SS 233 – Sleep and Cognitive Impairment

Episode 233 Show Notes

Grant and Heavey discuss one of the five pillars of health – SLEEP, the lack of it, and why it’s so powerful! Check out whether the amount of sleep you’re getting each week might not be enough to make you as productive as you want to be.


[03:30] Government Study on Sunscreens


Grant found a medical journal that published a study on sunscreen. The Center for Drug Evaluation and Research is the new arm of the U.S. FDA. They looked at sunscreen as they’re trying to develop new guidelines and new labeling restrictions on sunscreen.


They specifically looked at chemicals in the sunscreen. There are four chemicals commonly used in sunscreens that they’re trying to investigate deeper. Previously, these chemicals were generally regarded as safe and effective. But they found that just by using these sunscreens topically, these chemicals were found in the bloodstream upon application. In fact, they stay in the body for 24 hours after all sunscreen use has ended. Alarmingly, they don’t know what effect this has on a person’s health.


[06:00] Seeing the Trends on Sunscreens


People weren’t using sunscreens nearly as much 10-15 years ago. People would only put it on once in a while to avoid getting sunburned. But nowadays with so many people trying to protect themselves, some people use sunscreen everyday or even twice a day. This exposes the body to a lot of these chemicals in ways that were never tested nor thought about back when they were coming out to the market since they were only used occasionally.


The more you put sunscreen on your body, the higher the level of these chemicals in your blood. And, it sticks around. They don’t know what happens to the kidney, liver, and all the other organs in your body when exposed to these chemicals so frequently over a long duration.


[08:15] Do You Lack Sleep?


Lack of sleep has been associated with increased inflammation, impaired focus, impaired insulin signaling, decreased testosterone production, poor cardiovascular health, poor immune function, inadequate hydration, and the list goes on.


Some researchers even believe that sleep deprivation in our culture is a primary contributor to the obesity epidemic. Heavey thinks that obesity is multifactorial, but sleep does stand to be a contributor.


[09:05] Sleep Deficit: The Performance Killer?


In the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown, he mentioned a Harvard Business Review article that talked about Sleep Deficit: The Performance Killer. It was an interview with Dr. Charles A. Czeisler, the Baldino Professor of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School.


From 2001-2005, more than 1.35 million car accidents in the United States were due to driver fatigue, which was nearly 1/5 of all accidents. Many of which resulted in fatalities.


As a society, we have an expectation that other drivers won’t be drunk because of the way that it impairs their ability to drive.


They also cited some research in the article that a week of sleeping 4-5 hours a night or a single 24-hour period without sleep yields an impairment similar to a blood alcohol level of 0.1%, which is legally drunk in all states.


[11:25] Sleeplessness = High Performance at Work?


Heavey points out that while not sleeping for 24 hours has a similar effect of being drunk, but within our culture, we celebrate sleeping only a few hours as some sort of strong work ethic or high performance.


Staying away for 18 hours impairs a lot of stuff – reaction speed, short and long-term memory, ability to focus, decision-making capacity, cognitive speed, spatial orientation, and all others that are performance-related.


There’s got to be a balance where you are prioritizing sleep to some degree to increase your cognitive function.


[14:35] Lack of Sleep Culture Within the Medical and Corporate World


Within the medical profession, they’re especially bad with getting adequate sleep due to long shifts and crazy hours. That’s built into the culture and the norms within the medical profession, which can be incredibly harmful.


There’s a study on hospital interns scheduled to work at least 24 consecutive hours. That group was found that the odds of stabbing themselves with a needle or scalpel increased by 61%. The risk of crashing their car increased by 168% and near-miss by car accident increased by 460%.


So the study suggested implementing policies within corporate cultures regarding poor amounts of sleep being so damaging to cognitive ability. For instance, a lot of people get red-eye flights and get no sleep. Then, they hop in a car the morning after in a compromised state to go to a meeting.


Grant further mentions how it’s easy for people to get rides and hire drivers now, so much so that these ride-sharing apps are helping with safety.


[21:49] The Mental Side of Things


People hate to think that our brains operate on a level that’s out of our control. Even though they may say it’s mind over matter. At the end of the day, your physical well-being is good at determining your mental well-being.


We try to separate sleep from nutrition for instance. Nutrition or nourishment from food is essential for function. The same thing is true for sleep. People think they can just will themselves through it.


[23:35] People Are Still Going to Sleep Less Fo’ Sure


All that being said, people are still going to minimize the importance of sleep. But talk about exercise and people are willing to get their training sessions in even if they have to reduce their sleep.


Sadly, our culture today promotes the idea of hustling and grinding that it feels lazy to not be in motion even though it could enhance your output capacity.


[25:45] Choosing Entertainment Over Sleep


There’s also those who’d rather watch Game of Thrones than sleep. This is the other side of the spectrum. While there’s that hustling aspect, there’s also the entertainment and/or social side of things as well, with the easy access we have through the internet.


Grant finds himself having this decompression time wherein between work, exercise, shopping, cooking, and cleaning, he watches a couple of episodes of the show as his way to relax before going to sleep. His brain wants to relax even if his body wants to sleep.


[27:40] Final Thoughts


Grant points out that people should incorporate thoughtfulness when making plans. If you’re flying red-eye or going internationally, then get a night of sleep.


Lastly, education is very important. People need to understand the power of sleep. Sleeping 5 hours a night per week is the equivalent of being drunk and not many people know or understand that.



Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Sleep Deficit: The Performance Killer by the Harvard Business Review

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