How’s Your Sleep and How Does Sleep Affect Performance?
Training Topic Worksheet
[Note: I am NOT giving medical advice nor suggesting you do any of the following without the advice of a physician. I am sharing a few things I’ve figured out about my own sleep challenges, habits, apnea, and how they have dramatically affected my performance. Please consider doing your own research and testing a few of your own ideas.]
This may seem like a pretty odd training topic for a high-performance sales and networking organization; however, shorting yourself just a couple of hours of sleep a night may have severe implications on your performance, sustainable success, memory, and body inclusive of risks like:
- Short & Long Term Memory & Focus | For example, if you’re meeting new people and attempting to remember details like their names, look out! And, let’s be obvious about focus…you already knew that. If you’re extremely tired how well can you focus? Barely and you may resort as I did to stimulants (tons of coffee, energy drinks, and energy shots) just to keep up. [Note: There’s a ton of evidence that some coffee is good for you.]
- Mood – Emotional and Quick Tempered | Just recall how you felt emotionally the last time you were exhausted or pulled an all-nighter. Are you amped up to build new authentic connections and express empathy?
- Immunity – Reduced immunity especially for Viruses | The Mayo Clinic reported that with reduced sleep our bodies produce fewer protective proteins, antibodies, and infection-fighting cells leading to a greater risk of illness and longer recovery periods.
- Blood Sugar & Blood Pressure | Reduced insulin self-regulation and increased inflammation which increase blood pressure, risk of type 2 diabetes, heart attack, and stroke.
- Sex Drive & Growth Hormones | The endocrine system needs rest, at least three hours, to effectively produce sex and growth hormones. Growth hormones are needed for cellular repair and muscle growth.
- Cognitive Ability (which means “thinking” just in case you’re tired right now…lol) | The ability to solve problems and think rationally are markedly reduced with just a slight drop in restful sleep. A huge component of sales and networking is the ability to creatively solve problems.
- Injury & Accidents | Those missing out on sleep are much more likely to have an accident. Scientific studies have proven lack of sleep and driving drowsy have similar risks to drunk driving. Other studies indicate our balance and subsequent falling are also affected.
- Weight Gain and Obesity | Yep, there it is…I said it. Lack of sleep causes stress in our bodies which kicks up our stress hormone, cortisol. Clearly we can’t blame McDonald’s for that too! Elevated cortisol can lead to unexplained weight gain. Other hormones affected are leptin and ghrelin which affect appetite, feelings of being full, and can lead to late-night snacking and not feeling full when eating. How frustrating it would be to eat well, exercise our butts off, skip sleep to get in more workouts, and then have our bodies decide to gain weight anyway? Argh!!!! Recent research is suggesting hormones play a key role in weight management and sleep has a domino effect on our hormones.
Any of the above concerns is hopefully enough to get you at least thinking about sleep, but wait..there’s more! Several studies have indicated upwards for a 15-25% increase in professional performance, creativity, complex problem solving, and business success.
15-25% Increase in Performance
Some people wear their lack of sleep as a badge of courage or a right of passage; however, success in no way is linked to less sleep! In fact, science supports the exact opposite, besides if the risks above were to become a reality how much of your success would you spend to get your health back.
How Much Sleep?
Most people have a unique perspective on how much sleep is even required and may have developed poor sleep habits and routines. Perceptions of adequate sleep are based somewhat on culture, personal experience, other’s expectations, and a lot is based on misinformation. There is a lot of conflicting evidence; however, generally 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep is recommended for adults. Add stress, ailments, sleep disorders, reduced quality, or other hindrances and even more sleep time will be needed. Here are some general ideas:
- Older adults (65+): 7–8 hours
- Adults (18–64 years): 7–9 hours
- Teenagers (14–17 years): 8–10 hours
- School children (6–13 years): 9–11 hours
Signs of Insufficient Quality Sleep
- “Needing” several cups of coffee to get going
- Relying on energy drinks and other stimulants to get through the day
- Depending on knaps to make it
- Distractability and struggling to focus
- Unexplained weight gain
- Losing the battle with the “Snooze” button
- Feeling stressed and overwhelmed
- Elevated blood pressure
- Reduced libido…ouch!
- Memory challenges (at least you might forget you don’t have a libido!)
Hopefully, you have enough fuel for the fire to conduct your own research, and, if needed, seek professional medical consultation. Now, let’s talk about what you can do to improve your sleep quantity, quality, routine, and ultimately your high-performance sleep outcomes.
