It's not often that new information scares the hell out of me. It's even less often that that information comes in podcast form.
I enjoy a podcast about a serial killer more than the next guy but a few weeks ago, Martin sent me a podcast that literally changed how I live my life every day.
I would say that it's kept me up at night but to be honest, it has done the exact opposite. Its made me fear being awake!
Let me explain my back ground to you a little bit...
I. Don't. Sleep.
There I said it. Since the age of 16, I can honestly say, it would be unusual for me to have slept for 6 hours or more.
It wasn't because I was like Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher or Winston Churchill, where I feel like any more than 4 hours of sleep was a waste of time. Nor was it because I thought that sleeping less proved that I was tough or even that I wasn't tired.
I don't say it to boast. I don't say it to sound cool, the reality is, I just didn't go to bed.
I can honestly say, that for a 15 year period of my life I got into a routine where I was sleeping for just over 5 to 5 and a half hours on average. I was known amongst my friends as "always being awake" or "just doesn't need to sleep".
Yet for the whole time, even though I knew I SHOULD sleep more, but I was always able to perform how I thought I should. I did well enough in year 12 to get into the course I wanted to and then I finished a bachelor and even a masters of Chiropractic. I even graduated both of them "with Distinction" from RMIT (for even more #notsohumblebrags about me click here or follow my instagram).
The point is, why did I need to get to bed earlier if I was able to do everything anyway?
Then came...The Podcast.
So what is the deal with this podcast?
Martin and I will frequently talk about new things we have learnt, new articles we have read, research we come across and like the true nerds we are, podcasts we are listening to.
Martin knows well the ridiculous approach I have had to sleep and thought with the information shared by author of the book 'Why we sleep' and Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology Matthew Walker, that this podcast might be relevant for me.
Relevant is an understatement.
In the 2 hours this podcast goes for, I had my eyes opened to how I was looking at getting some shut eye.
It showed me that how I organised an entire 3rd of my life, a feature on which I arranged my whole day, predicated a large part of my persona, as well as how I thought my body worked and impacted every second of my waking life, wasn't just wrong, it was dangerous.
I strongly urge you to listen to the interview I have linked below, however if you think you haven't got 2 hours to listen to it, I will attempt to summarise the elements that most impacted me.
Firstly, understand that although I knew academically that sleep was good for me, I was convinced that I was just one of those people who didn't need as much sleep as everyone else. I didn't think that made me special, I just genuinely believed that lack of sleep obviously didn't affect me as much as it seemed to affect everyone else.
After all, I never had to say "no" to anything because I was too tired, even though I felt it. I just thought that "everyone is tired" or "being tired is normal". What I know now is that being tired is COMMON, but it isn't NORMAL, and that makes a huge difference.
Nowadays as a society we seem do deify being busy, getting things done, "you can sleep when you're dead", and that is where I see this post fitting into our Spinal Health Week theme of the month of May. I want to challenge you to recognise where it is that you're taking on too much, sacrificing yourself and your own health in the service of a deadline or those around us. Remember, you cannot give from an empty cup!
This obsession with never being unplugged, with getting things done, and especially, with not going to bed till late hasn't always been the case.
It has taken millions of years to develop into homo sapiens. Homo sapiens came into anatomical being at least 315,000 years ago, with our modern behavioural and mental capacities being at least 60-80 thousand years old.
We have had a reliable and controllable ability to erase the night using electric light for - give or take - 150 years. Since that time, humans have become the first and only known species to actively and persistently forgo sleep.
No other species will choose any activity over sleep outside of a survival situation. For us, far from being a survival situation, it means, to stay up and watch Netflix, scroll Instagram, or generally to just get a few jobs done without anyone interrupting us.
Think about that...why is it that WE choose to avoid rest, when no other mammal will do this naturally?
So what? Who cares if I choose to stay up and watch Stranger things even if other animals don't?
I hear you, thats exactly what I thought, and I wasn't alone in thinking like that, according to Matthew Walker, 1 out of every 2 people are sleep deprived, and almost 1/3 of those people are sleep deprived on 6 hours sleep or less.
So how much sleep are we meant to get?
According to Professor Walker, as humans we need between 7 and 9 hours of good QUALITY sleep for our body to operate the way it is intended to.
Thats not just physical time in bed,
Quality in this sense refers to our biological imperative to get through all of the stages of sleep for an appropriate amount of time, in order for our brain to recharge.
So...what happens when we don't get enough sleep?
Here is where things get scary.
This was originally intended to be a single post but I realised once I started writing there was too much to go through to cover in a single post. As a result, I have saved a lot of the more specific information about sleep for the next post.
I know, what a jerk, just get you started and then leave you hanging!
I want this first instalment to get you thinking about how many hours you spend sleeping and if you are honest, what sort of quality do you believe you actually achieve?
In the next post, I will outline in greater detail what happens to our body while we are sleeping as well as discuss what happens to us when we try to cheat our body and brain out of it.
Most importantly, I will suggest a few different techniques you could employ to try get to sleep easier.
For now though, I want to leave you with the main point raised in the podcast that I can't keep from popping into my head.
When we sleep for fewer than 7 hours, our performance, both physically and mentally dimities by 10%.
When the hours we sleep are fewer than 6, our performance is decreased by 30%.
That means that for a 15 year period, my ability to work, to remember, to drive, to study or even enjoy downtime with my friends and family was down by 10-30%.
Equally as scary, the research suggests that people who are sleep deprived are actually incapable of measuring the negative effects of lack of sleep on themselves. It's like knowing your exact blood alcohol while drinking (a comparison that will become more relevant in Part 2 of this post). We know we have been drinking but have no actual way to know if we are .05 or not until its measured externally.
Imagine the compound interest of life lost over 15 years of being 30% less of yourself. I am certain I would likely still be at Align, and I know I would still be a chiropractor, but who knows how much further I would be in my career, how much more I could have given to my clients or how much more I could have enjoyed those years?
Who would you be if you had 30% more of you to give every day to yourself or your loved ones?
I know this is a pretty esoteric finish to a health post but isn't that the whole reason we want to be healthy in the first place?
In the 2 weeks I have been getting a minimum of 7 hours of sleep a day, I have already started noticing changes to what I can do and how well I can do it and how clearly I can plan it.
So if you are like me and you're chronically sleep deprived, how important to you is it that you get 30% more you out of every day?