In our society now, lack of sleep is almost like a badge of honor. “If you sleep more than five hours you’ll get bed sores!” “You’ll get all the sleep you need when your dead.” “Sleep is for the weak.” You can find statements like these all over social media.
The idea is to push high-achievers on to work harder for better results. I just had the chance to spend some time with a buddy who was a Navy Seal with Seal Team 6 for eleven years. At certain times he would average 4 hours of sleep a WEEK (not a day — but a week). The need to push, drive and deprive was necessary. We often think in the business world and in our hectic times of today — we need to do the same thing. But what if that thought process is exactly backwards? What if our willingness to “think we’re a navy seal and push ourselves to our limits” is actually sabotaging our success?
The Problem with lack of sleep
I have known for years for years how important sleep is. I know it, but I’m bad at following my own advice, and putting into action the knowledge that I have. After meeting with my buddy, Jeff Nichols, with SEAL Team 6, he reminded me how important sleep is, and also gave me steps how to get into the groove of getting into a sleep pattern.
Jeff showed how we can make sleep into something we can train and condition. Like Pavlov’s Dog (they would hear a bell and start salivating) we can set up classical conditioning. Classical conditioning is a reflexive or automatic type of learning in which a stimulus acquires the ability to evoke a response that was originally evoked by another stimulus. Our goal is to develop patterns or set activities that bring on the response of sleep.
What’s true for Navy SEALS isn’t always true for all highly motivated people, Jeff says. Folks may think it’s smart to skimp on sleep but “in reality, most of the people who are buying into that are not successful — they’re not even close to successful.” While a few “anomalies” might pull it off (which are the seal group), most of eventually “fizzle out.”
And unfortunately these stubborn folks that miss sleep often “create massive problems in their metabolism, in their endocrine system. They just really hurt themselves physically while they’re chasing another dream.”
4 Ways to Rock Yourself to Sleep
Nicholas has nothing against success. Far from it. He just knows from painful personal experience and from helping others how important good sleep is to getting good results in our lives.
When we face time crunches, sleep is often the first thing to get cut. It may seem efficient and even smart at the time, but it’s not. “In reality, you getting that optimal sleep is going to enable you to wake up and do the job to the best of your ability,” Nicolas says. “As a navy seal, a lot of our missions were at night, so we needed to be able to adjust and get our sleep during the day. We needed to develop systems and conditioned responses to find ways to get to sleep and get a good sleep.” Here are some ideas on how he did it.
1. Put away the Gadgets and Turn Off the Electric Devices
The best sleep is low-tech with the sounds and lights and electricity of apps and devices well away. Nichols says REMOVE the devices from your sleep area. Some experts say turn it all off — phones, TV, computers, etc. Jeff’s advice is, “don’t even have it in the room.” When I told him I use my phone for my alarm clock, his response, “Go buy a clock for less than $10.00.”
Right now that’s not happening. Too many people today—and especially younger people—are “sleeping with their cell phones, have their computer in their bed for the night, have a TV in their bedroom and have other devices literally next to their head on their pillows.”
In some situations, where having a device is needed, as with parents who have kids, business leaders or folks with jobs that might be on-call, they can actually use technology to help them tune things out: many devices allow us to shut down all notices and to screen out all calls except from close friends and family, select business numbers, or vital contacts so they can reach us in the event of a genuine emergency.
Nicolas suggests turning off all devices at least 30 minutes before bed.
2. Get Your Routine In Place to Get Ready for Bed
Notice how things that we do well, do often and do with success usually have a plan or routine. You do a workout and have a plan and routine to follow — it’s a better workout. You have a routine of what you’ll do at work to be more efficient and knock out a ton of work. Many of us have a routine for our kids in the evening to help “get them to bed,” do you have one for you?
Just like Pavlov’s dog, we spoke of earlier, we want to set up a routine that puts us into sleep mode. That might be reading a book. Smelling a certain aroma; Nichols says he smells lavender because it reminds him of his daughters and puts him into a restful state. Just remember to make what you choose something that will relax you and reduce stress. Doing a high level workout might not be the best activity 30 minutes before bed. But whatever it is, do it every time before you are planning to sleep, in the same order, at about the same time; 30 minutes before bed — relax in recliner and review next days schedule; 20 minutes before bed — put on relaxing music, check electrical devices and turn off for the night; 10 minutes before bed — do sleep prep; bathroom, wash face, brush teeth, etc.; Last few minutes before bed — aroma therapy and breathing work; SLEEP
Following set routine will build that conditioned response.
3. Make the Room Dark
This one was vital for Nicholas and his team, also for folks that are working at night and planning to sleep during the day. It is important for you too — make your room a dark zone. Black Out Curtains are easy to find. These help keep outside lights from interrupting sleep patterns. By implementing Step 1, moving all electronic gadgets helps to remove all types of lights out of the room.
4. Use Your Bed for Sleep
Many people use the bed and bedroom for more than sleep (and we’ll say “couple time”!). Don’t! Your bed isn’t a place to read. It’s not to make out your to do list or write a letter. You already know it’s not a place to play one more video game or finish up that project on your computer. No last minute evening phone calls and no late night texting or checking emails from any of your devices. Do your routine, get into bed and sleep. All those other things should be taken care of before you go into your bedroom. Your bedroom or sleep room is just for that — go to bed and sleep!
By improving your sleep routine you’ll see huge improvement in your success level.
Mark “Coach Rozy” Roozen, M.Ed, CSCS,*D, NSCA-CPT, TSAC-F, FNSCA is owner/director of Coach Rozy Performance — Powered by AVERA Sports Yankton. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by going to his website at coachrozy.com.