“The Sleep Revolution” by Arianna Huffington. Why sleep might be that actual “magic” pill that solves it all.
“Sleep is, after all, at the center of our overall vitality. When we sleep well, we feel better, and vice versa. We may be what we eat, but also, to be sure, we are how we sleep.”
I remember, like it was yesterday, a few years ago our culture was going completely different direction — everyone was trying to hack sleep. Back then it meant to sleep less to squeeze more to-dos on our lists. Quality of what was done, was not much of a concern for anyone. Everyone assumed, that as long as you are awake and doing something, it was better and more fruitful than sleeping. Prioritizing sleep over late nights and more work/study/social engagements was not in fashion and was frowned upon.
I remember what a look I’d get telling people I go to bed before 9 pm most nights and get up around 3 or 4 am, napping during the day. People were like, “Who the hell has the time to do that? When there is so much work to do, so many people to meet and so much life around.” — I was definitely missing out, as I was told not once.
I didn’t much care, because no matter how much was done by all the staying-up-late do-more kind of people, I never met anyone who could honestly say they were well (physically and mentally) and happy most of the time. And I definitely had more peace — a lot of the all-nighters told me not once that they felt some kind of peace radiating from me. They often asked me for the secret to get it.
Being curious about the world and culture around me, I tried to hack my sleep too, I thought maybe there is something to it, I’d definitely love to do more art, read more books, experience as much life as possible. I tried short naps few times a day (polyphasic sleep), tried to sleep less in general — every time ending up sleeping 9–10 hours for a few days after such an experiment before getting back to my normal sleeping schedule of about 7 hours of daily sleep total.
Few years forward.
“The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time” by Arianna Huffington hits New York Times Bestseller’s list.
The truth about sleep starts to reveal itself.
Leaders in politics, CEO of companies, elite athletes, actors, artists acknowledge the importance and significance of sleep for their mental and physical performance. They admit that lack of sleep compromises the quality of their life in all areas.
“Long before our sleep renaissance began, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos — ahead of the curve in so many ways — was talking about getting eight hours of sleep. “I’m more alert and I think more clearly,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “I just feel so much better all day long if I’ve had eight hours.” In the same article, venture capitalist Marc Andreessen talked about the lessons he learned after his sleep-deprived days launching Netscape: “I would spend the whole day wishing I could go home and go back to bed.” Now he knows how to get the best out of himself: “I can get by on seven and a half without too much trouble. Seven and I start to degrade. Six is suboptimal. Five is a big problem. Four means I’m a zombie.”
“As the head of human resources at LinkedIn, Pat Wadors knows a great deal about productivity. And for her, productivity follows directly from a good night’s sleep. “Waking up after eight hours sets me up perfectly for the day ahead,” she wrote on HuffPost. “I can bring my best self to the entire day.”
“Goldman Sachs has banned summer interns from staying overnight in the office, limiting working hours from 7 a.m. to midnight (in the finance world, that’s progress). The bank has even brought in sleep experts. (And yes, the experts are there to help the bankers sleep more, not less.)”
“For actors, models, and entertainers, taking care of themselves is part of their work regimen. And sleep is at the heart of it. No matter how you feel about celebrities or a culture that obsesses over their every personal and professional move, their appreciation for sleep and its benefits is one thing their fans could emulate.”
“Christina Aguilera says that “people spend money on beauty potions, but a good night’s rest makes all the difference,” while reality star– turned– fashion designer Lauren Conrad says that “there’s a reason they call it ‘beauty sleep.’ Getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night can actually improve your appearance.” Gwyneth Paltrow calls sleep a “major thing” in her life. “I don’t always get it,” she says, “and when I don’t, I look like I’ve been hit by a truck.”
“Sleep is my weapon…. I try to get eight hours a night,” said Jennifer Lopez. “I think sometimes we get caught up in what we need to do next and forget about what are the very essential and important things in life. I treasure my time to sleep. It’s just as important as eating or exercise.”
“In Yes Please, Amy Poehler puts it all into perspective. “Sleep can completely change your entire outlook on life,” she writes. “One good night’s sleep can help you realize that you shouldn’t break up with someone, or you are being too hard on your friend, or you actually will win the race or the game or get the job. Sleep helps you win at life.”
