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Sleep Soundly

Sleep Soundly Wrap-Up

Sleep Soundly Wrap-Up

We’re at the end of the sleep component….but you’re going to keep working at it. You know how important sleep is. You can’t be exhausted and lead a high performance life. You can’t drag around and be your best self at school or at home.

Here’s what you’ve achieved:

You learned that sleep maintains your health. You know that you build muscle and regulate appetite when you sleep well. And you know that your learning, problem-solving, creativity and ability to manage stress are boosted.

Here are the 7 micro-wins for sleeping soundly, performing better and being healthier.

1. Save your coffee for the morning. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant that stays in your system for about six hours or even longer. Avoid foods or drinks with caffeine for 6-8 hours before your bedtime. That coffee after dinner is just not a good idea. 

2. Defend your last hour. Our hectic lives mean that we often come home from school or practise jacked up and are still revved at bedtime. Create a calming ritual to help lower the cortisol in your body. Put aside your electronic devices by 8 p.m., and read in bed. 

3. Your sleep cave should be pitch black. Light reduces your melatonin levels, and low melatonin can lead to disrupted sleep. Even light from your alarm clock is enough to wake you up. Keep it really, really dark.

4. Your sleep cave should be cool. Your body naturally cools down at night by about 0.3-0.4 degrees C, and that drop in temperature makes you drowsy. Keep the room no warmer than 19 degrees C to help you fall asleep and stay asleep.

5. Sleep 8-10 hours per night and be consistent. Our brains and bodies love regular routines. Not only are your hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin well regulated by a good sleep routine, you lower the amount of stress caused by constantly changing sleep and wake times. Sleep for at least 8 hours and keep your fall-asleep and wake-up times consistent. 

6. Snoozers are losers. Keeping a regular sleep cycle and clocking 9 hours of shut-eye means that you’re likely to wake up out of REM sleep. This is a good time to wake up, as you’ll feel refreshed. Hitting the snooze button means waking up out of Stage 1 or Stage 2 sleep – not good! You’ll feel groggy and gross. Don’t do it.

7. Nap happy. There is growing evidence that napping improves energy, productivity, cognitive functioning and health. If you don't have time for a full 90-minute full cycle nap, take a short 15-minute power nap to improve alertness.

There you have it, folks… all of the sleep wisdom wrapped up in a warm (but not too warm!) blanket to take into your (very dark and quite cool) bedroom with you. With this knowledge of practical things to do to improve your sleep, your days will be the best they can be.

Today's POWER-UP: Apply the 1% Better concept to your Sleep

Every night, you can make a 1% improvement to your sleep situation! Aim for 15 minute improvements and 1% better sleep. Micro-wins add up over time to change your life!

Training With Your Eyes Closed

Training With Your Eyes Closed

“Society is learning how important sleep is and how dangerous sleep deprivation is. We’re teaching our players: Sleep is a weapon.” – Sam Ramsden, Director of Player Health & Performance, Seattle Seahawks.

There is a reciprocal relationship between sleep and exercise. If you sleep properly, you will probably perform well during your next workout, and if you exercise regularly, you will be able to sleep well. By understanding and applying the science of sleep, you will know how to optimize your health, fitness and performance.

How Sleep Works

During the various stages of sleep, your heart slows down, your blood pressure drops and your muscles relax. This provides you with some much needed rest so your cardiovascular system and muscles can repair and rebuild themselves.

In the deeper stages of sleep, your brain activity also changes. Memories are formed, learning is strengthened, and growth hormone is released. Human Growth Hormone promotes fat breakdown and increases muscle mass. That’s right, we build muscle in our sleep!

Sleep and Athletic Performance:

Dr. Cheri Mah from the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory conducted a telling research project on the impact of increased sleep on athletic performance. Dr. Mah measured the eleven members of the Stanford University Men’s varsity basketball team for a baseline period of 3 weeks during which time they slept about 7-8 hours per night. Then the athletes deliberately increased their sleep by 110 minutes and tried to stay in bed for 10 hours each night. After the sleep extension phase the athletes had faster sprint times, improved shooting accuracy (by 9% even from 3-point range!) and decreased fatigue. 

