Archive for the ‘Sleep Habits’ tag
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On Brain Stuff and Careers
The kind of instinctive decision-making advocated in best-selling popular psychology books like ‘Nudge’, ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ and ‘Blink’ is not backed up by reliable evidence, a study concludes. My view is that inaction is almost always worse than wrong action.
What is the #1 predictor of career success? Having an open network vs. a closed network. In a closed network you’re surrounded by people with the same ideas and beliefs as yours, while in an open network you’re challenging one another. So surround yourself with people who don’t think like you do.
A study on musical training “adds to mounting evidence that musical training not only gives young developing brains a cognitive boost, but those neural enhancements extend across the lifespan into old age when the brain needs it most to counteract cognitive decline.”
For as long as I can remember, I haven’t been a morning person, preferring to stay up late over prying my heavy head off the pillow in the cold morning. I’ve been a night owl most of my life, with some of my best work and inspired thought happening after 10pm. Throughout the years, I’ve been following the growing body of research that points to night owlish (or ‘larkish’) as a genetic trait: there’s apparently a specific genetic variant that can indicate whether someone is a night owl, a lark, or somewhere in between the two. Unfortunately this indicator wasn’t included in my 23andMe genetic profile a few years ago so I’m not sure where I fall on the continuum.
But even if I knew where my genes wanted me to be, there isn’t much I (or most of us) can do about societal, professional, or family pressure to wake up early. Every single day, one of our kids wakes up at or before 6:30am. At least 3 or 4 mornings per week I need to be out the door by 7:20am for school drop-off prior to a can’t-miss 8am meeting. And when I get home at night, by the time I’ve eaten dinner, cleaned up afterwards, spent time with my family, and put the kids to bed, it’s already after 9pm. So in order to do anything beyond “the basics” in life – including strength training, meditation, writing, extra work, or anything else – I have a simple choice: I either do it late at night and suffer the next morning, or I get up 30-60 minutes earlier. I choose not to suffer.
Now, for a night owl, the thought of waking up earlier than 6:30am is anathema. But for the last several months I’ve been doing it, and not only has it gotten easier, but I’ve ‘dialed it in’ to be a habit that I feel has dramatically improved my overall well-being, productivity at work, and presence at home. These days I’m up at 5:45am to drink a cup of loose-leaf green tea and get a focused kettlebell or bodyweight workout in – or some dedicated writing – before my kids wake up and the house starts buzzing.
I’d be lying if I said the transition was all kittens and rainbows. It was actually quite hard, and is still not without its challenges occasionally. But I’m consistent about it and am determined to make it work. Oddly, on the days I “sleep in” until 7 or 7:30am I don’t feel quite as right compared to those when I’ve gotten up and have broken a sweat before the sun rises.
Here are the ways I became a morning person and how you can too.
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead” – Some Anonymous Idiot
We’ve all heard this quote, most likely from an interview in a business magazine with some mega-billionaire CEO. Of course this person is either a walking collection of crazy or some genetically gifted mutant. I’m actually not kidding about that mutant option, as those who thrive on little sleep may have a rare genetic mutation according to a recent sleep study at the University of San Francisco. Of course, that mutation was found in just 2 out of 1000 study participants – so rare is right.
The rest of us need sleep and need it badly. And we probably need more of it than we think, or at least more than we’re inclined to let ourselves get by on.
In a 2002 study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation (PDF), it was found that the majority of American adults (68%) don’t get the recommended 8 hours of sleep needed for good health and optimum performance, and more than one-third (39%) sleep less than 7 hours nightly. Strangely (yet ironically) enough, a staggering 85% of those surveyed said they would sleep more if they knew it would improve their health.
Guess what? It does improve your health. And your sex life, body shape, and ability to stay awake during Avatar in IMAX 3D. It’s also the best way to improve your mood and the way you respond when you’re frustrated or stressed out. In other words, good sleep can keep you from being a jerk AND help you look and feel better.
Lack of sleep can also have a profound effect on memory and other cognitive skills. In an interesting study, researchers measured cognitive function in sleep-deprived, right-handed men and found that sleep deprivation has a negative effect on cognitive functions associated with "right-brained" functions such as "motor, rhythm, receptive & expressive speech, memory and complex verbal arithmetic function." (PDF link)