Around this time last year I was in Boise, Idaho among the group of high profile entrepreneurs that flew in for the Russell Brunson’s hands-on training, inner circle meeting and viral video lunch party.
That was the time when I was still “high” on all of the new things that I absorbed in the short period of time (few months). Diet, health, biohacking, personal development, marketing – you name it, I’ve had it all in, just like a new kitchen sponge.
I felt like I had everything figured out (haha).
Anyway, there was this strange dude sitting in the back of the room. He was wearing weird orange glasses and funny shoes with the rubber toes. Every time he spoke everybody listened.
I approached him on the second day of the training and introduced myself. Turned out it was Alex Charfen, a serial entrepreneur, business coach and a biohacking guru (of course).
To tell you the truth I didn’t care about his credentials simply because I never heard of him before, but I was curious about the glasses thing. Alex went on to explain that the glasses were meant to block the offending blue light and help preserve more energy. As the lunch progressed we discussed more things like nutrition, ketosis, mold and biohacking.
There was something about this guy that exuded deep knowledge and confidence. He seemed to know all of the answers.
As we were about to return to the main room, I asked my final question:
“Alex, do you think it’s possible to reduce the amount of sleep that we need each night and still stay well-rested, focused and alert?” (remember back then I was all about “get everything now/no time to waste” mentality)
He paused, looked me in the eyes and said: “Yes”.
Boom, mind blown!
Now, I don’t know if he really believed what he was talking about or just said that to impress me (unlikely), but according to Why We Sleep book by Matthew Walker that I finished a few weeks ago, shortening your sleep is the last thing you ever want to attempt (not a coincidence that the Guinness book stopped acknowledging new sleep deprivation records in hopes to discourage people from doing dangerous and potentially lethal experiments!).
There are a ton of useful stuff that I learned from the book and I highly recommend each one of you to read it, but to get you going, I’m going to highlight some of the items that stood out the most.
Let’s start with the most important one: we can never “sleep back” that which we have previously lost. Yep, that means there is no point in getting more sleep on the weekends to recoup for the sleep time lost during the work-week. Unfortunately, it’s not how it works.
If we overlay the number of chronic diseases with the number of hours of sleep we get every night in America (and most other developed countries) there is a very clear pattern – the steady reduction of sleep over the last few decades is followed by the sharp rise of numerous diseases (including obesity, diabetes and cancer).
I get it, we all want to extend our waking hours just a bit longer but it’s not how the mother nature designed us to be.
Keep in mind, the rapid industrialization is a phenomenon of the last century do you really think our bodies can keep up and adapt with such a fast pace (remember, the light bulb was invented only about 200 years ago)?
There was an interesting experiment done in Greece that monitored people who stopped traditional daily naps (so-called siestas) in a favor of the more modern western lifestyle. The results were literally heartbreaking – 37% increase in death from heart disease across six-year period compared to the group who maintained regular daytime naps.
Here is a simple fact, the less we sleep the less productive we become. Sure, we get more time on paper, but at what cost? We feel exhausted, emotionally sensitive, struggle to stay alert and make the right decisions quickly. There are numerous studies listed in the book that shows the effects of sleep deprivation on your memory and brain function and trust me, it’s not pretty.
Most of the time we don’t even know we are sleep-deprived… After weeks, month and years of getting the insufficient sleep we simply forget how it feels to be refreshed and well rested in the morning.
Now let’s get over to kids and young adults, should we?
That’s yet another area where “the system” is not going look out for us. It simply generalizes everybody. For whatever reason work normally starts early in the morning around 8 meaning the majority of people have to wake up around 6 am to get ready and commute to the office. No one really cares whether you are a lark or an owl, you just have to show up and deliver results.
That reminded painful conversations I had with my boss at the beginning of my professional career, where I tried to explain that it didn’t really matter when I show up as long as I get things done, but he just couldn’t process it…
Raise your hand if you know what I’m talking about!
Anyway, forget about us adults for a second. We can at least understand and deal with the situation. Our brain is more or less molded and all we can really do is take care of it as best as we can. Our kids, on the other hand, face a completely different issue, the one that requires much more attention (and I say that not only because I’m myself is a father of a three-year-old son).
See, it’s the childhood and young adolescence when we need the most sleep in order to ensure proper brain development, yet it’s the exact period where sleep is lacking the most.
About 80% of schools in America start between 7.30 and 8.30 in the morning, throw in school buses schedules and 6am wake-up times for kids are far from uncommon.
To make things worse we also have all of the blue light emitting devices (phones, iPads, computers, TVs) and LED lights that hamper melatonin levels and disrupt natural sleep cycles.
Now, let’s take a take a look at our kids diet. It is carbs heavy even at home! Carbs eventually break down into sugar, which causes rapid energy spikes and crashes (commonly diagnosed as ADHD), insulin resistance, obesity and host of other serious issues. It’s just sad…
Not surprisingly our kids and we as a nation are getting dumber with each passing year.
What does it mean for you as a parent? It means you have to once again take rains into your own hands and make sure your kid forms decent food habits and gets a good amount of sleep each night. Yes, that means YOU would have to teach them by example as you can’t simply preach what’s right and violate your own words a few minutes later.
Ok, Sergey, but how about your own rants about waking up early? Don’t you dare to say you don’t believe it anymore!
Hold on. Hold on. 🙂
I still believe that it’s very important to wake up early (and that’s what I do), but with one small condition. My wake up early principle applies only assuming that you are getting at least 7hrs (better 8) of sleep every night, meaning you would have to go to bed earlier the day before.
Super simple, right?
Instead of focusing your efforts on biohacking and shortening you sleep, pay attention to the quality. Get some good blackout shades, remove all electronic devices from your (and your kids) bedrooms (especially TV’s), maintain regular wake up times, invest into good sleep measurement devices, stop eating junk food, stay away from caffeine after 2pm and just like I did you will notice a big difference in the way you feel and operate every single day.
You don’t need more time, you just need more self-education, focus and energy.
One thought on “Yes, you can cut your sleep, but should you?”
so true and on point!