Every once in a while you hear something so simple, but so significant that it makes you reconsider almost everything. Let me start at the beginning. Here are some of the things that I deem to be important in my life and I aspire to achieve each day. Be focused. Eat clean. Be creative. Do deep work. Exercise efficiently. Improve my physical performance in yoga, weight training and cardio. Extract the most that I can from the hours that I’m awake. Not get sick. Live as long as I can.
How this is done is already evident to most people. Approach each life-area with a plan, apply some personal discipline, eat less junk, move your body, read some books, meditate, don’t worry too much and get some sleep. I realise that I’m very focused on my personal productivity and measure days that I get a lot done as better than those days where I accomplish less. Part of my strategy to pack more into a day sometimes involves taking a few hours in the evening or robbing an hour or two from my morning sleep to do extra work, exercise or personal development. Without realising why some days are good and some, not so good. On the bad days, I find myself drawn to bad food choices, less enthusiastic to exercise, less creative and less focused.
Yesterday on my flight from Istanbul to Mardin (Turkey), I was working on the personal development area of my life strategy, and listening to a Joe Rogan podcast that was recommended to me by a friend in my mastermind group. Joe was interviewing Dr Matthew Walker a professor of neuroscience and psychology and the founder of The Center For Human Sleep Science. Dr Walker has dedicated most of his life to researching the impact that sleep (and the lack of sleep) has in all areas of human life. Joe Rogan who’s interviewed more than a thousand of the world’s smartest people on his show, say this was one of the most important podcasts that he’s done. I agree and think this is one of the most important pieces of content that I’ve consumed in last few years. If you’re looking for one of the simplest, cheapest and most effective hacks to improve your life, that you can start tonight, take some time to better understand how important sleep is for you and how you can improve your sleep quality. I’d always heard that getting good sleep and the right amount of sleep was important, but I wasn’t aware just how important it is.
I recommend listening to the entire podcast, it’s packed with mind-blowing facts about sleep and the negative impacts that sleep deprivation has on us. If you need further convincing or don’t think you’ll get to the 2-hour podcast, then just read these important statistics I’ve pulled from the show for you. Some of them are mind-blowing.
Every single human on this planet (without exception according to Walker) should get between seven and nine hours of sleep every night.
1 in 2 Americans is sleep deprived and 1 in 3 people is operating on less than 6 hours of sleep per night.
In 1942 the average American was getting 7.9 hours of sleep per night. Currently, that average is 6:31 per night.
Not getting sufficient sleep for even a single night, has a negative impact on health, wellness, productivity, creativity and mental cognition.
Your REM sleep reorders the mental constructs of your brain making your cognition higher and increases your ability to learn and retain information.
Mental cognition decreases with a lack of sleep. After 20 hours of not sleeping your mental cognition is at the same level as being legally drunk. – WHAT!!!
Wyoming changed their school start times from 07:35 am to 08:55 am and they noted a 70% decrease in road accidents as a result. To put that into perspective ABS braking resulted in 25% decrease in road accidents and was hailed a breakthrough. (pun intended).
Minnesota changed its school start time from 07:25 am – 08:30 am and then tracked the average SAT scores of their top students. In the year where school started at 07:25 am their top students achieved an average score of 1,288. In the following year, when school started at 08:30 am the average SAT score was 1,500, a 212 point increase.
Health, wellness and dieting:
One study took subjects and gave them 4-hours of sleep for a single night. There was a 70% decrease in production of critical anti-cancer fighter immune cells. These ‘natural killer cells’ are the immune cells that target malignant cancer cells which are naturally created in each of us every day.
Sleep deprivation has been proven to lead to increases in cancer and Alzeihmers.
Many of the symptoms of sleep deprivation or poor sleep are very similar to those of ADHD. Doctors can sometimes misdiagnose ADHD in children when the real cause could be poor sleep quality.
Just a single night of poor sleep can have an adverse effect on a person’s cardiovascular system. How do we know this? Twice a year, every year, a massive global “experiment” is done with 1.6 billion people across 70 countries called “daylight savings“. In the fall when people lose an hour of sleep as their clocks are turned back there is a 24% increase in heart attacks. In spring when people gained an extra hour of sleep heart attacks decrease by 21%. (Yup, holy shit! )
People that are sleep deprived not only eat an average of 200 calories more per day than people that have had sufficient sleep, but they also favour choices that are high in sugar and processed carbohydrates.
