How much sleep do you actually get in a night? In a week? In a month? In a year? You likely get much less than you think and if it is consistently 6 hours or less a night you are clinically sleep deprived. All those healthy habits you’re trying to pick up, well it is all like “polishing brass on the Titanic”…without adequate sleep, nothing is going to counteract the damage the “iceberg”, a.k.a. sleep deprivation, does to your entire body and all of it’s functions.
It’s time to radically rethink the importance of sleep because the consequences are catastrophic…
“Exhaustion is a sign of chaos,
not a badge of honor.
Sleep is anything but a waste of time.”
A large percentage of people in modern societies believe that being over worked and lacking sleep is a badge of honor and they wear it with pride. This badge seems to be a signal to others that they are strong, able to push through and get the job done. Sleep equals lazy to them. They are the ones to be counted on to go the extra mile, a valuable asset to any team -or so they think…
This philosophy is especially present in the music touring world. A world that prides itself on having to persevere through extremely long hours with minimum sleep at night, often jet-lagged, with no sick days to be found, all while being constantly on the move. There is this sort of “sleep machismo” in our culture and the irony is that lack of sleep greatly lowers vitality, veracity, testosterone, muscle strength, cognitive abilities, immune system, fertility and overall performance. Just one hour of lost sleep in a night (6hrs) puts a person’s body in such a state equivalent to aging them relative to someone 10 years their senior!
“The elastic band of sleep deprivation will only stretch so far until it snaps.”
-Matthew Walker, Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, USA., author of Why We Sleep. He is also the founder and director of the Center for Human Sleep Science.
I bet you believe you can beat sleep by functioning on less than what the average person needs and be just fine. Well, I have bad news for you… The research, hundreds of thousands of studies in fact, ALL say you are indisputably wrong on every level. There are almost no exceptions to the rule. You have a better chance of being struck by lighting than being an outlier when it comes to the amount of sleep you need. Your lack of sleep escapades are causing damage that is not only shorting your life span but also lowering the quality of that shortened life span. Sleep is not lazy, that is a modern concept. According to Dr. Walker, and every single study on sleep ever done, all biological functions benefit from sleep. There is not a single organ in the body that is not effected by sleep.
→Sleep restocks the armory of our immune system. Just sleeping less than 6 hours in a night demolishes your immune system.
→Sleep deprivation contributes to all major psychiatric conditions.
→Sleep enriches a diversity of functions including all our brain’s systems. It also regulates our appetites and hormones such as insulin by controlling your blood sugar(or glucose).
Sleep is the preeminent force in our health, in fact sleep is the most glaring omission in the contemporary health conversation. It is a major source of unwanted weight gain and obesity amongst many other issues people struggle with such as chronic pain, depression and illness.
By working extremely long days and nights countering our bodies systems that developed from millions of years of evolution, the Music Touring Industry puts demands on people that are beyond their natural ability to fight off physiological and psychological damage. The levels of performance deterioration from sleep restriction are staggering and no one escapes it unscathed. All studies show individuals are objectively incapable of knowing just how sleep deprived they actually are when asked. Sixty years of research says you can not get by on just 4-5 hours of sleep a night and function without significant performance impairment. You will be in a low-level of alertness and a have a significant reduction in energy levels. This is a catastrophic health crisis, make no mistake! There is no way to be too hyperbolic about the effects of sleep deprivation on your psychological and physiological biology.
Sleep is a biological imperative regardless of what your beliefs are about it. The vital importance of sleep can not be overstated. Hopefully you have some pre-bed (bunk) sleep and post-sleep rituals, systems or gadgets to help get ready and optimize good quality sleep, especially on tour. You need a plan! If you don’t, you 100% should and here’s all the reasons why…
“Sleep is a fundamental
and a non-negotiable human need”
The High Cost of Restricted Sleep.
You can’t short change sleep stages, it is an evolutionary necessity…
Not getting enough sleep can actually kill you. The incidence of death goes up by 15% when we get fewer than 5 hours of sleep a night. Short sleep has been shown to predict or cause mortality, in other words the shorter your sleep – the shorter your life expectancy. Not only that but you can expect a lower quality of life in that shortened span.
