her husband (both in their 70′s now and look about 45) travel the world, teaching. So they have a protocol they both do while in the air. Tracing meridians each 2 hours starting with the time/organ they are now in. (sounds complicated, but do this for a while and it’s really quick)

        A few videos of the 5 minute drill and tracing your meridians. Some by Donna, some by one of her student/teachers in England.
        Tracing meridians via Donna
        http://youtu.be/V0eeWjEOpJ0

        Quick tracing via Prune Harris:
        http://youtu.be/2RBX5K31w-4

        This is the 5 minute drill you do every day, sorts out the energy system. THis is foundational – especially if you’ve been slammed by jet lag
        http://youtu.be/EG5IKXudStE

        These should get you going :)
        Helen

        • http://www.invitesite.com/ Helen Driscoll

          Donna Eden explains Energy Medicine here. She is 71 years old. Astonishing. She was diagnosed with MS when she was in her early 20′s – (interesting – she only ate red meat for years as part of her self-cure) She is a fount of vitality now and looks about 45 or 50 http://youtu.be/tdMbdFb8URY

        • Lise Sheehan

          Thanks for all this great information Helen! Do you mean she only ate red meat, no other foods at all? Very interesting. What was the reasoning, do you know?

        • http://www.invitesite.com/ Helen Driscoll

          Hi LIse, Donna explains that she didn’t have an enzyme to digest fiber properly. This was when she was very very ill and western medicine had run out of options from her. She couldn’t digest veggies and fruit but meats and broth were ok. Donna muscle tests everything (applied kinesiology). She calls it energy-testing, though. 30 years later, she can handle veggies and fruit just fine.

  • Anonymous

    Caution: many buildings have contaminated grounding in the electrical outlets. For instance, in my building, the sink, tub, radiator and outlet grounding screws are all contaminated with radiofrequencies. (If you apply some electrodes to you wrists and ankles with an op amp in between and touch any of these items, you can even hear a radio station broadcasting.) Trying to ground to that will only cause your grounding mat to pick up those frequencies, and could make sleeping even harder. Best to check this out before spending too much time on the mat.

    • Zoli

      Could you explain how to check it in detail please? I was thinking about using copper wire with a crocodile jaw at one end, and the other end would be attached to a metal coated “space” blanket.

  • Andy

    Interesting. Do you know of any validated study data to support grounding?
    I can’t see how a very very low electrical charge could recalibrate your circadian rhythm with the local night and day cycle.

    Also, lying in the park on a rubber matt would make most people feel better too but no grounding would take place. Aren’t we grounding ourselves every time we touch something that’s earthed. Eg a metal post on the street while waiting for a bus.

    Still, I’m open to walking around my local park bare footed but don’t know how to rule out placebo effect without some equipment to measure charge..

    BTW Dave, did my regular 1 hour high performance cycle class at gym today but was fueled by MCT oil and did find I had more and longer lasting energy. I got a stitch though we almost never happens for me. I need more data so will keep testing this. My local Mr Vitamins had the oil but it was literally top shelf. They had to get out a massive ladder to climb up to get it. Musn’t be a big seller but the staff treated it and me with reverence when I requested it.

    PS: wife banned me from putting chunks of butter in my coffee. Help me convince her it’s safe.

    Andy
    Father, BSc ,retired AG triathlete, hybrid crossfit/strength enthusiast, clinical project exec.

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  • golooraam

    Hi Dave

    So I’m drinking the koolaid and enjoying the benefits. On my second bag of Upgraded coffee and loving it – eating 90% grassfed meats and loving it – cut down almost all spices except for Real Salt. Waiting for my glutathione and MCTs to come in today or tomorrow.

    Last night I ordered an Earthing Mat – so my question is:
    How does one use it and for how long?

    Do I just surf online with my feet on it? Do I take a nap?
    any suggestions would be appreciated

    (when is the chocolate coming out?)

    • Dave Asprey

      Use the earthing mat whenever it’s convenient to do it. I use one when I’m at my PC, and another when I’m asleep. At least 20 minutes per day, ideally a few hours. No upper limit. More is better.

