How to Become a High Performer (Part I)

By | December 21, 2017

Do you frequently feel there aren’t enough hours in the day for you to be the best you possible? In our very hectic lives, we hurry to do more, to achieve more, and sleep is often seen as annoying and superfluous. In our efforts to extend the day, to get more hours, to accomplish more, we try to function on as little sleep as possible.

We live in a world where we must deliver, so we use our free-time to work. We turn nighttime into daytime. We function in this vicious circle of morning consumption of artificial energizers, like coffee, to treat our lack of energy, and spend our evenings catching up on the hours we “lost.”  This cycle is not sustainable, but how do we break it and become a successful high-performer? In this article, we’ll discuss the methods that will help you perform at your best in your daily business.

#1: Get Enough Sleep!

For the best mental and physical performance, you need enough sleep! The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and the Sleep Research Society (SRS) state that adults should regularly sleep at least 7 hours each night to promote optimal performance. According to AASM and SRS “Sleeping less than 7 hours per night is also associated with the impaired immune function, increased pain, impaired performance, increased errors, and greater risk of accidents.” Click here to learn more about the appropriate sleep duration:  https://youtu.be/SVQlcxiQlzI

#2: Don’t Interrupt the Sleep Cycle!

Do you sleep 7 hours or more but still feel tired? Then, your deep sleep stage was probably interrupted! Researchers have found that five sleep stages create a one sleep cycle which repeats several times throughout the night. A single sleep cycle lasts between 80 and 110 minutes with an average of about 90 minutes.

The sleep cycle begins with stage 1, a short Falling Asleep phase.  This is quickly followed by stage 2, the Light Sleep. The Light Sleep Stage is superficial sleep, and it is easy to wake up from. Your body then moves into stage 3, or the Mid-Deep Sleep, followed by stage 4, the Deep Sleep stage. In the Deep Sleep stage, the sleeper is very difficult to wake up. This phase of sleep is especially crucial for a restful sleep. The sleep cycle ends with stage 5, the Rapid Eye Movement or REM stage, that is characterized by rapid eye movements under the eyelids. In this stage, the sleeper often dreams but is still easy to wake up. In an average night’s sleep, we experience four to five of these sleep cycles.

Waking in the middle of the sleep cycle, especially during Mid-Deep and Deep Sleep, will make you feel tired. To combat this tiredness, you want to make sure that in a single night you sleep through all 5 sleep cycle stages and complete at least five sleep cycles. To guarantee the appropriate amount of sleep cycles, you should calculate when you to go to bed based on when you need to wake up.  If you’re not great with math, that’s fine! There are many online calculators to help you.

How to calculate when to go to bed: http://sleepyti.me/

#3: Follow Your Biological Clock!

Have you heard of the biological clock? All plants and animals follow an internal biological clock. This clock is also called the circadian rhythm. Plants, for example, close their leaves at dusk and open them by dawn. They will do this even if you put them in a dark room without sunlight! They live according to their internal biological clock. But do you live according to your internal clock or against it? Let’s take a closer look at how the biological clock of a human being works.

The Nobel Prize laureates of 2017 evaluated the circadian rhythm of humans and discovered new genes and proteins involved in this complex mechanism. The importance of the biological clock for our body and mind, and consequently for our performance, is enormous! This internal timekeeper adapts our physiology to different performance phases throughout the day. It regulates sleep patterns and critical bodily functions like behavior, body temperature, hormone levels, and metabolic rate. 

The idea of circadian rhythm is not new knowledge. The ancient Indian science of life, Ayurveda, teaches us about the sleep-wake cycle. According to Ayurveda, there are different phases of the day that influence our mental and physical condition, and living against this natural order promotes aging. If you compare the scientific version of the human biological clock with the ancient Ayurvedic clock, you will see a similar pattern:

Best Performance Stages:

Wake Up Stage: (between 5 a.m. and 7:30 a.m.):

To reach your highest performance potential, you must wake up early! In the early morning hours, the sleeping hormone melatonin is replaced by its antagonist cortisol which supports the wake-up process of your body. The ancient wisdom of Ayurveda suggests waking up before the sunrise. If you don´t use your biological clock and don´t synchronize with the flow of your hormones, you can negatively affect your performance. For example, when you wake up at 10 or 11 in the morning, you’ll recognize a heaviness that dominates your body and mind throughout the day.

Morning (between 7:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.):

The morning between 7:30 a. m. and 11 a. m. is an active time with the highest productivity level and the most elevated alertness. To reach your highest performance potential and achieve the best results, you should use this period for your work. Think of the classic idiom, “The early bird catches the worm.”

