What is the most important nootropic there? What kind of supplement can you take with the greatest impact on your concentration, memory and focus? The answer: it is not a pill, it is sleep. In this article I write about sleep. Why is your sleep so important? How can you improve your sleep?
The importance of sleep
A good night of sleep is important for the recovery and improvement of various cognitive functions, such as memory, regulating emotions, decision-making and creativity. Perhaps you recognize this: if I have slept badly for one night, I can concentrate less well, I am more susceptible to negative thoughts and I my decision making suffers.
For a long time, it was unclear to scientists how sleep exactly worked and why we sleep relatively long in comparison to some animals. In 2016 there was a major breakthrough. Researchers found that during your sleep your brain is being cleaned. What's happening is amazing: your brain shrinks to make room for a lymphatic system. To be more specific: the space between brain cells increases, allowing the lymphatic system to push out the waste products.
Chi Chiu (Chivo) made a nice comparison when I interviewed him for my podcast: "The lymphatic system can be considered as your sewerage service." That system carries out neurotoxins. For a long time it was thought that the brain cleaned itself from their harmful substances. Maikel Nedergaard of Rochester University and his colleagues found that the brain cells temporarily make room for the lymphatic system to remove the waste.
Removal of the waste prevents the development of brain diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease. This whole process takes between 6 and 8 hours, exactly when you sleep. So a good night of sleep helps not only in the short term with your memory and concentration, but is also a strategy for your health to reduce the risk of developing these brain diseases in the long run.
Some world leaders and entrepreneurs claim to need little sleep. For example, Bill Clinton, former president of the United States, said he needed only 5 to 6 hours a night. Current President Donald Trump claims he sleeps 4 hours a night and designer Tom Ford says he's having enough sleep time. with 3 hours. Statistically speaking, 1 to 3% of people are able to sleep with a couple of hours of sleep a day.
On the other side of the spectrum are Jeff Bezos (Amazon CEO) and Bill Gates (founder of Microsoft). They sleep to 8 and 7 hours a night respectively.
Sleep is also becoming more prominent in coaching leaders and managers. Tara Swart works at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and specializes in brain research. She coaches entrepreneurs and CEOs, emphasizing good food, enough movement during the day and sleeping well. A practical tip she gives her clients is not to sleep next to their smartphone. The radiation of the wifi and the mobile network has a negative impact on sleep quality.
You can measure the quality of your sleep yourself. There are advanced sensors for sale, but you can also start with your smartphone to measure your sleep. For example, I have used the Sleep Cycle app for a long time. The app records how long you sleep and gives an indication of how well the quality of your night's rest is. To do this, the app interpretes your sleep cycles.
If you sleep for a regular night, you go through various sleep cycles. A sleep cycle consists of a phase of mild sleep, a deep sleep phase and the REM phase. An average average of 5 of these cycles per night. A cycle takes about 90 minutes. For your recovery, it is especially important to maximize the time of deep sleep.
Playing with cycles
If you have insight into your sleep cycle, you can alter and play with this knowledge. Sleep experts advise to always think in sleep cycles. For example, if you have only 5 hours to sleep for a night, they advise to set the alarm after 4.5 hours. These are 3 cycles of 90 minutes. Then try to sleep for 1 or 2 cycles during the day.
If you have the notion that you had a bad night of sleep, going for a cat-nap might be the most important tip. In my podcast I was talking with Chi Chiu (Chivo). He indicated that naps are the most effective means for more energy, both physically and mentally.
When I work at home, I try to apply this. I prefer to do it after lunch. I usually do this for 20 minutes, so I am trying not to get into a full sleep cycle. After 20 minutes I feel fresh and energetic again.
But what if you're at work? Then it's not so easy to sleep? During my time at University I worked at an online marketing agency. A colleague, Raymond, had a practical tip for that. He placed his elbows on the table and rested his head on his knuckles. In one of his hands he had clamped his keys. When he started to drift into sleep, the keys fell out of his hands and he woke up.
And yes, his colleagues knew he did this and everyone thought that was fine.
A biohack are caffeine naps. It works like this: you drink a cup of coffee and then you sleep for 20 minutes. When you wake up, you have the effect of sleeping and at that point the caffeine adheres to the adenosine receptors in your brain.
You get the double effect, which gives you a lot of focus and mental energy.
You could achieve the same effect by swallowing nootropics, such as Paneuromix. Here you can play a little bit and experiment because the timing in which the nootropics are going to work for differs from person to person. Perhaps you can swallow it before you take a nap or take it immediately after waking up.
What is your strategy?
In one of the following articles I write tips for sleeping better. This is when you drink alcohol or coffee, what time you eat, but how active you are in the evening.How good is your sleep? Do you have cat-naps, maybe even with caffeine or nootropics?