The evolutionary development that we as humans have gone through in the last few thousand years is remarkable. Not only have we managed to conquer space, we've built devices that put all the libraries in the world in our pockets. But everyday things are actually much more exciting.
Electric light , running water and heating offer us well - being , basic security and a certain luxury .
This luxury has now become a habit for us and it is impossible to imagine everyday life without it. It also gives us the opportunity to work late in the evening in front of the laptop or to treat ourselves to a series marathon late into the night.
But there is more or less an evil hidden here: Thanks to these impressive technical developments, we can actually turn night into day.
For many, this means going into a kind of “ jet lag ”. The result: they live far from their personal ability to perform.
To understand this better, let's go back in time a little. A few millennia at best.
There are no sockets in caves
There was a time when we hunted solely for the sustenance of our kin (and not for fun). A time when cold, heat, wild animals and minor injuries were still serious problems. We have lived in caves and felt warm, nourished and safe around campfires. Well, that time is (we are glad) long gone and we only need to push a button for a warm living room.
But in the Stone Age , to which I am alluding here, there was only one important element for us to orientate ourselves on. No, no alarm clock, no smartphone and no time clock . it was the sun And of course the moon. Because these two planets and their daily change were the decisive pacesetter of our everyday life. However, even today they determine not only our rhythm, but the biological rhythm of almost all living beings on earth.
Without being woken up by the smartphone alarm clock - in a natural way. In the shelter of daylight , it was of course much safer to live in the wild. Even if this is no longer an argument today, from a scientific point of view there are many reasons why these developments to modern people sometimes also have serious disadvantages.
How we and our cells tick
In fact, biologically speaking, our body hasn't changed that much in the last few thousand years. We are still heavily dependent on the sun and its light. This is called the “circadian rhythm” or more simply “our biological clock”.
A lot of small clocks are ticking in our body, which dictate when which task has to be done. And there are almost ideal times for many tasks in our everyday life!
For example, the production of our sleep hormone melatonin in our brain between 6 and 8 a.m. is so low that the antagonist cortisol can easily wake us up. But only if we went to bed on time. According to science, the ideal time for this is around 10 p.m. - when the sun has set even in the most remote corner of the world (except for the northern lights).
At this time, our melatonin production is at its peak - unless we have torpedoed it with external influences, i.e. when we artificially extend the sunlight and stare into our laptop, smartphone or television late into the night. Or, like many, use everything at the same time.
The sun in the living room
Is it that bad? Now the problem is that these devices use a similar spectrum of light as the sun - the blue light .
This blue light shuts down our evening melatonin production. This makes it difficult for us to fall asleep. It takes up to two hours from the last look at the screen to the peak of the production of the sleep hormone. The body takes longer than expected to calm down again. Thus, our evening entertainment has a serious impact on our sleep quality.
Unfortunately, this also applies to LED lamps, which produce a similar light spectrum. In a harsh comparison, at the other end of the light spectrum is the candle, which offers a warm, pleasant and almost sleep-inducing light.
But yes, working by candlelight sounds challenging. But there are alternatives, but more on that later.
Of owls and larks
Of course we have to take into account that there are night owls and early risers among us. So people who like to work until midnight, go to bed very late and sleep late. On the other hand, there are those who prepare for bed at 9:00 p.m. and usually wake up before 5:00 a.m.
Unfortunately, this is not taken into account in our modern working world . It means that not everyone can be at their best at the same time.
The "owl type" only gets going around noon, but has to be in the office by 8:00 a.m. The "lark type", on the other hand, is fully resilient early in the morning and is already thinking about going home in the afternoon, but may have to stay at work until 5 p.m. or later.
More flexible time models are therefore certainly the future in our working world.
Interestingly, most people are genetically “normal” people.
The “normal riser” goes to bed between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. and gets up between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m.
But many people do not behave according to their natural type and, for example, turn night into day.
It's easy to do with artificial light and Netflix, but let's not forget that we can only change our genetic type very slightly. As a result, many people who go to bed late for years have performance deficits in everyday life.
According to studies, sleep is the most important activity for recovery, it is directly performance-enhancing and fundamentally important for our health.
From high-speed everyday life, non-stop cities and other extremes
Why is New York also called the city that never sleeps?
Because it really is! Numerous places in the world have a 24-hour cycle.
