The Big Idea
Not only does sleep help your mood, but it boosts your productivity
Questions I Answer
- How can I get better sleep?
- What steps should I take to help me sleep through the night?
- Does sleep affect my productivity?
- How do I know if I’m sleep deprived?
Actions to Take
- Try creating an evening routine and maximize your sleep time.
Key Topics in the Show
Understand why sleep is so important to repair & restore our bodies.
Hear the story of Peter Trip and the repercussions of staying awake for 201 hours.
Learn how the different parts of your brain are affected when you lack sleep.
Discover the factors that help tell you how much sleep you need.
Check the seven signs that let you know if you’re really sleep deprived.
Resources and Links
- Tips for getting better sleep:
- Creating an evening routine will trigger your brain to get ready to sleep.
- Implement a caffeine curfew, it stays in your system for nearly 6 hours!
- Limit blue light from devices using apps like Night Shift (iPhone) or Flux (desktop)
- Black out your bedroom and eliminate all light. You skin can also sense light, so covering your eyes may not be enough.
- Create a sleep sanctuary so your body knows to prepare for sleep when you enter it. i.e. don’t work in bed.
- Find something soothing that will help you fall asleep. This could include lighting a candle, listening to relaxing music, listening to white noise, using an eye mask, drinking a glass of warm milk, drinking (decaf) tea, using herbal supplements, meditating etc.
- Find out more about Myths and Facts About Sleep
Hello, hello everyone. Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host Tanya Dalton, and this is episode 21. Today we are talking all about sleep. I’m going to give you a little bit of fair warning, I am totally completely nerding out during this episode. I knew I wanted to talk about sleep, because when we talk about streamlining as we’ve done throughout this entire season, we talk about finding time by editing out the parts in our day that are unimportant. Unfortunately, the first place a lot of people want to look to is cutting back on sleep. After all, when you think about spending almost one third of your day on this one activity, it seems, well, kind of ridiculous. Especially sleeping. You’re not really doing anything, so people think maybe this is a place in your day that you can cut back on, right? I wanted to do a little bit of research. I dug deep and looked into the brain research, and I read studies, and did all of that fun stuff that I love to do. I found so much good information in there, that I really wanted to share it all with you. Bear with me today as I talk a lot about how brains work, and how sleep works. I really don’t want you to make the mistake of thinking that sleep is the space in your day that you can edit, as it’s just something we all should do. It’s really something our bodies need. To achieve peak productivity, your body really requires it.
I wanted to take the time today to talk about why it’s important. What myths surround the idea of sleep, like can you catch up on your sleep on the weekends? Hey, that was a personal one for me. I wanted to see if that really was true, because that’s something I do. And how can you maximize your sleep so you’re able to really focus in on the things that are important? Let’s dive deep today into brain research, and talk about how sleep works. I really want you to understand the entire concept, because I think it really is one of the big keys to being as productive as possible. Why is sleep so important? Well, sleep is regulated by the powerful internal drives in our body. The same ones that regulate sleep, also regulate things like eating, and drinking, and breathing. You know, the important things, right? What’s interesting is that while scientists know that we have to sleep, they’re not exactly sure why. There are lots of theories out there. There’s one that says, “It’s an adaptation from our cave ancestors, to keep them safe. That it’s a time for energy conservation, or even that it’s a time for your body to restore and repair.” The most recent and compelling one is the brain plasticity theory. That’s a hard word to say there, right? Really, it’s the most compelling one for why we sleep.
It looks at the changes in the brain after sleep, and suggests that the amount that we sleep actually effects how well we learn a task, and how we consolidate our memories. Our brain is really busy, we know that. It takes in large amounts of information. Rather than having all that information directly logged and recorded, these acts and experiences are first processed and stored. Then they move from short term memory, to long term memory. Kind of like the movie, “Inside Out,” right? Where they take those little balls, and they roll them from short term to long term memory. That’s actually how your brain works.
