• Andrew

The Secret is.....Sleep!

Updated: Nov 25, 2019

Everyone wants to know how to perform at their very best - In sport, in business…in our personal lives. The science of performance optimisation - in a time efficient manner - has been studied in every detail…with the result that we’re all usually left feeling that we should be squeezing more out of life.....And sometimes we try and do that, potentially at the expense of a few extra hours of sleep.

From the endless stories of successful, self-made entrepreneurs who boast about achieving the ultimate work and personal lifestyle by cramming an unbelievable amount of activity into each and every day, to the super successful athletes that achieve great feats of physical and mental performance through an obsession with extreme levels of training… Sleep is rarely discussed. The narrative is usually about late nights and early mornings, endlessly achieving success in waking hours.

In general, the common line of thought has hugely undervalued the role that quality and quantity sleep plays in these successes, leaving us with the feeling that sleep is a waste of time, get the bare minimum, then get up early and spend a larger number of waking hours crushing your goals. It is only recently that the role of sleep in enhancing performance has been studied in detail. It turns out that sleep may well be the best performance enhancer there is. So, what can quality sleep do for your physical and mental performance?

Mental Performance

You’ve not slept well and now you’re at work and you just can’t concentrate. You can’t focus on what needs to be done. You put it down to a poor night’s sleep, and this is most likely the underlying cause. But why is that? Studies show that lack of sleep does indeed impair the concentration of attention and cognitive processing. This leads to decreases in accuracy and effectiveness when carrying out tasks.

When you are well rested, you are able to obtain consistent results on a consistent basis, day in, day out. However, even one poor night’s sleep can have a dramatic impact on concentration and performance, with accuracy of performance rapidly deteriorating over consecutive tasks. And the impact is dramatic. Overnight sleep deprivation can contribute to as much as a 20% to 32% increase in errors and up to 14% increase in the time taken to complete tasks. So, you are working slower and with greater inaccuracy. What a poor use of your time!

Other studies highlight further side effects of sleep deprivation; this includes speaking slowly, and monotonously and displaying rigid reasoning processes (and struggling with tasks requiring flexible thinking, innovation, and decision making). So, it’s not just a case of speed and accuracy. A lack of sleep also impairs your ability to think and act creatively.

You can drink as much coffee or energy drinks as you like, but the only real cure is consistent, quality sleep.

Physical Performance

Physical effects also become very apparent in the sleep deprived. You’ve probably all had that experience of wanting to go for a run, or play tennis, or play with your kids, but you just felt completely washed out and exhausted and not up for it. Maybe you push on and do it anyway, only to get frustrated at your lack of energy, poorer than usual coordination, and overall sub-par performance.

Testing has shown there is a noticeable increase in muscle tension in the sleep deprived - an attempt to stress the body and and mind into a state of focus. And believe it or not, this actually works to a certain degree, but only for so long. After 24 hours of sleep deprivation, muscle tension increases, leading to an over-stressing of the muscles and a noticeable disturbances of posture and postural control, which intensifies as levels of sleep deprivation increases. This may well be linked to the way in which sleep deprivation also disrupts your senses. When tired your body detects false perceptions of movements in the muscles involved in maintaining correct posture, which leads to a decrease in the ability to maintain balance. This is obviously a major issue for any person, or athlete, that relies on optimal physical wellbeing to perform at their best.

Other impacts include a noticeable reduction in perception. Sleep loss results in inaccurate image formation leading to dim vision, double vision, and tunnel vision. These effects increase as your level or tiredness increase.

Optimal Health and Wellbeing

As well as ensuring you are at your sharpest, both physically and mentally, sleep also has the power to boost your overall health and wellbeing. This covers a wide range of factors. For example, helping to regulate your hormones, weight, and immune system. This is no surprise, as sleep is the time when body and brain rest and repair, keeping all of your systems in balance and in perfect working order. Disrupting that routine, or not allowing enough time for rest and repair, is likely to have negative impacts.

On a hormonal level, studies have shown that sleep deprivation leads to a hormonal imbalances -This includes increased levels or noradrenaline and increased energy expenditure, leading to increased levels of stress in sleep deprived subjects.

Sleep deprived humans also show decreased levels of leptin, a hormone which suppresses hunger, and higher levels of ghrelin which has the opposite effect to leptin. This is suspected to be the underlying reason for a link between a lack of sleep and obesity. A lack of sleep increases the risk of gaining up to 5kg by 35%, and increases the risk of obesity by 27%, when compared to people that have optimal sleep patterns. It’s also worth noting that sleeping too much also increases the aforementioned risks by 25% and 21% respectively.

Finally, there is also some research into sleeps impact on your immune system and it’s ability to help fight off diseases. Just as finding the right levels of consistent quality and quantity of sleep can help optimise your mental and physical performance, so too can it help to keep your body’s internal processes in balance, in sync, and performing effectively and efficiently. Whilst the physical and mental performance elements may be more immediately obvious, what is going on inside your body is equally important.

So in summary, sleep is increasingly becoming recognised as an absolutely vital part of the health, wellbeing and performance mix - the ultimate performance enhancer across body, mind, and overall health. In the pursuit of improved performance, your first consideration should be your sleeping routine - Whether you’re a busy parent, stressed employee or elite athlete, there is arguably nothing better for improving your mental state, capacity and performance.

Need Help & Want to know more?

If you would like to know more about how you can sleep better, resolve stress, anxiety & depression and the wide range of associated negative thoughts, behaviours and physical symptoms - in as few as 3 sessions, visit