Number One Performance Booster: Sleep
Updated: Sep 15, 2018
In America, we glorify those who can burn the candle at both ends. Long hours and hard work is one of our most glorified standards for success, and if push comes to shove and you can’t run on 10 hours of sleep for the week, there’s no way you could make it. Right?
Fortunately for all of us, lack of sleep is not so much a mark of the successful, as abundant sleep. In other words, the more the merrier, especially for the physically active. You see, sleep is the prime time for your body to recover, and it is the only time your body detoxifies the brain, and the negative effects of sleep deprivation are profound and compounding.
Why do so many of us fall prey then? If we truly perform worse and worse the lest we rest, then surely we’d notice? This is where some interesting psychology comes in. Our Achilles' heel is that, given one or two days of sleep deprivation, we will notice how much we’re lagging, but after 3 or 4 days, we can no longer tell that we are not performing normally. Further, despite feeling normal, our performance is continuing to decline. Essentially, we are blind to our failings. On top of all of this, sleep deprivation is one of the most significant causes of across-the-board disease. Our immune function declines, risk for heart and cardiovascular illnesses increases, cancer risk goes up, and hormone imbalance ensues.
So, what does sleeping enough mean? Well, there is a small subset of the population that can get by on 6 hours a night, but for the rest of us, 8 to 10 hours of good, high quality sleep is necessary to maintain performance and health. The next most important thing is a regular sleep schedule. The more stable your sleep schedule, the more efficient and healthy your sleep will be. It is also helpful if you sleep before midnight. As one saying goes, every hour slept before midnight is worth two hours after. This has to do with our circadian rhythm, or body clock, which is still primarily evolved for the lifestyles of our caveman ancestors. The cues of the sun going down and the environmental temperature lowering were the signals that started our sleep hormones.
How you wake can be as important is how you doze off. If your work-style allows, try using a light based alarm. These are lights which imitate the sunrise, and allow you to wake gently. Use of a conventional alarm is the biological equivalent of waking up to a lion attacking your tribe every morning. Sudden, loud noise from the alarm ramps up your fight or flight response and gets your stress hormones off-balance for the day. Personally I don't use an alarm clock, and I wake up naturally around the same time daily. If you don't have the luxury, consider a product like Hue by Phillips, to see if you will respond to light rather than sound. Products like Hue are light bulbs which you can control with your phone. You can set them up to illuminate your room with light that resembles the sun at the appropriate hour. For me, this was always enough to wake me up, and it is better for your body.
If you are having trouble sleeping and want to explore the topic in greater depth, you can find much more information at websites like www.docparsley.com. Doc Parlsey is a former Navy Seal and now Doctor who uses sleep optimization to heal people, increase the performance of hard-chargers like CEOs or special forces members, and he runs an extensive blog from his website. You can also get products there such as his sleep formula, which is a natural blend that promotes healthy sleep. I am not affiliated with Doc Parsley, I just like his work and his products.
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