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Should You Start Your Day At Five AM?

Should You Start Your Day At Five AM?

Should You Start Your Day At Five AM?

Short answer – NO!!!!!

Of course you want to know the reasons why I have proclaimed such an emphatic no, with no less that 5 exclamation marks after it. That’s because it’s a really, really, really bad idea, that’s why.

Now many of those who read this will have tried to get up early and commence their day in some kind of productive morning routine. I know I have. Set the alarm for 6, get outside in the dawn air for a bit of deep breathing and tai chi, followed by a bit of yoga, then start planning the day. Perhaps even a bit of replying to emails and that type of stuff.

You may have also read something by someone like former navy seal Jocko Willinck who recommends getting up at 4:30am. Really, on what basis? Because it teaches you self discipline? But where is Mr Willink’s qualification in sleep science? Well he doesn’t have one does he? So what he is saying is what is known as an OPINION.

Which is fine of course. Everyone has a right to an opinion. However, the problem is that especially in society these days there is a level of hero worship of a former navy seal and as such people are influenced by such views.

Not me. I tend to prefer to have what I do backed by what is known as SCIENCE.

Another thing you may have done, like I also have, is bit by bit try to whittle down the amount of sleep you have. Doing stuff like shaving off 15 minutes of sleep a week by setting your alarm 15 minutes earlier and earlier each week until you are bright eyed and bushy tailed on 6 hours sleep a night. This 6 hours sleep a night thing? Also a really, really, really bad idea.

So far I’ve told you that it’s a bad idea. Now let me explain why. A while back I was watching a Ted talk by a chap by the name of Matthew Walker, titled Sleep is your superpower.

At the time I remember thinking, no shit. As someone who has looked into the importance of sleep, I was shaking my head in disbelief at a society that has to get the approval of an authority figure before deciding it’s ok to sleep a reasonable amount each night.

Having worked for a disgusting, slave driving American corporation I can understand the pressures that cause people to deprive themselves of sleep. The corporation I worked for had a culture that was probably not unlike the culture of so many other slave driving American corporations. It was seen as a badge of courage to work on projects until 1am. The person (e.g. me) who went home at 5 and did his own thing with his own time was seen as a slacker.

American corporations have a tendency to think that because they pay you they own you. Yeah that’s not how it works with me pal.

Turns out I was right to insist on being treated like an actual human being and not a possession of a corporation – a human resource if you will. I have just finished a masterclass from none other than the aforementioned Matthew Walker and what he says about sleep is, quite ironically, eye opening. By the way, I said I like my ideas to be science guided. Turns out Matthew Walker is a professor of neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley, specialising in sleep research.

From the pdf file accompanying the masterclass come the following little gems about sleep.

Firstly, let’s address the idea that we came in on. The idea that you can just decide to just get up earlier and this would allow you to be productive. I have written about this before. You have a chronotype, an internal clock that determines when you naturally rise and go to bed. Broadly, we are either night owls or larks.

If you are a lark, sure. It may be normal for you to get up at 5 am. If you are not, it is not only long term impossible for you to do it, it is going to be seriously bad for your health. Yes.. health. That is the bottom line. Messing with your sleep messes with your health. But more on that later.

Let’s carry on with the idea of that you can whittle away the amount you sleep over time. This is emphatically rejected. You can’t train yourself to get by on less sleep. Apparently some people have a genetic variant that can allow them to get by on 4 to 6 hours of sleep. You may be one of those people. If so you are 1 in 4 million. If not, get back to bed. At 1 in 4 million you would be one of around 2,000 people in the world who have this genetic variant, so don’t think, yeah that’s me.

Finally, let’s look at the idea of working like you owe the boss money. A nice little factoid here. The estimated losses suffered in the US each year due to sleep deprivation is 411 billion dollars. Yes that’s billion with a “B”. That’s a lot of money. In addition to that it’s estimated that 1.2 million car accidents a year in the US are caused by a lack of sleep. In other words, far from making your owner more money, by being in a constantly sleep deprived state due to the extra hours you put, you actually cost them. All you have do know is convince them of this. A tall order, I know.

Now let’s discuss the health effects of sleep deprivation. Despite me being a sleep advocate, I wasn’t fully aware until after I watched Matthew Walker’s work how important sleep was for your health.

At times I’ve exercised obsessively, not too concerned about diet. Then about a decade ago, (coincidentally around the time I turned 40 and found the body wasn’t as forgiving to dietary indiscretion any more) I started researching about the importance of diet, thanks to a desire to manage an auto-immune condition I have.

Diet and exercise. The two keys to health. Or so I thought. Turns out I was completely wrong. There are 3 keys to health. Thing is, sleep is the foundation. If we look at health habits as a pyramid, we find that sleep forms the base, diet comes next and finally exercise.

When we are talking about the health consequences of lack of sleep, they are dire.The usual cocktail of bad health outcomes I see when I look at other important techniques for good health. Raised risk of alzheimers, cancer, stroke, heart problems, high blood pressure, et c.

As well as these general health issues, there are also problems with memory and learning, mood, depression and all round functioning of the brain.

Finally one other thing, that is near and dear to the heart of most men. Men who get 6 hours sleep or less have smaller testicles that men who sleep 8 hours or more. Testosterone production in men who sleep less than 6 hours a night is equivalent to that of a man 10 years older chronologically speaking.

Bottom line is, if you are someone for whom health is important, look to sleep first before anything else. This means that if you were for example starting your day with an early morning gym visit with idea if getting your fitness work done with and your day off to a good start, turns out that was not such a good idea after all. Getting up at 5:30 to get to the gym by 6:30, get your workout done by 7:30 and be at your desk by 8:30? Turns out you would actually be better off not exercising at all and sleeping in. All of your health strategy needs to be based around a good night’s sleep. From this all health begins.

So what if Benjamin Frankin said “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”? He said it in the 18th century. Twenty first century science says if you are not cut out for it, early rising will make you less healthy and stupider.

I’m sorry if this is bad news for you, but you needed to be told.

But how do I get all the stuff done? I hear you ask. Well, this website is called No Brain No Gain after all.. You need to learn how to focus more when you are doing tasks, you need to learn to delegate. You need to learn to look at what you need to do and ask, “Is this really necessary?” In short, you need to think. You need to learn to be more effective with the time you have.

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