My wife Jess was a second-grade teacher for five years. Whenever one of her students started acting up, her playbook was the same: Find out if the kid needs to eat or sleep, then help them do so.
Jess uses the same technique with me when I am acting up. Because while I am not in second grade, I have the same fundamental needs as her students. You do too. We all require quality nourishment and sleep to function well.
Among other things, eating and sleeping help us replenish and regulate our glucose levels. Our glucose levels are a physical manifestation of our willpower. When we are adequately supplied with—and processing—glucose, we are better equipped to make balanced judgments. We have the energy to think things through, to tame short-term impulses and behave in ways that bring long-term benefits to ourselves and others. Deprived of glucose, the wisest thing we can do is defer decisions until after we eat or sleep again.
In their book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, Roy Baumeister and John Tierney tell a story that illustrates the impact of glucose on decision making: A diabetic man’s glucose levels plummet to dangerously low levels. For the next thirty minutes, he struggles to decide what to do next: Should he eat first or use the restroom first? With glucose, this choice would have been simple—get some food, man! Without it, it took the man a half hour to make the right call.
With all this in mind, Lessonly is partnering with a sleep company called Rise Science for an experiment. The goal is to help my teammates and me understand and improve our sleep. To paraphrase Jeff, the company’s CEO, “If there were a pill that provided the same benefits as good sleep, it would be hailed as the wonder drug of our generation. And it would have 100 years of peer-reviewed evidence saying it’s safe and effective for everyone.” I will be sure to report what we learn from their monitoring and recommendations.
But in the meantime, I hope you will self-assess a bit: Are you paying attention to your fundamental needs around eating and sleeping? Are you reaping the benefits of your willpower, or are you missing out on them?
If you are interested in being a better sleeper, Jeff from Rise Science recommends reading Why We Sleep. If you are interested in being a better eater, my wife Jess, who went on to get her masters in public health, recommends reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma.
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