General | 28 Aug 2019

Master your sleep and become superhuman

Sean BreenDirector & Chief Biscuit Dunker

‘Sleep is the greatest legal performance enhancing drug that most people are neglecting!’ Professor Matthew Walker - Author of Why We Sleep.

Do you have a hard time staying focused at work?

Do you tell yourself you have a ‘bad memory’?

Do you have weak willpower when it comes to food choices?

Are you consistently making poor decisions in both your professional and personal life?

You could try and find a magic pill to solve all of your problems, but the solution if far simpler.

It may sound blatantly obvious, but depriving yourself of sleep on a regular basis will cause destruction in all aspects of your life.

Recently there has been some fascinating work done on the importance of sleep, particularly by English scientist and Professor Matthew Walker. In his book Why We Sleep, Professor Walker brings some alarming discoveries on the consequences of not getting enough sleep.

Today we will touch on why sleep is the most important aspect of your health and well-being and we will provide some great tips, tricks and hacks that will allow you to improve your sleep and become superhuman!

Memory and Learning - 'I have a terrible memory'

If you always find yourself saying you have a bad memory, take a look at how much sleep you are getting.

Studies are consistently discovering that your ability to learn new information strongly depends on how much sleep you had the night before.

Sleep is also responsible for solidifying memories and can cause up to a 40% deficit is the ability to make new memories.

The bottom line is your ‘poor memory’ is most likely to be a direct result of not getting enough sleep.

By having the ability to learn and retain information it will allow you to perform better in every aspect of your life.

Poor decision making

There is a long line of earth shattering accidents that have been attributed to human error caused by sleep deprivation.

They include the Chernobyl nuclear power plant meltdown, the challenger space shuttle explosion as well as the Exxon Valdez tanker oil spill.

The amount of willpower you have to make more controlled and rational decisions will depend on how much sleep you got. Why is that?

It’s about to get science-y but stay with me.

The part of the brain that controls your emotions is called the amygdala. This part of the brain is responsible for emotional and impulsive reactions.

Now to keep your emotional brain from running wild, your prefrontal cortex keeps everything in check – think of this part of the brain as the CEO. The prefrontal cortex is designed to make high level, top down controlled decisions.

However when you are sleep deprived, the CEO, or the prefrontal cortex begins to go offline, which unleashes your emotional brain which is why you become more reward & sensation seeking.

So if you find yourself skipping exercise or ordering a Chinese for comfort after a poor night’s sleep, at least you know why!

To give yourself the best possible chance of consistently making the right decisions in both your professional and personal life you need to prioritize sleep.

For more information on how your emotions take over when you're sleep deprived, there is a great research study from 2018 here.

Links with Alzheimer’s disease

One of the most significant lifestyle factors determining whether or not you will develop Alzheimer’s disease is the amount of sleep that you’re getting.

At night there is this remarkable cleansing system that kicks in to gear that washes away the toxic proteins that are linked to Alzheimer’s disease – so you get this power cleanse at night.

In addition to Alzheimer’s disease, there is also strong evidence that links sleep deprivation with heart disease, strokes, cancer, obesity, and depression.

For more information on the direct link between Alzheimer’s disease and sleep visit here.

For the ladies

Beauty sleep has now been proven to be a real thing!

Research completed by a group of scientists in Sweden found that a lack of sleep can make you less attractive to others!

The study which was published in the Royal Society Open Science journal discovered that being sleep deprived and appearing tired will make you uglier while being perceived as less healthy by others!

Here is how the study went.

25 female and male participants were photographed twice – the first photo was taken after they had 8 hours of sleep for two nights in a row. The second photo was taken after the participants had 4 hours of sleep for two nights in a row.

Then a group of 122 strangers rated each photo on attractiveness, health and sleepiness. The scores were all lower for each of the sleepy photos in each category.

The findings highlight a direct link between sleep and how attractive and healthy a person is – which suggests that getting your beauty sleep is real!

For the men

Sleep deprivation will literally shrink your testicles! Countless studies have shown that men who sleep just 4 – 5 hours per night have the same levels of testosterone as a man 10 to 15 years their senior – meaning a lack of sleep will age a man by over a decade!

The solution – how to improve your sleep and become superhuman!

The conventional wisdom is that adults need between 7 – 9 hours of sleep per night.

How do you know if you are not getting enough sleep? Ask yourself the following question; if you set an alarm, and the alarm didn’t go off, would you have slept past your alarm?