Training With Your Eyes Closed

One example of a critical restorative process that occurs while you are sleeping is the release of Human Growth Hormone (HGH). HGH promotes fat breakdown and increases in muscle mass, which allows the body to recover from the physiological stresses that occur during training. If you are sleep deprived and have less HGH in your system, not only will you restrict your body’s ability to recover while you are sleeping, but it also appears that you will limit your ability to exercise the next day. Lower levels of HGH may decrease the amount of time an athlete can exercise at maximum effort due to reduced energy stores in their muscles. So when you sleep your body repairs and heals itself and guess what – you’ll be able to exercise better the next day.

The more you can commit to getting a proper amount of sleep, the healthier and more effective you will be.

Today's POWER-UP: How to sleep like an athlete


Sleep Soundly to Eat Smarter

Sleep Soundly to Eat Smarter

Sleep helps control two important dietary hormones – leptin and ghrelin –  which are responsible for hunger and satiety. When you’re tired, these hormones are thrown off, and you crave high-energy foods like sweets, sodas or processed foods that are usually high in calories, low in nutrients, and ultimately damaging for your health. Sleeping consistently can help your body manage these hormones and therefore your hunger, minimizing your cravings for foods that aren’t good for you. The bottom line? Sleep consistently to make sure you have a healthy, lean body.

But wait, there’s more!

Lack of sleep also disrupts insulin metabolism, which can lead to Type 2 diabetes. Recent research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine by Dr. Matthew Brady and his team showed that after four nights of sleeping four and a half hours each night, the fat cells of the participants acted like the cells of people with full-blown Type 2 diabetes. What that means is that the fat cells became insensitive to insulin. Total body insulin response decreased 16% and fat cell response decreased 30%.

The bottom line: only a short period of sleeplessness changes the metabolism of your cells – as if you have Type 2 diabetes. That’s really not good.

Slow down, do less, sleep more – it’s not only possible, it’s a requirement of a high-performance life. Sleeping well will help you manage your appetite and improve your body composition (more muscle, less fat).

Today's POWER-UP: Eat Your Way to Sleep

Food affects our energy level: some foods rev us up and some foods calm us down. As you begin to make some changes in your life to sleep better, it’s good to know the difference.

Here are some calming, sleep-inducing foods that are great before bed: non-dairy milk, bananas, oats, yogurt and sunflower seeds. So if you need a post-dinner snack, try a bowl of plain yogurt with berries and sunflower seeds or fruit like berries or a banana.

But there are some foods that stress our bodies and can keep us awake at night. Some classic body-stress foods are those high in fat, because they require a lot of digestive energy. It’s a lot harder to get good night’s sleep right after tucking away a cheeseburger-fries combo.

Dive Deeper: The Dr. Greg Wells Podcast


Sleep Better Keys 5-7: Defend Your Sleep

Sleep Better Keys 5-7: Defend Your Sleep

Last post, we talked about managing caffeine, defending our last hour, dark sleep caves, and sleeping in the cool; here are the final three keys to sleeping soundly to tap into your full potential.

Key #5: Sleep 8-10 hours each night & Be Consistent

It takes 90 minutes to move through a complete sleep cycle. Ideally you need 6 complete sleep cycles (6 x 90 minutes = 9 hours) for optimal sleep.

Also, if you’re sick, you have done a really hard workout, or if you had a very mentally demanding day, tack on extra sleep to help you to recover and regenerate better! Do your best to get those 8-10 hours per night.

In terms of the timing of your sleep, there is also an increasing body of evidence that suggests that sleeping on a regular schedule is even more important than the total amount of time you are asleep. You may have noticed that you don't get sleepy until later. As a child, you may have fallen asleep around 8 or 9 pm. Now, it's more like 10 or 11 pm or even later. You are falling asleep later because of your shift in your circadian rhythm (your sleep/wake cycle) called "sleep phase delay." 

So what to do? Do not extend it. Its tempting to push a 10 pm sleep time to 11 pm and then past midnight. When you move the start or end times around, or when you sleep less than 9 hours, you mess with the natural sleep cycle. Work backwards from the time you need to get up. If you rise and shine at 7 am, be sure to have finished your bedtime routine by 10 pm. And then do the same thing every day.

