Sleep and High Performance

Sleep and High Performance

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"Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together."

The wise words of Thomas Dekker in 1609. (He's the dude on the right, getting into the spirit of Movember...)

If you have trouble sleeping, the golden chain is broken. Every other area of your life is affected. Your decision-making suffers, there's not as much zip in your step, you feel lethargic, and you look eurgh in the mirror. Tiredness is a huge problem. A recent study showed more than half of us feel tired all the time. Put simply: if you're knackered it's hard to perform at your best. But you can do something about this. (Yes, even if you've got kids.)

Today, this is a blog about caffeine, because when we get tired, lots of us reach for a coffee, or another cup of tea, or an energy drink, or whatever. And that can make the problem worse, and the golden chain harder to repair.

(Disclosure: I've got a coffee on the go right now. A double macchiato. I love coffee. So you'll be pleased to hear if you have trouble sleeping, you don't have to give coffee up. Read on…)

Let me tell you about Tina. I wrote about Tina in Relax in a minute. Tina’s first feeling on waking up was often one of ‘absolute disgust’ that she’d not had enough sleep. She admitted to me, ‘I’m not sure absolute disgust is the best way to start the day.’

She was lucky if she got six hours’ sleep a night. She was always busy, and often didn’t even seem to have eight hours left in the day to actually shut her eyes and get some sleep. But even more than that, once she turned the light out, her mind would race with all her worries and problems, and it would regularly take her hours to get to sleep.

Because she was so tired, her caffeine intake was high – on average ten caffeinated drinks a day. (Yes, ten!). She made a flask of tea when she left the house in the morning, and started drinking from it on the drive to work. By the time she arrived she’d had three cups already, and she desperately needed a pee! She knew she was consuming too much caffeine, but she had to get through the day somehow.

Did you know:

  • The average ‘half-life’ of caffeine is six hours or more?
  • That means that if you have a cup of coffee at 4 p.m., at 10 p.m. half of it is still swilling around your body.
  • And at 4 a.m. (twelve hours later), you’ve still got the effects of a quarter of a cup of coffee working away on your body and mind.

Tony Wrighton - Trouble Sleeping blog

Remember, Tina was drinking up to ten cups of tea a day. Uh, no wonder she couldn’t get to sleep. Even when it didn’t stop her dropping off, on the above calculations, the caffeine would impair her ability to sleep deeply.

As soon as she cut down on caffeine, she started to drop off quicker, and importantly... sleep deeper.

The problem is that caffeine is in a lot of things that we tend to enjoy – tea, coffee, fizzy drinks, chocolate, even decaf coffee. So I’m suggesting a small change first, to see if it works for you. It is one put forward by sleep expert Daniel Kripke of the University of California, who advises:

  • ‘Not to drink or eat anything caffeinated within six hours of bedtime’.

This is about becoming more aware of the effect caffeine has on you. When you don’t have caffeine, how does it affect the quality of your sleep? The more aware you are of what works for you, the more you can control a great night’s Zzzzzs.

Give it a go, and put the zip back in your step.

Thoughts on caffeine, and this blog? How many cups do you drink a day? Let me know below.

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