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Step 5: Improve Your Sleep

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If you could do just one thing to increase your brain power, build muscle, lose fat, look better, and live longer – would you do it?

The answer is probably yes, so here is some good news: all you have to do is sleep well.

Quality sleep is one of the most important variables to improve your brain function, longevity, and performance in all aspects of life.  The problem is it’s hard to find lots of time for sleep.  We’ve all got busy lives, and after all, you can sleep when you’re dead – right?

Well, yes, and it’s a self fulfilling prophesy.

The Bulletproof way isn’t to sleep more, it’s to sleep better.   Every health blogger on the web is encouraging you to get your sleep.  What they haven’t talked about is how to hack your sleep.  As you’ve read elsewhere on this site, you can get restorative sleep in a few hours a night – if you know what you’re doing.  I’ve made almost every possible mistake when it comes to hacking sleep.  As a result, I’ve documented the most effective methods for sleeping more in less time.

Before we dig in on sleep hacking, look at how important sleep really is.


The Mental Benefits of Sleep

The Physical Benefits of Sleep

For more reasons to sleep, check out this chart from my friend Ben Rubin.

In short, lack of quality sleep will make you sick, weak, stupid, fat, and eventually, dead.  The problem is most people believe they just don’t have time to sleep as much as they should . . . and they don’t know how to efficiently sleep in the first place.

25 percent of Americans sleep less than six hours a night; This is not hacked sleep, so this is bad for you!  While studies indicate that sleep loss isn’t necessarily correlated with dying sooner, most clinical studies show lack of sleep is a major health detriment.

Even if you want to sleep more than 5 hours a night, you will benefit from improving your sleep quality.  Whether you’re an entrepreneur, olympic athlete, writer, teacher, computer programmer, or the guy who takes care of the elephants at your local zoo – better sleep benefits everyone.

Most people have horrible sleep fitness.  They waste their precious time in light sleep when they could be in REM and deep sleep, growing stronger and getting smarter in less time.  That’s where Bulletproof Sleep comes in.

I used to waste time taking forever to get to sleep and I’ve always wanted to be able to sleep less because there is always something more interesting to do.

I’ve experimented with polyphasic sleep, delayed sleep, quasi-multiphasic sleep, and various napping strategies.  I completed two semesters of Computer Information Systems classes in a single semester while starting a career as a magazine writer.  I slept 2-3 hours a night for 90 days, drove to school half delirious, then doped up on 40-60 ounces of coffee before starting the day.  My grades were excellent (3.9 GPA), my thyroid function and circadian rhythm – not so much.  I still had a lot to learn. I whacked my adrenals pretty good that way.

Polyphasic Sleep is for Masochists

I’ve tried it – it doesn’t really work.  You can split your sleep to a point, but eventually you need to allow for proper melatonin formation. It also destroys your social life.  That’s why polyphasic sleep usually fails after the first two weeks.  It’s also a pain in the ass to stick to a 20 minute napping schedule.

Zeo: Your Personal Sleep Lab

If you want to really hack your sleep, get a Zeo.  Designed by my friend Ben Rubin, this has become one of my favorite biohacking tools.

This small device measures your sleep patterns and gives you objective data on every aspect of your snoozing.  It tells you how long it took to fall asleep, how long you were in each stage of sleep, and even teaches you new skills like in the Matrix.  Okay, it doesn’t actually teach you jiu jitsu or give you guns on demand, but it’s an amazing device you should strongly consider investing in.  There’s also a brand new version that is made for iPhone and Android users.

Bulletproof Sleep

Since I’ve written about this subject a lot, I’m going to condense this as much as possible.  If you want the complete guide to sleep hacking, you can read my posts on the topic (listed at the end) or wait for my book.

My experiences with sleep hacking have taught me what goes into getting powerful sleep.  There are three principles of sleep hacking:

  1. Get to sleep as fast as possible.
  2. Spend as much time in REM or Deep sleep as possible.
  3. Have raw ingredients available for cellular recovery.

These tasks can be achieved at the same time with the following methods.

  1. Eat a Bulletproof Diet.
  2. Hack your nervous system to manage stress.
  3. Upgrade your brain.
  4. Install F.lux on your computer (it’s free).
  5. Don’t exercise for at least 2 hours before bed.
  6. Avoid bright lights and LCD screens at least 1 hour before bed.
  7. Go to bed before 11:00 PM.
  8. Track coffee, green tea, and chocolate consumption to see if they effect your sleep (this is where a Zeo becomes a necessity).
  9. Cheat with biochemistry (use supplements).
  10. Sleep on an earthing mat.
  11. Run a current across your brain with a cerebral-electric stimulator, AKA, “electrosleep” machine.

