By Anton Vanhoucke

This 100% Free Night-Time Ritual That Can Skyrocket Your Daytime Performance

man standing on stool at seaside

Sleep — we all do it, but do we truly understand its depth and significance? Dr. Matthew Walker’s groundbreaking book, “Why We Sleep,” delves into the transformative power of sleep. I discovered it through Michael Pollan’s book about Caffeine. Here’s a blog summarizing the mysteries of our nightly escapade and its profound impact on every facet of our existence.

Walker calls sleep the most potent medicine. It’s free too! Read on to find out how to get more out of your nightly hours.

Why is Sleep So Crucial for your performance?

Cognitive Functioning and Memory

  • Sleep is essential for memory consolidation. During deep NREM sleep, our brain processes and transfers new memories into long-term storage.
  • REM sleep fosters creativity, helping our brains connect unrelated ideas in novel ways.

Emotional Well-being and Mental Health

  • Sleep regulates our emotions. Without adequate REM sleep, our amygdala — the brain’s emotional center — becomes hyperactive, leading to heightened emotional reactions.
  • Chronic sleep deprivation is linked with anxiety, depression, and even suicidal tendencies.1

Physical Health

  • Sleep deprivation affects the heart, with studies showing an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Lack of sleep can cause weight gain, impacting hunger hormones like leptin and ghrelin2.
  • Sleeping less than 6-7 hours a night demolishes your immune system, doubling the risk of cancer3.


  • Sleep deprivation impairs judgment. Fatigue-related accidents, both on roads and at workplaces, are often more disastrous than alcohol-related ones4.

Why Don’t We Sleep Enough?

Modern life is conspiring against sleep. Electronic screens emit blue light that hinders melatonin production, our natural sleep-promoting hormone. Caffeine and alcohol, though seemingly benign or even sleep-inducing, actually disrupt our sleep cycles.

How Can We Sleep Better?

  1. Regularity: Stick to a schedule. I personally want to be in bed by 11 p.m. and I wake up without alarm at 06:30.
  2. Environment: Ensure a dark, cool, gadget-free, and screen-free bedroom5. I charge my phone in the next room. It is close enough for my Bluetooth headphones, so I can listen to a book or podcast before sleeping.
  3. Limit Caffeine and Alcohol: Especially in the evening6. I rarely drink alcohol anymore, and I don’t miss it a bit. I like the taste of coffee, so I drink one around 10 a.m. and then I stop.
  4. Mind Your Diet: Avoid large meals before bedtime. Your body often confuses hunger with a lack of sleep. Sleep could be the better solution to cravings. I try to eat early, just after my workout. But my agenda doesn’t always allow it.
  5. Morning Sunlight: Natural light helps regulate our internal clock. I try to eat my breakfast outside. And during wintertime, when the days are short, make a morning walk at work.

Conclusion: Sleep is the best investment in Performance

Dr. Matthew Walker’s “Why We Sleep” isn’t just a book; it’s a wake-up call (pun intended). The lack of sleep, once seen as a badge of honor, is now recognized as possibly the greatest public health challenge we face in the 21st century7. It might be an important cause of the obesity pandemic. I personally put sleep at the forefront of my priorities, for well-being, productivity, and overall quality of life. And it works.

Footnotes and references

  1. ↩︎
  2. ↩︎
  3. ↩︎
  4. ↩︎
  5. ↩︎
  6. ↩︎
  7. ↩︎

Leave a Reply