Check out It’s a cool little app that works based on the fact that we sleep in 90 minute increments. So if you know what time you want to wake up, will calculate when you should go to bed so that you wake up feeling good and refreshed. Check it out at

Key #6: Snoozers are losers

We naturally cycle through sleep stages during the night. We have five sleep stages (REM and sleep stages 1-4) within each 90-minute cycle. Near the end of our sleep in the morning, we spend lots of time in REM. We are designed to naturally wake up after a night’s sleep during a REM stage. If you wake up while you’re dreaming, you’re waking up at a good time.

So when you do wake up out of a dream, it’s a great time to get out of bed – if you are within 45 minutes of your alarm time. Don’t fall back asleep and hope that getting that extra 15-30 minutes will help. It won’t. Because you’ll drop down into stage 1 or even stage 2 sleep. And when the alarm goes off, you’ll be awakened from a state that you’re not physiologically supposed to wake up from. The outcome is that you’ll feel bleary and slow for hours.

The same goes for those of you addicted to your snooze button! Don’t set the alarm for 6 a.m. and then “snooze” for ten minutes…then ten minutes more…. You are not getting the right kind of sleep in those little ten-minute increments to make you feel more rested.

Key #7: Nap happy

It is fabled that Leonardo da Vinci used to take multiple 20-minute naps throughout the day to charge his creativity. Brainiac Albert Einstein was also a napper. It’s taken hundreds of years, but recent research seems to back up this approach. Naps have been shown to improve energy, productivity, cognitive functioning and health.

But there is a catch, and it has to do with those 90-minute sleep cycles we’ve been talking about. In 90 minutes, we generally pass through REM, stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, stage 4, then back through stage 3, 2, 1 and REM again.

So if you want to have a rejuvenating nap, go for a short 15 minute power nap so that you wake up before falling into the deeper levels of sleep. Or alternately, allow yourself the full 90 minutes to complete all the sleep cycles.

Some companies are optimizing happy napping. Nike, Apple, Google and Deloitte Consulting encourage employees to add a power nap to their daily routines!

Pick from the “nap menu” below when you seek happy napping:

1. The micro-nap (2-5 minutes) - Helps to decrease sleepiness and improves cognitive performance.

2. The mini-nap (10 minutes) - Improves mental and physical performance, decreases fatigue.

3. The power nap (20 minutes) - Improves alertness and energy and has the added bonus of also improving memory.

4. The I-feel-like-hell nap (30 minutes) - Makes you feel groggy and foggy - go back to sleep!

5. The full-cycle nap (90 minutes) - This one includes all the sleep cycles and is like a mini-full night’s sleep. Great for memory and creativity if you have the time. The added bonus here is that there is some growth hormone released, which repairs muscle and bones. So if you had a hard workout in the morning, then this is the nap for you.

Today's POWER-UP: Leverage Naps for a World Class Life


Sleep Better Keys 1-4: Set the Stage

Sleep Better Keys 1-4: Set the Stage

By sleeping soundly, we can strengthen our bodies and minds, enhance our mental and physical health and get to our potential. To help you on your way, here are four keys to sleeping soundly.

Key #1: Save your caffeine for the morning

Caffeine promotes blood flow to the brain which increases memory and concentration. It encourages oxygen delivery to the body, making exercise feel easier, and acts as an antioxidant which heals damaged tissue. The problem is, while there are health benefits from tea and coffee, too much caffeine can promote anxiety and insomnia. So where is the line between improving performance and decreasing performance?

The general rule is that 200 mg of caffeine per day is safe for most people (equates to about 2 10-ounce coffees or 2 cups of black tea). Another rule to follow is if you want to sleep well at night, skip the caffeine 8 hours before you fall asleep. So if you want to go to bed at 10pm, don’t have caffeine after 2pm. And remember to watch out for other sneaky sources of caffeine. Decaf java can have up to 20 milligrams of caffeine in a cup, and tea, pop, chocolate, weight-loss products, pain relievers, energy drinks and even some cold and flu medications are all to be avoided for a good night’s sleep.