Sleep, or lack there of, has a profound effect on your health, well-being, resilience and over all functions. Many will argue that sleep is great, but on tour sleep is rarely given priority or is very difficult to get due to the mere nature of touring. To throw some perspective on that, getting only 4 hours of sleep in just one night results in a 70% reduction in vital immune cells resulting in an immune deficiency in fighting potential cancer cells.
Unhealthy Sleep, Unhealthy Heart.
The effect of sleep deprivation on your cardiovascular system alone is as significant an attack on your heart as any other negtive factor, including smoking. In 2011 a study of half a million men and women across 8 different countries progressively given shorter sleep showed a 45% increased risk of developing and/or dying from cardiovascular disease within 7 to 25 years from the start of the study. In turn as we age the impact of insufficient sleep escalates. Adults 45 years and older who sleep fewer than 6 hours a night are 200% more likely to have a stroke or heart attack in their lifetimes compared to those sleeping 8 hours a night. Just a little sleep loss pumps up the veins in your entire body, stretching and distressing the vessel walls from the increase in blood pressure that comes from sleep deprivation. Hypertension kills more than 7 million people a year.
Just one night of modest sleep reduction, 1 to 2 hours, will speed the contraction rate of a persons heart and significantly increase a persons blood pressure hour per hour even in a young, fit and healthy individual. Physical fitness is no match for a poor nights sleep, It affords no resistance. A study of over 500 healthy mid-life adults, none of whom had any existing heart disease, had tracked the health of their coronary arteries for a number of years while also assessing their sleep. Those sleeping 5-6 hours a night where 300%-700% more likely to suffer calcification of their coronary arteries over the next 5 years as compared to those who sleep 7 to 8 hours a night.
Sleep restriction has a profound effect on your sympathetic nervous system heightening your fight or fight response, releasing the stress hormone cortisol. Sustained sleep restriction of a few weeks or more can leave it stuck in the ON position leading to an overactive sympathetic nervous system, since sufficient sleep is needed in order to calm this response. It can stay ON like this for years in those with excessive work hours limiting sleep and/or its quality. This Hyperarousal of the nervous system becomes chronic when it is supposed to be temporary- Feeling “Tired Yet Wired.”
By now you can see how this significantly relates to touring. That adrenal rush we all talk about at showtime. That is on top of an already jacked up system if you’re not sleeping enough, compounded by jet lag. You bring this home with you as well, even if it is in a slightly lowered state. If you are sleep deprived weeks on end it does not turn around quickly. Being in this state also shuts down the production of growth hormones which repair your body while you sleep. The damage you are doing on a daily basis is simply not being repaired without enough sleep. Not to mention your immune system is devastated- hence why you might get sick just when you get home or more likely at the end of the tour. The flight home and/or contact with different people and environments while being in this state of sleep deprivation puts you at an 70-85% higher risk of catching a cold or virus such as the flu, even with a flu shot, over that of a person who gets 7 hours of sleep or more a night
Stomach problems? Food intolerances?
Being in a constant state fight or flight releases cortisol in the body which cultivates bad bacteria in the gut. Insufficient sleep will prevent meaningful absorption and cause gastrointestinal intestinal problems. Sleep makes your gut happier. Can’t stop yourself from eating the after show pizza or junk on the bus? You worked your ass off at load out, right? And put in a 16-18 hour day? You’ve burned more calories…You need more food!.. Wrong! Sleep deprivation’s effect on your metabolism is systemic. The simplest way to put it is, the less you sleep the more likely you are to eat more and eat worse foods. Sleep deprivation creates an insulin resistance. When your sleep is short Leptin is suppressed which tells you that you are full and Ghrelin is increased signaling you are still hungery despite just finishing a full meal. Studies where conducted and found that only getting 4-5hr of sleep for just 2 days lead to a 30% increase in hunger, no satisfaction from food and loss of appetite control in just one week. “A sleep deprived body will cry famine in the mist of plenty.” Dr. Eve Van Cauter from the University of Chicago. Some may still argue we eat more cause we burn more calories, since we are up later and working longer. At the extreme one will only burn 100 calories more from wakefulness. Sleep is intensely metabolic.
