Every so often I read an article or hear a speach that changes my perspective on some aspect of health and fitness. I recently listened to an interview with Matthew Walker Ph.D on the subject of insufficient sleep and it dramatically changed my way of thinking and my priorities. (I link to the podcast at the bottom of this page)
“The silent sleep loss epidemic is one of the greatest public health challenges we face in the 21st century,” says Walker. He talked for almost two hours on his findings concerning sleep.
The material he covered literally blew me away. It had the same impact on the podcast host, Joe Rogan. Since listening to Walker, I have altered my priorities and now place getting seven to nine hours sleep every day at the very top of my list. Its not easy, especially operating a CrossFit gym that opens at 5:00am every weekday, but I do it. I went so far as to change our Health and Wellness Pyramid, with sufficient sleep replacing nutrition as the foundation.
I read years ago that the one thing humans cannot adapt to is lack of sleep. You can lift heavy weights and your body will respond and make you stronger. You can stress your body and mind in a multitude of ways and it will respond and adapt, improving your ability to handle that stress in the future. You cannot, however, deprive yourself of sleep and expect your body to adapt to that lesser amount. It’s more of a macho thing. You’ve heard it: you can sleep when you are dead. Wrong. At least that is what Walker claims in his interview and his new book. He has years of research to back it up.
The average American sleeps only 6.5 hours per night. Most people claim that it’s enough, and that they are well adjusted to less. Walker will tell you otherwise.
Walker says in his podcast “Humans are the only species that deliberately deprive themselves of sleep for no apparent reason.” In case you’re wondering, the number of people who can survive on five hours of sleep or less without any impairment, expressed as a percent of the population and rounded to a whole number, is zero.” Yes, he said ZERO.
One of the best things I’ve found recently to improve the quality of my sleep is CBD oil, or Full-Spectrum Hemp Extract. It helps reduce anxiety, stress and imflamation resulting in a better night’s sleep. We have a “What is CBD? page” on our website with some basic information and a couple short videos with medical experts supporting those claims, and more.
“I am in love with finding any and all methods for reuniting humanity with the sleep it so desperately needs,” Walker says. “Ever and always I will be a sleep researcher.”
Walker’s tips for improving your sleep:
Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even after a bad night’s sleep or on the weekend.
Keep your bedroom temperature cool; about 65 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal for cooling your body towards sleep. Wear socks if your feet are cold.
An hour before bedtime, dim the lights and turn off all screens. Blackout curtains are helpful.
If you can’t sleep, get out of bed and do something quiet and relaxing until the urge to sleep returns. Then go back to bed.
Avoid caffeine after 1 p.m. and never go to bed tipsy. Alcohol is a sedative and sedation is not sleep. It also blocks your REM dream sleep, an important part of the sleep cycle.
Walker is a UC Berkeley professor of neuroscience and psychology and leading sleep evangelist. He has spent 20+ years studying sleep not just with humans, but pretty much every species on the planet.
I’m not a big fan of Rogan’s podcasts, mainly because they are painfully lengthy and he goes off on all sorts of tangents with his guests. This one, however, is currently my favorite podcast of all time. You’ll find it here Joe Rogan #1109 – Matthew Walker
I mentioned Matthew Walker’s book above. I have it and am studying it now, but I don’t recommend it until you have listened to the podcast at least once or twice. The book is a rather hard read, but it’s worth reading after you’ve heard Walker talk. He explains facts so well in the interview that any school kid could grasp them. If you read the book first, my guess is that you won’t get past the first couple chapters. It’s called Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams