Every person reading this needs about 8 hours of sleep.
Even Richard Branson (the Virgin guy).
Heard ultra rich entrepreneurs say they’re up till midnight and awake at 4am, and think to yourself,
“That’s what I have to train myself to do so I can be successful!” ?
Do you have a friend (or maybe YOU are the friend) who claims “I do better on 5 hours of sleep?
Actually, No they don’t.
I mean, yes, everyone is different, but some things are universal human traits.
Water for instance.
And the need for sleep.
It’s not like some people only need a little water and other people need a lot of water.
Human beings needs a lot of water.
Same goes for sleep: all adult human beings need at least 7-8 hours of sleep most nights.
Sorry I am usually flexible about health choices but you are reading this for my expert opinion so there you have it.
Sleep is your non negotiable.
“But WHY do need 7-8 hours of sleep?”
Whether or not you feel the effects now, prolonged lack of sleep:
- Decreases brain power
- Weakens your immune response
- Kills your sex drive
- Increases cravings for carbohydrates and sugar
- Ages your skin
- Depletes your energy
- Puts you at risk for heart disease, diabetes and some cancers
- Screws with your hormones
“But I get 5 hours of sleep a night, and I’m fine!”
Sure, for now. But you might literally be taking years off your life, by denying your body and mind of the sleep it needs.
A study from researchers in the UK found people who went from 7 hours to 5 hours or less of sleep a night suffered a 1.7 fold increased risk of premature death from all causes.
That suggests you are 1.7x more likely to live a shortened life by not getting your 7+ hours a night.
Ps: if you’re thinking to yourself, “Really? I’m less likely to get hit by a bus?”
Yes, you are.
And not only do sleepers live longer– they also play longer.
Studies have concluded that injuries in athletes are inversely proportional to the amount of sleep they get AND that professional athletes that regularly got enough sleep had the longest careers.
Still not convinced?
Want to improve your productivity and boost your career?
Your ability to think, reason, react and respond will slow with sleep deprivation.
Cognitive functions, memory, perception and creativity are compromised.
Your emotions will be less regulated. i.e.: you will be cranky and tend toward overreacting.
Researchers actually likened sleep deprivation to being intoxicated on alcohol.
AND sleep affects the prefrontal cortex – that’s the part of the brain that processes inhibition.
So you’ll be more likely to pick up things like junk food, cigarettes, or surf the internet.
Plus you’ll get sick more often (which obviously kills productivity)
At night, certain immune cells peak. Denying yourself sleep weakens your immune system.
Meaning the less sleep you get, the more you are susceptible to illness like the common cold or more serious disease like diabetes, heart conditions or cancer.
Also brain disorders like dementia & Alzheimer’s have been linked to lack of sleep and sleep apnea.
Lastly, your HORMONES depend on sleep.
Take melatonin for example:
You’ve probably heard to take melatonin if you can’t sleep. It’s “the sleep hormone”
Burning the midnight oil – staying awake, i.e.: exposed to light when it’s dark – can throw off melatonin cycles and melatonin may not be released normally. Melatonin is a hormone and we are finding out that it has effects on many other things in the body besides sleep.
Only released in the dark / at night
Aids Recovery from exercise
Has strong antioxidant effects – may help strengthen immune system.
Involved in synchronization of physiological functions like:
Circadian rhythm (day-night cycles)
Blood pressure regulation
Female reproductive cycle
Another hormone affected by sleep?
This is the hormone that allows body to use sugar from carbohydrates for energy or to store for future use.
Too much sugar in the body = insulin stores it in liver and fat cells to restore balance.
Not enough sugar = insulin releases stores
Too little sleep may cause Insulin Resistance = body can’t use insulin properly = blood sugar spikes = risk of chronic disease and obesity.
A study from the Annals of Internal Medicine, after reducing subjects’ sleep for just 4 nights claims:
”[It] is the equivalent of metabolically aging someone 10 to 20 years just from four nights of partial sleep restriction. Fat cells need sleep, and when they don’t get enough sleep, they become metabolically groggy.”
Ok what about those hormones you don’t hear as much about – like Growth Hormone, Leptin and Ghrelin? Yes they are affected by sleep as well.
- Suppresses appetite (usually produced in abundance at night)
- Symbiotic with ghrelin
- Shortened sleep associated low leptin in studies.
- Stimulates hunger (secreted at night)
- Works symbiotically with leptin
- Studies find ghrelin levels average 15% higher in participants getting 5 hours of sleep versus 8 hours.
- Hormone that does what it says, stimulates growth, cell reproduction and regeneration.
- Helps maintain healthy body tissue in adults.