After people have had sleep, they tend to retain information better, and they perform better on memory tasks. We need to sleep. If we’re not sleeping, how does the lack of sleep actually effect us? Well, back in 1959 Peter Trip was a popular New
York DJ. He pledged to stay awake for 200 hours to raise money for charity. He promised to stay live on the radio for the entirety of this, “Wake-A-Thon.” At the time,
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there hadn’t been any significant studies in sleep, so no one really knew what would happen if the body was deprived of such a long stretch of sleep.
Now, Peter Trip was a man who was known to be cheerful, and upbeat. He was a very popular DJ. During his wake-a-thon, his behavior began to change dramatically over the course of the event. By the third day he was cussing people out, insulting his close friends, and he began to hallucinate and experience delusions. Now, he was able
to stay awake for 201 hours, but the effects of the stunt were longer than anyone expected. For years afterwards, he began to think he was an imposter, and he even had heightened paranoia for quite some time afterwards. Obviously lack of sleep really can effect how your brain reacts.
Brain imaging even shows that your amygdala activity is 60% higher in people who lack sleep. Your amygdala by the way, is the area deep inside your brain, that runs your emotional control center. The emotional control center tends to overreact when you lack sleep. This is what makes us cranky, and makes us in a bad mood when we’re not sleeping enough. Now, casino owners have long known that tired gamblers make risky decisions. That’s why they have bright lights, lots of noise, no windows, all of that is designed to stop you from noticing the passage of time, and remembering that you have to go to sleep. They want you to make these riskier decisions. The hippocampus is another part of your brain that’s effected by sleep deprivation. Now, besides being a fun word to say, your hippocampus is the area of your brain that is critical for storing memories. When you’re deprived of sleep, even for as little as one night, your ability to memorize new information makes a significant drop. Still, many of us think that we can get by with little to no sleep. We’ve all pulled an all nighter at some point in our lives I’m sure.
Now, an all nighter of course is very extreme, so we believe that when we say, “Lack of sleep,” it means you’re not getting any at all, right? The fact is, even getting one hour less of sleep than your body requires, effects you. Even if you’re not noticeably sleepy during the day. It also compromises your cardiovascular health, your energy balance, and your ability to fight infections. We tend to skate by with less sleep during the week, and we think we can make up for that lost sleep by sleeping in for the weekends. That’s what I do. That’s one of the things that I think works. Now, to be honest with you one of the things that I’ve found out is this does not completely make up for the lack of sleep. It can help relieve that sleep debt, but sleeping later on the weekends can actually effect your sleep/wake cycle, so it’s much harder to sleep at the right time on Sunday night, and get up on Monday mornings. If you’re having a hard time going to sleep at the end of your weekend, or getting up Monday morning, this could be why. Really, the solution is to try to get the sleep we require consistently, throughout the week, not just on the weekends. Our bodies can’t really adjust as quickly to changing sleep cycles as we like to think. It can actually take more than a week to adjust to something like jet lag, or a constantly changing sleep schedule. Most people can really only adjust their biological clock one or two hours a day at best. How much sleep do you really require? We’ve all heard the adage that you need eight hours of sleep at night. Is that really true? Well, yes and no. The amount of sleep you need is actually somewhat dependent on your age. For example, we all know that newborns require a lot more than eight hours of sleep. Even three to five year olds need 10 to 13 hours of sleep. Six to 13 year olds, nine to 11 hours of sleep. 14 to 17 year olds need eight to 10 hours of sleep. Although, I think my 14 year old may sleep like 20 if I let him. You can see there, there’s a range for each of those ages. That’s because not everyone requires the same amount exactly. Most adults need seven to nine hours.
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That’s a pretty wide range there of two hours, right? Seven to nine hours. Statistics from the National Institute of Health show that the average adult actually sleeps less than seven hours a night. Many of us say, “I function fine on six hours of sleep.” Well, think again.
Researchers have discovered that some people have a gene that enables them to function on six hours of sleep at night. This gene is really rare, appearing in less than three percent of the US population. What distinguishes these naturally short sleepers, is that they go to bed at a normal time, so let’s say 10:30 at night. Then wake up early, like 4:00 or 4:30 in the morning without an alarm, feeling alert and energized.