When dieting while your body is sleep deprived, weight loss comes from lean body mass (muscle) rather than fat. As a defence mechanism from the stress of sleep deprivation, your body is reluctant to give up its fat reserves.
Drowsiness related road accidents kill more motorists than alcohol and drugs combined.
Lack of sleep in medical and healthcare.
As a result of medical sitcoms and reality television, we are given a glimpse of the stresses and long hours that are placed on medical residents as they build up their careers in the ER and operating theatres. Twenty hour days are not uncommon in this profession and the more hours a resident performs the more status is given to them by their peers (and patients). We’ve already mentioned that after 20 hours of not sleeping mental cognition is at the same levels as being legally drunk. None of us would feel comfortable having a doctor perform any procedure on us or our children after a few kegstands yet 20-hour days for doctors are both acceptable and commonplace.
In their careers, 1 in 5 medical residents will make a medical error due to lack of sleep. 1 in 20 will kill someone as a result of an error related to sleep deprivation.
Doctors study only 2 hours of sleep-related content in their medical schooling. (Just listening to this 2:02 podcast will make you as smart as a doctor on matters related to sleep). You’re welcome.
Residents working a 30-hour shift are 400% more likely to make diagnostic errors in the ICU compared to working 16 hours. Many Nordic countries have already regulated doctors working hours based on this information. (Trust it to be those blonde, good-looking motherfuckers from Scandinavia to lead the way in such important matters).
When doing elective surgery you should ask your doctor how many hours of sleep they’ve had. If they’ve had less than 6 hours you’ve got a 170% increased chance of major surgical error.
Ways to improve your sleep quality.
Create regular sleeping patterns. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends.
Create a quiet and dark environment. Your body naturally triggers melatonin (the hormone that promotes sleep) when it starts to get dark. (A neonatal ward that used to keep the lights burning 24/7 changed them to a more natural light pattern, dimming them in the late afternoon and dark in the evening. As a result, babies slept better, had a more dense oxygen count, gained weight more quickly and left the neonatal an average of 5-weeks earlier!!!)
Darken your house by turning off some lights a few hours before going to bed to increase your melatonin production.
Reduce the time spent looking at screens (smartphones, tablets and laptops) before going to bed. The light in the display delays melatonin production by up to 3 hours, meaning that reaching REM sleep take longer.
Don’t go to bed too full or too hungry. Eat a balanced meal about two hours before going to bed.
A cool sleep environment is more favourable than one that is too hot.
So, it seems that in my pursuit to live a more full and productive life, stealing time from sleep has the opposite effect on almost everything that I’m working so hard to improve. Business leaders and politicians often boast about how little sleep they operate on as a show of commitment and high work ethic. Two notable cases of this are Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Regan who both suffered from Alzheimer’s in later life. The Rand Corporation conducted a survey in 2016 on the impact that sleep deprivation had on economies and found that it negatively impacted a country’s GDP by 2%. In the US that’s $411bn
Alright, that’s enough mind-blowing facts for today. Every moment I’m here writing this is time that I’m not on my back with my eyes closed getting smarter, healthier and more creative.
I'm Gareth ...
… at the age of 35, I was running a successful marketing business in South Africa. I was paying my bills, owned two properties, my car paid off, I made enough money to buy whatever I needed and went on a couple of decent vacations each year. How was it possible then, that I could still feel empty? Wasn’t this exactly what I was “supposed” to be doing?
Then one day (I’m not even sure anymore what drove me to this decision), I quit. I sold my business to my partner, rented out my house and packed all my possessions into a storage unit and left on a 6-month trip to think about what to do next.
That was four years ago! I now travel the world full time, living in different countries, planning my life around my bucket list and trying to live as many perfect days as I can. I am a minimalist, and I have been blessed with opportunities that have put me in an even better financial position that I was when I working full time!! My only regret is that I didn’t make this decision earlier!
My aim is to inspire others to define and live more of their own Perfect Days.
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