“Further proof that sleep can make a difference in politics comes from another highly placed source, her husband Bill Clinton, himself famous for running on very little sleep during his presidency. Looking back, though, in a Daily Show appearance in 2007, he saw the power of sleep. “I do believe sleep deprivation has a lot to do with some of the edginess of Washington today,” he said. “You have no idea how many Republican and Democratic members of the House and Senate are chronically sleep-deprived.” Politics, of course, is the ultimate sleep-deprivation machine. Much of what our political leaders face is out of their control. But that is all the more reason to optimize the factors that are in their control. The most basic one is to improve their decision making by getting enough sleep. Will it instantly solve the world’s problems? Of course not. But will our leaders be better prepared to face those problems with more creativity and wisdom? Without a doubt.”
“Trainers today know that recovery is a critical element of successful training, allowing you to come back stronger. And recovery is about more than cooling down after stepping off the treadmill — it is, in a very big way, about sleep. … training alone is not enough. The best results are driven through a combination of proper movement, nutrition and regeneration — the key component of which is adequate sleep.”
“The body is super busy repairing muscle and tissues and replacing dead cells while we’re sleeping, and for athletes that time is crucial,” said instructor Kym Perfetto. “The harder I train, the more sleep I need.” Sue Molnar, another cycling instructor, constantly talks to her riders about the importance of quality sleep. “It is everything,” she said. “We live in New York City. We work hard, play hard, eat and drink hard, exercise hard. We need to have the rejuvenation of a good night’s sleep.”
“To professional athletes, sleep is not about spirituality, work-life balance, or even health and well-being; it’s all about performance. It’s about what works, about using every available tool to increase the chances of winning.”
“investigating the potential benefits of getting extra sleep, and whether improving sleep patterns can positively impact functioning and enhance performance.” She began running studies and found that “multiple weeks of sleep extension significantly reduces athletes’ accumulated sleep debt and results in faster reaction time, decreased fatigue levels as well as improved athletic performance measures.”
“As former NBA All-Star Grant Hill put it, “People talk about diet and exercise,” but “sleep is just as important.” Four-time NBA MVP LeBron James swears by twelve hours a day when practicing. And two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash believes that “napping every game day, whether you feel like it or not, not only has a positive effect on your performance that night but also a cumulative effect on your body throughout the season.” Professional triathlete Jarrod Shoemaker describes sleep as “half my training,” while Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man, explains, “Sleep is extremely important to me — I need to rest and recover in order for the training I do to be absorbed by my body.”
Companies, educational institutions, hospitals, hotels start to think how they can improve sleep quality of people to improve their performance in the office, in the study room and overall life quality.
Companies and colleges run sleep awareness programs, mindfulness courses, install nap rooms, change working/studying times, add schedule flexibility making sure they create the best possible conditions to improve the quality of the outputs everyone brings to the table.
Hotels create better sleep experiences by taking care of noise levels, better sleeping gear (pillows, matrasses, earplugs, blackout curtains).
Hospitals make sure that patients can sleep properly changing the light/noise environment. — I remember how horrible sleeping experience was at the hospital where I had to spend a week. I could barely sleep a couple of hours a night without waking up because nurses were making noise, there was some beeping, light would go on and off. And I was supposed to recover in that environment?
Health/weight loss/fitness experts all admit the importance of sleep for overall health, for better fitness performance and muscle recovery, for better weight loss, to avoid conditions like diabetes, obesity, mental disorders.
“The connection between sleep and weight problems has been well documented, but what we’re finding out is just how strong that link is. It takes only one night of poor sleep to leave us wanting to eat more fat the next day. In a University of Pennsylvania study, one group of participants was kept awake all night, while the other was allowed to sleep. (Maybe there needs to be a study on the effects of all these sleep studies!) The people who stayed up ate nearly a thousand extra calories during the night. And the next day, even though their caloric consumption was roughly equal to that of the well-rested group, more of the calories in the sleep-deprived group came from fats.”
“Sleep deprivation puts us at greater risk of “succumbing to impulsive desires, poor attentional capacity, and compromised decision making.” Indeed, a study on smokers found that sleep deprivation made it much harder to quit.”