While many people sleep six or few hours a night, most are not naturally short sleepers, and they generally have to use stimulants like caffeine or alarm clocks to maintain a shortened sleep schedule. People who get only six hours of sleep at night, but drink coffee and tea all day to make ourselves stay up, that’s a very different thing than requiring only six hours of sleep. Keep that in mind, but do know that there’s that range there of seven to nine hours. Each one of us is different, we all have a different requirement for how much we need to sleep. How do you know if you’re getting enough sleep? How do you know if you’re closer to seven, or nine? Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation, what you can do is you can look to see if you have signs of a good sleep schedule. These signs include you falling asleep with 15 to 20 minutes of lying down in your bed. While you’re in your bed asleep, your sleep is continuous. You’re not waking up throughout the night, or having those long periods where you’re laying facing the ceiling, wishing that you were asleep. We’ve all done that, right? Or you wake up feeling refreshed, as if you’ve filled the tank. You feel alert, and able to be fully productive throughout the waking hours. Now, it’s natural to feel dips in your alertness during your waking hours, but the alertness will return. It ebbs and flows. If you’re continually having to use things like stimulants to keep yourself awake, that’s a whole different thing. If you’re logging enough sleep hours, you’re going to feel energetic, and you’re going to feel alert. If this is not happening, you may need to think about whether you’re really getting enough sleep. Remember, everyone is different. The best way to figure out if you’re meeting your sleep needs, is to evaluate how you feel as you go throughout your day. One of the things I thought would be really helpful, and this is where I’m totally dorking out, is the seven signs that you are sleep deprived. Now, what I want to remind you of this, being sleep deprived does not necessarily mean that you’ve stayed up a whole night the night before, or you’ve only had two or three hours of sleep. Being sleep deprived can be as little as missing out on one hour of sleep that your body requires. If you require, let’s say nine hours of sleep and you only get eight, you might be sleep deprived. If you require seven hours, and you only get six, you’re still going to be sleep deprived.
Let’s talk about these seven signs that you’re sleep deprived. Number one I think is really obvious, you experience tiredness. Feeling fatigued, sleepiness, trouble staying awake during the day. Now, I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out that first sign, but if you’re seeing that on a regular basis, you might want to think about whether you’re needing a little bit more sleep.
Now, sign number two I found fascinating. That is, you’re always hungry. Running low on sleep can actually increase the production of a hormone called, “Ghrelin,” in your body. This is the hunger hormone. Too much of it makes your body crave fatty and sugary foods, because it’s not getting the energy it needs from sleep, it’s trying to get that energy somewhere else. It’s getting it through sugary foods. If
you’re finding that you’re always hungry, it may be that you just need a little more sleep at night. I thought that was fascinating. I told you I was going to dork out in this episode, right? Okay.
Sign number three, your memory is shot. Not getting enough sleep impairs your brains ability to keep the nervous system clear of toxic molecules. Poor sleepers are 62% more likely to report struggling to concentrate or think clearly. If you’re having a hard time remembering things, may need a little more sleep. Sign number four, you’re having trouble making decisions. Essential functions like problem solving, and time management become even more difficult when you’re sleep deprived. Researchers have looked into this, and they’ve done studies where they’ve had sleep deprived, and well rested volunteers perform a set of tasks that require quick decision making. Between the testing, the accuracy of those without quality sleep goes down 2.4%, while the rested group improves 4.3%. One goes down over two percent, while one goes up over four percent. That’s a pretty big difference. Sign number five, your emotions are all over the place. You become a little more over reactive to emotional stimuli. This is what we talked about earlier, when you’re feeling cranky, and you’re feeling a little snappish. Maybe you’ve bitten someones head off for something that really wasn’t that big of a deal. It might just be that you’re a little bit tired. Sign number six, you get sick often. Your immune systems produces cytokines while you sleep, and these are the proteins that help protect against infections and inflammation. A few nights of poor sleep can lower your bodies defenses against viruses.
