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#WHOOPEd Weekly Digest, Vol. 5

By Thea Lee

#WHOOPEd Weekly Digest, Vol. 5

How do Sherpas achieve peak performance? Plus sleep tips, better decision making, and new technology to help those with sleep apnea.

Tuesday, June 6

Be more awake by day, sleep better at night

  • Small changes in your routine can give you a lift during the day and improve your sleep.
  • Melatonin is the hormone that causes sleepiness. The brain activates melatonin production when it’s dark. As such, when you wake up in the morning expose yourself to light right away by opening the curtains, eating breakfast by a window, or taking a walk.
  • Dehydration can zap energy, memory, and attention. Make a point to drink water at regular intervals throughout the day, beginning in the morning.
  • Physical activity counteracts fatigue. In a University of Georgia study, participants who engaged in a 20 minute, low-intensity aerobic exercise 3 times a week for 6 weeks reduced their fatigue level by 65%.
  • Dim the lights, switch off the TV, and put away electronics at least an hour before bedtime. Darkness will signal to your brain to start producing melatonin.
  • Bedtime routines, and the consistency therein, promotes sleep quality. Keep your bedroom dark and use your bed only for sleep (no pets). Consider listening to meditation or a relaxation app before bed.

Wednesday, June 7

Stop Sleeping On It, And Don’t Go With Your Gut: Advice from Leaders

Common Advice #1: Sleep on it

  • Why it’s popular: People give you the advice to sleep on it because it feels empathetic and caring.
  • Why it’s bad: When you sleep, your brain tries to make sense of the events of your life, editing out unnecessary or conflicting details so they don’t bother you anymore. Sleeping on it when you already have an idea of what to do will amplify your natural tunnel vision, making it easier to commit to decisions, good or bad.
  • When it’s good advice: Sleeping on it is a good idea if you or a colleague are facing a hard problem that you have no idea how to solve. When you go to sleep your brain sifts through massive details to find the best answer, and when it’s done it wakes up up in the middle of the night with an a-ha moment.
  • Better business advice: Ask them: “what are three other choices that might work?” Based on research, there’s a 56% chance they’ll think of a better choice right there.
  • Even better advice: Ask other people on the team to weigh in with their best choice in writing. Research shows that business teams of 3 or more people collaborating on a problem make better decisions 75% of the time.

Common Advice #2: Go with your gut

  • Why it’s popular: This advice feels daring. We know it is quick, easy, and exciting.
  • Why it’s bad: Going with your gut most often means going with the choice that first drew your attention. Your gut is guaranteed to be overconfident and blind to its ignorance.
  • When it’s good advice: Going with your gut is smart in situations where you’ve made essentially the same decision 50-200 times before, and have a clear grasp of the results of different approaches. When your gut is highly trained, it can quickly cut through the clutter to the right answer.
  • Better business advice: Invest a minute or two writing down your gut’s decision, including a brief description of what you expect if things go well, and any other options you considered.
  • Even better advice: Spend 10 minutes following a decision checklist to frame and get input on your decision.

For those interested, here is the checklist the author recommends:

  1. Write down five pre-existing company goals or priorities that will be impacted by the decision. Focusing on what is important will help you avoid the rationalization trap of making up reasons for your choices after the fact.
  2. Write down at least three, but ideally four or more, realistic alternatives. It might take a little effort and creativity, but no other practice improves decisions more than expanding your choices.
  3. Write down the most important information you are missing. We risk ignoring what we don’t know because we are distracted by what we do know, especially in today’s information-rich businesses.
  4. Write down the impact your decision will have one year in the future. Telling a brief story of the expected outcome of the decision will help you identify similar scenarios that can provide useful perspective.
  5. Involve a team of at least two but no more than six stakeholders. Getting more perspectives reduces your bias and increases buy-in — but bigger groups have diminishing returns.
  6. Write down what was decided, as well as why and how much the team supports the decision. Writing these things down increases commitment and establishes a basis to measure the results of the decision.
  7. Schedule a decision follow-up in one to two months. We often forget to check in when decisions are going poorly, missing the opportunity to make corrections and learn from what’s happened.

Thursday, June 8

Technological Advances Offer Relief to the Rising Number of Patients with Sleep Apnea

  • Sleep apnea affects more than 50 million people in America
  • Apnea occurs when the airway is narrowed or obstructed during sleep, causing breathing to be interrupted.
  • Being overweight is a major risk factor, as fat deposits can narrow the airway.
  • Snoring is the most common symptom, though this in and of itself does not mean you have sleep apnea. Other risk factors include not feeling refreshed in the morning, having cardiac arrhythmia with no other obvious risk factors and, in men, waking up repeatedly to use the bathroom.
  • For two decades the primary treatment has been a portable breathing machine called a CPAC, which keeps the airway open by forcing air through the nose. Many patients learn to live with this machine, but many find the face masks too bulky and uncomfortable, the air pressure disconcerting, and the noise disruptive to bed partners.
  • A new surgical treatment is a pacemaker-like device that coordinates with a patient’s breathing and stimulates the nerves in the tongue to open up the airway. It is implanted under the skin in the upper chest, and wires are threaded to the nerves at the base of the tongue and to the chest wall. The device is turned on and off by a small remote control and automatically runs for eight hours.

Friday, June 9

Lean-burn physiology gives Sherpas peak-performance

  • Sherpas have thinner blood, with less hemoglobin and reduced capacity for oxygen. This means that the blood flows more easily and puts less strain on the heart.
  • The senior author on the study, Cambridge University professor Andrew Murray, concluded that “it’s not how much oxygen you’ve got, it’s what you do with it that counts.”
  • The study analyzed muscle tissue samples taken from 10 European researchers and 15 elite Sherpas while being put through a series of tests at Everest Base Camp.
  • The tests showed that the Sherpas’ tissue was able to make better use of oxygen by limiting the amount of body fat burned and maximizing glucose consumption. By preferentially burning body sugar rather than body fat, the Sherpas can get more calories per unit of oxygen breathed.
  • The Cambridge researchers found that all of the Sherpas carried a glucose-favoring variant of a metabolic gene, and almost none of the lowland participants did.
  • Sherpas are a specific population amongst the Nepalese who migrated to the country 500 years ago. Professor Murray argues that this is plenty of time for a beneficial gene to become embedded.

The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.