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Sleep Hacking Part 2: Reboot Your Sleep, Fall Asleep Fast, and Add 20 More Years

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Insomnia is a major problem for many high-performing type-A entrepreneurs. Some insomniacs can’t fall asleep, and some can’t stay asleep. Neither of those is a problem for me anymore (at least that I’m aware of; my Sleep Cycle app will verify if I’m waking up without knowing it). I used to have real problems falling asleep because my “monkey mind” just wouldn’t shut the hell up making me rehash the day’s events or dwell on upcoming stuff. I also lowered my neurotransmitter levels by exhausting my adrenals from coffee abuse to help me sleep less, before I knew how to do it right.

Those were some expensive mistakes to make. Here is info on how to hack your sleep so that you can fall sleep more easily and sleep more in less time while staying healthy that I based on years of self-experimenting, research, and biohacking:

Unhacked sleep sucks. It takes forever, about 40% of your life if you sleep as much as your body will let you without an alarm clock (or two young kids in my case…) If you cut sleep down to only 20% of your life, you will still sleep about 5 hours a night. Assuming you plan to live to be 80, cutting sleep to 5 hours is like gaining 16 YEARS of waking life, equivalent to about 20 years of life including sleep and wake cycles. That’s enough to get FIVE PhDs, to have another career, to have sex, to play with your kids, or even to watch reruns of Gilligan’s Island – if that’s your thing.

Optimizing sleep really works. I’ve been fortunate to have far more experience than my 38 years would normally allow, including time running strategy for two billion-dollar companies, having 3 of my companies acquired, writing a book, working for a VC, advising dozens of startups, running a nonprofit, etc. One reason is that I sleep less. I’ve had an extra EIGHT YEARS in the first half of my life (or maybe 5 extra years if you assume I spent the first 18 years going to school). In any case, my career so far looks like that of someone in their mid-40’s, and I expect it will look even better when I’m actually in my mid-40’s.

This disparity is why we’re all sleep deprived. Proper sleep is wonderful, rejuvenating, and profound dreams are a part of what makes life interesting. It is possible to reap all the benefits of sleep in less time. Insomnia is awful. Nothing sucks more than setting aside time to sleep, then not even getting that done.

First, let’s tackle problems with falling asleep. If you can’t fall asleep, there are only three reasons for it. The first is simply not being tired. The second is having distractions, which come in many forms, all of which are hackable. The last is that you have a biological problem – a hardware problem in hacker-speak – that needs medical attention, like sleep apnea.

In my world, sleep is a conscious act, and rarely an inevitable thing that just happens. You can do things to make sure you’re tired when you decide to go to sleep.

To make yourself tired, there are things to avoid before sleep and there are supplements, drugs, environment, and food hacks you should use. Here is a list of things to avoid to help you sleep better. Look for more biohacking technology and supplements in the next couple posts.

Getting Sleepy Step 1: Avoid stuff

· Avoid bright lights for at least a half hour before bed. Dim your office lights, and kill the unhealthy florescent ones. Install f.lux on your PC to automatically dim the screen based on day/night cycles. Don’t stare at your TV, iphone or ipad until you’ve dimmed it all the way either – white light is not your friend at night because even 5 minutes of it shuts off your melatonin production.

· If it affects you, graphic TV violence may make it harder to sleep.

· Don’t exercise < 2 hours before bed, at least.

· Coffee, green tea, and chocolate, sometimes even before lunch, may affect sleep. Track them and measure them to see if it’s a problem.

· Hit the sack before 11pm. There is a window between 10:45 and 11pm when you get tired. If you miss it, you get a cortisol-driven “second wind” that lets you be productive until 2am, or keeps you awake until then. You also get better sleep from hitting the before-11pm window, and wake up feeling more rested than getting the same amount of sleep starting later and sleeping in. (I use biohacking tools to ignore this rule, but I may pay for it someday).

Note that all of these can be used in reverse to keep yourself up later, if you so choose.

The next post, scheduled in a couple days, is a complete list of foods, supplements, and safe drugs to use to make yourself sleepy no matter what’s happening around you. After that, I just finished writing a post about tons of ways to stop your thoughts from running and keeping you from falling asleep. Follow me on Facebook and I’ll notify you as soon as they go online.