But what about the load out?! Well, to put this into perspective, let’s do the math. We will use an intense exercise like jumping rope or maybe burpees. You will burn an average of 12-15 calories a minute every minute if you can maintain moderate to high intensity performing either exercise mentioned. That means you burn around 120-150 calories in 10 minutes. One slice of Dominos pizza is around 300 calories or just one gummy bear is around 8 calories. You will quickly undo any extra calories burned exercising or “loading out” by eating these foods in one serving or more. In short, not getting enough sleep will increase hunger and appetite, compromise impulse control in the brain, increase food consumption, decrease food satisfaction and prevent effective weight loss by prioritizing fat storage over lean muscle mass. In other words a sleep deprived body will use muscle for fuel to preserve fat.
Sleep deprived people make more mistakes!
Most people are chronically sleep deprived. If you get less than 6 hours of sleep a night, you are sleep deprived. This means that 1 out of every 2 American adults is sleep deprived. The percentage of people who can survive on 6hrs of sleep or less without impairment rounded to a whole percentage is exactly… 0%. Again, objectively you rarely recognize when you are sleep deprived.
Sleep deprivation can manifest as bouts of anger and despair mixed with some euphoria but ultimately leads to a loss of self-awareness. Sound familiar? MAHTC! (Moody As Hell Touring Crew) It doesn’t seem dangerous to ourselves but studies show sleep-deprivation is quite harmful. The U.S. military became interested in sleep-deprivation research to see if soldiers could be trained to function in sustained warfare with very little sleep. The original study seemed to say yes but when put in a lab and observed it showed that performance suffered. The less sleep, the more deficits they suffered- but the soldiers couldn’t tell personally as they would insist they were fine. The ability to do useful mental work declines by 25 percent for every successive 24 hours that an individual is awake.
Objective impairment starts at less than 6hrs of sleep.
The medical Industry has a crisis as well. Doctors on average spend only 2 hours on sleep education in their medical curriculum. When sleep is a 3rd of their patients lives, this is insufficient to say the least. Paradoxically it’s been observed that junior residents working 30hr shifts are 460% more likely to make diagnostic errors in the intensive care unit relative to when they’re working 16 hours. So when you are going to get elective surgery ask your surgeon how much sleep they’ve had in the past 24 hours. If they had 6 hours of sleep or less you have a 170% increase of a major surgical error such as organ damage or hemorrhaging relative to a well rested surgeon. 1 in 5 medical residents will make a serious medical mistake due to sleep deprivation. 1 in 20 will kill a patient do to a fatigue related error.
The Centers for Disease Control and prevention in the US (CDC) has now declared insufficient sleep to be a public health problem. Insufficient sleep causes many chronic and acute medical conditions that have an enormous impact on quality of life. The belief that sleep is the easiest corner to cut is what makes sleep disturbance among the most common sources of health problems in many countries.
This overworked under-slept mentality is counter-intuitive to success since you are less productive with less sleep. Also since your prefrontal cortex is first to shut off when sleep deprived. The PFC is your rational, logical governor of executive brain functions. This is the last part of you brain to mature therefore reducing you literally to a lower maturity level and risk assessment reduction. Your amygdala, the emotional control center of the brain, is therefore unchecked and you will experience large mood swings along with a significant reduction in cognitive efficiency and physical capabilities. It is much less beneficial to bleed people to get more out of them by over working them when they could get more done in less time with more breaks and sufficient rest. Tours and touring related companies should be investing in the well-being of their crews in order to lessen the stressful, toxic environments and high possibility of accident or injury that can occur in the industry of touring. Happier well-rested people are more productive, are able to have more creative solutions, overall more efficient and have a much higher ability to act in a safety consciousness manner. In other words, they are all around their better selves. Sleeping over 7 hours a night has shown to improve performance and skill learning up to 20-30% as sleep is when memory is solidified and retained.