“Appetite and metabolism are also profoundly affected by sleep. In a 2012 Harvard Medical School study, healthy adults who slept an average of 5.6 hours a night for three weeks had a decreased resting metabolic rate and increased glucose levels after meals, increasing the risk of obesity and diabetes. In fact, diabetes and sleep deprivation are intricately linked. Sleep deprivation sets the stage for diabetes by increasing the risk of resistance to insulin, a hormone that’s essential for absorbing blood sugar and either converting it to energy or storing it. And insulin resistance is a precursor of diabetes. Once diabetes is diagnosed, sleep is as crucial as diet for managing it. (As it happens, Thomas Edison, who claimed to have triumphed over sleep, also developed diabetes.)”
“Another sign of sleep as a biological imperative is the fact that it’s also associated with our ability to, well, make more of us. Sleep deprivation has been linked to infertility in both men and women”
“For instance, we may not have a cure for the common cold yet, but we do know how to increase the likelihood of getting one: don’t sleep.”
We finally realize that sleep is not some unfortunate overlook of nature that we need to fix or hack, but an essential part of healthy living, full importance and role of which we just start to grasp.
“There is an increasing awareness that sleep helps us to perform better both physically and cognitively, to learn faster, to consolidate memories, and, generally, to be healthier. Sleep deprivation undermines all these things.”
In short. Want to be faster, smarter, better, happier? — Sleep.
As much as you need and care for.
Sleep is important for our body maintenance, our brain recovery and better functioning — learning, forming memories, better decisions, better emotional intelligence and creativity.
When we look at all the data, it all speaks very clearly, even though we don’t fully understand all the whys or hows.
The more good quality sleep we get, the more work of a better quality we accomplish, the happier and more fulfilled we feel, the better we live our lives.
There is more life in our days when we sleep more, even though we might have “less” awake hours. And we finally understand, that “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” — makes “when I’m dead” come sooner.
*Recently I had a 5-hour-sleep-night experience and the day after did NOT feel like living. More like dragging myself along the rail, while the train of life was passing right by me. And maybe a few cups of coffee would make the train into a brighter picture, but it wouldn’t make the train stop to take me on board.
PART ONE: WAKE-UP CALL
- Our Current Sleep Crisis
- The Sleep Industry
- Sleep Throughout History
- The Science of Sleep
- Sleep Disorders
PART TWO: THE WAY FORWARD
- Mastering Sleep
- Sleeping Together
- What to Do, What Not to Do
- Catnaps, Jet Lag, and Time Zones
- Sleep and the Workplace
- From Hollywood and Washington to Hospitals and Hotels: Discovering the Power of Sleep
- The Sports World’s Ultimate Performance Enhancer
- Putting Technology in Its Place (Not on Your Nightstand)
Appendix A: Sleep-Quality Questionnaire
Appendix B: Guided Meditations to Help You Fall (and Stay) Asleep
Appendix C: The Hotel Sleep Revolution: Pillow Menus, Quiet Zones, and Beds You’ll Want to Take Home
Appendix D: Going to the Mattresses
Past, Present and Future of sleep, Science of sleep, how sleep affects every area of our life, sleep culture, the meaning of sleep or lack of it in our society, dreams and dreaming, the effects of modern lifestyle on our sleep quality and how to get back to normal sleep patterns.
The practical part (Part Two: The Way Forward) is all about sleep hacking. But this time hacking is about getting more of and better quality sleep.
The things discussed that improve the quality and amount of our sleep: our night routine, sleep gear (pillows, matrasses, curtains, earplugs, eye masks), sleep wear, sleep environment (noise, light, electro-magnetic radiation, temperature), sleep-friendly tech (light bulbs, apps), nutrition and exercises, mindful practices, techniques, tricks, gadgets for better sleep while traveling.
I’ll share a few strategies I found the most useful, important and universal so you could start sleeping better for better life/work performance and well-being tonight.
Start getting ready for bed an hour or so before sleep.
Turn off your gadgets, disconnect from the world and connect to yourself, stop working, put on your pyjamas, dim the lights, make it quiet, get a book (better not the one with a shining screen), get a cup of some herbal tea, take a warm bath or shower, smell some essential oils — lavender is great for that.
It’s a good idea to engage in some mindful practice that will calm and slow you down making you ready to drift away into the Morpheus realm letting it all go.