 

Day (between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.):

A good time to socialize and connect with people is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. While the best time for solving problems, sorting out issues, and getting organized is from 1 p. m. to 3 p.m. You should use the period from 3 p. m. to 6 p.m. for studying or working creatively because it’s the perfect time for designing and constructing projects.

Best Recovering Phases:

Evening (between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.): You should use this period to calm down, relax with family and friends, and plan the next day.

Going to bed (between 9 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.): Our sleep-hormone, melatonin, starts to rise at about 9 p.m. making us feel sleepy.Note: it can be more difficult to fall asleep after 2 a.m. because the body begins to prepare itself to wake up.
Night (between 10 p.m. and 5:30 a.m.): Our body uses this time to process emotions and experiences, to digest remaining food, and to regenerate and renew itself.

Coordinate your daily tasks with your biological clock to reach outstanding results in a short time. Remember, you need enough sleep and at the right time!

#4: Avoid Biological Clock Disrupters!

The hormone melatonin is only produced in the dark. Light, including artificial light, restrains the production of melatonin.

This means that when we stay up late at night, artificial indoor light and artificial blue light (e.g., TV screens, tablets, phones) inhibit the secretion of melatonin, making us feel alert and awake. Using artificial light before sleep disrupts our biological clock.  When there is a mismatch between our external environment and our internal timekeeper, our well-being is affected. A common example of this is traveling across different time zones in which we experience “jet lag”, or unnatural sleep and wake times.  Furthermore, when our long-term lifestyle does not align to our biological rhythm, there is a higher risk of heart diseases, high blood pressure, weakened the immune system, decreased memory capacity, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and even loss of brain tissue. Scientific studies have also shown an association between lack of sleep and a high risk of being overweight with misbalanced metabolic and hormone systems!

In Summary:

When our lifestyle is not synchronized with the physical mechanisms of our body, we can’t use our real abilities to reach our best performance potentials. We can optimize our performance when we get at least 7.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep cycles, waking up before sunrise, going to bed at an appropriate time for our circadian rhythm, and avoiding biological clock disrupters. Coordinating our daily tasks with our biological clock can support a high level of performance and achievement of our potential. Remember that what you do today has an influence on your performance next day. If something keeps you up until the early hours, like extra work, online shopping, or a TV show, it will affect your physical and mental wellbeing next day. As a result, performance level and concentration decrease, giving an out-of-sorts feeling throughout the day. Create a friendship with your internal timekeeper, work with him, not against him, or rather not against yourself. Make the morning hours your favorite time, and as a result you will feel more vital and productive, which in turn leads to success and a better quality of life!

In part II of this article, we’ll discuss strategies on how to overcome the sleep dilemma and wake up early in the morning. Click here: How to Become a High Performer (Part II) .

 

Please note, that information is designed for the improvement of life quality. If you have any concerns or questions about your health or if you have any health disorders, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional. You should not rely on information as a substitute for, nor does it replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

 

References:

Beccuti G, Pannain S. Sleep and obesity. Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care. 2011;14(4):402-412. doi:10.1097/MCO.0b013e3283479109, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3632337/

Hirshkowitz M et al. National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary. Sleep Health: Journal of the National Sleep Foundation , Volume 1 , Issue 1 , 40 – 43, http://www.sleephealthjournal.org/article/S2352-7218(15)00015-7/abstract

Lee JS, Auyeung TW, Leung J, Chan D, Kwok T, Woo J, Wing YK. Long sleep duration is associated with higher mortality in older people independent of frailty: a 5-year cohort study. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2014 Sep; 15(9):649-54. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2014.05.006. Epub 2014 Jun 25, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24973244

Najib T. Ayas, David P. White, JoAnn E. Manson, Meir J. Stampfer, Frank E. Speizer, Atul Malhotra, Frank B. Hu. A Prospective Study of Sleep Duration and Coronary Heart Disease in Women. Arch Intern Med. 2003;163(2):205–209. doi:10.1001/archinte.163.2.205, https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/215006?rel=1

Watson NF, Badr MS, Belenky G, Bliwise DL, Buxton OM, Buysse D, Dinges DF, Gangwisch J, Grandner MA, Kushida C, Malhotra RK, Martin JL, Patel SR, Quan SF, Tasali E. Recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult: a joint consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society. J Clin Sleep Med 2015;11(6):591–592, https://aasm.org/resources/pdf/pressroom/adult-sleep-duration-consensus.pdf

The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine – Press Release. Nobel Media AB 2014, http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2017/press.html

https://yogainternational.com/article/view/the-ayurvedic-clock

https://sleep.org/articles/lack-of-sleep-impact-on-body/

https://www.howsleepworks.com/how_circadian.html

https://www.schlafzentrum.med.tum.de/index.php/page/normaler-schlaf

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