I recently finished UC Berkeley Neuroscientist and Professor Matthew Walker’s interesting book Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams. I’m particularly interested in how much people sleep (or don’t sleep) and have written a few blog posts about human sleeping habits. Professor Walker claims: “The silent sleep loss epidemic is one of the greatest public health challenges we face in the 21st century”. I’m inclined to think that if he’s not completely correct he’s not far off.
I am a big believer in getting 7.5 hours or more of sleep each night. It doesn’t always work out that way but I am aware of when I’ve not been able to sleep as I normally do. Professor Walker also advances that the idea of catching up on sleep on the weekends to make up for your own personal sleep deficit is a fallacy. It doesn’t work. Based on my experience I’d say he’s right.
Having worked many years in and around the mattress industry I became familiar with organizations such as the http://www.SleepAssociation.org and the National Sleep Foundation (who has its own idea on how much sleep we need – https://sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need). The answer for many people is that they are not getting enough sleep. People that sleep longer, live longer.
There ARE people who can function well on 4 hours of sleep but the numbers are extremely small. When I mention sleep as currency it’s your performance both professionally and personally that suffer when you do not have adequate sleep. In the book Professor Walker offers stats on the alarming rate of mistakes attributed to an under-slept population are compelling. Note: I have not reviewed the data sets used in his research but he is a very trusted voice on the subject.
Celebrities and business executives are beginning to admit their attention to sleep is partially responsible for their success. The old adage of “I’ll sleep on it” has very solid reasoning behind it. A good night’s sleep is something I try to use to help me solve a problem that has me stuck. It works more often than not.
Some of the details in the book are ones with which you may already be familiar. Drinking coffee or having caffeine less than 7 hours before you sleep is a bad idea. Blue light like from your mobile phone or tablet is a bad idea if you want your sleepy-time melatonin to flow more freely and unimpeded. He makes the same arguments you’ve heard about middle and high school student school start times being too early – with good solid supporting evidence.
I came up with a marketing campaign approach for one of the mattress manufacturers – “Sleeping is selfish” – You don’t sleep for anyone else but yourself and yet when you get the right amount of good sleep all the people you come into contact with benefit as well. A true Win-Win! As it turned out they did not go for that one.
Building your sleep currency is one of the most important things you can do to improve your – and if you are forward thinking – your team’s performance AND quality of life.
So don’t be surprised if when I see you next I ask you how much sleep did you get last night and in general. I want you to be around for a long time!