Steven Wright said, “When I woke up this morning my girlfriend asked me, ‘Did you sleep good?’ I said ‘No, I made a few mistakes.’”

Another reply is “I slept like a baby … I peed on myself, I was up three times …”

How did you sleep last night? As opposed to other aspects of the Fuel component of my Exhilarated Model (e.g., nutrition, hydration, physical activity) that can be achieved with planning and effort, sleep seems to be less controllable.  Yet it is profoundly important and foundational.

With all of the complicated factors we address in trying to enhance performance, adequate sleep is one of the most compelling and simple elements for effective productivity. I’ve worked with elite athletes and other world-class performers who will go to great lengths to gain a small competitive edge, but they readily will forgo getting enough sleep.

Apparently at least half of us are walking around sleep deprived. Experts say it is better to be a passenger with a drunk driver than one who has not gotten ample sleep. Part of what’s so dangerous about lack of sleep is that the impairment may not be obvious to the sufferer. Yet the impact of insufficient sleep includes reductions in mood, concentration, memory, and creative thinking. It takes enough sleep to learn and retain information — ironically, those of us in university settings (both students and profs) tend to be among the most sleep deprived. There are crucial restorative functions of sleep. With all the concerns about obesity, there is a clear association of weight gain and fatigue that lead to pre-diabetic conditions. We frequently eat not because we are hungry, but because we are tense and tired. Getting sufficient slumber is one of the best ways to avoid snacking.

About 60 per cent of Canadian adults feel tired most of the time and get, on average, 6.9 hours of sleep a night, although experts recommend eight hours. Canadian research indicates 30 per cent of adults get fewer than six hours a night (e.g., Samuels, 2011). Consider before there were electric lights, most people slept ten hours a night … so eight may be more a matter of what is reasonable than what is optimal.

I’ll be exploring this and related topics in “Mens sana in corpore sandwich: Sleeping, eating, and moving for healthy minds” a session at the Better Workplace Conference in October in Vancouver.

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