The Importance of Feedback and Sleep

Modesty

I honestly didn’t think writing this blog would have an affect on anyone. I kind of expected people to find it amusing, in that “Paul, you crazy” kind of way. But probably the biggest interest people have shown is in the actual monitoring of sleep.

I talked about using the sleep cycle app early on, which uses the the accelerometer in your phone to measure your movements in bed, a process called actigraphy, and then approximate your sleep cycles from that. There are far more accurate ways to measure sleep, and most of these are far more expensive than the £1.69 it costs for this app, but why is this still useful?

Feedback

There is one way that human beings learn, and thats through feedback. Whether its when you’re learning to walk or run and intrinsic feedback tells you you put your foot in the wrong place or when you’re in school and you receive extrinsic feedback from your teacher on whether you’re right or wrong. Feedback is super important.

There are times when feedback can be detrimental however. Take a stutterer, one of the reasons they can stutter is due to the excessive alterations they try and make due to feedback. Remember “The Kings Speech” where he can read fine while the music drowns out his voice, reducing his ability to use the feedback mechanisms.

In athletic training the combination of excessive feedback combined with an over-thinking athlete can lead to “paralysis by analysis” a state where the athlete is thinking so hard about what they are doing they can’t perform the technique correctly. Again, a situation that David Epstein in his awesome book “The Sports Gene” says can be overcome through singing, making the frontal part of the brain busy with singing prevents the over thinking stiffness of movement that can come with this syndrome.

Like I said, the biggest impact I’ve seen on the people around me is on the monitoring of the sleep. And by big impact, I mean at least two people I know have downloaded and started using the App.

Monitoring

Everyone has had a bad nights sleep and felt awful the next day but then probably completely forgotten about it. By constantly monitoring, it puts quantitative values to the quality and duration of your sleep, and probably more importantly keeps an ongoing record.

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I started this training cycle on 16th September, I clearly can’t afford to be sacrificing sleep quality

This is the feedback you’re looking for. Whether its just reminding you that you’re not sleeping enough, or showing you that that late night cup of coffee is actually damaging your ability to reach the deeper levels of sleep despite you constantly saying “its fine, I can still fall asleep”. The feedback can then lead to positive changes, and the improvements because of these changes can be seen.

Mock the accuracy of the device all you want, but its a start, and a cheap start at that. Sleep is one of the most important recovery factors for an athlete so its worth knowing how good you are at it, and don’t get me started on all the other benefits including mood, weight loss, hormone sensitivity, as an athlete it is very important.

Improving Sleep

Ways to improve and get the most out of sleep are everywhere on the internet, so I’m not going to regurgitate them all now. This link is a pretty decent post covering most of the basic things, I’ll cover some of my more borderline things in future blogs but for now I’ll end on a teaser photo. If you get the reference I love you already.

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I wear sunglasses at night, and not just because I’m cool
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