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The Importance of Sleep - Hacks to Improve Productivity and Performance

Right now, I'm right at the corner, inside of a coffee shop that might as well be a greenhouse because it is absolutely roasting. It's February. And I'm sweating in a coffee shop from the sun? How is this even possible? And I really should know better as I usually take quick walking breaks from the apartment to this coffee shop to re-energise or read a book. The current book I'm reading is called 'Peak Performance' and it inspired this week's blog.

Stress and Sleep. Two words that seem total opposites. Look up #Hustle on Instagram and you'll no doubt find people bragging that they're living the good life, no stress and they don't sleep because they are too busy "on the grind" or some crap like that.

However, the opposite is true. Without stress and sleep, you will not grow (and without sleep, your waist may grow as well - more on that in a second).

Since this is primarily a fitness blog, let's take the gym as an obvious example. You need to stress the body in the gym. Get out of your comfort zone and make it challenging. For example, if you are doing sets of squats and you know you can comfortably do 20 squats with little effort. Doing 20 squats, 3 times is going to do little to make you stronger. So you need to stress the body. And how  respond to stress relates to how we grow in both body and mind. 

Let's say you do a challenging workout. When do we grow? When do our muscles adapt and we get stronger? It's not in the gym. It's when we rest. It is when we sleep. 

Science: The Importance of Sleep.

As well as finding the time to train, you need to find the time to sleep 7-8 hours a night (ideally going to bed and waking up at the same time for the benefits of consistently great night sleeps). 

But Seán, I don't have time to sleep? Well, allow me to give you a few reasons why it should be higher on your priority list.

A study over the summer concluded that a lack of sleep could be making us fat. And when you think about it, if our biological clock is messed up and we're fatigued all the time, how are we suppose to have a properly functioning metabolism? And, this should be obvious, with less sleep our minds do not function as well throughout the day

I'm not saying you should work a lot less and sleep more. I'm saying to try and work smarter and prioritise your sleep. Actually, that is saying to work less and sleep more (within reason, not more than 8 hours a night for optimum results)

A couple of quick tips I've learned so far while reading this book that might be helpful for you. 
 - So when we do feel stressed and lacking sleep, take more short breaks at work. A brief 6-minute walk can increase creativity up to 60% and combat the poor health effects in sitting down too long according to a study from Stanford University. (40% increase by just walking around the office)
- Rest is not passive. It's when we recover from stress during the day and learn to adapt. By getting 7-9 hours sleep a night, we have more time in the REM (rapid eye movement) phase of sleep. This is the most important phase of sleep and as science writer Maria Konnikova of New Yorker magazine puts it; “As we sleep, our brains replay, process, learn, and extract meaning. In a sense, they think.”
 - Being stressed and on a diet may lead to cheating on your significant other. I'm going to get in trouble for that one so I'm going to quote the paragraph on this one:

'In a study cleverly titled “Hungry for Love: The Influence of Self-Regulation on Infidelity,” 32 college students in exclusive relationships interacted via chat room with a confederate (i.e., a researcher playing along) of the opposite sex. Prior to this chat, half the study participants were forced to resist eating a tempting food, while the other half could eat to their hearts’ desire. As you might expect, those who were forced to resist the tempting food were more likely to give their phone number to, and even accept a coffee date with, the confederate. The study authors concluded, “Weakened self-control may be one potential cause for the levels of infidelity occurring in romantic relationships today.” You may want to think twice before encouraging your significant other to go on a diet. (But you probably already knew that.)'

If you’re serious on improving your performance, Peak Performance is a book I would highly recommend reading.