Human Performance Toolkit: Sleep Strong, Perform Stronger

MFG's Head Of Sales & Performance, Pita Marroni shares the first in his series of articles on improving human performance - to kick things off he takes a look at the importance of quality sleep...

Sleep may seem like an odd place to start talking about performance.

I know it’s not a sexy subject and, believe me, I wasn’t seriously considering sleep as a performance factor to sell more cars and finance for the decades leading up to discovering how essential it is.  

However, quality sleep is a game changer in terms of your performance. 

As far back as 2002, The Neuron Journal published an article which provided clear evidence that a quality night of sleep resulted in a 20% increase in motor speed without loss of accuracy.

Presently, The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) states, sleep is essential for performance, health and wellbeing. Not getting enough quality or quantity of sleep can lead to:

  • lack of energy and fatigue
  • sugar cravings
  • energy crashes during the day
  • overeating and binging

Sound familiar?  If I’m being honest it describes most of the last 30 years of my career.

In the past I used a glass or two of beer, wine or over the counter sleep aids (or both) such as Advil Blue, containing sedating antihistamine to get to and stay asleep - convincing myself I was actually 'sleeping’.  

And it seems I wasn't alone. Some reports estimate a tripling in sleep aid prescriptions for young adults since the late 90s.

But was I actually asleep? Many studies show that whilst we are unconscious when taking these ‘sleep aids’ - including those prescribed by a doctor - we’re not actually sleeping.

We're in a state of coma or sedation which impairs the all-important transition through the various sleep cycles – wakefulness, light sleep, REM sleep and deep sleep.  

Only by achieving these important sleep cycles will we enjoy a genuinely refreshing sleep and awake ready to achieve high performance levels that will allow us to smash through our daily objectives in style. 

Quality sleep - the secrets

Things changed almost overnight for me once I discovered the secrets of quality sleep and a few other performance hacks. So, how can we improve our sleep?

My top tips include:

  1. Stop drinking caffeine by 2:00 p.m. each day - or at least 8 hours prior to bedtime (earlier if you’re sensitive to it).  Switch to decaf as caffeine isn’t a sleep aid.
  2. Don’t exercise within 2 hours of bedtime, unless it’s relaxing like a gentle walk.  I know this isn’t always easy when you're working dealership hours but just try it for a week and monitor the difference.
  3. The same goes for eating - don’t eat within 2 hours of bedtime, especially large meals.
  4. Start winding down at least two hours before bed. Turn down bright lighting at night and eliminate or dim computer screens, TVs and devices. Use the night setting on your device if you need it and even better use blue light blocking glasses to assist with your body’s natural production of the sleep hormone melatonin.
  5. Go to bed by 11:00 p.m. latest when possible because your body creates a cortisol surge after 11 p.m. to keep you awake.
  6. Try and keep regular sleep and wake times throughout the week - including even the rare day off - to prevent  social jet lag.
  7. Get as much daylight as possible through the day. Just a few minutes on your eyes and skin at morning, noon and evening can really assist set your body clock or circadian rhythm. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work if you’re inside the dealership as the beneficial UVB spectrum can’t penetrate glass so step outside at least twice a day, throughout the day - walk around the car park, do a stock check, you’re still being productive!
  8. Finally, sleep in a pitch-black room. Make it as dark as you can.  Block all light sources, whether it’s a curtain or just pinning up fabric as needed.  If you live in a city, you need blackout curtains that don’t allow in any light. Cover LEDs with black electrical tape and put mobiles onto airplane mode.
  9. Monitor and record your sleep quality using a tracking device. See what works for you. I’ve tried a few and have settled on Oura ring but fitbit and other devices work well too. Just try and put on airplane mode if you can, especially when sleeping.

So that’s it, there are many other things you could do which will add further benefit to your sleep but I’ve given you what I believe to be the most powerful Sleep Performance Hacks for most people.  

Further Reading

Here are some additional reading links below if you want to take things further:

The Power of When – Dr Michael Breus - Find on Amazon 
Good Night – Dr Michael Breus - Find on Amazon
Sleep Smarter – Shawn Stevenson - Find on Amazon
 

If you have any questions or feedback on what you read - or would like to find out more about the many ways MFG can help you transform dealership performance - please don't hesitate to contact me direct using pita.marroni@mfg-group.co.uk