      • golooraam

        thanks Dave
        How often do you guys ship? I placed my order Sunday night but have not received an email indicating shipment.

        In brighter news, did receive my glutathione and MCTs last night – day 1 of my Bulletproof fast today!

  • Zernike

    The link to upgraded self is 404. :)

  • willowt77

    Hi Dave,

    Great post. Our family has been earthing now for 1 week. Just in that short amount of time, we have noticed considerable changes in sleep and energy as well as improvement in some health issues. We are so excited about sharing this knowledge that we created a blog for people to share their Earthing experiences. It’s only been up for 2 days and I’m working on it daily… http://www.EarthingTestimonials.com. Help Spread The Health!

  • Jonathan

    Here are the instructions for a simple, durable DIY earthing device:
    http://www.naturesplatform.com/earthing.html

  • Sean

    I’ve thought of putting my earthing mat under my mouse and keyboard at the office so my palms rest on it. Good Idea?

    • Jessica

      This is how I do it! I use the mat under my keyword and mouse at work, sleep on the Earthing sheets at night, and wear my sandals from Get Grounded Footwear when I’m out walking around. I’m grounded about 20 hours per day!

  • ninjaRob

    I am still super interested in finding out how people use an earthing mat in Ireland and I want to hack my jet lag as best as possible. I don’t currently own an earthing mat and this is where I feel i would get the best return for its use. Any tips for in hotel earthing abroad? thanks

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  • Antony W.

    How can this be good on a ketogenic diet if one of the studies says “Earthing decreases sodium, potassium, magnesium, iron, total protein, and albumin concentrations while the levels of transferrin, ferritin, and globulins ?1, ?2, ?, and ? increase.” Dave himself suggests sodium as part of ketosis diet. ?

    Don’t we need these electrolytes to a greater extent when we’re ketotic?

    • Kelly

      Also, the study said “It also increases the activity of catabolic processes.” As in tissue breakdown? That can’t be good…

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  • marcella obdrzalek

    How does wading in water work for grounding? I would think it would be very effective. Perhaps salt water, being more of an ionicn solution than fresh water, would facilitate removal of positive charge build-up in the body? And if water grounding is effective, can one substitute a bath for a swim in the lake or ocean? I know I feel rejuvenated after bathing. And then how about grounding using negative ions that are released by running water, waterfalls, rivers, and perhaps even rain?

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  • David

    Dave, could you please post a video or instructions on how to make your own earthing mat please?

  • Petit

    I am looking this up because I discovered it myself this weekend while camping due to our air mattress springing a leak. I have decided that there is nothing better for us than sleeping on the earth as we are meant to… just can’t figure out how to make it practical. This may help!

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  • Vinny O’Scolaidhe

    I’m pretty open to ideas like these. This one I have to admit is a tough pill for me to swallow. I do believe in grounding, but now that I have bought my mat, I am pretty sure I’d have much better results standing on the ground barefoot. I say this because the mat is rubberized! I understand that the manufacturers claim there are metallic fibers interwoven throughout the mat (which I found no evidence of), but wouldn’t these alleged fibers be completely insulated by the rubber? I mean this is grade school science class stuff. If I am wrong PLEASE correct me, I wanted to drink the kool-aid on this one which is why I bought the mat in the first place! I just couldn’t get past this obvious counter intuitive “design flaw”, I’m pretty sure this this defines “bogus”! Sorry, but I wish I hadn’t wasted $60.

  • andrea

    how about cathacking as proof: my cat always sleeps on my grounding sheet if I leave the bed unmade and otherwise camps out on the mat beneath my desk.

  • CozzyElectron

    I made a pair of my own earthing shoes out of my old sneakers – you can see here DIY Earthing Shoes & How I Made Them

  • Mary

    So which is better??? The earthing mat or the sleep induction mat that is a “form of acupressure”.

  • KMJvet

    Why is the link dead? No longer believe in it?

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