Last week Elon Musk made headlines for his New York Times interview in which he revealed that he works 120 hours per week, uses Ambien as a frequent sleep aid, and hasn’t taken time off in years except for that time he had Malaria. Clearly sleep isn’t his highest priority. Most entrepreneurs running a successful company tend to have extreme and odd hours and don’t sleep enough, but for Dave Asprey, founder of the multi-million dollar wellness company Bulletproof Coffee, quality sleep has been one of his main keys for finding success. In addition to its miracle elixir coffee which is a combination of specialty coffee, butter and oil from coconut extract, the company sells books, cognitive enhancement supplements (like octane oil), and food and beverage products.
Now unlike Musk, Asprey views sleep as an integral part of him biohacking his life. He plans to live until 180. This is the foundation his company was built on. But that wasn’t always the way he lived. He told Ladders, “Before I created Bulletproof, I was a workaholic tech executive. I was fat, unhealthy, and had low energy despite eating what was supposedly healthy food and exercising. Now, with the biohacking techniques I’ve spent years researching, I’m confident I can live to 180 – and others can too. For that to be possible, it’s important to be present and feel your sharpest and strongest. That’s the Bulletproof lifestyle. It’s helped hundreds of thousands of people perform at levels far beyond what they’d expect, without burning out, getting sick, or allowing stress to control decisions. ”
The biohacking strategy has worked not only personally for Asprey (he is known as the “father of biohacking”) but for the company as well as their most recent funding round brought in $40 million. Greatist.com recently recognized Asprey as one of the “Most Influential People in Health & Fitness,” not only because of his products and books (his new book Game Changers comes out in December) but his podcast, which now has more than 75 million downloads. Ladders spoke with him about his best productivity hacks, career advice and, of course, the importance of sleep.
On his morning routine
Asprey’s morning routine has been written about several times as people are so astonished that he doesn’t check his phone the minute he opens his eyes. In fact, he leaves it on airplane mode until after he has dropped his kids off at school.
“I’m naturally a night owl. Years ago, I learned from researcher Michael Breus that people can be categorized by “chronotype,” referring to the largely genetically-driven factors that make some of us early birds, some of us night owls, and others something in the middle. My whole life I’ve done my best work late at night, often working late into the evenings after I put the kids to bed. The research is clear on the importance of sleep, so I take steps to get 8 hours of deep, high-quality sleep every night. As part of that ritual, I sleep with my phone on airplane mode with alerts turned off. My phone is basically an advanced sleep monitor that wakes me when I’m already in light sleep. In the morning I only check my phone to see how well I slept, and then I put it away until I’ve dropped my kids off at school.”
Just hack it
“I’ve been a hacker for decades. In other words, I approach every challenge with persistence and tweak it constantly. I did that earlier in my career as a tech executive, and I pioneered this approach at Bulletproof as the world’s first biohacker on a mission to improve human performance. As a long-time hacker – and now a biohacker – I see each challenge as an opportunity for iteration and improvement. In fact, I ask my kids each night how they failed each day. If they can’t think of any failures, I tell them to try harder the next day.”
Asprey said a turning point for him in his career was when he was so burned out from working as a tech executive that he passed out on an airplane during a trip to a 48-hour round trip to China. “One could say that was a challenge in my career, but I saw it as a clear sign I needed to hack my life. That incident motivated me to start hacking my biology, which in turn enabled me to create Bulletproof.”
On the importance of workout breaks
I stand on the Bulletproof Whole Body Vibration Plate every day or two for 15 minutes. This causes massive lymph circulation throughout the body and moves oxygen to tissues that may not get very much of it, even areas you’re unlikely to reach while walking around.
Low-level aerobic activity on a regular basis improves insulin signaling, reduces stress, inflammation, and boosts longevity. It reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia and even the common cold. I also meditate regularly. Meditation rewires the circuitry in your brain and offers benefits like improved health, increased happiness, increased self-awareness which drives control, and reduced stress hormones.
On his best productivity hack
I have so many! Anyone can read my blog or listen to the Bulletproof Radio podcast to learn the life hacks I’ve spent years discovering. But if I were to choose just one productivity hack it would be to tell people to get more – and better – sleep. It’s one of the best things we can do for our bodies, and it’s free. Here are some specific tips on how to improve both the quality and the duration of your sleep.