Welcome to the HPRC Blog. We've got lots of information here, from quick tips to in-depth posts about detailed human performance optimization topics.
HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics
Military Pathways presents an “infographic” (a graphic fact sheet) that highlights basic information on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The sheet includes are statistics on PTSD in both the general population and military to help put this syndrome in perspective, as well as possible causes and outcomes of not getting help for PTSD, and identifies prevention and treatment methods that you can use to help avoid or minimize the occurrence and effects of PTSD.
The National Center for Telehealth and Technology has introduced a line of mobile apps focusing on mind-body strategies to help improve mood, PTSD symptoms, and induce relaxation. Currently, most of the applications are available at the iPhone app store and Android Market. Below is a list of a few that are currently available. For more details, visit the MT Stress Control Tools.
Have you ever had one of those days that never seemed to go well, from the minute you heard the alarm clock go off? Maybe you didn’t have time for breakfast, forgot your laptop at home, lost your temper when someone cut you off on your way to work, replied to an e-mail in a way you really wished you hadn’t, ate poorly all day, couldn't concentrate at work, and then couldn't find the energy to go the gym?
Ask yourself how you slept the night before. One factor that can contribute to bad days is lack of sleep. Not getting enough sleep is all too common in the military and across the country—it’s often looked at as the price you pay to get ahead. Some sacrifice sleep for social activities at night—web surfing, e-mailing, watching TV, playing video games, or one more drink out with buddies—which further worsens the issue.
Bottom line: Not getting enough sleep is pervasive throughout all ranks and has major negative impact on your health, relationships, and career. The effects of sleep loss affect performance in much the same way that alcohol intoxication does. So coming to work deprived of sleep is rather like coming to work drunk. Your interactions with others and your job performance suffer—which has a huge impact on safety. Losing sleep isn’t sustainable for the long run.
But the damage doesn’t stop there. In fact, sleep loss has a ripple effect throughout virtually every aspect of health and wellness, including your physical, emotional, social, family, and spiritual well-being (see the five program components of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness here). It increases your risk of disease and harms your social relationships and possibly your professional reputation.
Sleep deprivation can be a byproduct of mission demands, of course. In the military, sleep loss is sometimes used on the battlefield as a weapon, wearing the enemy down through non-stop engagement. The problem is that this strategy affects our own Warfighters, too. Senior leaders are cautious in employing this tactic, and it’s used only for specific, organized, orchestrated periods of time, allowing for a full rest and recovery before massive errors occur that can cost lives.
Where many of us go wrong is thinking this type of sleep schedule is normal and maintaining it post-deployment. Most people aren’t able to tell when their state of mind—alertness, mood, concentration—has been compromised by lack of sleep until gross errors are made.
I believe sleep is the single most vital wellness function we do every single 24-hour period, and yet it requires no treadmills, no weights to be lifted, no personal trainers, and not even special clothes. It has dramatic implications for your entire body and sets you up for optimization everywhere else. Sleep is commonly overlooked at the doctor's office because physicians (including myself) don't understand exactly how it works, and in fact, there is no standardized medical test to see if you are getting enough sleep. But that’s no reason to ignore the health treasures afforded to those who get a great night's sleep on a regular basis.
On average, we spend 20-25 years of our lives sleeping, and five to seven of those are spent the critical dream periods known as "Rapid Eye Movement." REM periods occur at regular intervals throughout a night of good rest (when not impaired by alcohol, caffeine, or other drugs). Unfortunately, many of us look at this time as wasted, yet it can be some of the most glorious "unconscious" time to improve our health!
During REM periods, your brainwave patterns register signals much like those produced when you are awake and concentrating. During sleep you also secrete hormones that repair tissue and renew microscopic damages to cells and organs before they develop into bigger problems. In fact, you actually concentrate and focus for several hours throughout a good night's rest as you repair your body! Your brain, the center of all health, is exercising while you lie quietly in dreamland! When you destroy the quality of your REM sleep, the result is poor performance, inattention, obesity, hormonal imbalances, poor appetite, lack of normal growth, high blood pressure, poor interpersonal skills, no energy for the gym, possibly diabetes, and more.
Getting enough sleep means you are more likely to live longer, experience less disease, retain information better, perform better, and get more out of your workouts. You will be more patient with others, less demanding and prone to anger, and able to optimize all aspects of human performance, including your family relationships. For more about getting enough sleep, visit the HPRC’s Sleep Optimization page. Don't overlook the simplicity of a good night's rest.
Although regular exercise can improve sleep (see this HPRC article), your workout time may be putting you in a less-than-ideal state for a good night’s rest. Exercise not only makes you more alert but also raises your body temperature, both of which can make falling and staying asleep more difficult. To create healthy sleep habits, the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recommends that you finish your workout at least three hours before you go to bed. View more healthy sleep tips on the NSF website.
If you’ve ever switched times zones, even as little as one hour, you may be aware that it can disturb your sleep and even disorient you in the following days. Without taking any medicinal countermeasures, you can typically adapt to your new time zone with about one hour of extra sleep per day after arrival (depending on with direction you’re traveling). However, some operations require that you be able to perform within 24 hours of arrival. To better prepare and adjust to your new time zone, use these strategies:
- One week before you travel, adjust your sleep schedule about one hour per night towards the time zone you are flying in—i.e., if flying eastward, go to bed and get up earlier; if flying westward, sleep later.