So here are some great tips on how you can improve your sleep.

Reduce blue light exposure 1 – 2 hours before bed

The light from your phone and laptop emits what is called blue light in large amounts.

This results in your brain being tricked that it’s still daytime which reduces the hormone melatonin which is responsible for getting you relaxed and ready to sleep.

How to reduce blue light exposure:

  • Wear glasses which block blue light.
  • An app called f.lux will block blue light on your computer. There are a number of other apps available too.
  • Turn off all devices and any bright lights 2 hours before going to sleep.
  • It’s also important to completely black out your room. Invest in an eye mask if your bedroom is not pitch black at night.
  • iPhone/iPad Users - Turn off the blue light on your iPhone using Night Shift mode
    - From the iPhone or iPad's main screen, open the settings application. Scroll to Display and Brightness, tap on it, then slide the toggle for Night Shift to the active position.

Consistent sleep and wake schedule – even on weekends!

Your internal body clock known as the circadian rhythm functions on a specific loop which aligns with the sunrise and sunset. Your body will release specific chemicals when you wake to give you energy to start the day, and at night to help you fall asleep.

By disrupting the routine, it will throw your body all out of whack and will result in a poor night’s sleep. Being consistent with your sleep and wake times will allow you to maximise the amount of sleep you get.

Keep your bedroom cool

Studies have shown that increased body and room temperature can significantly reduce the quality of your sleep and increase the number of times you wake up throughout the night. 20°C seems to be the sweet spot.

If you are willing to invest, there is a tool that can regulate the temperature of your bed – called the TropiCool Sleep System. It will set you back a few hundred euro but of course the long term benefits will be priceless.

Track your sleep with an OURA ring

The OURA ring allows you to pinpoint what exactly is going on in your body throughout the day and gives the most comprehensive breakdown of your sleep.

The metrics are tremendously meaningful and you can use them to make positive changes. The OURA gives you detailed information on your sleep states, heart rate, heart rate variability (stress level), body temperature, breathing rates, activity levels, and so much more.

Learn more about this groundbreaking wearable technology here.

No caffeine in the afternoon

The problem with caffeine is that it has a half-life of 6 hours and a quarter life of 12 hours meaning if you have a coffee at midday, a quarter of that caffeine is still circulating in your brain at midnight!

This is the equivalent of swigging a quarter cup of coffee right before you go to bed and hoping for a good night’s sleep!

So the earlier you drink your morning cup of coffee the better you will sleep.

No late night snacking

Having a snack or a late dinner before bed will negatively impact your sleep as it affects the natural release of melatonin in your body, the chemical responsible for getting you to sleep.

Leave a few hours gap between your last meal of the day and the time you go to sleep

Cut out alcohol or any sedatives used as sleep aids

If you think that having a night cap is helping you fall asleep you would be mistaken. Alcohol is in the class of drugs called a sedative. When you fall asleep with the help of alcohol, you are not actually going to sleep; rather you are just sedating yourself. This means that you won’t feel refreshed when you wake up.

Alcohol will also block your REM sleep – which is a sleep cycle that helps with your emotional and mental health. Alcohol will reduce your REM sleep. If you deprive rats of REM sleep, they will die almost as quickly as total food deprivation – that is how essential your dream sleep really is!

REM sleep is also affected by any sleeping aids which include sleeping pills along with marijuana.

However, there is some good news for using CBD as a sleep aid. Early studies indicate that CBD does not have a negative effect on REM sleep.

Final strategies to get relaxed for bed

Reading before bed, listening to relaxing music, meditating, taking a hot bath and stretching are all great ways to prepare you for a deep sleep.

One technique we came across recently was journaling before bed. An hour before bed right down all of your concerns – everything that is on your mind! And try finish it with 3 things you are grateful.

The main thing is to find a sleep routine that works for you. If you start to ritualise the process of preparing yourself for sleep with specific techniques, your body will know when it's time to prepare you for a great night of rest.

If you would like more information on all things sleep we highly recommend purchasing the book Why We Sleep by the leading expert in the field Matthew Walker. You will be blown away by the insights and data which highlight what we have discussed in far greater detail.

The bottom line is to be non-negotiable when it comes to your sleep. Make sure you give yourself the opportunity to get 7 – 9 hours of sleep per night.

When you understand the importance of sleep you will realise that it’s the best insurance policy out there in terms of healthcare.

By consistently getting enough sleep every night you will unlock your superhuman powers! Good night and happy sleeping.

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