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Day 9 - Sleep

Sleep plays a critical role in keeping us healthy.

In fact, the CDC says that chronic sleep deprivation can lead to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression.

But I remember when I used to pride myself on how few hours of sleep I needed.

I would read about the CEOs that said they didn’t need any more than 4 hours of sleep a night and I was convinced that was a part of what you had to do to get ahead in business—work more, sleep way less.

What if we read an interview about a CEO of a highly successful company who attributed part of his success to smoking 4 packs of cigarettes a day, I wonder how many people would rush to buy a carton?

But sleep deprivation seems to be worn like a merit badge. Sort of a weird virtue signaling.

When you hear people say that they’ll sleep when they’re dead—you might want to let them know that they might be giving themselves a head start.

Sleep helps regulate appetite, metabolism and calorie burning–so it’s critical for weight management.

It also plays a critical role in memory consolidation, mood regulation, reaction time and judgment.

And that’s before you even consider the fact that it’s essential for a healthy immune system and cellular repair.

These are just scratching the surface.

On the National Institute of Health’s peer-reviewed site there are over 179,000 papers on sleep and its importance to our health.

OK, we’re beginning to hear more talk about the importance of sleep.

But in some ways it’s sort of like in the ‘60s and ‘70s when people were told that cigarettes caused cancer. It didn’t even slow cigarette sales down until the early ‘80s.

I get it. Things get in the way of sleep.

Even if you’re determined to cram everything into 16 hours so you can catch your 8 hours of sleep, sometimes sleep gets scuttled by school, last minute work deadlines, the kids unannounced school project or the real need to binge watch Netflix.

But sleep plays for keeps.

Just one night of missed sleep jacks up your blood pressure and heart rate the next day. It amps up your fight or flight mechanism.

A single night of sleep deprivation changes your insulin resistance the next day.

But what about long-term sleep deprivation? A study in Japan found that workers that slept less than 5 hours per night had a 230 percent greater risk of having a massive heart attack than those getting 6-8 hours of sleep.

And let’s not forget cancer.

A large European study of almost 25,000 people found that sleeping 6 hours or less was associated with a 40% increase in the risk of developing cancer when compared to people getting 7 or more hours of sleep.

Prolonged sleep deprivation stokes the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system and can lead to chronic inflammation and impaired immune function

Once we’ve established the fact that getting a good night’s sleep isn’t a luxury but a necessity we’ve got to figure out how to improve our odds of that happening.

It begins by making sleep a priority and not an afterthought. It’s like anything that you’re committed to becoming a habit, the most important factor in determining your success is the strength of your resolve and your commitment.

And just like diet or exercise, it doesn’t mean that you’re never going to deviate, it means that you become a person that values your sleep and makes adjustments to achieve it. Not someone that says, “I’ll try and sleep more.” That’s a recipe for failure.

Creating an environment and habits that support good sleep is something called sleep hygiene. Weird name, but important concept.

You want to have a bedroom that supports a good night’s sleep — that means comfortable, supportive bed and pillows.

You want curtains that block out light or use a comfortable sleep mask.

I’m also a fan of silicone earplugs.

And you don’t want electric gadgets and all of their charging lights or clock faces shining at you all night.

You want a cool environment— between 60-70 degrees.

Two hours prior to bedtime you want to limit TV, computer monitor and smartphone exposure. Or at the very least use some type of blue-light blocking mitigation either via apps that shift the display light or those great looking blues blocker glasses…like the ones on this page.

Limit caffeine and alcohol use.

If I have caffeine after 3:00 it tends to interfere with that night’s sleep.

And go easy on any alcohol because it has two gotchas. First, although alcohol usually supports falling asleep fairly easily, you have a tendency to sleep less soundly. Secondly, your sleep will not be as restorative and since alcohol is a diuretic it increases the need to get up and pee during the night.

Sometimes the only time available to exercise is later in the day, but avoid a killer workout right before bed. It increases core body temperature and that’s counterproductive to a good nights sleep since your body temperature normally drops a couple of degrees as you sleep.

Avoid large heavy meals late at night. It can increase the likelihood of acid reflux and you don’t want your digestive system having to do a bunch of heavy lifting while you’re trying to sleep.

Avoid activity that’s going to give you brain churn right before bed.

A little mindless fiction is fine unless you’re the type that gets into the story and can’t put it down till 3 a.m.

And stay the hell off of work email — it’ll wait till morning.

If you haven’t read Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep, I highly recommend it. Here’s a YouTube video he did with Joe Rogan. Rogan is one of my favorite interviewers, but he’s a little salty, so if f-bombs freak you out you might want to pass.

How many hours of sleep do you get a night?  How have you been doing getting your 7-8 hours a night?

Today’s assignment: Real food, a good walk, and to help with your sleep read a book instead of looking at your phone prior to falling asleep.


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