To top all of this off we work in a chronically jet-lag industry as we have written about already. Chronic jet lag alters the brain in ways that cause memory and learning problems long after one’s return to a regular 24-hour schedule. It has been shown to shrink the hippocampus,the part of the brain associated with short-term and long-term memory. In a study by UC Berkeley this has been shown,
“This is the first time anyone has done a controlled trial of the effects of jet lag on brain and memory function, and not only do we find that cognitive function is impaired during the jet lag, but we see an impact up to a month afterward”….”What this says is that, whether you are a flight attendant, medical resident, or rotating shift worker, repeated disruption of circadian rhythms is likely going to have a long-term impact on your cognitive behavior and function.”
-Lance Kriegsfeld, UC Berkeley associate professor of psychology and a member of the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute.
This is further reinforced by another study about jet lag published in PLoS ONE by Kriegsfeld graduate student Erin M. Gibson and colleagues, “Other studies have shown that chronic transmeridian flights increase deficits in memory and learning along with atrophy in the brain’s temporal lobe, suggesting a possible hippocampal deficit… Our study shows directly that jet lag decreases neurogenesis in the hippocampus. For air travelers, jet lag is a minor annoyance from which most recover within a few days, perhaps with the help of a melatonin pill. For people who repeatedly cross time zones, such as flight attendants, the effects have been shown to be more serious. Flight attendants and rotating shift workers – people who regularly alternate between day and night shifts – have been found to have learning and memory problems, decreased reaction times, higher incidences of diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, cancer and reduced fertility. The World Health Organization lists shift work as a carcinogen.”
-Robert Sanders, Media Relations for UC Berkley.
This is bad news for those of us who continuously tour around the globe and we all need to be aware of the effect it has on every single one of us. If you are truly concerned about your mental and physical health then sleep is one of the most actionable places to start. It is at the top of all health markers.
REASONS FOR LACKING SLEEP
We are a dark deprived society. Human beings are the only animals that deprive themselves of sleep aside from animals in the grips of starvation. Repercussions of the Industrial Revolution and the advent of artificial light have turned us into a working yourself to death species. Creating unsustainable work environments with far too much exposure to artificial light, all of us dancing in perpetual light pollution, when it is supposed to be dark.
Sleep debt. Sleep is not like the bank. You can’t accumulate debt and hope to pay it off on the weekend. There is no credit system in the brain for sleep. Three nights of what you might call “recuperative sleep” is still insufficient to restore sleep after a week of sleep deprivation. According to Harvard Health Publishing “Medical evidence suggests that for optimum health and function, the average adult should get seven to nine hours of sleep daily. Although each hour of lost slumber goes into the health debit column, we don’t get any monthly reminders that we’ve fallen in arrears. In fact, the greater the sleep debt, the less capable we are of recognizing it: Once sleep deprivation — with its fuzzy-headedness, irritability, and fatigue — has us in its sway, we can hardly recall what it’s like to be fully rested. And as the sleep debt mounts, the health consequences increase, putting us at growing risk for weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and memory loss.”
There is no safety net in the brain for lack of sleep. Days, weeks, months and years of inadequate or restricted sleep will result in a baseline rest. Individuals will acclimate to their impaired performance, low alertness and reduced energy level. This low-level exhaustion will become their excepted norm including a slow accumulation of ill-health. Sleep is the foundation of good health. There is no known effective counter measure to not get enough sleep. You can not have “good” mental or physical health without sufficient sleep. Insufficient sleep will distort your DNA if receiving only 6 hours in a night. 20 hrs of being awake is equal to being drunk, in fact it can be worse due to a thing called Microsleep. Microsleep is a fleeting, uncontrollable, brief episode of sleep which can last anywhere from a single fraction of a second up to 10 full seconds. These episodes of microsleep occur most frequently when a sleepy person is trying to fight sleep and remain awake. In other words, the brain uncontrollably goes to sleep for seconds at a time and can have devastating consequence especially whilst driving or operating machinery.
-Matthew Walker, author of Why We Sleep
Understanding Sleep – The Science
Circadian rhythm or “Body Clock” as explained by the National Sleep Foundation –
“If you’ve ever noticed that you tend to feel energized and drowsy around the same times every day, you have your circadian rhythm to thank. What is it, exactly? Your circadian rhythm is basically a 24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of your brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. It’s also known as your sleep/wake cycle.”