Quantity of Sleep
Things I’ve done to fall asleep faster and get adequate sleep:
- Tell yourself the truth about sleep and give yourself permission to get plenty of sleep. No one passes out badges of courage and discipline for skipping sleep!
- Commit to one extra hour of sleep nightly, starting immediately. Whatever you averaged for sleep this past week, add one hour.
Make getting adequate, restful sleep a top priority.
- Limit naps
- Limit daytime caffeine and other stimulant intakes. I personally don’t consume caffeine after 4 pm, as my sleep is very much affected forcing me to struggle to get to sleep in the first place.
- Screen-Free one hour before bedtime, which means no TV, cell phones, electronic devices. I have a few pairs of blue light blocking readers, but I’m not certain how well they work. Instead, invest that hour before bedtime doing relaxing activities like gentle stretching, reading, taking a shower or bath, or meditating. I know reading in bed is like a sleep sledge hammer for me…two paragraphs and zzzzz!
- Follow a consistent sleep schedule of going to sleep at the same time and getting up at the same time.
- Supplementation with Melatonin (again, I’m not suggesting you take it…I take 10mg time released nightly at bedtime.)
Quality of Sleep
Things I’ve done to improve how rested and restored I feel after sleeping, plus a few things I’d like to try.
- Get some early morning sunshine. Sunshine, especially early morning sunshine helps the production of melatonin and vitamin-D (actually a hormone, not a vitamin), reduces stress and helps maintain your biological sleep cycle. I’ve been using a Focus Sprint Timer to get more work done and take breaks which I use to go around the block for 10 minutes every hour and get morning and midday sunshine. (Work for 50 minutes and don’t for 10 minutes X 2 then a longer break…more on this next week.)
- Reduce alcohol consumption within 4 hours before bedtime. This may be a surprise, but alcohol is a sedative and can make us pass out; however, the quality of sleep is dramatically decreased possibly since our restorative processes are directed to fixing our livers. Two glasses of wine within 4 hours of sleep reduce deep wave sleep by 20-50%.
- Treat sleep disorders. Make sure you don’t have sleep apnea or other sleep disorder, and if you do, treat it appropriately and immediately. See your physician for help with this. Some sleep monitoring devices can help, though my doc had me take a super affordable at-home sleep study and diagnosed my sleep apnea. Hannah has CPAPs, BiPaps, and other sleep assistance medical devices in exchange for an extremely modest recommended donation.
- Keep it cool. Some of the best sleep I get is when the room temperature is between 67 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. I can go a bit colder if I keep my feet warm, but am always more restless above 70 degrees.
- Ice cold baths combined with Melatonin are supposed to be like taking an elephant tranquilizer; however, I’m not a big fan of ice-cold baths.
- Track your sleep quality. You can use a smartwatch, a mat like the Withings Sleep (which I just ordered on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3h3hf0a for about $80). My Withings smartwatch (Nokia Steel HR, https://amzn.to/2MA8RXW) was the watch I used to uncover my sleep apnea, mostly because I ignored the other obvious indicators and needed a device to tell me. I was frustrated about the sleep quality constantly being “poor” which prompted me to talk to my doctor and get the sleep study. I’m waiting on the new Withings Scan Watch to come out which has an algorithm to sense apnea events and has other sensors including oxygen saturation to help identify sleep problems and track improvements. If you’re not breathing, your oxygen levels drop rapidly. Tracking can help turn improving your sleep quality into a game and allow you to test or discover other factors.
- White noise. Many can’t sleep without some sort of noise like a ceiling fan running. Just make sure the volume is low and test to learn works for you and sleep partners, if you have them. Our Alexa does a great job for free and there are even some guided sleep meditations if you’re really struggling to drift off.
- Vigorous exercise earlier in the day seems to wipe me out as does teaching class. Both require a ton of effort and energy and require a bunch of deep sleep processing and recovery. When I’m being lazy and not doing much, it’s even more challenging to fall asleep and stay asleep. Morning and afternoon exercise is normally best for me, as evening workouts get me energized and my body stays warmer making falling asleep more difficult.
Who knows, maybe this training topic could save your life as some of the concepts certain did mine, help you reverse some of the negative consequences of poor sleep habits, and help improve your high-performance productivity. What if you tried implementing a few ideas similar to the ones I learned about my own sleep habits for 90 days and it didn’t help? No biggie right! But what if it did help? Biggie right!