Sleep, eat, sleep, repeat
This is not a guide on how to seduce people to improve your career (but we like the way you think). This is a guide on how to hack your life by sleeping. An average person spends around 25-30 years of their life with sleeping. You know this of course, but it’s still crazy, right? What an enormous amount of time wasted! Except, it’s not. It’s not wasted because sleep is one of the best productivity tools there is, period.
Remember to Sleep to Remember
We have all been staying up late to study for an exam the next morning. Rather than going to bed and having a good night’s sleep, we burned the midnight oil and tried to cram as much as possible into our brains in as little time as possible. We ended up “resting” for 4 hours, just to wake up feeling like a zombie from The Walking Dead. Or maybe we brewed ourselves one cup of coffee after another and pulled an all-nighter, learning all night long just to fall asleep five minutes after the exam started.
We focused so much on learning as many new things as possible and storing them in our short-term memory – when, in fact, we should have concentrated on actually remembering the stuff we have learned by putting the things from our short-term memory into our long-term memory. Because, let’s face it, you will forget most of the stuff you’ve read the night before. Unless you have a photographic memory like Mike from Suits (Once I read something, I understand it, and once I understand it, I never forget it.).
The brain needs sleep. But don’t take our word for it; just watch this TEDed animation – it explains why sleep is important for studying and memory consolidation and how it works. Basically, in simplified terms, the various brain regions associated with processing and remembering stuff – such as the hippocampus – need sleep to do their job properly. No matter how much or long you learn, if you don’t sleep, your brain will not store any information long-term.
No Sleep No Gain
Professional athletes know that they need rest if they want to stay at the top of their game. No matter how good their training routines and diets are, without proper rest – in the form of sleep – their bodies will fail to perform. Sleep helps in various ways: by producing growth hormones, by starting protein synthesis, by remembering certain movements, restoring energy, etc. Without sleep, athletes could not give 100% during their training sessions.
Even if you are not training as hard as professional athletes every single day, you need that rest just the same. Whether it’s at work, at school, at home, while playing with your children – you always want to tap your body’s (and your mind’s) full potential, right?
How much should you sleep?
That’s a hard question to answer. Because there is no definite right answer. It’s different for every person and also depends on the age. For most people, it’s somewhere in the range of 7 to 9 hours. Ideally, we should adjust our sleep patterns to our circadian rhythm. However, looking at bright screens and lights, living in noisy neighborhoods, and other stimuli can have a negative impact on our biological clock. So we should refrain from watching television right before going to bed.
Sometimes, sleeping for 8 hours is still not enough – that is, we still get tired in the afternoon. In this case, we should take a nap to recharge ourselves, ideally right after lunch. But be careful when you take a nap. You do not want to take a two-hour nap after which you are not sure in which century you are right now. You don’t want to fall asleep during a nap. Otherwise you will feel worse after waking up and mess up your circadian rhythm. What you want to do is rest for 20 to 30 minutes max. If you want to up your napping game, try this: drink a cup (or two) of espresso. Don’t sip on it for twenty minutes – it’s an espresso, in this case you want to gulp it down. Set an alarm clock for 20minutes. Take something like a key-chain and hold it with your fingers. Lie down and extend the hand with which you are holding the key-chain. Now, take a nap. Yes, you read correctly. First coffee, then napping. Not the other way around. You want the caffeine to kick in when you finish napping. The most important thing to remember is: as soon as you drop the key-chain (and you will drop it), stop napping. immediately. Because dropping it means you are genuinely falling asleep. That’s the moment to get up and be productive again. The alarm clock is just a safety measure, should you ignore the sound of your key-chain hitting the floor.
Oh, it’s time for our compulsory afternoon Siesta in our office 😴 If you are not tired yet, check out this Medium article called Sleeping is the best productivity lifehack to read more on this topic.