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Sleep To Succeed – Become More Successful By Conquering Sleep

Written by: Teresa Cedeno, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

When we think of the elements needed for success, it's always hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and drive. We rarely add sleep to the list, and sleep is actually the first thing we sacrifice in the pursuit of success. You have a never-ending to-do list and deadlines to meet daily. While you feel pressure to maximize the things you accomplish today by dipping into your sleep time, you are stealing from your productivity tomorrow and ignoring that our bodies and minds do not function at 100% without sufficient amounts of sleep. When you're exhausted, the quality of your work suffers, and you start snapping at innocent bystanders. Even science and research starkly remind you that lack of sleep increases health risks like hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. Yes, these are terrible things, but let's face it, for most of us, long-term health effects aren't as menacing as missing the next meeting or failing to present well to a client tomorrow. So instead, I want to focus on how sleeping can improve our success today and tomorrow. First, we need to understand sleep's role in how our brains function.

Your brain processes new information in three phases: acquisition, consolidation, and recall. Acquisition is the act of absorbing something new, and it happens when you're awake. It's memorizing your long to-do list, replying to a customer, posting a new photo on Instagram, updating your inventory, ordering more mailing boxes, and memorizing a new password. The next morning when you wake up, you remember and recall your password from the day before. While we'll forget most of the mundane things we do, we consolidate certain information for later recall. Information like passwords are transferred to long-term memories during the consolidation period in our sleep. Information from the day passes through the hippocampus, the region of the brain designated to create long-term memories. It replays the day's events1, and transfers select information to the cortex in outer layers of the brain for storage as memories2. Consolidation is a key step in long-term memory; without it, the information you absorb doesn't stay for long because the brain has a finite amount of storage. This seemingly simple process of acquisition, consolidation, and eventually recall relies heavily on sleep. Therefore it's easy to see how if one does not get enough sleep, they are likely to forget important details throughout the day like where you left your car keys this morning or that you have to pick up some dry cleaning before next week. We become so used to living sleep-deprived that we accept a foggy brain.


This is only one side of the pillow, though; there is a whole other, cooler side because success involves more than just memorizing. It also involves building good interpersonal relationships with clients and coworkers. But sleep deprivation makes these interactions difficult to navigate. When you're tired, the higher functioning prefrontal cortex that normally consumes lots of energy isn't as efficient, so to conserve energy the primal, fight or flight amygdala runs the ship. With the amygdala in control, you are prone to acting emotionally because your logical prefrontal cortex is too tired to make you stop and think. So naturally, you're going to be annoyed at the person who didn't hold the elevator for you or the driver who cut you off in traffic.


Your moodiness is heightened by your hunger hormone as well. When you don't sleep enough, your body doesn't produce as much leptin. The leptin production cycle happens when you're sleeping and is inhibited by the fight or flight mode your body remains in when you don't get enough sleep. Without enough leptin your body will crave food and make you hangry. Overall, your body remains in a more basic, survival mode when you are tired, making it difficult to use your brain the way you want to.


Now that you understand the science behind how it affects your success, what healthy sleep hygiene habits can you integrate into your sleep routine?


Here's what I suggest:


Create a wind-down routine like taking a shower/bath, then adjust the room to your liking: blackout shades, cool the room or pile on blankets, and read a book until your eyes feel heavy. Other things you can incorporate into your routine are drinking caffeine-free tea and brain dumping your to-do list and any other racing thoughts onto a piece of paper. Just as you'd turn off your computer or lights, you have to do the same with your brain to get a restful sleep. Below are other things you should be aware of that affect your sleep. I've read other articles recommending these things, but they never explain how and why they affect you.

  • Have a consistent bedtime and wake-up time. Our bodies and brains like routine because a routine means one less decision we have to make and more energy you'll have to concentrate and check items off your to-do list.

  • Focus on moderate to low-intensity workouts around bedtime; these can help you fall asleep faster and spend more time in a deep sleep. If doing high-intensity training, like HIIT training, maintain at least an hour of space between the end of your workout and your bedtime. High-intensity workouts raise your body temperature, making you more alert rather than tired.