Sleep occurs in repeating periods, in which the body alternates between two distinct modes known as non-REM and REM sleep.
During sleep, most of the body’s systems are in an anabolic state, helping to restore the immune, nervous, skeletal, and muscular systems. These are vital processes that maintain mood, memory, and cognitive performance and play a large role in the function of the endocrine and immune systems. The advent of artificial light has substantially altered sleep timing in industrial countries. Researchers have found that sleeping 6-7 hours each night correlates with longevity and cardiac health in humans.
Sleep difficulties are furthermore associated with psychiatric disorders such as depression, alcoholism, and bipolar disorder. Up to 90% of adults with depression are found to have sleep difficulties. Sleep cleans out the toxic junk in your brain!
The Sleep cycle
There are four stages to the sleep cycle, each full cycle takes 90 minutes to complete. We go through five rotations during 7.5 hrs.
→Stage 1 (Non REM transition to sleep)
– Easily awakened
– Muscles relax, may twitch
– Slow eye movements
→Stage 2 (Non REM Light sleep)
– Breathing, Heart rate regular
– Body temp drops
– Lose sense of place
– Slower brain waves
– Eye movement stops
→Stage 3 (Non REM Deep Sleep)
– Blood pressure drops
– Muscles relax
– Tissue grows and repairs
– Energy is restored
– Hormones are released
– Even slower brain waves
→Stage 4 ( REM)
– Brain is active dreaming
– Eyes dart rapidly
– Muscles are paralyzed
– Irregular breathing/heart rate
→Return to Stage 1
How to adjust your sleep to the demands of your life.
Have you ever had to get up at 3:30 am for 6 am flight and you actually felt refreshed? In turn have you ever slept 10 hours or more and still felt tired, groggy and in a crappy mood? Why is this? Doesn’t more sleep equal well-rested and less sleep equal exhausted? Not exactly…
Your sleep time is flexible. Look at sleep in terms of cycles not hours! How many 90 minute cycles do you need a night to feel your best? How many is that per week? That is your target number. This allows you to take control even if life/tour schedule gets in the way. So you miss your optimal 5 cycles and only get 3 or 4. Figure out were you can compensate for them so that by the end of the week you are as close to your 35 cycles as possible. NAPS are one of your tools here to make your cycles! Try to avoid 3 nights of fewer cycles a week. Aim to achieve your ideal amount at least 4 times per week. This is a 24 hr recovery process now! Be in control of your recovery.
→Pre-rig your sleep schedule for the week.
→At least 4 nights in a week of ideal cycles.
→Change 5 cycles to 4 or 4 up to 6.
→Follow at least two nights of less sleep by an ideal one.
Quality vs. Quantity – A new way to look at sleep. Sleep smarter.
Unlock Your Time! The goal should be focused on the quality of sleep not the quantity. You might need less sleep than you think. A good nights sleep is about getting enough sleep hours in well-balanced sleep phases. It’s not just the hours of sleep but which sleep cycle you wake up from. The quality of sleep not the quantity has quite an impact on how you feel the next day. Sleep is about recovery. While asleep we wash away the toxins of the day.
5 cycles a day/ 35 cycles a week! 12-7:30 am is the most optimal time frame, if you can do it!
“Five 90-minute sleep cycles a day is optimal, no matter what order they are in. Catching up on sleep is a waste of time. Once it’s lost its gone!”
Since sleep cycles repeat every 90 minutes, if you wake up in the middle you will feel groggy for the rest of the day. Waking up before a new cycle begins will leave you feeling refreshed. Be intentional about how much you sleep to get complete cycles. Wake time 90 minutes before you need to be anywhere.
“Wakefulness is low-level brain damage and sleep is how we recover from it.”
-Dr. Matthew Walker
Sure fire tactics – Check list –
→Keep track of your sleep through out the week in cycles.
→Keep a constant wake time.
