One third of your life – your biggest performance factor

“Every component of wellness, and countless seams of societal fabric, are being eroded by our costly state of sleep neglect: human and financial alike. So much so that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has now declared a sleep lost epidemic throughout industrialised nations.” Matthew Walker, Why we sleep.

We’ve talked for years about willful underperformance – the concept of choosing to do something that you know will undermine your performance capacity.

Not taking care of sleep has probably been the biggest area of this willful underperformance over the years. 15 years ago, it was fair to say many people didn’t realise how much self-harm they were doing and it might not have been such willful underperformance. However, it’s not the case now – there’s no excuse for not understanding the negative consequences of poor sleep.

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High performance headlines

  • You’ll sleep for a third of your life, and if you sleep well for a third of your life, the quality of your waking hours and the length of your life is likely to improve!
  • There is no system in your body that is not affected by sleep. From physical to psychological. From chemical to emotional. Sleep quality impacts everything.
  • Getting very little sleep does not make you a hero. It simply makes you closer to illness and a sub-standard version of any hero you deem yourself to be.

The full viewpoint

This viewpoint isn’t going to give you chapter and verse about all of the harm you’re doing to yourself if you’re not sleeping properly. There’s enough brilliant resources out there, the best of which is “Why we sleep” by Matthew Walker.

What we are going to do here though is give you a high performance mindset towards sleep and our view of the action you should be taking if you want to get back in control of your most important performance influence.

Where the mind goes, the body will follow

What matters to you? What do you aspire to be good at? What will make you and other people proud when you achieve it?

If you know the answer to these things, then that’s going to be a great help to you when it comes to sleeping well at night. If you know you’re committing the amount of time and energy to fulfilling your ambitions that feels right for you, then you can probably sleep well at night. And if you can sleep well at night, then you’ll have more energy to commit to fulfilling your ambitions.

However, if you’re saying how important fulfilling your ambitions is, but you’re cutting corners on sleep, or you’re taking sleep for granted, then you’re not really that bothered about having all the energy you need to achieve what you want to achieve.

If you’re serious about the things you say you’re serious about, it’s time to ask a few questions about bedtime.

Stop kidding yourself.

Ask yourself if any of the following are true about you:

  • I don’t have a fixed bedtime – the time I go to bed can vary quite a bit.
  • I’ve never considered the impact of the sleep I get on my mood and mindset the next day.
  • When I eat my final meal of the day varies hugely and sometimes it might be quite close to when I get to bed.
  • I never sleep well in hotels and even though I’m away from home a lot, I know there’s very little I can do about this.
  • I regularly pull multiple late nighters to get work done and I don’t do anything to compensate for this in the days/nights following.
  • I have no idea what my ideal amount of daily sleep is. I just get what I can.
  • I take ages to get off to sleep and I tend to sleep lightly and wake regularly during the night, especially during busier times.
  • Taking caffeine to keep me alert in the day is more important to me than worrying about the effect the caffeine might be having on my sleep.
  • I’m in a creative job or one that involves strong memory and cognitive skills, but I’d never see sleep as influencing my abilities in those areas.
  • I couldn’t tell you if I’m sleep deprived (when you’re sleep deprived, you have no idea of how sleep deprived you are!)

If a few of these points ring true for you, then it’s time to find out what life is like when you can’t answer ‘true’ to most or all of these. You’ve done the research about how well you can live and perform when you’ve been taking your sleep for granted. The value in running this experiment for any longer is simply to help yourself find out how good you can be when you’re making it harder and harder for yourself to be any good.

The bottom line

As the title of this viewpoint suggests, to live a full life, it’s likely you’ll be sleeping for a third of that life.

The things we achieve in our life that are of meaning to us, and those who are important to us, happen when we’re in our waking hours.

If we’re going to be the best version of ourselves in those waking hours, then it seems only fair to live the sleeping hours with as much desire to be great as we live the waking hours.

Sleep is not an impossible conundrum to solve for the majority of us. It is a critical area of our lives that deserves some waking time being devoted to it, so that when we do know it’s time to sleep, we look forward to that time and anticipate all of the positive benefits we’re affording ourselves.

Is it time for you to take control of your most critical performance factor for life?