My Past Articles On Sleep Hacking

If you’re looking for an in depth explanation of the methods I just listed, read these:

  1. Sleep Hacking Part 1: How to do less with more
  2. Sleep Hacking Part 2: Reboot Your Sleep, Fall Asleep Fast, and Add 20 more Years
  3. Sleep Hacking Part 3: Falling Asleep Fast with Biochemistry
  4. Sleep Hacking: Ending Insomnia with an “Electrosleep” Machine
  5. Sleep Hacking Awesome: High Performance Day After 2.5 Hours of Sleep
  6. What’s your Bulletproof ZQ Score? The Zeo Hack Every Sleep Hacker Needs to Know
  7. Sleep Hacking: 1 Million People Prove Sleeping 5 hours is Healthier Than Sleeping 8 Hours

The next articles in this series will teach you how to upgrade your brain, become happier and address one of the most important and underrated health problems in the modern world.  It’s something overlooked by both conventional wisdom, and the paleo/alternative health community.  It’s also one of the reasons the Bulletproof Diet is superior to anything else I’ve tried.  We are going to learn how to identify and remove toxins.

What are your sleep tips?  What have you found most useful about this series so far?


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  • Dagothur

    YES!!! Another excellent post on sleep hacking!

    I’ve been doing sleep hacking since middle school.
    Tried polyphasic sleep as well and yes, masochism it is.
    Success was moderate and inconsistent at best.
    Experiments were accompanied with swings in mental and physical performance.
    Not until The Bulletproof Executive site was discovered.
    This was of tremendous help in tweaking not only sleep, but also everything else.
    The Bulletproof Diet, correct supplement use (especially magnesium and vitamin D), using Zeo to quantify sleep, stress management with the emWave2, earthing and CES – everything had a vast positive impact on improving the quality of sleep and therefore made it possible to reduce its quantity.
    Thank you Dave for sharing your knowledge with us!

    Some questions of course =).
    1) CES use – is it important through which part of the head the electric current runs i.e. the frontal, middle or the occipital parts. Or is it mostly irrelevant?

    2) Carbs for better sleep – of course blood sugar swings can have devastating effect on sleep quality, but can proper use of limited amount of carbohydrates before sleep have a positive effect on sleep (deep sleep is of primary concern here). What I mean here is the effect of carbohydrates on tryptophan transport into the neuron cells. General biohacker thinking tells me that the answer is “experiment and find out whether this works for you or not”, but perhaps there is some general advise regarding this aspect.

    3) REM sleep reduction on the Bulletproof Fasting Rapid Fat Loss Protocol – this one is short. Is it normal?

    4) -What do you think of this study? A potential biohack? Some alternatives that can be more easily obtained?

    P.S. There seems to be a problem with the link in the „4.Install F.lux on your computer (it’s free).”.

    • Jon Littell

      I’m using F.LUX on my mac.. it’s pretty cool and I just learned that they offer it for mobile devices:

    • Dave Asprey


      1) CES use – is it important through which part of the head the electric current runs i.e. the frontal, middle or the occipital parts. Or is it mostly irrelevant? Not relevant for CES (earlobes or temples are best.)

      2) Carbs for better sleep –
      Yes, experiment. Up to 1 Tbs of raw honey seems to help a lot of people.
      3) REM sleep reduction on the Bulletproof Fasting Rapid Fat Loss Protocol – this one is short. Is it normal? Yes, your body thinks its starving so it gives you extra alertness. Not suitable for long term though!
      4) -What do you think of this study? A potential biohack? Some alternatives that can be more easily obtained? Hell yes! Very interesting. Thank you.

  • Jon Littell

    I’m still trying to decide on a CES device. I’d rather pay a little more for a much better device, so I am interested in one that includes binaural beats and Lights. ( I received a series of ROSHI neurostimulation sessions, so I know that flickering LEDs are extremely valuable.)

    - DAVID Delight Pro is the one I’m interested in. Have you tried this?
    - Or would you recommend sticking with pure CES, like CESUltra or FisherWallace?

    Waiting with credit card in hand,

    • Guest

      Wondering this as well! Thanks!