For example Las Vegas: Shops, casinos, flashing neon signs, parties and stressful traffic - all 24/7. Of course, for the people who live there or have adopted this lifestyle, this means living in an artificial rhythm. This can have far-reaching health consequences.
Shift work is a scientifically very well researched topic. In women in particular, this severely impaired biological rhythm can lead to cancer over the years.
In Scandinavia, the government even paid out damages to affected medical staff.
We are diurnal creatures and function best in sunlight.
But we all sleep quite well, don't we?
It's amazing how little attention is paid to the subject of sleep in the healthcare industry, vitality coaching or, for example, in the medical field.
The study "How does Austria sleep" from 2019 shows a clear picture of the sleep quality of Austrians.
Almost 1,000 participants were surveyed and the study authors came to the following conclusions:
- 45.85% say they suffer from general sleep problems
- 40% sleep badly to very badly
- 50.44% suffer from problems falling asleep
- 52.65% wake up too early in the morning
- 70.35% struggle with sleeping through the night
57% of the study participants give “excessive stress” as the reason! These are unbelievable numbers, which also reflect the state of health in our society. But also give us an important signal! We no longer live “appropriately”! Unfortunately, stress and a shifted bio-rhythm lead to such results.
The negative effects of not getting enough sleep
Thousands of studies show the complex negative effects of too little or bad sleep!
- Accelerated skin aging
- Decreased detoxification capacity of the brain (takes place during sleep)
- Reduced cognitive performance
- Disturbed immune function and thus greater susceptibility to infections
- Increased risk of obesity and high blood pressure
- Increased stress hormone release and thus restlessness
- Increased appetite and thereby weight gain
And in competitive sports?
There are also many reasons to optimize sleep in competitive sports!
A study of tennis players shows that increasing the amount of sleep by just about an hour can increase serve accuracy by more than 14%.
A similar intervention increased shot success by over 9%, according to a study of basketball players. Those are incredible numbers!
How long do competitive athletes actually sleep?
More than eight hours of sleep is quite normal for the "best of the best". Around ten hours of sleep is now considered ideal in sleep research.
We, who are not in competitive sports, can also take an example here. A personally optimal performance level is only possible with sufficient and healthy sleep. It doesn't matter whether you're a soccer player, top manager or pilot: sleep is incredibly important for performance development.
How can you support your biological rhythm
We now know that good sleep can support our health and performance immensely and is essential for high performance. Now the big question is what can we do to take advantage of it.
Of course, I also have a few tips and tricks for you on how to support your natural rhythm and thus optimize your sleep.
Tip 1 in the morning – go with the sun!
In order to be able to fall asleep well, a natural start to the day is very important. As already mentioned, so-called gene clocks tick in our body. One of them has the task of making you tired after the first sun contact, after fifteen hours - regardless of when you get up.
For example, if you get up at seven o'clock, please let the light into the room immediately, open the window and look into the morning daylight for 1-2 minutes. Then your body clock starts ticking and about fifteen hours later, around 10:00 p.m., your melatonin production is in full swing. The same applies in winter, but you should definitely support this with artificial light.
Tip 2 during the day - keep moving!
We humans are evolutionarily used to movement and our body has not forgotten this. In order to function well, it needs to be exercised every day. Exercise and sports are not only healthy for our metabolism and our musculoskeletal system, they are also an important contribution to our sleep hygiene. According to studies, sporty people sleep significantly better than inactive people.
From climbing the stairs at work, or a midday walk, to an intensive sports session in the gym: everything counts and supports our sleep.
A little every day instead of rarely and a lot is the motto!
Tip 3 in the evening – come to rest in time!
What we often lack in the morning is usually too much in the evening.
The last two hours before bed are essential. Try to reduce screen time and artificial light sources as much as possible.
As already mentioned, after the last look at a screen or a light source, your body needs up to two hours to produce enough sleep hormones.
So-called blue light glasses are helpful here. These glasses have a special glass that filters the blue light spectrum from smartphones and the like and protects your eyes.
You can get these glasses in various online shops.
Of course, these glasses are not carte blanche for the endless Netflix series craze.
Don't forget, the content of the movies and series you watch also affects your sleep. Short-tempered action and horror films or first-person shooters on the game console are not ideal before going to bed.
I hope I was able to give you an overview of how our sleep works and where you can start making improvements.
I wish you peaceful nights for optimal performance in everyday life!
Your performance optimizer & biohacker