Sleep is NOT for the Weak! 9+1 Practical Tips to Sleep Better [TCL Newsletter]
The text below was sent in January 2019 to our newsletter subscribers. If you enjoy it and want more, join us.
Throughout my life, I’ve met a few people who were proudly talking about how they only need four hours of sleep to function. I used to envy and admire them for all those extra hours they’d have, free from what seemed like a useless activity: sleep. I’d experiment with all sorts of “hacks” and “tricks” to sleep less, wake up as early as possible and squeeze in more work, but never feel like making any progress.
Nowadays, sleep is one of my favorite productivity hacks. If someone tells me they need less sleep than an average person, I know they’re lying – to me or to themselves. Or, of course, there’s always the possibility that they’re one of those people with a rare gene that allows them to function normal with less hours of sleep – a mutation that occurs in less than one percent of people.
Sleep deprivation leads to all sorts of sacrifices:
a: It doubles the risk of cancer, developing Alzheimer, cardiovascular diseases, psychiatric disorders, autism, depression, ADHD, and more. Sleep deprivation and brain damage are also correlated.
b: Blood-sugar level regulating is affected. Weight is also affected, and not because of the late dinner hour. Hormones start working against you: the one that regulates your appetite and feeling of satiation, and one that makes your body store everything you eat. So not only you overeat cause you don’t realize when you’re full, but you also store it all.
c: Our memory and learning capability drops severely, together with creativity and making good decisions. There’s a reason why the advice “sleep on it” exists.
d: Regeneration is affected by loss of sleep, speeding up the aging process. Professional athletes, like Usain Bolt and Roger Federer, credit sleep and rest for their performance, saying it’s half their training. Sleep gives their muscles, hormones and immune system a chance to fully repair and recover.
So stop saying “I’ll sleep when I’m dead“. By not sleeping enough, you’re shrinking your brain, while getting sicker and sicker. If you want to optimize your performance and not die before your time, it’s essential to prioritize sleep – in terms of both quantity AND quality.
One of the best books I read last year is “Why We Sleep“, by neuroscientist Matthew Walker. Released in September 2017, this is the most recent and comprehensive book on the importance of sleep and how it’s interconnected with all areas of our life.
I postponed reading this book for a while, arrogantly thinking I already know everything, since I don’t have any sleep problems. Boy, was I wrong!
Here’s just one of the many things I learned: “I can sleep like a baby after drinking coffee” is a myth. Just because I can sleep, it doesn’t mean it’s quality sleep. It can take seven hours for the caffeine effects to wear off – that’s its average half-life (“half-life” refers to a drug’s efficacy and how much it takes for the body to remove 50% of its concentration). Of course, age and genetics play an important role as well, as some people can eliminate caffeine from their bloodstream faster than others.
And another busted myth: drinking alcohol in the evening does NOT help you sleep better. No, not even in small doses (hello, my dear girl friends who end your days with a glass of wine). It will disrupt your sleep and block your brain’s ability to generate REM sleep. How this translates in your day-to-day life: alcohol interferes with your capability to process information, including learning, memorizing and making associations. It affects the way we learn even if we consume it three nights AFTER learning something. So don’t say you haven’t been warned (glad that I stopped drinking alcohol altogether two years ago).
Keep on scrolling to learn more about how to improve your sleep.
9+1 TIPS TO SLEEP BETTER:
1. Limit the exposure to artificial light at night. That means no electronics in your bedroom. Don’t use any smartphones, laptops, TV or e-reader at least one hour before sleep.
2. Nighttime stress, caused by work and lifestyle, will make you anxious and cause insomnia. Try to put a “hard stop” to any mentally stimulating activity at least one hour before bedtime. That means banning thinking or talking about work (don’t even think about checking email or social media “one last time”), bills, and so on. Business books included! You won’t be able to go to sleep from all those new ideas popping in your head.