Then the seventh one I think is really, really fascinating. If you have fallen asleep at the wheel. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “I should know this, right? If I have fallen asleep at the wheel, I would know that.” What you don’t know, is that you can sleep without even realizing it. It’s called, “Micro sleep.” You may not have realized you’ve done this before. This is where your brain says, “I don’t care what you’re doing, we are going to sleep.” Have you ever been driving down the road and you have, don’t remember maybe the last mile or two of the road, but you’ve continued to drive? It could be that you’re catching these little micro sleeps while you’re driving on an easy stretch of the highway, or a part of the road that’s really familiar to you. That’s something to keep in mind.
Those are the seven signs that you might be sleep deprived. Again, by sleep deprived, it might just mean that you’re missing out on an hour or so of the sleep you need. What can we do to get better sleep? If we know how many hours of sleep we require, what can we do to really maximize our sleep? What I’ve done is I’ve created a download for you with tips on getting a better nights sleep. You can download that by going to InkWellPress.com/Podcast, and then go to episode 21 and look under the links and resources section. I’ll have a little download there for you. Here’s a few of them. Try creating an evening routine, because that’ll begin to trigger your brain to get ready for sleep. You can even include something soothing that’ll help you fall asleep, like lighting a candle, listening to relaxing music, meditating, drinking decaf tea. Now, you’ll notice I said, “Decaf tea,” because you want to implement a caffeine curfew. Caffeine stays in your system for nearly six hours, and can seriously disrupt your sleep cycles. You might also want to consider changing your lighting. Even dim lights can suppress your sleep cycles. We all know about the blue light from our devices, so try using an app like Night Shift for your iPhone, or Flux for your desktop that helps to limit some of that blue light. Try blacking out your bedroom with either blackout shades, or a sleep mask. Try creating a sanctuary so your body knows to prepare for sleep when you enter the
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room. Part of that is eliminating the clutter. A disorganized or cluttered space can really distract you from drifting off, and keeping you from feeling relaxed. Spending a few minutes de-cluttering can have a big impact. Trying to keep bills, and paperwork, and school work confined to an office space, and out of sight in your bedroom really can make a difference. Plus, do you really want to see those things when you’re trying to relax, or when you’re trying to wake up? Keep that in mind, because people with clutter in their bedroom report more sleep disturbances than people in an organized room.
You can also try lowering the temperature of the room. The optimal temperature range is 60, to 72 degrees fahrenheit. You could use a fan, you can open your windows, or even trying cool mattress pads, or a lighter weight bedding. Noise too, can effect your sleep cycle, even if you don’t remember waking up. If the noise in your environment is out of your control, you can consider sleeping with ear plugs perhaps, or even using a white noise machine. Lastly, ensure that your mattress is comfortable. The Better Sleep Council says a mattress should be replaced every five to seven years, but people tend to keep their beds around 10 years on average. If your bed is maybe starting to feel a little more uncomfortable, has some deep impression, you might want to consider swapping out your old mattress for a newer one. If that’s not really in your budget, maybe even just getting new pillows. Something to help you feel a little more comfortable while you sleep. All of these keys to better sleep are included in the download that I mentioned before, and you can get that at InkWellPress.com/Podcast under episode 21. I really want to encourage you in all the places in your day, to edit and streamline. To really make sure that you’re not doing that with your sleep. As you can see from this episode, sleep is really, really important. Not only does it help you be in a good mood, but it really does boost your productivity, and it makes you happier overall. Even if you don’t think you need it, you might want to consider checking to make sure you’re not lacking on your sleep.
Okay, I’m really excited because next week we are going to be tackling one of my favorite topics, which is banking your time. I’m absolutely loving this season two where we’re talking about editing and streamlining. I hope that you found this talk today about sleep, really helpful because I’ve heard from so many of you, telling me your stories of how you started editing and streamlining in your days, and I love what I’m hearing from you guys. Keep that coming. Feel free to email me, or you can connect with me on social media using the username, @inkwellpress. You can find me on Instagram, on Twitter, on Facebook. I’d love to hear from you. All right, until next time. Happy planning.
**This transcript is created by AI, so please excuse any typos, misspellings and grammar mistakes.
Tanya Dalton is often called the best female productivity keynote speaker. She is an award winning author, speaker and productivity expert. She gives talks on time management, goal setting and finding purpose.