Training is not for the meek. Standing in front of a room of participants for a defined length of time, attempting to impart valuable information or instructions, is not a job that the typical person would relish.
You do it all the time, and you do it well. One of the ways to ensure that you are at your best more often is to return to something you did so well as a toddler: sleep.
A cultural reality of at least the past several years is that an increasing number of adults are not getting the rest that they need on a recurring basis. The National Sleep Foundation discovered that nearly seven in 10 adults have “frequent sleep problems,” and two-thirds suffer from some type of insomnia at least one day out of seven. Such individuals arrive at work not merely groggy or little sluggish but exhibiting motor skills that make them seem as if they are in a stupor.
Oh! to Be Alert
In 1990, Time magazine dedicated an issue to what it called “Drowsy America.” One of the articles quoted the director of the Stanford University Center for Sleep Research, who said that most adults “no longer know” what it’s like “to be fully alert.” If that observation is still even half true, and there is strong reason to believe it’s completely true, as a society, we have entered an era in which a bad night’s sleep dogs us.
Many sleep experts say that if you’re only sleeping three or four hours on a given night for one day out of the week, you won’t have any long-term problems. You may feel bad the next day, but recovery is only one good night’s sleep away. Following one night of bad sleep, the next night, coax yourself into bed at an early hour, such as 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. Your body will thank you.
Eight hours of sleep per night, times seven nights, equals 56 hours. In the course of a given week, if you’re missing more than 10 hours of sleep, it’s time to make some decisions. If you’re under 46 hours, decide that you will return to the path of good sleep. Full recovery could take three or four weeks or more, but you’ll soon discover that your quest is more than worth it.
Science writer Kenneth Rose observed that each part of your body, and each bodily function, has its own timing. Heartbeats and even hiccups have their own rhythm. Breathing, speaking and other activities occur at a specific pace. When you sleep too little, you disrupt your internal cycles — cycles that the human body has been developing for eons.
In his book “The Body in Time,” Rose also writes that each of your bodily functions resets itself every 24 hours, which parallels the natural light cycle of the 24-hour day. Any alterations in the cycle for a prolonged period will harm to your psychology and physiology.
At critical times within this 24-hour cycle, including between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m., it’s vital to be sleeping. These times conform to your lowest level of alertness. Your highest levels of alertness are generally between 8:00 a.m. and noon and between 4:00 and 8:00 p.m.
On the Fly
On any given day, if you were short on sleep the night before, taking a brief walk can be helpful. In fact, any light exercise or stretching can help you perk up for an hour or more. Do not resort to widely touted energy drinks. They give you a burst for a while, but the letdown is not worth it. What’s more, your body becomes acclimated to them and will want them again and again.
Hydrating yourself with a glass of water works wonders. Indeed, water works better than coffee, tea or any other stimulant if you’re interested in a natural, long-term cure.
In the long run, getting good sleep tonight, tomorrow and the days that follow is the best bet for being alert in your next training session.