Sleep is mysterious. Scientists the world over have, ironically, spent countless sleepless nights studying sleep. Millions of dollars worth of research has been done in the top educational facilities of the world. Yet, the findings somehow have eluded most people. Here are five things you should know about sleep… We talk about them at length in our books Happiness Express and Sleep Your Way to Success. Here is a sprt of a sneek peek.
I can get by with 4-5 hours of sleep
Actually, you can’t.
The bodies we have today have been sculpted over millions and millions of years by Evolution. For all those millennia, humans as a species have slept 8+ hours every night. In 1867, Thomas Edison invented the light bulb and vandalised the night. Suddenly, we could see. Light, electricity and associated inventions made their way from the big cities to even small villages the world over. And there was TV, colour TV, 24 hour programming, cable TV, the internet, social media… and we as a species found out that there was a lot we could do after the sun had set. In fact, not doing stuff at night seemed to be a waste of time.
Especially over the last decade or so, all sorts of gadgetry has invaded our space and the purpose of all this fancy electronics seems to be to keep us awake and addicted.
Add to that the Night Life – the pubs and bars, the discos, the all-night buffets, red-eye flights – and at least it feels to me that society is conspiring to keep us awake and “productive” or at least “having fun” all night.
The health consequences are dire. Evolution doesn’t have a safety net to protect us from not sleeping enough. Our bodies manage and cope – snatching what are called micro naps through the day. Until, over time, the damage becomes irreparable. Then the health challenges start – BP, Cardiac problems, stroke, obesity, diabetes and other such unplesantness start to manifest physically. Anxiety, depression, panic attacks, brain fog, inability to make good decisions… even Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Dementia and other brain degenerative diseases have all been linked to not enough sleep.
Long story short – if you have a longer term plan of sticking around on Planet Earth – into your 80s and 90s and want to continue at that age to be healthy, productive and happy – then understand that enough good quality sleep over the years will create the foundation on which great health rests upon.
I get great sleep when I have alcohol
Ummm – You don’t.
A few swigs of alcohol are universally considered to be the best “sleep medicine”.
Unfortunately, the sleep you get with alcohol in your system is not true sleep. When you have great sleep, you wake up refreshed, rejuvenated and raring to go. For sure, this doesn’t happen when you have alcohol. You wake up with a hangover – groggy, disoriented and with a headache.
When you have alcohol, it sedates you. This is quite different from sleeping. Sedation doesn’t give you any of the benefits of sleep. Sedation is like being knocked out with a frying pan. You will come to your sense with pain. One of the worst things you can do to yourself is to have alcohol to sleep.
In fact, I could go so far as to say, if you HAVE to have alcohol, perhaps the best time of the day to have it is in the morning. Then your body has the entire day to flush it out and it will not interfere with your sleep. But having alcohol in the morning is just being silly – right?
You need to get up at 5:00 am to be Successful
Nope. You don’t. Unless, that’s your chronotype. Then you should.
Think of a village out in the forest. Maybe inhabited by 60-80 people. We lived in places like that through the ages. Now, would it make sense for the entire village to sleep and awaken at the same time? Considering that there are predators around and possibly other rival villages seeking blood, if everyone in the village was sleeping through the night, the chances of that village surviving through the night would be greatly diminished.
Evolution wisely created Chronotypes.
About 20% of the people function best when they sleep early and wake up early – these are the people who should join the 5:00 am club. They are called Larks.
Another 20% sleep very late and wake up towards late morning. These are the night owls.
The rest of us, follow a sleep-wake rhythm which is somewhere in between these two extremes. If you do the math, then you will see that if people in our village abide by their chronotypes, there will almost always be someone or the other awake and alert – thus averting danger.
Our chronotype is a genetical imprint. When we can figure out what our chronotype is, and create our sleep schedule in accordance with it, we enjoy health and well-being like never before. A recent study at the University of Reading in the UK confirmed exactly this – people who were genetically engineered to sleep late were productive only when they respected their sleeping and waking hours. If they tried to join the 5:00 am club, their productivity plummeted.
Figure out your chronotype. Respect your bedtime and waking time and you will be well on your way to health, well-being and success. Far more than you could ever imagine.
The easiest way to figuring out your chronotype is to take a 15-20 day vacation somewhere there is no internet and sporadic electricity. In a few days, when you find that there is nothing to do in the late evening, once the sun has set and the day is over, you will automatically start yawning and wanting to sleep at the time you were meant to. The larks will want to turn in by 8:30 or 9:00 pm. Most of the others will long for their beds between 10:30 and 11:30 pm. And the night owls will stay up and count the stars…
Of course, the real challenge is then going to be sticking to your genetic sleep and wake up times when you come back from that holiday That’s where you need to seriously give a thought to how important health is to you. And I am pretty sure everyone – at least everyone with some iota of sensibility, will agree that health is way more important than scrolling endlessly through social media or trawling through a bouquet of TV series.