 

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  • ArmiLegge

    I think a lot of people are really deficient in sleep even though they’re “in bed” for 8-9 hours a night. After using the Zeo for a while, it’s easy to tell when you’re really getting quality over quantity as they say.This whole issue is very similar to exercise. People don’t want to take the time to do it right, so they just do an hour long run everyday and think they’re healing their bodies. They get sicker, and then exercise more to “get better”.When people have things like food intolerance, stupid exercise programs, poor lifestyle habits and no incentive to improve, they just think that sleeping more will fix the problem.I am curious as to the long term effects of hacking versus normal relaxed, perfect sleep, but the fact is our modern lifestyle simply doesn’t allow it. Cavemen didn’t have computers, businesses, light pollution and all the other factors we do today, so I think some hacking is almost a requirement in order t get stuff done.Too many people are also just used to feeling like crap all the time, and take it for granted. They just don’t realize how much better it could be…Thanks again Dave!Armi

  • Andrew Michaels

    I have a very irregular pattern of when I go to bed and only do so when I’m drop dead tired. I don’t have a problem falling a sleep, but I really struggle in the morning after 5 or 6 hours. Is there value in choosing a small window of when I go to sleep — even if I’m not tired? Also, I don’t drink coffee but find a successful boost from (I won’t mention the name but…) one of the “blank_hour_energy” shots that are all the rage today. Are those really all natural and a safe way to get a boost? Thanks in advance

    • Dave Asprey

      The sleep experts all say to sleep at the same time every night and day. It works, but I don’t do it. I am trained to go to sleep in a few minutes – certain breathing exercises always work for me (read the sleep hacking posts…) Some periods of time seem to be more efficient for me, such as going to bed at 3 or 4 am and waking at 8 or 9, or going to bed at 11am and waking very early. Switching between the two is kind of hard. Waking up often involves up to 5 minutes of being groggy. If you are over groggy and don’t wake up, check your thyroid.

      Since you use those 5 Hour Energy drinks, you might want to check your thyroid anyway. Fooling your body with zero calorie energy drinks isn’t a great idea, especially if they have sucralose, which isn’t well understood metabolically. You’re better off with a handful of amino acid capsules and some d-ribose along with a cup of Bulletproof Coffee. :)

  • Jahed Momand

    Hi Dave,

    I was a professional online poker player until April when the DOJ cracked down on it. I had an irregular sleep schedule, I basically had to be available to play at any hour of the day, whenever a good game was going at my stakes. Four months on, and I still have this odd schedule, except now it is such that I don’t get tired until 4am at the least. Falling asleep is not hard, but I would like to go back to sleeping at a semi-regular hour now, maybe 12AM or so. I have tried to stay up all night for a day and go to sleep at a normal time the next day, but inevitably I slowly return to 4am being my regular sleep time. You seem to have a lot of experience tweaking your sleeping patterns, can you share some wisdom on how to begin tackling this problem? Thank you.

    • guest

      Are you sure you dont have delayed phase sleeping syndrome?

      • Gareth

        I think i have DPSS i only fall asleep at 5:30 A.M.

  • Guest

    This sounds very plausible, but be warned of a condition called “delayed phase sleeping syndrome”. The “cortisol window” will not appear around 11PM vor those people, but much later, often not until 4AM! The difference between DPSS sufferers and those of us who just screwed up their rithm by playing Dark Sould until deep in the night (ahem… *cough*), is that we wake up feeling like we’ve been hit by a truck, while DPSS-ers feel better than ever because its natural for them. They should not try to force jetlag on themselves by going to bed earlier (which wont work for them), but rather find jobs that allow them to work late (or start their own business).

    • Jackson

      Dark Souls! Now that will get you myelinating axons!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/sablosky Maximillian Sablosky

    Found this at 4am time to start reading more articles you post!

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  • Jay

    Do you need to adjust the sleeping window for daylight saving?

  • http://twitter.com/jsndacruz Jason DaCruz

    What happens to the 11pm rule if you’re a “night owl?” I prefer to sleep until 8. I can get a good 6-7 hours while staying up past 11, but I still have difficulty falling asleep. I would hate to start preparing for sleep earlier though, since my peak creativity kicks in around 8pm.

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