We live in a culture that values industriousness, regardless of whether the candle is being burned at both ends. We hear the refrains “I’ll sleep when I'm dead!”, “Sleep is for the weak!” “I have no time for sleep, there’s just too much to do!”. Of course, We don't hear this from everyone, some of us are well aware that sleep needs to be prioritized but for those who are not convinced, let's look at three compelling reasons why sleep is vital for a high-quality life.
1. Testosterone and Testicles. Men who routinely sleep 5 hours or less have significantly smaller testicles than those who sleep 8 hours or more. In addition, these men will have a level of testosterone equivalent to someone 10 years their senior. So a lack of sleep ages you by a decade in terms of virility. The same can be said for female reproductive health caused by a lack of sleep, says Director of UC Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab, Dr. Matthew Walker.
2. Body Fat Percentage. A fantastic study conducted at the University of Chicago, funded by the NIH, demonstrated the shocking relationship between sleep deprivation and body fat. In this two-phase study, individuals were put on the same diet and the same exercise routine. In the first phase of the study they were allowed eight hours of sleep and in the second phase, the same individuals, on the same diet and exercise routine, were allowed only five hours of sleep. At the end of the study they found that when the individuals were well rested they lost 55% more body fat then when they were sleep deprived.
3. Emotional Intelligence (EQ). There is no correlation between IQ and success. There is, however, adequate correlation between EQ and success. This is because individuals with a higher EQ are able to create, maintain, and improve their personal and progfessional relationships. They do this by being sensitive to the emotions of those around them and by having the capacity to control their own emotional impulses. Sleep deprivation impairs the neocortex, the thinking brain, responsible for our better judgment and calculated rational responses. When the neocortex is impaired, the amygdala, a part of our emotional brain that processes fear, anxiety, and aggression, becomes overactive. We say things we didn't mean say to those that trigger us and do things we instantly regret.
There's so much more that could be said about why sleep is detrimental to our physical and mental health, and has tremendous influence over our experience of the world, so let's look at how we can optimize it. Let's first address the low hanging fruit:
1. Turn off the Wi-Fi router at night. It's a well known fact that our hearts and brains generate their own electric signals and magnetic fields. When we go to bed, our heart rate needs to drop and our brain waves need to slow down. Wi-Fi signals interfere with these natural processes.
2. Before bed, put the phones on airplane mode and charge them in a different room. Our phones are bidirectional microwave devices that transmit and receive electromagnetic signals on many different wavelengths. When we charge our phones, they generate electromagnetic fields. These have a way of disrupting our bodies’ heart and brain rhythms.
3. Natural light before artificial light in the morning. Most of us check our phones within moments of waking. We do not realize the physiological effects this little habit has on us. When natural light enters our eyes upon waking, our pituitary gland received a signal to release an amazing cascade of anabolic hormones, one of these being serotonin. Serotonin in the morning amplifies our mood and sets us up for a night of deep sleep. Screen light first thing in the morning sends a different signal altogether. This signal is usually more stressful (catabolic) than beneficial.
For those of us who want to up our game, and perform at a higher level, here is how to sleep like a rock star:
1. Screen curfew. One of the hardest things for us to do these days is to turn off all screens for at least an hour before going to bed. This little hack will help us fall asleep a lot faster and reap the rewards of deeper more regenerative sleep. Blue light Blocking glasses for night-time screen use can be effective but no where near as effective as a screen curfew.
2. 10 PM to 2 AM. This timeframe has been nicknamed ‘money time’. If we're already asleep before 10 PM our body releases vast quantities of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and Melatonin. These two hormones have amazing anti-aging and anti-cancer properties. If we miss this window our bodies only get a tiny squirt, a light drizzle instead of a heavy shower of these two magnificent hormones.