- Its release is part of repair and restore function of sleep.
- GH appears to induce cognitive function.
- Plays a role in mental & emotional well-being and maintenance of high energy levels.
- Adults with GH deficiency show higher rates of depression.
Released by brain during sleep. Majority of release during stage 3 of sleep (There are 5 stages to sleep: 1,2,3,4,5,REM.)
If you stay up all night, or sleep at off hours, growth hormone is not released.
With sleep deprivation the brain releases extra GH when sleep is resumed, throwing off the natural balance and over time decreasing peak levels of the hormone released.
Alright, alright you are convinced– Right? Here’s how to actually do it because it’s easier said then done.
My #1 SECRET is right here. There is nothing in my mind that works better:
Synchronize your circadian rhythm.
IE Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day including weekends.
Personally, though it may vary by a few hours I generally am in bed between 9-10 and wake up between 5:30-7.
Even on weekends I naturally wake up each morning at the same time- if you synchronize- you will too.
For those fun nights out- I still wake up at my usual time and then fit in a quick nap (20 min) later in the day.
#2 Avoid Stimulants (and Sleep Pills)
Caffeine, obviously should be avoided later in the day, but also nicotine, alcohol and even large amounts of dark chocolate can keep you awake.
Alcohol can make you sleepy at first but ultimately leads to disrupted sleep.
Synthetic (and even natural) sleep aids and medications might help in the long run but ultimately will lead to an inability to fall asleep naturally over time.
#3 Change Your Sleep Attitude
I have been made fun of and teased for my “nazi sleep schedule”. You know what I don’t care. I have been called worse.
Change your mindset –
“the strong only need 4 hours of sleep a night. I just need to train my brain to function on less sleep to be successful.”
“I need at least 7 hours of sleep tonight or I am at risk of overeating, being groggy, cranky and generally destroying my health and quality of life.”
#4 Sleep in the Dark, Get lots of light in the am
Circadian rhythms aka your internal clock or sleep-wake cycle is controlled by area of brain that responds to light.
To keep circadian rhythms in…rhythm:
Avoid bight lights in the evening
Keep your sleep environment dark
Expose yourself to sunlight in the morning.
I use those goofy blue light blocking glasses for computer or phone work in the evenings.
#5 Don’t Hang Out In Bed
To the best of your ability make your bed and bedroom for sleeping only.
All other activities should be done somewhere else so that you unconsciously associate your bed with sleeping.
If you watch TV, do work, play board games, eat, or dance in bed and have trouble sleeping, do that stuff OUT of your bed.
#6 Keep it REALLY Cold
Cooler climate is close to our own internal body temperature (which drops to lowest level when we sleep).
Temperatures above or below this range seem to breed restless sleep.
Temperatures of 60 to 68 f work best. Cold showers before bed help as well.
If your sleep is restless or you wake up at 3am and can’t fall back to sleep, it’s likely because your mind is racing, i.e. you are experiencing anxiety or mental stress.
Listening to meditation or relaxation guides or sounds can be helpful.
Do what you can to not bring your stresses to bed with you. Can you leave them in the living room? They will be there in the morning. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t engage in stress inducing activities like watching the news or calling your mother before bed.
Removing a visible clock may also help as seeing the time should you wake up creates stress and anxiety.
#8 Try some Herbal Tea
Did you roll your eyes? Yes I did too when someone told me this.
I’m not necessarily talking chamomile, though that works for some!
If you really can’t sleep and don’t have adverse side effects try relaxing/sedating herbs like
Magnesium (ok it’s not an herb)
However be aware that if you consistently use these supplements to sleep you will have trouble long term sleeping without them.
Always talk to your dr. before trying a new supplement
#9 Don’t eat a meal for 3 hours before bed
This optimizes blood sugar and insulin, contributing to not only more restful sleep, but overall better health.
Kick starts glycogen depletion process = fat-burning mode.
Eating too close to bedtime, late at night, or in the middle of the night desynchronizes your internal clock which leads to sleeplessness & weight gain.
#10 Give your “i’s” (as in iphone, ipad)- a rest
Insomnia is becoming more and more common where 20 years ago it wasn’t the problem it was. Why?
A theory is all the stimulation we now have with the constant smartphone, computer, ipad, and television consumption.
For sure give these things a rest at least 2 hours before bed, but also in general try to unplug yourself from eating dinner while watching TV, on your computer and phone.
Be aware that all that rapid-fire instantaneous stimulation could be making you manic, anxious and restless.
If you are like me- this is impossible so I wear blue blocking glasses and change my screen brightness to the lowest setting.
So what do you think? Any tips you want to share?