Habits of top performers, predicting dreams by measuring brain activity, and can lowering baseball’s pitcher’s mound help prevent injuries?
Monday, June 19
You Might Not Feel Tired, But Your Brain Needs More Sleep
Sleep debt is highly individual, as is sleep need. Be wary of trusting how you feel; the body is very resilient and will make do with sleep deprivation.
Effects of Sleep Deprivation:
- Decreased concentration: The first thing to go when you’re sleep deprived is concentration. You’ll find yourself shifting between tasks and getting distracted by emails, voices, and random thoughts.
- Decreased working memory: Working memory is the amount of information you can hold in mind at once. The greater your working memory, the more complex thinking you can do. When it’s impaired, you can’t process harder tasks.
- Decreased learning: Sleep deprivation also impairs the function of the hippocampus, which is crucial for helping you learn new things.
- Negative mood: Disruption of your sleep cycle can increase symptoms of depression and, at minimum, effect your emotional regulation.
- Diminished long-term health: Poor sleep habits, over time, are associated with higher levels of cognitive problems in old age, such as dementia.
Tuesday, June 20
Four Things Top Performers Do Every Day
1. Avoid Decision Fatigue: A study found that judges granted prisoners parole 65% of the time at the beginning of the day, but nearly 0% of the time at the end of the day. As the decisions accumulated, the judges became mentally tired and had less ability to think critically, defaulting to an easier choice. Even trivial decisions, like choosing which color shirt to wear, the brand of shampoo to buy, etc. leave a person depleted and impairs their performance on future activities.
Bottom line: we have limited energy so devote it only to decisions that matter, and make routine everything that isn’t core to your mission.
2. Take Advantage of Your Chronotype: “Larks” are those that are most alert in the morning and “Owls” are most alert in the evening. Individual difference is due to the body’s unique biological rhythms–the rise and fall of our body temperature and the timing of hormone release that aides focus.
Bottom line: be intentional with your schedule to do your most demanding, deep-focus work when you are naturally most alert. Fill in the more rote tasks where your energy naturally wanes.
3. Choose Your Friends Wisely: A study tracked a cohort of cadets over fours years and found that the determining factor for improvement was the motivation of the least fit person in the group. Not only is motivation (or lack there of) contagious; so too are emotions. Research has shown that when we see someone express happiness or sadness, the neural networks associated with those emotions become active in our own brains.
Bottom line: Your social circle has a huge impact on your behavior. Building a better self goes hand-in-hand with building a better community.
4. Show Up: The best performers are not consistently great, but they are great at being consistent.
Bottom line: Do the work, no matter what. Be present.
Wednesday, June 21
Brain Activity During Sleep Can Predict When Someone is Dreaming
- Sleep provides a means for scientists to study consciousness in all its forms. When subjects are asleep, researchers can isolate conscious experiences from the senses that confound them.
- In a recent study, researchers recorded brain waves with scalp electrodes and woke participants at frequent intervals to ask if they had been dreaming and, if so, to describe the dreams. They identified a hot zone in a posterior cortical region, near the back of the head, where high-frequency brain wave activity showed activation in the time frames people said they’d been dreaming.
- Brain-wave activity in certain brain regions was linked to specific dream content, including locations, faces, and speech.
- Consciousness is widely believed to arise in the frontoparietal regions of the brain (towards the front), so this new finding poses interesting new questions about consciousness and any distinction therein between sleep and awake.
Thursday, June 22
Science of baseball evolving: Help pitchers avoid injuries
- The American Sports Medicine Institute is conducting two studies to assess pitching injuries and performance.
- The first is a study of the impact of lowering the mound from 10 to 6 inches in the interest of arm safety.
- Lowering the mound could have a dramatic impact on the game, potentially lowering pitch velocity possible.
- ASMI will present preliminary findings in July and will conclude the study by the end of 2017.
Friday, June 23
To debug your gut (and maybe your brain, too), make nice to the bugs that live inside it
- The gut has it’s own nervous system, composed of 50-100 million nerve cells. Within the gut live upwards of 100 trillion microbes, which help train our immune system, make vitamins, and host of other functions for our health.
- No two people have the same gut ecosystem and we don’t know the optimal gut-microbial composition, but we do know the diet to achieve the best gut function.
- Our gut microbes eat fiber, which is a complex carbohydrate that we can’t digest but gut microbes can. When gut microbes don’t get enough fiber they digest the mucus lining our intestines. That mucus layer is a protective barrier keeping the microbes from getting out of the gut and into the bloodstream, a scenario that is disastrous for our health.
- The average person living in an industrialized society today eats about 15-20 grams of fiber in a day. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate close to 100 grams. Fiber intake is important, but the source of the nutrient is critical. Fiber supplements are not sufficient and too much of one type of fiber will favor one microbial strain that can digest it at the expense of the majority of microbes that can’t.
- To support healthy microbe diversity in the gut, your best option is a large variety of fruits and vegetables for fiber. Of note: cooking doesn’t affect the health benefits of the fiber so fire away if you don’t like your veggies raw.