Unlocking Human Potential with Sleep by Dr. Michael Gervais

Dr. Michael Gervais is a high-performance psychologist whose clients include world record holders, Olympians, internationally acclaimed artists and musicians, MVPs from every major sport and Fortune 100 CEOs.
wellness balmain .jpg

While preparing athletes for the Olympic Games, I asked a handful of coaches, “What are the three most important conditions that will impact performance for your athletes at the Games?” The top responses were: Managing family and friends, thinking like they normally think, and sleep. 

When people don’t sleep well, they don’t think and perform well. Whether you’re an athlete, business woman, or student, sleep may be the most important function in the effort to grow and perform toward the upper limits of human potential. 

We all know that sleep is important. Here are a few very simple sleep strategies that elite athletes, coaches and business-people use to improve performance (in sport and in life):

Allow for pre-sleep readiness: Most great athletes talk about the advantages that come with pre-performance routines--the activities that help prepare your mind and body to perform optimally. Create a pre-sleep routine where you allow yourself to be prepared for sleep. It’s so much tougher to fall asleep when your head hits the pillow and you're still mentally wide-awake. Ease into the sleep process. 

Get your room dark: According to sleep expert Pat Byrne, on a recent Finding Mastery podcast, if you hold your arm out and can see your hand in front of you, it's not dark enough. Pat also says that blue light (that light that's coming from your screens) delays the production of melatonin (the hormone that primes you for sleepiness). Use technology wisely. 

Temperature matters: Somewhere around 18-22

Be consistent with your sleep patterns: Best-in-the-world performers need to consistently sleep well. Explore the number of hours of sleep that help you perform optimally. Build in enough time in your day (and evening) to ensure you have time to ease into your sleep preparation mode, as well as, to get your ideal hours of sleep. Be consistent and be diligent. 

Clear your mind: Keep a small “to-do” journal next to your bed. In the event that as soon as you lay down your brain “turns-on” with to-do’s, jot them down to clear your mind. It’s amazing how simple this is, and how well it works. 

Account for jet lag: As a rule, traveling east has more pronounced and lasting jet-lag effects. Youth and well-conditioned people have fewer negative effects than older, sedentary adults. Air travel is also known to dehydrate the body (which can also impact sleep). Building in hydration and jet-lag recovery strategies when traveling is likely to impact the quality of your sleep.