Key #2: Defend your last hour

Have you ever had an exhausting day, then in the hour before you’re going to bed you find your mind racing even though your body is tired? You’re not alone. Calming down in the hours before you want to fall asleep is crucial. A key habit is not to check your electronic devices within 1 hour of when you plan to go to sleep unless you absolutely have to.

Research by Mari Hysling from Centre for Child and Youth Mental Health and Child Welfare in Bergen Norway published a population-based study on 9846 adolescents and showed that there was a dose-response relationship between the amount of time that was spend using electronic devices during the day and sleep duration, time to fall asleep, and sleep efficiency. Basically, the more adolescents used their electronic devices during the day, the less they slept and the worse their sleep was.

Key #3: Your sleep cave should be dark

I want you to have a place in your home that is your place to rest and recover. Think of it as a peaceful place where you go to crash out after rocking the world all day. This will be your sleep cave – formerly known as your bedroom.

Melatonin (a hormone that helps regulate sleep) is produced by your pineal gland, which is located deep inside your brain and is very sensitive to light, including light from screens. Therefore, you have to ensure that you are in a dark space while you sleep. Really dark. Even the light from your alarm clock is enough to reduce your melatonin levels. Little things like covering up your alarm clock lights or getting dark curtains for your windows will help!

This also means getting rid of your screens if you have them in the bedroom. Television, tablets, mobile phones all compromise your ability to fall asleep. I realize this can be a huge change for you but having a massive light that flashes at you at 240 frames per second is a sure fire way to make sure you don't fall asleep.

Light Therapy Tip: Install f.lux on your computer to cut blue light emissions later in the day. If you have iOS then activate the night shift feature and if you use Android then try the Twilight app!

Key #4: Be cool

In the evening, increased melatonin levels cause the blood vessels in the skin to dilate, cooling the body by 0.3–0.4 degrees C. This cooling promotes drowsiness and helps us fall asleep. At night keep your room cool. A temperature of 19 degrees C should be cool and comfortable for you. If you are having a hard time falling asleep, have a warm bath followed by a cool shower to decrease your body temperature slightly, and then make sure your room is as dark as possible. This procedure mimics the effect of melatonin and will knock you out every time.

Today's POWER-UP: Read Fiction

Before you fall asleep at night, read books, preferably fiction. Reading is great for you. It calms the mind and activates parts of your brain that you will use to fall asleep and dream. Your reading should have a story – something that requires your imagination. When you're done a book, pass it on!

Sleep to Learn and Create

Sleep to Learn and Create

It’s clear that poor sleep causes health problems and can help you live a healthy disease-free life. But sleep also has a powerful effect on both mental and physical performance. This is true for exercise, sports, playing music, academics, and most other pursuits. Let’s think about the positive effects of sleeping better and how that can help us learn better.

The main stages of sleep – NREM and REM, each have different effects on our ability to learn and create. Simply, the first half of sleep is for mental recovery and learning, and the second half is for physical recovery and creativity.

Sleep Soundly to Be More Creative

We have 80-100 billion neurons and each neuron has hundreds to thousands of connections to other neurons. It is these patterns of neurons and the connections between them that allow us to encode new learning, movement patterns and memories. The key is that the growth of new neurons and the new connections happens at night while we sleep. So if you want to ensure that you are being as creative as you can, that you can solve difficult problems, or come up with new ways of performing a task then sleep should be at the top of your list of priorities.

Recently, REM sleep has been identified as an incredibly creative state. In a study at the University of California-San Diego, researchers found that REM sleep “directly enhances creative processing more than any other sleep or wake state.” Yes, you heard that right – you are more creative during REM sleep than any time when you are awake! 

Sleep Soundly to Learn Better

Pulling an all-nighter get ready for exams is common. In a school that I visited this year a Principal told me that many of the students show up to school with an array of energy drinks after staying up late studying. This is hardly a high performance approach.

When we sleep we create new connections between neurons (1). Connections are critical, because it is those connections that form the basis for our thoughts, memories, problem solving, decision-making, motor patterns (how we move), and other important aspects of what makes us human. Scientists in China and the US have recently used a microscope to witness new synapses being formed in the brain during deep and sustained sleep (2). What exactly was it they could see? In short, they watched the brain building memories. This study made visible the brain’s work of replaying the day’s activity like a movie and building new connections between neurons during sleep.