- Before you take off and while on the aircraft, eat light snacks, avoid alcohol, and stay hydrated (with water).
- On the aircraft, make sure that you are comfortable and able to nap before you arrive at your destination.
- Setting your watch to your new time zone as soon as you board your flight will help you transition.
- Take a short nap when you arrive at your new location, if you’re able to do so.
For more information, read the sections on jet lag in this article on sleep rhythms.
Misinformation abounds regarding ideal nap lengths for optimal cognitive performance. You need sleep to function at your best. If you do not get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night, then napping can help. Learn more in
NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal recently announced that he will retire from professional basketball after 19 seasons and four championship rings. In addition to that announcement, O'Neal announced via a YouTube video that he, like 12 million other Americans, had been diagnosed with sleep apnea.
According to his girlfriend, the seven-feet-tall, 300-plus-pounds center snored excessively during the night, and she noticed that his chest would often cease movement entirely. After participating in a Harvard University–sponsored sleep study he was diagnosed with a mild case of sleep apnea and was advised to begin wearing a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) mask, a respiratory ventilation therapy that assists the wearer’s breathing while asleep. O'Neal's story has a happy ending—because of the recent diagnosis and subsequent treatment, O’Neal reports that he feels more energetic and that his overall quality of life has improved. He is also happy and comfortable with the treatment. Other professional athletes suffering from sleep apnea have not been so fortunate. In 2006, Reggie White, defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers—one of the greatest players in football history—reportedly died from causes related to sleep apnea.
What exactly is sleep apnea? And how does it affect athletic performance? People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times during the night and often for a minute or longer. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, there are three types of apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed. Of the three types, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common. Weight can contribute to sleep apnea. In 2009, a study by Sweden's Karolinska Institute showed that overweight and obese men who lost weight during a calorie-restricted diet over nine weeks had major improvements in their sleep apnea symptoms.
Other risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea include certain physical attributes, such as having a thick neck (which describes many athlete body types), deviated septum, receding chin, and enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Allergies or other medical conditions that cause nasal congestion and blockage can also contribute to sleep apnea.
Signs of sleep apnea include loud and chronic snoring, choking, snorting, or gasping during sleep, long pauses in breathing, and daytime sleepiness regardless of how much time you spend sleeping. Other common signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat, morning headaches, restless or fitful sleep, insomnia or nighttime awakenings, going to the bathroom frequently during the night, waking up feeling out of breath, forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating, moodiness, irritability, or depression.
Untreated, sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases, memory problems, weight gain, impotency, and headaches. Moreover, left untreated, it may be responsible for job impairment and motor vehicle crashes.
In terms of athletic/sports performance, sleep apnea is a major concern because sleep apnea causes a disruption to healthy sleep patterns, which in turn can affect physical performance. According to a 2007 Stanford University study of sleep and athletic performance, athletes who extend the amount of sleep they get and reduce their sleep debt are more likely to improve their performance. Conversely, if an athlete does not get a good night’s sleep, then the next day he/she is tired, sleepy, or irritable. In such cases, physical performance also is impaired, since there is limited energy reserve due to the lack of adequate or good-quality sleep. Sleep apnea not only has an impact on athletes—it affects the military, as well.
So what can you do if you suspect that you or your sleep partner has sleep apnea? The only way to be sure is to undergo a sleep test, which is done in a sleep lab where patients sleep in a special bedroom with electrodes and other sensors attached to various parts of the body. There, you will be monitored throughout the night to keep track of whether and how often you stop breathing, how low your O2 sat (oxygen saturation) goes, and what your brainwaves are doing while you're sleeping.
For additional resources on sleep and sleep apnea, please visit the following:
According to a recent article in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the National Sleep Foundation reported that more than one-third of adults in the United States are not sleeping enough, and inadequate sleep impairs daily tasks. Compared to those who reported sleeping 7-8 hours regularly, those who slept less than 7 hours reported significantly more trouble performing the daily tasks such as:
- Ability to concentrate
- Working on a hobby
- Driving or taking public transport
- Taking care of financial matters
- Performing at work.
If you need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning, then it’s possible you’re not getting enough sleep. The optimum amount of sleep needed varies from person to person, and how much you need may change over time. Sleep loss increases your risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and weight gain. When you can wake up feeling refreshed and without an alarm clock, you know you have gotten enough sleep! Check out these resources for more details:
According to the National Sleep Foundation’s (NSF) latest poll, our electronic gadgets may be preventing us from getting adequate sleep. Common behaviors such as computer use, texting, and watching television are associated not only with less sleep but with lower quality sleep. One recommendation from NSF: “Create a cool, comfortable sleeping environment that is free of distractions. If you're finding that entertainment or work-related communications are creating anxiety, remove these distractions from your bedroom.” For the full report of the poll, visit NSF’s Annual 2011 Report Homepage: Technology and Use and Sleep.