Meditate, think of all the things you are grateful for that happened that day, journal, listen to some calming music or nature sounds, do some light stretching or yoga, visualize some serene environment.
The choices are many. Do what works for you.
Make sure the environment promotes good sleep.
Perfect temperature for sleep is 60–66 F — too cold or too hot and our sleep is compromised.
The darker it is the better. Eye masks, blackout curtains.
The less noise — the better. Noise cancelling earplugs and headphones.
Comfortable sleep wear — anything that makes you feel relaxed and ready for bed time.
No gadgets. No connection.
Avoid caffeine in ALL its forms at least 6 hours before your sleep time to avoid worse sleep quality and insomnia. That what researchers say is the timing needed for our body to remove the caffeine from our system. Remember to check out any products that might contain caffeine — lots of beverages and snacks have caffeine in them these days to keep you from being sleepy.
Don’t eat heavy (too much fat or calories) or spicy meals right before bed otherwise your body will not do its best recovering and healing during the night.
Eat 2–3 hours before bed.
Don’t go to bed de-hydrated but don’t drink too much before going to bed either, if you want to avoid unnecessary bathroom visits during the night.
Sugary stuff is not good for sleep either (Like it’s good for any other time of the day!). It might keep you awake or negatively affect the quality of your sleep.
Best before-bed foods are:
“foods that contain magnesium (such as nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and bananas), B6 (such as fish, beans, and poultry), and tryptophan (an amino acid found in foods like chickpeas, seaweed, egg whites, pumpkin seeds, halibut, and most famously, turkey). Another food that may help us sleep is cherries, which are rich in melatonin.”
Don’t do full-on workouts right before sleep — you won’t be able to fall asleep. But do exercise during the day for better sleep.
“…exercise is so beneficial to sleep and overall health that we should attempt to fit it in whenever our lives allow. “The timing of exercise ought to be driven by when the pool’s lap lane is open, or when your tennis partner is available or when you have time to get away from work,”
To fall asleep faster and have a better quality of sleep create a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time or as close to it as possible.
“even a short nap “primes our brains to function at a higher level, letting us come up with better ideas, find solutions to puzzles more quickly, identify patterns faster and recall information more accurately.”
Napping enhances performance better than caffeine — so when there is a choice between a nap and a cup of coffee — have no doubts anymore — go and nap. Napping is cheaper also.
The best sleep hacking tool, the tool that will increase your chances of getting more and better sleep — shift of mindset. Start looking at sleep not as a waste of your life time but as a life enhancer. Because it is. I don’t know about you, but my recent 5-hour-sleep-a-night experience proved to me — not getting enough sleep takes my “living” hours away. Getting enough of good quality sleep really adds to my life — an extra smile to my day, an extra inch of willpower to do better work, do more of challenging work that matters and an extra pinch of kindness for more compassion and better heart-to-heart connection.
“But if we’re going to truly restore sleep to its proper role in our lives, we have to look beyond all the tools and techniques, the lavender pouches, the blackout shades, the space-age mattresses, the rules about caffeine and screens. At the end of the day (literally), being able to do something as natural as going to sleep shouldn’t require chronically medicating ourselves or putting ourselves on a nightly war footing against all the screens, foods, and activities that stand between us and a good night’s sleep. Rather, it starts with something as simple as it is profound: asking ourselves what kind of life we want to lead, what we value, what gives our lives meaning.”
So what’s now?
“We are not defined by our jobs and our titles, and we are vastly more than our résumés. By helping us keep the world in perspective, sleep gives us a chance to refocus on the essence of who we are. And in that place of connection, it is easier for the fears and concerns of the world to drop away.
For many of us, thinking this way is a big change. It certainly has been for me. After all, we live in a world that celebrates getting things done above all else. So who are we when we are not getting things done? If we stop emailing or texting or planning or doing, will we cease to exist? (It’s not hard to imagine a modern-day Descartes declaring, “I tweet, therefore I am.”)
To be sure, we can strive to get more sleep without asking these existential questions. But making the most of the third of our lives that we should be spending asleep and reaping all the benefits sleep offers in terms of our health, our clarity of thinking, our decision making, and our engagement in our lives requires reflecting on what matters most to us and then reprioritizing our days — and our nights — accordingly.”