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Podcast No. 17: The Circadian Rhythm Sleep Hack

April 3, 2019

Today’s podcast focuses on a way to improve your sleep without having to spend more time in bed--we call it Sleep Consistency.

By Will Ahmed

Listen, review, subscribe.

WHOOP VP of Performance Kristen Holmes and Director of Analytics Emily Capodilupo discuss the benefits of maintaining your circadian rhythm with Sleep Consistency. Our regular listeners will recognize Kristen and Emily from previous podcasts, and when it comes to sleep they really know what they’re talking about.

In this episode they explain exactly what Sleep Consistency is, share tips and tricks for how to get the most out of it and take a deep dive into some WHOOP data, including a case study of an NCAA team Kristen works with that put the theory to test by staying on East Coast time when traveling out west for competition.

Stay tuned for more episodes like this in the months ahead in which we break down specific WHOOP topics geared towards optimizing your performance.

Show Notes:

3:38 – What is Sleep Consistency? “How close was your bedtime today to your bedtime yesterday, and your wake time today to your wake time yesterday?” Why does it matter? “It’s really a measure of your circadian rhythm,” your body’s internal clock.

5:10 – The Benefits. “We’ve definitely seen improvements in time spent in slow-wave sleep, time spent in REM, and when folks focus on their sleep consistency we see massive improvements in their sleep efficiency.”

5:49 – Where’d it Come From? A 2017 paper showed that students with better Sleep Consistency had higher GPAs than others, despite sleeping the same length of time. “If you could tell me that there was something completely not related to studying that would increase my GPA by .1, I would’ve been all over that.” WHOOP was able to look at a much larger sample of data. “He had 60 people in his study, we had I think 20,000 that we looked at. … We looked at about 3 million sleeps.”

9:13 – WHOOP Data Insights. “Not only did sleep consistency correlate with the performance data we had, we also were able to come up with a physiological explanation … In our data the student athletes who had higher sleep consistency were getting more slow-wave sleep, more REM sleep, and higher HRVs and lower resting heart rates as a result.” REM sleep is when we convert short-term memory to long-term memory, so it makes sense that more REM could improve your GPA.

10:31 – More Time in Deeper Stages of Sleep within each sleep cycle. “That’s what we love about it, it’s a behavior. … Sleep consistency is the answer to that how.”

11:32 – What Behaviors Help? “Blue light directly affects our circadian rhythms.” Emily explains why. “If you’re looking at any kind of blue light you’re telling your brain it’s day time.”

13:27 – More Tips. Check out the advice from the 100 best sleepers on WHOOP, as well as previous podcast episodes with Emily and Kristen.

14:12 – Case Study in time zone maintenance. At the recommendation of WHOOP, an NCAA soccer team stayed on East Coast time while playing in a tournament on the West Coast. “Traveling out west is really tough on the system … this concept of maintaining their time zone came into play.”

15:37 – What Did it Entail? “The three biggest influencers on your circadian rhythm are when you go to bed and when you wake up, the timing of your meals, and your exposure to light.” Kristen details everything the athletes did to maintain their circadian rhythms. “The young women did a phenomenal job staying disciplined and following the itinerary to stay as synchronized to East Coast time as much as possible.”

17:07 – Did it Pay Off? Yes, you could see it in the players’ WHOOP data. The coach said they “would do it again in a heartbeat if they were in the same situation.” A year later, they won the national championship.

18:32 – Other Positive Effects. When the athletes came back home, they didn’t have to reassimilate to their regular time zone. “They suffered no ill effects and were able to hit the ground running.”

19:34 – Connor Jaeger at 2016 Olympics. To combat his struggles with jet lag, WHOOP suggested he go to the Olympic Trials four days early to get acclimated.

20:26 – Adjusting to Time-Zone Transition. “The biggest thing for me that I’ve seen is getting sunlight exposure in your new time zone.”

21:12 – Bedtime Routine. “You can trick your body more than people realize.”

22:05 – Pre-Travel Prep. Split the difference and start getting your body adjusted ahead of time.

23:07 – Hacking Sleep. “This past summer I started doubling down on sleep consistency and I’ve seen a huge, huge improvement in the time I’m spending in deeper stages of sleep … and I’m actually spending less time in bed.” Kristen elaborates on what she’s seen in her own WHOOP data.

25:51 – Learn More about Sleep Consistency and your circadian rhythm at and on The Locker.

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Will Ahmed

Will Ahmed is the Founder and CEO of WHOOP, which has developed next generation wearable technology for optimizing human performance and health. WHOOP members include professional athletes, Fortune 500 CEOs, fitness enthusiasts, military personnel, frontline workers and a broad range of people looking to improve their performance. WHOOP has raised more than $400 million from top investors and is valued at $3.6 billion, making it the most valuable standalone wearables company in the world. Ahmed has recruited an active advisory board that consists of some of the world’s most notable cardiologists, technologists, marketers, and designers. Ahmed was recently named to the 2021 Sports Business Journal 40 under 40 list as well as 2020 Fortune 40 Under 40 Healthcare list and previously named to Forbes 30 Under 30 and Boston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. Ahmed founded WHOOP as a student at Harvard, where he captained the Men’s Varsity Squash Team and graduated with an A.B. in government.