→Optimized sleep hour cycle times are as follows – 3hrs, 4 1/2 hrs, 6 hrs, 7 1/2 hrs. and 9 hrs. When sleep is limited waking in these increments is your best option depending on the time you need to be up. Wake up at the peak of one of these cycles rather than in the middle or in between. In other words if you have to be up in four hours, wake in three to get at least two complete 90 min cycles. Do this so as to not force yourself to wake while in a deep sleep.
→Breath right nose breathing strips or other devices to avoid mouth breathing and snoring (this itself is a game changer in the sleep quality game!).
→Ear plugs and Face mask to reduce noise and light exposure which can both interrupt sleep.
→Caffeine – limit 400mg a day/ as a performance enhancer not to just perform. (Caffeine increases adrenaline levels in the blood.) Avoid caffiene at least 6 hrs before bedtime.
→Best Sleep position – is to sleep on your Non domain side – this is a defense position to feel secure while you sleep as you are the most vunerable during this process.
→Back = snore/state of alert – not as good.
→Front= bad spine position – not as good.
→Dark room – Blackout curtains. Hide digital clocks and glowing electronics from view, the darker the room the better.
→White noise – can help mask disruptive activity from inside and outside your sleep environments.
→Light Therapy – for jet lag, depression and long hours indoors during the day. Bright light exposure is the most powerful way to cause a phase shift — an advance or delay in circadian rhythms.
→Limit screen use – Limit technologies at key times such as 90 minutes before attempting to sleep as it suppresses the production of melatonin. Melatonin tells your body that it is night, helping to make you sleepy.
→Meditation – has been shown to evoke the relaxation response.
→A low profile pillow – Consider carrying one on tour with you to be sure to always keep your head and neck in a safe neutral position. Helping to avoid any unnecessary strain or stress on the spine which can lead to neck pain, stiffness or other physical discomfort or body imbalances that can develop from poor sleep alignment. Your spine, neck and head should form a single straight line when in your optimal sleep position. Fold up a blanket if your hotel pillows are too thick.
→Optimal room temp – (15c) 59F – 64F (18c). Lowering your body temperature cues the onset of sleep and can help maintain a more sound sleep throughout the night.
→ Journaling – Unload problems or issues before bed (write them down). This relieves your brain of the worry and stress brought on by any problems unsolved during the daytime.
→Hot bath with Epsom salts – before sleep can relax muscle tensions.
→Drink tea – caffeine free (decaf is not the same.) This can produce a calming effect on the mind and body. Reishi mushroom has been used to help enhance the immune system, reduce stress, improve sleep, and lessen fatigue.
→Light static stretching – to aid relaxation and muscle recovery.
→Exercise – Strength training beats cardio – releases endorphins to increase wakefulness and later increased better quality sleep. It may also aid in resetting circadian rhythms due to its effect on body temperature.
→Eat a balanced diet.
→Take Melatonin pills – before sleep if having difficulty falling asleep or when jet lagged. Make sure to stick to taking the appropriate dose.
→ tart cherry juice is a natural source of Melatonin.
→Be as consistent as possible. Your body cannot adjust quickly to different sleep schedules.
→Nap right or don’t nap at all…
→Nap for less than 30 mins or take an hour and a half between 1-3pm to maximize REM sleep. After 4pm you will go into long cycle creating the “zombie effect” when you wake.
→Your body cannot adjust quickly to different sleep schedules. Hence why jet lag is such a drag.
→1 hr of screen time at night equals a 3hr delay in melatonin release.
→60% increase of possible injuries.
→You suffer 30% more physical exhaustion from lack of sleep
→There is a 25% increase in heart attacks during day light savings when there is only a 1 hr loss of sleep each year.
→Hotels put us in threat detection sleep, preventing half our brains from getting into deep sleep.
→Drugs which induce sleep can interfere with REM sleep by blocking Stage 4 (REM stage) in the sleep cycle.
There should be more consideration for the potential of negative health consequences, mental and physical, when it comes to being paid to work extremely long hours. The World Touring Industry on a whole should really take a hard and honest look at what they are asking crews to do when they deprive them of adequate time for meaningful sleep.
Putting sleep on the top of your list is going to change your life!!!