While preparing athletes for the Olympic Games, I asked a handful of coaches, “What are the three most important conditions that will impact performance for your athletes at the Games?” The top responses were: Managing family and friends, thinking like they normally think, and sleep.
When people don’t sleep well, they don’t think and perform well. Whether you’re an athlete, business woman, or student, sleep may be the most important function in the effort to grow and perform toward the upper limits of human potential.
There is no way around sleep.
Sleep is complicated and multi-dimensional. As it relates to performance and wellness, it’s a massive contributor to both. Long gone are the days where people on the world’s stage say “I’m proud I’m only getting 6 hours of sleep a night.” Admitting that you’re getting below average sleep is like raising your hand to announce “Hey everyone, I just want to let you know that I’m completely functioning at a substandard level.”
Eventually, your brain either lowers the standards of what’s possible for you, or it just shuts you down.
Think about that! Your brain has the ability, under sleep restriction, to conserve its spending of resources by downgrading the intensity of output. In other words, when you’re not getting enough sleep, your brain takes over to slow you down. That slowing down not only impacts cognitive functioning (slower reaction time and slower processing of complicated ideas), but also impacts our hormonal functioning and our physical body composition. Sleep restriction is fine for a few days, but when it becomes a pattern, it becomes a problem.