Conventional wisdom says that getting more sleep improves your health, especially during stressful times. Dave Asprey, Founder and Chairman, Bulletproof Media, defies convention, claiming that getting better sleep is more beneficial to your health than the hours you put in. You could say that Asprey, three-time New York Times bestselling science author and Vancouver, British Columbia YPO member, is obsessed with the science of sleep. Known as the “father of biohacking,” Asprey has been tracking his sleep for the past 15 years and is a passionate advocate for helping others improve their sleep.
The difference between deep sleep and REM sleep and why you need both
Asprey says his definition of a good night’s sleep is when you get at least 90 minutes of deep sleep, which is when your body secretes growth hormones and is restoring your base biology, combined with at least another 90 minutes of REM sleep, which is when you dream. He explains that when you are in a deep sleep, you have in a low delta brain wave state, and you barely move. When your body shifts into REM sleep, your eyes move back and forth rapidly under your eyelids, your breathing changes and you move around a little bit more. If you have a normal sleep routine, the first half of the night is when deep sleep primarily occurs, and the second half of the night is when dreams happen.
Asprey sees getting higher quality sleep not only as a personal health benefit, but as a business benefit. “Every time you made a leadership decision that you regret, if you look back at the night before you probably had a bad night’s sleep. Sleep is an obvious thing to control and manage just like available cash or inventory levels. Sleep is a resource. You can use it; you can manage it. And if instead you look at it as a necessary evil, you are not serving your company, your family, or your mission,” he says.
Asprey offers three steps to getting better sleep in less time: track your sleep; turn down the lights; and don’t eat your last meal too close to when you go to bed.
Track your sleep. Asprey states that the most important thing you can do to improve your sleep is to track it. Asprey uses a wearable device called an Oura ring, but any kind of sleep tracking device or software is useful. Other options include the widely used fitness tracker Fitbit or various non-wearable sleep trackers that sit above or below your mattress or are placed next to your bed. Regardless of the device, Asprey says it is the feedback that helps you change your behavior.
The next step is to turn down or turn off the lights in your home at the end of the day. Asprey explains that reducing light exposure before sleep is critical. Block blue light from screens and digital devices, as well as all other light. Asprey says that it does not take much white or blue light for the timing system in your brain to perceive that it is still daytime.
He adds that one way to block all light is by using red light. “Red light is the one color that doesn’t affect the timing system in your body. At night you have to not only block blue light, but also green and violet wavelengths that tells your body to sleep or not to sleep. You should use red light at night because it allows your body and your timing system to believe that it’s truly dark. In fact, there are studies that show that reading by a red light improves your eye health dramatically,” says Asprey.
Every time you made a leadership decision that you regret, if you look back at the night before you probably had a bad night’s sleep. ”
— Dave Asprey, Founder & Chairman, Bulletproof Media share
To create an ideal sleep environment, Asprey recommends creating a bedroom that is absolutely pitch black. He says this can be achieved by installing blackout curtains with Velcro on the edges. He also recommends taping over every LED light or unplugging anything that emits color in your bedroom. If you have a nightlight, turn it off or use a red bulb.
The final factor to achieve better sleep is to not eat near bedtime. According to Asprey, the longer time between eating and bedtime, the better you are going to sleep. The ideal is to have your last meal three hours before going to bed. “If you eat right before bed, or you go to bed late, you’re taking it out of your physical hardware recovery, because you’ll get less deep sleep. And if you wake up earlier than you want to, then you’re going to take it out of your dream sleep or your emotional, psychological or even spiritual recovery time for sleep,” he says.
Asprey says he understands the reality of the life of a CEO, which often includes a lot of travel and late nights. In fact, Asprey himself is a night owl and states that many entrepreneurs and creative people do their best work late at night. He stresses that for a night person, you still have to follow the rules for better sleep — especially controlling the light.
“If you are a night person and you are exposed to bright light at 11 at night, it will change the hormones in your brain and the timing system in your body, and you’ll get lower quality sleep,” he says.
Asprey thinks that getting higher quality sleep in less time is so important to the health and well-being of everyone, especially business leaders.
“You absolutely owe it to yourself to make whatever changes are necessary so you can get a good night’s sleep. The ROI on sleep is either high or low, but it’s an investment you have to make because you will lay down every night. Since it’s a required investment, you want to get positive returns,” says Asprey.