If I could offer you a pill that would improve your cognitive function, memory consolidation, improve physical performance, increase metabolism, enhance immune function, reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and chronic neurological conditions, essentially making you live a better quality of life for longer….. Would you take it? Absolutely…. What if I told you it was free? Then sign me up straightaway.
The good news is you do it already, but the likelihood is that you probably do not get enough of it. Sleep deprivation has been described as a pandemic in industrialised countries, especially in the West and it’s about time we started sorting it out. For normal healthy adults, sleeping less than 7 hours per night can significantly increase your risk of illness, reduce learning, creativity, reduce aerobic output, and increase cravings for calorie-rich food.The point I’m trying to make is that it’s impact it broad and affects every single system in your body.
In the last couple of years sleep has become much more interesting to the general population, the science has been there for quite some time, highlighting how essential a good night sleep is to perform optimally and that if you sleep poorly it has a large impact immediately. It’s now getting the respect it deserves, in that it is fundamental for good health, and physical and mental wellbeing as well as being able to perform your best.
Getting the right amount of sleep, at the right time, will set in motion a cascade of processes that are orchestrated by your brain for everything from musculoskeletal recovery, to structurally changing your brain synapses to consolidate new memories and learnings. If we can achieve the right amount of sleep, then you can clear the previous days physiological stressors, allowing yourself to be ready for the new day. Physically, mentally and emotionally.
An interesting set of questions to ask yourself at this time is “how do I sleep? Do I feel I get what I require? How sleepy can I get during the day?”, and answer honestly. Because it could absolutely be the obstacle in your way that has prevented or reduced your ability to learn lines, choreography, get stronger or being able to sustain high levels of performance during times of high workloads eg tours, or rehearsal periods.
We all know that we’re usually recommended 8 hours of sleep, but is that for everyone? Do you need more? Do you perform optimally on 6 hours sleep? In that case, do you have the very rare genetic mutation of the geneDEC2 that allows you to perform maximally on 6 hours sleep? Probably not, in fairness. So how can you improve upon this? Well, it may be about reframing what sleep is to you. Sleep has often been framed as a waste of productive time, but rest assured this old fashioned view belongs in the past. This time of rest is something to treasure, treat with respect and something to nurture to make the time you have truly productive, and might I add, happy.
If you are keen to invest in yourself and unsure where to start, I’d suggest you start with sleep. Becomes when it comes to smallest changes making the largest impact, this is the one!
As you’ve probably guessed from this post, sleep is something we take very seriously, keep an eye out for future posts on this fascinating and essential aspect of life, health and performance.
Thanks for reading