5 Ways Sleep Increases Performance to Superhuman Levels
The Real-Life Super Serum
You know what the best thing was about conquering insomnia and learning how to sleep 9-10 hours a night? It turned me into a superhuman. Really. Not quite to Captain America levels, but that’s what it felt like. My work efficiency went through the roof. I felt smarter. I stopped getting hurt in the gym and got stronger than ever before. My libido (and my endurance, much to my better half’s delight) seemed to triple. For me, sleep was the ultimate performance and productivity hack.
I’m not alone, however.
The incredible performance enhancing benefits of "extended sleep" have been well documented in the last few years. The most fascinating study came out in 2011: The Effects of Sleep Extension on the Athletic Performance of Collegiate Basketball Players by Mah et al.
In this experiment, measures were taken to ensure that the Stanford men’s basketball team got a MINIMUM of 10 hours of sleep every night. Remember: these were elite D-1 college athletes who already got 8 hours of sleep on average. Some only got 7, and some normally got 9, but the question was: what happens to an athlete when they get that extra sleep boost?
The results were astounding.
They’re also exactly what you can expect when you start to sleep like a grizzly.
1. You’ll Run Faster
In the experiment, the Stanford athletes had to run line-drill sprints (“suicides” for all the fellow former ball players out there). At the D-1 level, you wouldn’t expect to see men increasing their sprint speed much, especially during the season when they’re already conditioned. Yet these guys decreased their sprint times across the board, by nearly a second on average!
Fascinating. Who knows how the performance enhancement occurred? Did the extra sleep boost neuromuscular efficiency? Perhaps. Was it partially related to their enhanced reaction times (see below)? Undoubtedly. Either way, the results were clear. After sleeping more, the athletes became faster. The clock doesn’t lie.
2. Your Reaction Times Will Decrease
The Stanford athletes regularly performed a test called the Psychomotor Vigilance Task (PVT). Developed by the military, the PVT is a widely used standard measure of reaction times. How did extra sleep affect the athletes’ performance?
Mean Reaction Time for all daily and weekly tests decreased by significant margins. This means their brains and nervous systems ran more quickly and efficiently: a pretty useful performance enhancement if you’re a team sport athlete. Or a superhero, for that matter. Spiderman, Daredevil, Captain America…they’ve all got super reflexes! (Confirmed: Cap’s super serum was Hibernate).
3. You’ll Get Enhanced Accuracy
If you’re a basketball fan, this will be mind-blowing. After extending their sleep, the Stanford boys increased their team free throw percentage from 79% to 88%. In practice, their uncontested 3-point field goal percentage (think “three-point contest”) went from 68% to 77%.
Do you realize how many extra points that means over the course of a season? Do you realize what that means for you? Pure athleticism. It means you’re better at everything you do. If an injectable drug gave athletes a performance boost like this, the Olympics, the NBA, the NFL and MLB would all ban it in a heartbeat.
But, my friend, you can’t ban sleep. It’s the ultimate PED.
4. You’ll Wake Up with “Increased Vigor” and “Decreased Fatigue”
Boy, doesn’t that sound nice? Using the Epworth Sleepiness Scale and Profile of Mood States analysis, the researchers reported that: “Although all POMS subscale scores demonstrated improvement, [the changes in] vigor, fatigue, and total mood disturbance are particularly impressive.”
Who doesn’t want increased vigor? Start sleeping 10 hours a night and we promise, by next week, you’ll turn into Teddy Roosevelt.
5. You’ll Just Feel Like a Better Human
When all was said and done, the Stanford ball players “also reported improved overall ratings of physical and mental well-being during practices and games.”
And really, isn’t that why we all want a little more sleep? To feel better physically? To feel better mentally and emotionally? Especially when we’re at work or in competition? You already know this, but once you’ve experienced what it’s like to sleep 9-10 hours a night, you’ll never go back.
The researchers’ final remarks were particularly interesting: “These improvements following sleep extension suggest that peak performance can only occur when an athlete’s overall sleep and sleep habits are optimal.”
Think about that. You CANNOT be the peak version of yourself without getting excellent sleep. It’s impossible. If you sleep like garbage, then you’re only a 90% version of yourself.
Wow. That’s the most depressing thought in the world.
But hey, we’ve lived it. We know what’s on the flip side. We know that the research is legitimate, and that if you learn to sleep like a grizzly, you’ll quickly become a superior version of yourself. Faster. Quicker. More vigorous. Happier.
Trust us, it’s a great way to live. And an even better way to compete.