By Russell Wilson
Science is pretty clear: when we look at most humans, seven to nine hours of sleep is heralded as the average for ideal performance and well being.
My strategy is different.
My sleep schedule is coded into me. When I was a kid, my dad used to wake me up at 5:30 every morning. We would hit ground balls, play shortstop, and throw pitches. After all that, we’d throw the football around with my brother. So although I’ve always been a person who wakes up early, it has become much more than that for me. I strongly believe that I have to get up earlier than everybody else to be more successful
Some people might think my current schedule is a little crazy, but it’s what works for me. I get five hours of sleep Monday through Thursday. Those mornings are my hardest days in terms of practice and game preparation. It’s when I cram everything in. On Friday and Saturday nights, I get as much as 10 hours of sleep each night. That’s my time — it’s when I take my mind completely off everything else. It’s when I disconnect and relax.
My friend Dr. Michael Gervais would say that I’m able to do this because, as a professional athlete, I operate differently than the general population. My energy is stable, I’m generally even-tempered and, of course, I’m used to the physical output required of professional athletes. This is what gives me the ability to maintain such a strict sleep schedule.
If keeping up with this schedule week in and week out sounds hard, it is. I work hard at being fully present in everything I do, and I’ve worked hard at compartmentalizing all aspects of my life, both in crucial game moments and in my resting habits. I have to constantly, rigorously, train myself — just as I train for everything else.
Another thing — and this is probably obvious — I pay attention to what I eat. Although I’m not crazy about every little thing I eat, I make sure I get my protein and my carbs so I feel energized. Eating well gives me energy for the whole day and helps me sleep better. Being mindful of what I eat is what allows me to drift into that resting state faster and wake up feeling energized in the morning.
All of this is part of my personal optimization strategy. I know it works for me because I’ve tested and tried a lot of different strategies.
If you’re looking for tips, tricks, and hacks, I don’t have any. Except for this: finding your optimal sleep schedule takes time and commitment. It’s a fundamental reorganization of how you look at yourself in the world. Play with as many different scenarios in the learning phase of your journey to improve your sleep and performance. From there, you can customize your schedule according to what feels best.
All humans have the same number of minutes per day: 1,440. It’s up to you to decide how you spend them.
Originally published at medium.com