3. Keep your bedroom dark (blackout curtains) and cool. Yes, there’s an ideal sleep temperature, and it’s around 18.3 degrees Celsius / 65 Fahrenheit. You can also take a hot bath before bed. It will force your body to cool down and drop its core temperature, helping you fall asleep faster.
4. Evening exercise can help us sleep better and the positive effects remain even the second night after (yeap!). Just try to finish working out two or three hours before bedtime. If you’re struggling with insomnia, it might be a sign of overtraining and inadequate recovery.
5. No caffeine at least seven hours before going to bed. That includes certain teas, energy drinks, Colas, chocolate, ice cream, but also weight-loss pills, etc. Decaf included! “Decoffee” doesn’t mean it doesn’t have caffeine at all – one cup of decaf contains 15 to 30% of the dose of a regular cop of coffee. The author calls caffeine the most widely used and abused psychoactive stimulant in the world, and the longest and largest unsupervised drug studies ever conducted on humans.
6. No alcohol. Not even one “innocent” glass of wine, as it will significantly mess with your sleep quality.
7. Avoid large meals late at night and drinking too many fluids. They’ll interfere with sleep and make you wake up in the middle of the night.
8. Don’t use an alarm clock unless you absolutely have to. Ideally, you’d listen to your body and wake up naturally, when you are fully rested, and avoid any act of artificially controlling your sleep / prematurely ending it. If that’s unavoidable, use an “old school” alarm clock in your bedroom. And never-ever use the snooze function – it causes a spike in blood pressure, shock acceleration in heart rate, and injection of stressful hormones.
9. Go to the doctor to treat your sleep apnea (when your breathing is affected). Snoring is not fun and, if left untreated, it leads to life-shortening consequences.
10. Buy “Why We Sleep“, read it and re-read it. This is the only book whose author won’t mind if you fall asleep while reading it 🙂
WEEKLY BRAIN TOOLS:
1. Busy is the new stupid (Jason Fried, January 2019)
“I can buy anything that I want, but I can’t buy time.” – these words belong to Warren Buffett, who uses most of his time to read and think. Bill Gates does the same, prioritizing deep thinking. This is completely different from how normal people schedule their days, fragmenting them into small blocks of time dedicated to meetings.
Another article, same topic: This ‘busy-bragging’ epidemic must be stopped. If only we could find the time (March 2014)
2. Here’s a different kind of ten-year challenge: three articles written by investor and entrepreneur Jason Calacanis. Two of them were published right when the 2008 crisis hit. The third one, out last summer, is about how to prepare for the upcoming storm. Even if there will be no economical crisis anytime soon, it’s still a healthy stoic exercise that I recommend.
– (The) Startup Depression (September 28, 2008)
– Good News for People who Hate Bad News (October 28, 2008)
– This is your Captain speaking, I’m turning on the fasten seat belt sign (July 25, 2018)
3. Mentors played a huge role throughout my career – and they still do. I’m grateful that they had the patience to “take me under their wing” and teach me how to think, work and make better decisions.
In the recent years, I’ve transitioned to mentoring a few young people, finally understanding how much of a risk this feels like (the time and energy invested might not always seem to be worthy).
Here are three articles on the importance of being mentored by someone and how to find one. Two of them were written by Ryan Holiday, at different points in his career, and are filled with practical advice. The third one is a guest post written by Robert Greene, Ryan’s mentor, and published on Tim Ferriss‘s’ blog, on why apprenticeship is key in the journey towards Mastery:
- Finding a mentor (Ryan Holiday, April 2007)
- How to find a mentor (Ryan Holiday, August 2013)
- The Magic of Apprenticeship – A How-To Guide (Robert Greene, November 2012)
4. Matthew Walker at Joe Rogan (April 2018)
In case you don’t want to read the whole book I mentioned in the first half of today’s email, there’s still a lot of useful information you can learn by listening to this conversation between Matthew Walker and Joe Rogan.
Never stop learning!
The text above was sent in January 2019 to our newsletter subscribers. If you enjoyed it and want more, join us.