Why Do We Sleep?

Why Do We Sleep?

“The trend for late nights and early mornings is actually a ticking time bomb for our health, so you need to act now to reduce your risk of developing these life-threatening conditions.” - Dr. Francesco Cappuccio of the Warwick Medical School

The foundation of human health and performance is sleeping soundly. This is where we will start to construct a healthy, high-performance life.

What is Sleep?

People often think of sleep as a time of rest where the body and mind shut down. It is a dormant state when the activity of our brain’s cortex reduces by 40 percent. But sleep is not a passive process. While you’re asleep and not moving there is a lot going on inside you that is helping you to recover, restore and rebuild your body and brain. Sleep is a highly active metabolic process that helps to optimize our brain structure, repair damaged cells, and restore energy levels.

Each night while we sleep we cycle through different stages of sleep in approximately 90 minute cycles. 75% of our night’s sleep is in the Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) stage where our body and muscles relax, temperature and blood pressure drops, heart rate and breath rate comes down and cells and tissues grow and repair. The other 25% is called the rapid eye movement (REM) stage wherein our brain is active, energy is supplied to brain and body and eyes dart back and forth. REM sleep is equally important and is thought to be when we establish new connections between neurons in the brain. Both stages are critical for the optimal recovery and regeneration of our bodies and our brains.

Sleep and Your Health

Optimal health and performance starts with sleep. You can set yourself up for success in all aspects of your life by sleeping deeply and sleeping enough. Sleeping soundly can help you lose fat, recover faster from training, clean your brain, and be better at solving problems. We consolidate memories while we sleep so sleep is when we actually learn! Our immune systems recover and regenerate while we sleep so sleep helps us to fight off disease and illness. If you’re training sleep is when your muscles repair and grow. Regardless of whether you’re an elite athlete or brilliant student, sleep is the foundation of your healthy, high-performance life. 

Today's POWER-UP: Try Yoga for a Deeper Sleep

Yoga is great for helping you to calm down and sleep better. Start with ujjayi breathing for a few minutes to relax and activate your parasympathetic nervous system. Then move through head to knee forward bend, child pose, and corpse pose. That sequence works wonders for calming the body and mind and setting you up for a deep, restful sleep.

Dive Deeper: Wash Your Brain!

Check out this TED talk by Jeff Iliff on one more reason to get a good night's sleep. 

Welcome to Sleep Soundly!

Welcome to Sleep Soundly!

“Pulling all-nighters isn’t a badge of honor. It’s the enemy of intelligence, patience, and creativity.” - Jason Fried, Founder of Basecamp.

Back in the day, humans woke up and went to sleep based on the sun’s cycle. But your current situation is much different. Your classrooms are lit by fluorescent lights during the day. In the evenings, you likely watch a bright TV and look at computer, tablet and mobile phone screens. We are no longer in sync with the rhythm of the sun. To top it off, you might have additive pressures such as school, sport practise, and social commitments. Take a moment to calculate how many hours you sleep per night. Teenagers need about 9 hours – is that your number?

If you sleep less than 9 hours per night, why should you care? That’s the main focus of this component: what exactly does sleep do for you? And so what if you yawn a bit in English or Math class? Everyone else you know is pretty sleepy too.

To start, sleeping well builds health and improves brain function. Sleeping poorly leads to physical and mental health difficulties and clouds your ability to think clearly, remember what you’ve learned and be creative. Whether you don’t get enough sleep because you study late at night, use social media or have early morning practise, my hope is that, once we reach the end of this component, you will adjust your habits.

You need good, sound sleep to lead a high-performance life. No one lives to their potential and achieves their dreams when they’re exhausted every day. I want you to fight for your sleep, even if that means fighting against your own bad habits. Because when you sleep like a champion, pretty much everything in your life gets better.

If you didn't get a chance to fill out the Health and Performance Audit at the beginning of the Program, please take five minutes to fill out this sleep audit. We can then get back to you with specific recommendations on how you can improve your sleep.

Today's POWER-UP: Make Sleep a Priority