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Five More Secrets about Sleep
1. Daylight savings time kills. How to protect yourself
Daylight Savings Time for Spring 2023 is on Sunday 26th March. In countries which observe it, we lose an hour of sleep. On your clock, 6 AM becomes 7 AM.
Obviously this change is unnatural. Nothing about the orbit of the Earth around the Sun changes on this day. Nothing in nature changes its rhythm on this day. Nothing in your biology changes. It’s a bureaucratic change. One that appeared to save fuel during the war.
However, this bureaucracy has real consequences.
Research shows that on Daylight Savings Time in Spring there are 24% more heart attacks, 8% more strokes, +6% more fatal car accidents and 11% more depression.
Why? Because many people get less sleep as a result of losing this hour.
How can you protect yourself?
1. Pre-empt the change
If you adjust your schedule gradually in the week up to the actual change, then it will be less harmful.
How do you do that? Move everything earlier.
Calculate how much time you have until the actual clock change and distribute the change evenly. If you have 3 days, then move your sleep time 20 minutes earlier on each day.
You do this by moving your circadian signals earlier. You eat earlier. You go to evening lights earlier. You stop digital activities earlier. You should aim to get up earlier also. However if you are not using an alarm now, then you should not start for this.
By making it gradual, it will be less jarring.
2. Compensate for its effects
When the clock change rolls around, you can minimize its effects.
Avoid having to wake up at an early time on that day. Avoid long drives on that day (especially important as other drivers will be impacted). Aim to have your regular healthy sleeping routine constant on the clock change and the following days.
This will give you a buffer to adjust to the change with little ill effects.
2. Social jet lag is bad
On the topic of sleep schedule changes, there is a more frequent problem than Daylight Savings. It is social jet lag.
Social jet lag is what happens when you have an inconsistent sleep schedule. If you get up at 7.30 AM during the week, but then snooze until 9-10 AM in the weekend, then you suffer from it.
Social jet lag is also when you go out and go to sleep late. It’s also when you go on vacation and wake up later or earlier.
Social jet lag is whenever social activities create changes in your sleep schedule.
The modification of when you sleep is detrimental, even if you sleep the same amount.
You should always aim to have the same sleep schedule regardless whether it’s Thursday or Saturday, Easter, your friend’s wedding, a night out with friends, holiday to an exotic location, a work crisis, or anything else.
Of course exceptions happen. The trick is to keep them as exceptions. Set a monthly limit and stick to it. A good one would be one sleep disruption event per month. Work to stick to this limit. Otherwise things always come up and exceptions to sleep schedule become common occurrences. And your health suffers for it.
Now let’s see some positive stuff about sleep.
3. Physical training does not happen while you work out, it happens while you sleep
Do you do regular physical exercise? If the answer is no, then you should change that. It’s the second most powerful thing you can do for yourself after sleep.
Training is how we get better at sports. When you start running, you struggle to run for a mile. If you train, then in no time you arrive at running for many miles. Our bodies adapt to the training stimulus and become stronger and better at that physical activity.
The worlds of fitness and sports are full of sophisticated methods to maximize said training. There are countless pieces of advice on how to design training regiments that claim to make you stronger faster.
Yet the most important aspect of physical training is not the exercise itself. It’s the sleep after.
When you do physical training, that creates damage to your muscles, cardiovascular system, bones, nervous system, and so on. There is no adaptation during the actual exercise. Right after a run, you are not more fit to run, you are less fit.
The improvement happens when you sleep the night after training. That is when your body heals and overcompensates for the training damage. It not only restores what was before training, it improves the systems involved in that training. This is how you adapt and grow stronger.
You cannot become more physically fit without good sleep. This is true regardless of how much training you do.
4. What you work to learn during the day, is actually learned by your brain at night
Mental training and learning follow an analogous path. Learning does not happen when you do the act of learning. It happens during the sleep after.
This explains why students struggle so much. The common practice of cramming during the night is awful for learning. At most you might store some of it in short-term memory. But without sleep, there is no long-term memory of what you worked to learn.
If you want to learn anything, ensure you sleep well afterwards.
For high performance learning, there is a hack to take a power nap right after the learning session. Then repeat the information. And of course, still have good sleep on that night. This maximizes the learning that takes places in your brain.
5. Sleep Apnea, the Silent Killer
Dramatic, I know. But sleep apnea is much scarier than Jaws, Freddie Kruger or any of our regular Boogeymen.
21st March is Sleep Apnea Awareness Day. So let’s talk about it.
Do you suspect you have any of the following:
Pauses in breathing during sleep
Gasping for air while asleep
Daytime fatigue and sleepiness
Irritability or mood changes
Insomnia or restless sleep
Then you might have sleep apnea.
It’s surprisingly common: 15-30% of men and 10-15% of women have it. Yet in most cases people don’t know they suffer from it. However it has profound negative health impact.
What should you do? If you suspect you might suffer from it, get tested. Medical facilities can test for it using specialized equipment. Then if it is confirmed, you should treat it.
Besides the medical treatment, sleep apnea has a lot to do with how you breathe, both during sleep and when awake. More about this in the next edition of the newsletter.
“Sleep is the most innocent creature there is and a sleepless man the most guilty.” — Franz Kafka
If you found this useful, let me know.
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