Sleep to Win! by Dr. James B. Maas

This book is an absolute game changer. It is a MUST read for any aspiring athlete. However, for those who do not have enough time to read this book now I am going to summarize the main points about this book and key take-aways because the implications of this book are too important to ignore. However, this book is a very quick and fun read because unlike the vast majority of books about sleep all the information is presented in a pseudo parable and Q and A form which makes it very accessible to all readers, even those without a science background.

The most important take-away from this book is that we all underestimate the amount and quality of sleep and the deleterious effects of NOT getting enough quality sleep. How much sleep should you get if you are an elite athlete that is aspiring to become the best they can be? If you are under the age of 25 you need ~ 9 1/4 hours of sleep, and if you are over age 25 anywhere from 7.5-8.5 hours.The most important reason specifically for athletes why you need this much sleep is that only after 6.5 hours of sleep in stage 2 sleep the appearance of sleep spindles occurs, which triggers a rush of calcium into the brain’s motor cortex. This allows your brain to go over and solidify whatever you learnt from training that day. Missing out on these sleep spindles is why you may feel you had a specific skill in the bag after training one day, but when you come back the next day it seems you never practiced that skill at all!

But you might be thinking wait a minute! This is absolutely ridiculous! But saying you do not have enough time is NOT a valid excuse. If you want to be the best you can be you must make sleep a priority because it is a force multiplier that will make everything else in your life better. In addition, when your brain is fully rested you tend to work much faster and more efficiently.If you have been sleep deprived for a prolonged period of time you may have become used to your brain functioning at a much lower level than it should. If you give the brain the high quality sleep it needs you will notice a huge spike in your cognition and memory.

The rest of the book is devoted to auxiliary issues surrounding sleep, such as napping. I have summarized the most important ones from this book below:

1. Napping can be a very powerful tool when used correctly. Most people use napping incorrectly, which has caused napping to receive a bad rep. In addition, there is this incorrect negative stereotype that if you nap you are lazy. That is WRONG! Winston Churchill, one of the greatest leaders in human history, was an ardent napper. But how do you nap correctly?

Firstly, Limit Naps to 20 minutes or if you wish to nap longer you must stay asleep for at least 90 minutes Geek Alert: If you limit your naps to 20 minutes then you will only go through Stage I and Stage II of sleep, and will NOT enter a deep phase of sleep. This is very important because the groggy feeling you may experience after taking a nap is due to waking up during the deep phase of sleep, in which you brain’s electrical signals is firing at a much lower frequency than that during a waking state. That is why it will take you ~ 20-30 minutes to feel normal again. However, if you do plan on napping for more than 20 minutes make sure you stay asleep for 90 minutes(which is roughly the length of one sleep cycle). Geek Alert Over. Secondly only take naps during the morning or early afternoon. Taking them too close to bed will disrupt your sleep that night.

2. Do NOT eat too close to bed time – The reason is quite simple, when you eat a heavy meal right before bed a significant amount of blood flow and energy is shifted towards your digestive tract to digest the food you just ate. However, for high quality sleep you need a significant amount of blood flow directed towards you brain. Therefore you want at least 2-3 hours between your last meal and sleep to ensure that not too much blood is being re-directed from your brain to your gut.

3. One of the most common cause of injuries is a lack of sleep – When do injuries usually occur? At the beginning of the game or at the end? The end usually because you are tired and are more likely to make a misstep. The probability of injuries sky rockets when you are sleep deprived. I feel we intuitively understand this at some level, but it is tantamount that we are consciously aware of this relationship. Almost all of my injuries have occurred during stages in my life in which I was NOT respecting my need for high quality sleep.

4. Be judicious of your use of stimulants – It is well documented that continuos use of stimulants will results in desensitization to its stimulatory effects. However, even if your body is desensitized to the stimulatory effects, if they are taken to close to bed your body does NOT become desensitized to the negative effects they have on your sleep. Let me give you a simple example about coffee. The first time you have a cup you most likely felt a huge surge of energy. Then as you continued drinking coffee you tended to need to drink more and more for the same effect. Now for example you are needing up five cups of coffee a day. So even though your body is desensitized to the stimulatory effects of caffeine it has NOT become desensitized to the negative effects it will have on your quality of sleep. This creates a very vicious cycle because decreased sleep quality causes you to need more coffee which further decreases the quality of your sleep. This is why I personally do NOT consume any caffeine. 

There you have it, the most important take-aways from this amazing book. If you are serious about your success it is vital that you begin working these key points into your daily life. And once you have the time I highly recommend you pick up this book to discover some of the nuances I do not have the time or space to go over.

As always please always feel free to reach out to me on facebook or linkedIn (Pavan Mehat) or shoot me an email at with any questions for future topics you would like for me to discuss. Blogs such as these are much more fun and helpful if there is interaction.


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