      • Dave Asprey

        I have a DAVID unit I like but it doesn’t do CES. Have wired it with my CES unit a few times, but it’s so unwieldy that I haven’t used them together in a while. Not enough info to make a solid recommendation, but I’d buy what you’re looking at if I was shopping.

  • Jon Littell

    Jump on this: GROUPON has the ZEO mobile unit for only $39 for another day!

    • Dave Asprey

      What a deal!

  • Dude

    Does sleeping less not compromise some of the biological functions your body undergoes during certain stages of sleep? All other things being constant, it would be fair to argue that less sleep means less time for functions like growth/recovery, learning, memory facilitation. Is this an issue?

    • Dagothur

      I think a very correct answer to this would be “it depends”.
      If the amount of sleep is reduced without improving the quality of that, what is left, then most likely this will be suboptimum in terms of performance.
      On the other hand, improving the quality of sleep using different methods described by Dave makes it possible to reduce sleep to a certain degree (which is individual and also depends upon many factors) without detrimental effect of sleep deprivation.
      And of course, having the tools to quantify sleep is crucial for understanding your individual sleep patterns and for monitoring progress.

  • Michael A

    Hey Dave, thanks for all the great information. I bought your coffee and your whey and I LOVE them! I have a question though – most of the sleep hacks you suggest seem to be about getting to sleep easily. I have a Zeo and just about every night I fall asleep within 5 minutes and drop into REM within 10 minutes of falling asleep. I already take Magnesium *ate (400mg), Potassium citrate (400mg), and SunTheanine (100mg).

    My problems are staying asleep amd getting REM and deep sleep once I am already asleep. Any tips for increasing REM and deep sleep as well as staying asleep? Tim Ferris suggests Huperizine A in the 4 Hour Body, any experience with that? THANKS!

  • Jon

    Hi what are the recommended CES frequencies? Also I am wondering if you have a post discussing how you healed your adrenals?

  • Adam

    I am new to your site and biohacking. I am most interested in hacking sleep, and figured I would start with my diet. If I am going to stay up till 2 or 3am at what times do you eat? Also do you have any articles on doing this in a house with a wife (who thinks I am nuts) and little kids?

  • Zack Morrell

    ok so Im as openminded as it gets but i cant help feeling like this is a load of crap to get me to buy stuff. “Hack your nervous system”? “upgrade your brain”? I understand youre trying to get your point across about “biohacking” but the body is not a machine nor an efficient one by any means. Maybe if you were more straightforward it would be more appealing. And what about you saying you’re a night owl but “go to bed before 11pm”? isnt that contradiction? How does shocking my brain and sleeping on a mat improve sleep? i just dont get it…. :P

  • smartial_arts

    Zeo is dead, baby. Zeo is dead.

  • robrecord

    I am experimenting with 3 hours core sleep and 2 90 minute naps, with 6 hours between each. Seems to work well so far. The simplest polyphasic sleep is 4.5h at night and a 90 minute nap in the day. Many people report enhanced energy and mood. There are many good reasons for this – I hope to write a blog post one day soon about it.

  • Cc

    hi. can you some how make the cerebro electrical stimulator available to buy on your website?

  • kremit


    There’s gotta be a way to hack the heck out of the sleep cycle. I can sleep for 2 hours and be ready for 8 hours. I need a way to remove the 2 hour requirement to move forward. I’ve tried IFing, carbing up, sleeping during my lunches(really bad idea) nothing works. It pisses me off so bad. I want to stay up for 32 hours straight without sleepy feelings. Chugging some vitamin water helps for about 4 hours, but back down the drag. I mean I drag even before I hit 24 hours. Someone here has to have figured it out.

  • Tyler

    The ZEO has gone out of business. Can you recommend an available substitute?

  • The One

    this works. the most important parts are the following:

    1. sleep before 11
    2. don’t exercise 2 hours before sleep
    3. avoid bright lights 1 hour before bed.
    4. avoid or use as little as possible of green tea, coffee, chocolate, and caffeine.

    i used to have terrible sleeping problems. i tried sleeping pills. they didn’t work. now, every night i sleep like a baby for 9 hours.

    of course, i also upgraded my diet, exercise (everyday), and supplements (no nootropics). i am very healthy in the mind and body, and i’d like to thank dave asprey A LOT! oh, and i also dont buy any of his products, nor do i buy any product that he recommends like modafinil or nootropics. i’ve tried various nootropics plus modafinil, and in my experience hey seem to have adverse effects.

  • Mel

    Does brain octane help with autism?

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