*Note from Sarah: Dr. Kirk Parsley is back with another post on sleep. In all honestly, this is by far my favorite post by the Doc up to this point. Enjoy, share, read, and most importantly, DO!
Please try this ONE thing:
For those of you that have been following along with my guest blog series, I have to apologize for letting you down. Last week I promised a blog on “sleep and athletic performance”. I promise I’ll write it next week, but sometimes I’ve just got to get something off my chest, before I can get back on course.
So what’s on my chest? Thanks for asking! I would like to ask, no BEG, 85% of Americans to just give themselves one week of good sleep! That’s it. Make sleep your number one priority for one week. Why do you think I say this? It’s not so you’ll say; wow! Doc Parsley was right. I want everyone to be happier, healthier, faster, stronger, smarter . . . or whatever it is that they want to be. I want America’s productivity to match it’s work ethic, I want our children to have a fully-rested brain when they start school, and on and on and on.
The more salient question might be; why do I feel the need to say this? If you have seen my TED talk, you probably think that you know the answer to that question—and you’d be half right (you can see the talk HERE if you’d like). The other half of the reason is that I feel like nobody is listening to the chatter on sleep.
I’ve only been blogging about one year. But, since I’ve been developing a reputation for sleep and health, people are kind enough to send me articles everyday. I honestly LOVE this (please feel free to join in the exchange if you’d like on twitter @docparsley). It gives me hope that people are starting to take sleep more seriously. However, lately I’ve been noticing that it’s still a very small portion of social media that is truly interested, but even worse, it seems as though the media is just pushing out anything with the word “sleep” in the title.
I first started beating the sleep drum to the SEALs in 2009. A quick google search for “sleep articles 2009” yields about 49M hits—2015 yields 112M hits. So the buzz is definitely growing. But, I read all of these articles that people send me, and they are starting to remind me of the nutritional debates. Educated, intelligent people are actually arguing against sleep in a few extreme cases, but a massive number of articles are dredging up statistics, seemingly in an effort minimize the deleterious effects of sleep deprivation. It’s reminding me of vegetarians and meat eaters arguing.
To be honest, I am flummoxed! Arguing about where you get your calories is a much more valid argument than saying that you don’t need calories. That argument wouldn’t last a day, because we can measure how many calories a person needs to maintain their bodily functions. I realize there are some nuances to this, but I’m not blogging about nutrition. But, what if I were? What if I were making the argument that eating is really an optional behavior? What if my stance was that most people can live many years on 50% of their basal metabolic rate—and be just fine?
Be honest now! You’d call me a quack, or at least misguided. Survival, you would argue is different than living. AMEN!
So why is everyone so down on sleep. Why is sleep considered “optional” (at best)? I work with, and have worked with some of the most elite people on the planet. Famous athletes, famous sports teams, the world’s most powerful CEO’s, the most successful entrepreneurs on the planet, and the Navy SEALs. You know what they all have in common? They all perform better with better sleep. You know what else they have in common? Nearly all of them don’t consider their routine lack of sleep as a problem—when we first meet. After we’ve worked together for a while, 100% of them realize that lack of sleep WAS affecting their performance. But, I literally have to beat them over the head, push, prod, cajole, and beg to get them to try it.
This is also true when I work with the typical soccer mom, or Joe six-pack. The 112 MILLION sleep articles this year don’t seem to have changed anybody’s mind.
Let me set the record straight. If you don’t know anything about me; I HAVE been as sleep deprived as anyone. I KNOW how to punish myself. I have had an infant and two toddlers, while going to medical school. I have pulled countless 36+ hour hospital shifts, I have been a Navy SEAL, I am a serial entrepreneur, consultant, father, athlete . . . In fact, I literally went 10 consecutive years averaging about 5 hours of sleep per night.
I know that life can get in the way. I know life requires a certain schedule. I know that you “feel fine”. I am you! I’ve lived it.
I’m not asking you to live off of raw kale, run ultra-marathons, or see how many thrusters you can do before passing out! I’m asking you to engage in a normal, pleasant physiologic function that is FREE!!!
How many 30-day challenges are out there? I’m throwing down a 7-day challenge: for ONE SINGLE WEEK, make sleep your #1 priority. Try to get as much (drug-free) sleep as you can in one week, and see how you feel and perform. That’s it.
Measure “how you feel” by any metric that appeals to you. Measure your performance by your priorities—work, athletics, mood, parenting etc.
Now before you comment on the 3,876,908,765 reasons that you can’t sleep more, let me share the most valuable lesson that I learned—while becoming a SEAL.
My SEAL instructors and leaders used to say; “If I gave you a million dollars to do “x” by a certain time, could you do it”. Almost always the answer to that question is “yes”. Once they sucked you into that answer they would reply; “then you can do it without a million dollars”. And so can YOU!
Please give it a try. If you cannot sleep without drugs, that should send off some alarm bells! If you need NUTRITIONAL supplements, that’s often understandable (by the way, I’m lumping excessive alcohol in with sleep drugs).
You don’t have to buy our sleep product to get lots of useful information off the site.
So, if I gave you a million dollars to make sleep your number one priority for a week, could you do it?;-)
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