In a society that seems to encourage and celebrate the ability to have little sleep and work on your thing or hustle or whatever you want to call it — I’m telling you that your severely crippling your ability to be at your best if your screwing up your sleep.
Sleep is one of the most important functions of our body. It allows us to repair physically and mentally, cement new skills, restore energy levels and so much more. I recently listened to a podcast with the great Joe Rogan and sleep specialist Matthew Walker which sparked my curiosity even more on the subject of sleep and just how important it is for all of us. As someone who likes to have as many tools in my kit as possible to manage my own mental health, having a bulletproof sleep routine is a central component to this.
So over the next few months I’ll be writing a special series on sleep, why it’s important, how it affects us and routines you can put in place to make sure you get the best sleep possible — I’m no expert but I hope to open eyes on how important sleep is for us all.
For my first in the series, I’m going to talk about why sleep is the best natural PED that you can ever take for your body. Whether it’s for mental performance or physical performance, sleep is your best friend.
What is sleep?
Our friends at Wikipedia provide us with this overview:
Sleep is a naturally recurring state of mind and body, characterized by altered consciousness, relatively inhibited sensory activity, inhibition of nearly all voluntary muscles, and reduced interactions with surroundings.It is distinguished from wakefulness by a decreased ability to react to stimuli, but is more easily reversed than the state of being comatose. Sleep occurs in repeating periods, in which the body alternates between two distinct modes: REM sleep and non-REM sleep. Although REM stands for “rapid eye movement”, this mode of sleep has many other aspects, including virtual paralysis of the body. A well-known feature of sleep is the dream, an experience typically recounted in narrative form, which resembles waking life while in progress, but which usually can later be distinguished as fantasy.
During sleep, most of the body’s systems are in an anabolic state, helping to restore the immune, nervous, skeletal, and muscular systems; these are vital processes that maintain mood, memory, and cognitive function, and play a large role in the function of the endocrine and immune systems. The internal circadian clock promotes sleep daily at night. The diverse purposes and mechanisms of sleep are the subject of substantial ongoing research. The advent of artificial light has substantially altered sleep timing in industrialized countries.
So in a nutshell, sleep is a natural component of our body and also one of most important processes to live a healthy life. During this magical process our body heals itself and restores it’s chemical balance, it also has a massive effect on your mental health and for me this is key.
The downside of poor sleep
If everything is lined up and your sleeping well then your body will perform well too, but what happens if we don’t get the recommended 7–9 hours of sleep? let’s take a look.
- An adult sleeping only 6.75 hours a night would be predicted to live only to their early 60s without medical intervention.
- Weakened immunity — too little sleeps weakens your immune systems defenses against viruses.
- Impaired cognitive functioning — studies found that just a little sleep deprivation, left participants with poorer performance on certain tasks that required attention and short-term memory.
- Mental health risk — depression and anxiety has been shown to increase directly through sleep deprivation, if you’re sleeping less than 6 hours a night you could fall into this category.
And the list goes on and on, the negative impact of not respecting the sleep process has overwhelming evidence.
What sleep can do for athletic and mental performance
We all want to be in the best state possible to tackle the challenges of life, so what will 7–9 hours of quality sleep do for you.
- Optimal learning and memory function
- Improves chances of longer lifespan
- Decreased inflammation in the body
- Lowers stress levels
- Increased focus and cognitive functioning
If you’re focused on athletic performance or putting on muscle than sleep is essential for you. Sleep is your body’s natural healing and repair process, so all that damage you take on the court or in the gym needs that magical process of sleep to repair and make you better. In simple terms, crap sleep = no gains.
Quality sleep has shown to improve athletic performance in a variety of ways. A number of athletes even have sleep specialists as part of their teams, which shows just how serious sleep is taken in the sports arena as that 1% can be the line between winning and losing.
Many people are taking supplements and drugs to improve their performance whether that’s in sports or just their corporate job, but what they don’t understand are all those sleepless nights they shout about as a badge of honor are a form of self sabotage.
The bottom line is if you want to perform and be the best version of yourself, you need to sleep. It’s a free and very powerful performance enhancer and the best part is that it’s within your control.
Originally published at medium.com