Transformation 5.0

Sleep, Sleep, and More Sleep


How much do you value your sleep?

Whatever your answer, my response is probably not enough.

Back in the Relentless Transformation Stone Age (5 years ago), sleep wasn’t on the priority radar.  Sure, sleep was important.  Sure, sleep was recommended.  But those statements came with no oomph, no zest.  99% of the time and effort was spent revolutionizing exercise and nutrition.

Today, sleep is smack on the priority radar.  The oomph and the zest have arrived, and a proportionate amount of time is being spent on it.

Introducing Dr. Parsley

One of the most impactful presentations at PaleoFX this year was Dr. Kirk Parsley speaking on sleep.  He’s a former US Navy Seal who was hired to solve some serious medical concerns about current Seals.  Too many 25-45 year olds who looked like physical specimens were breaking down under the hood, displaying severely low testosterone levels and other red flag biomarkers.  What was the cause?

While any question like this has a complex, multi-factoral answer, Parsley concluded that sleep (yes, sleep!) was the #1 driving force behind the issues.  Mind you, ladies and gentlemen, these are Navy Seals.  Wouldn’t you think unnatural levels of stress would top the list?  Nope.  Sleep.

So naturally, after offering this hypothesis, he aggressively revamped their sleep habits.  WHAMMY!  Testosterone levels tripled in many cases and biomarkers improved in a big way.

The above is my personal recollection of a fantastic presentation.  Follow up on Dr. Parsley – he’s a wealth of information.  This video is a great place to start:

Sleep on a Personal Level

City living can be a noisy proposition, but for 4 blissful years, we never worried about sleep interruption.  Our neighbors were saints.

That changed in a big way.  First with a new set of neighbors that had a barking dog and enjoyed late night Tuesday bonfires in the backyard.  Now with a new neighbor that pumped up the bass and jammed to electronic music until the wee hours – read: 4:30AM – last night.

Pardon my French, but I feel like shit.


The Implications 

Referring to Dr. Parsley’s work, Robb Wolf says:

“It’s clear that when we sleep deprive ourselves, we feel like we’re being more productive, but we’re not.  The cognitive neuroscience studies are crystal clear… I think what you would find ironically and counter-intuitively is that fewer hours of work will end up being more productive because people are on task better and they create fewer errors… Even an hour or two of sleep deprivation day in and day out ends up really severely impacting productivity and creativity.”


“One of the insidious features of sleep deprivation is that an hour or two of lost sleep, you notice it the first day in a subjective manner – I feel tired, I feel lethargic, I don’t feel very creative.  But after about 3 or 4 days, this becomes your gray altered world of existence.  You just never even notice that you feel like hell and that you’re really not firing on all cylinders.  There are some people who are fine on less sleep.  Interestingly, these people live less long.  So in total hours of wakeful life it ends up being about the same as those who sleep longer, but live longer.  That’s kind of an interesting aside, our wakefulness seems to be very tied to our total longevity.”

Sleep Takeaways

Are you someone who feels like hell and doesn’t realize it?  Are you someone who says things like “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”?  Could you dramatically improve your life, your work, and your productivity if you addressed sleep quality seriously as opposed to just giving it lip service?

The days of wearing sleep deprivation like a badge of honor are over.  Done.

No matter how tight your sleep habits are, there is room for improvement.  Our sleep improvement starts with a conversation with our new neighbor.  Yours begins with any of the following:

  • Commit to an earlier bedtime.  This is why DVR exists.  No late night drama is worth a wasted day.  Don’t assume you’ll just sleep in longer.  Wake time is much harder to manipulate.
  • Is your mind racing?  Make physical lists of to-do items or focal points before hitting the hay.  These lists must be written out.  When they are, the mind is comfortable letting go because it isn’t worried about forgetting them.
  • Break the cycle and remove the crutch.  Eliminate caffeine in the afternoon and evening hours for higher quality sleep.
  • Turn off the TV.  First, get it the hell out of your bedroom.  Second, make sure it’s off 30+ minutes before sleeping.
  • Pick up a book, and read some fiction.  Focus on literature that doesn’t make you think too hard.  Pure escapism.  Lee Child and David Baldacci are my favorites.
  • Dark out your room, and make it resemble a cave.  The less light, the better the sleep.  Blackout shades help.
  • Unplug from electronics, and remove them from your bedroom.  No computers and no routers for sure.  No phones if possible.
  • Turn your phone off or enable Airplane mode.  If you’re worried about missing important calls, compile a Do Not Disturb list (on iPhones), which screens calls, puts unimportant ones to voicemail, and only lets through those from people on the DND list.  The world will wait.  You are not that important.
  • Use a sleep mask and/or earplugs.  These are portable, and if you get used to them, can help in any scenario.
  • Consider alternative alarm clocks.  Wristbands will buzz you awake at positive points in your sleep cycle.  Lightbox alarm clocks will slowly make the room brighter, mimicking the sun rising.  Phone applications allow you to wake up to peaceful music.  If you’re really bad-ass and have the flexibility, don’t use an alarm at all.
  • R.E.S.P.E.C.T.  Respect your sleep.  Your life will be far better for it.

Day 18 Recap

It was a critical day of exercise recovery sandwiched between strength workouts.  After upping the volume this week (both Monday and Thursday), my soreness level jumped right along with it.  I’m encouraged that soreness still has not reached critical levels, and I have a little more room for improvement to play with.

Steps and miles checked in at 13,931 and 7.48 (add 20%).

Sleep officially checked in at 8 hours and 19 minutes (33 restless minutes), but we now know how that went down.  Interestingly the Fitbit never registered me as awake, even though it felt like I was up the entire night.  It must have a motion threshold that wasn’t crossed.

The nutrition

Breakfast: Still a creature of habit!  Grass-fed yogurt, (28g) whey protein isolate, (5g) creatine, raw cacao nibs, chia seeds, coconut flakes, organic blueberries, banana, cinnamon.  Black gold.  The transition is complete – Rival Bros Revolver has ascended to the top of my fresh coffee bean throne.  Stunning upset.

Day 15 Breakfast

Lunch: Back to Grocery for a takeout lunch, which is fast becoming a Friday habit.  Lamb burgers with greek yogurt, steamed broccoli, Indian spiced sweet potatoes, fresh peach.  A key question: I asked whether the lamb burgers contained breadcrumbs.  Often times burgers and meatballs at places like these, even healthy ones, come binded with them.  Thankfully, the lamb burgers were the only type of burger produced without them.  But consider the implication – that means every other type, turkey burgers included, contain breadcrumbs.  Asking questions always pays off.


Afternoon Snack: Rise Bar.


Dinner: Free range chicken breast, fresh avocado, wilted spinach, green peas, brown rice pasta, cherry tomatoes.


Daily Fuel

Don’t use chaos as an excuse because chaos is a life constant.

Here are musings on working in chaos from one of my all-time favorite authors, Steven Pressfield.  I’m quite sure that I’ll be reporting more from him at a later date.

Have a great weekend everyone.  Catch up on some sleep, relax and enjoy the weather, and prime yourself up for a productive week in spite of the chaos that’s sure to come!


Image Credit: Asleep at Work –

Image Credit: Terrible Sleep –

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1 Comment

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    Open Loops, Unplug Challenge, and Recovery
    June 16, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    […] the horrible night of sleep that kicked the weekend off?  (Funny note: I went to the Fitbit website to get further details […]

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