  • Skip caffeine close to your bedtime. Studies show that as little as 400 mg of caffeine six hours before bed will affect your ability to fall asleep, taking you an extra 20 minutes compared to a non-caffeinated individual3. With this in mind you can drink between 3 to 4 cups of coffee a day or one energy drink without it affecting your sleep. Of course, some people will be more sensitive to caffeine than others.

  • Limit alcohol close to your bedtime since alcohol disrupts your ability to enter REM sleep which is the best quality sleep. REM, known as Rapid-Eye Movement sleep, is critical because it activates the hippocampus and cortex4, which are parts of the brain that convert short-term memories into long-term ones. Consumption of alcohol also increases your chances of having sleep apnea (abnormal breathing or temporary lack of breathing) so limit your alcohol consumption to one drink if you're a female or two drinks if you're male5.

  • Limit nicotine 4 hours before your bedtime because it makes it harder to fall asleep, makes it difficult to sleep as deeply, increases risks of sleep apnea, and can induce nicotine withdrawals mid-sleep6.

  • Eat your last meal two to three hours before sleeping because the digestive process can disrupt your sleep.

  • Avoid watching TV or using screens 15-30 minutes before bedtime2. The screen light mimics daylight and confuses your brain.

  • If you need a nap, restrict it to 20-30 minutes to remain in a light sleep stage. Avoid taking naps in the evening so that you have enough time for your sleepy hormones to build up again2.

  • Use your bed as a sacred space for sleeping only, not to address the end of the day business. You can do that later or get out of bed and do your work stuff, don't bring that energy to Bedland.


Conclusion

Sleep takes training and practice, just like developing good business habits and relationships. As motivated as you might feel right now, remember change comes from consistency. Focus on changing one habit at a time until it feels weird not doing it. Secondly, begin accepting that it is better to get good rest today than to sacrifice your functionality tomorrow. Follow the advice in this article and soon enough you'll be sleeping soundly and waking up feeling rested, energized, and ready to take on the day!


To learn about how our body works and ways to use that information to make you more productive, energized, and focused, listen to the Fitness Manifest Podcast—streaming on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, and Fitnessmanifest.com/podcast.


Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and visit my website for more info!

 

Teresa Cedeno, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Teresa Cedeno, is a trailblazer in health and fitness specializing in physical and behavioral change, mental wellness, and corrective exercise. She is a certified personal trainer with additional certifications in nutrition, corrective exercise, speed and agility training, women’s specific coaching, and group training. As the owner of Fitness Manifest, a fitness coaching and education brand she focuses on client empowerment through dynamic workouts, sustainable nutrition, and mental health motivation. She is also the host of the Fitness Manifest Podcast, which teaches listeners how to structure new habits, accept change as part of life, and align their mental and physical health goals.

 

References:

  1. University of California - Riverside. (2016, April 14). How the brain consolidates memory during deep sleep: Using a computational model, study explains how hippocampus influences synaptic connections in cortex. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 3, 2022 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160414214830.htm

  2. Simon, L. (2016, April 16). How the brain consolidates memory during deep sleep. Somnowell. Retrieved January 4, 2022, from https://www.somnowell.com/blog/how-brain-consolidates-memory-during-deep-sleep

  3. Drake, C., Address correspondence to: Christopher L. Drake, Roehrs, T., Center, S. D. & R., Shambroom, J., Inc, Z., Roth, T., GH, K., MH, B., M, K., JK, W., LA, R., JK, W., CL, D., RR, M. C., SP, N., Al., E., B, P., CJ, R., … KA, S. (2013, November 15). Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Retrieved January 4, 2022, from https://jcsm.aasm.org/doi/10.5664/jcsm.3170

  4. Valley Sleep Center. (2020, February 18). 3 things you should know about rem sleep. Sleep Study, Sleep Clinic | Valley Sleep Center | Arizona. Retrieved January 4, 2022, from https://valleysleepcenter.com/3-things-you-should-know-about-rem-sleep/

  5. Alcohol and sleep. Sleep Foundation. (2021, November 29). Retrieved January 4, 2022, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/nutrition/alcohol-and-sleep

  6. How nicotine interferes with sleep. You Can Quit 2. (2019, December 12). Retrieved January 4, 2022, from https://www.ycq2.org/tobacco-e-cigarettes/nicotine-and-sleep/

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