They are, truly, the best of the best in the US military services — the US Navy SEALs.
Often going into places and situations where there is little hope of success, and, their training is amongst the toughest on the planet.
Stew Smith, a former Navy SEAL, said he survived for three days on no sleep before the hallucinations started to set in, ABC News reported.
After about 72 hours of sleep deprivation during training, Smith recalls mistaking an airplane for a flying horse, perceiving a bridge as a giant Pez dispenser, and seeing a squat, muscular body builder where there was in fact a fire hydrant.
But he wasn’t quite done.
Smith and his crew had another two days of running, swimming, paddling, climbing and plunging into freezing water. In total, he and his team had to stay awake for a punishing five day “Hell Week” as part of their Navy SEAL training.
“I would be thinking of something and I would see it in front of me like a cartoon character,” he recalled, describing his hallucinations. “When you’re losing sleep, after a while you turn to this fight-or-flight response. You just go into survival mode.”
At the time, Smith said he survived by staying in constant motion, staying uncomfortable, and psychologically breaking each day into a series of six-hour stretches until the next meal, ABC News reported.
While SEALs may need to stay awake for days in life-or-death situations, Smith said he would never wish this kind of sleep deprivation on anyone.
There’s not a harder job out there than being a mom or dad, working or stay at home,” says Adam La Reau, a former Navy SEAL and co-founder of O2x Human Performance, a company that trains and advises groups from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Boston Fire Department, Task & Purpose reported.
“There’s definitely a sleep debt that could occur over time.”
La Reau spent 12 years in the Navy SEALs, rising to the rank of lieutenant commander.
Small tweaks to your routine — what La Reau calls “1% changes” — will make a huge difference to your sleep.
According to Task & Purpose, these are the basics of sleep boot camp. Know these before you nod off.
1. Have an NFL-style game plan
“It’s like a warm-up routine you do for a work-out,” La Reau says, ticking off a list of stuff not to do: Do not eat within two hours before bed, stare at bright lights or play video games.
La Reau suggests activities that will calm your nerves, maybe reading, meditation, listening to music, dimming the lights.
Definitely: Turn off your electronics, and put away the phone.
TV watchers, e-tablets readers, gamers — “They’re getting crushed with light,” says La Reau, whose O2x team includes half a dozen sleep scientists. “And that’s just going to disrupt their circadian rhythm, it’s going to trick your body into thinking it’s day and your body should be up.”
2. Put together a to-do list
Write a daily list to help you mentally prepare for the next day.
We all have a lot going on, especially new parents. La Reau says you need to tackle that head on.
In the hours before bed, put together a list or reminder of what you need to do the next day. Use yellow stickies if you have to, and toss them away as each mission is accomplished.
“Every time I go home, I have a list of what I need to do the next day … I feel like I’m prepared when I wake up in the morning,” says La Reau. “I know exactly what I’m going to do and I sleep better at night for it.”
3. Exercise is OK, but not before bedtime
Aerobic exercise boosts the amount of rejuvenating deep sleep you receive, according to researchers at the John Hopkins Center for Sleep.
But never, ever just before sleep.
4. Sleep whenever you can
The Navy SEALs’ Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training is notoriously exhausting.
One military sleep manual advises special operators to use the lulls in combat to nap. “Uninterrupted sleep for as little as 10 minutes may partially recover alertness,” the Naval Health Research Center says.
A nap can boost your energy but don’t zonk out too close to your bedtime.
5. Buy a quality mattress!
Set yourself up for nighttime.
“The bedroom should be a sanctuary for sleeping and relaxation and recovery, it’s not to be used as an accessory or a work station,” La Reau said.
He suggests black-out shades, a white-noise machine, and a quality mattress.
“Sleeping on a high-quality mattress is the best investment you’ll ever make,” he said.
And if you think coffee is the cure, think again.
Coffee accomplishes none of the crucial functions of sleep (like solidifying memories) — it merely blocks the receptors that alert your brain to the depletion of energy.
In summary, Navy SEALs say, the most powerful tactic is keep your wits about you.
As US Navy Seal John McGuire tells Fatherly online, it doesn’t matter if you are a CEO, a head of a household or an operative undertaking a mission, “You can’t lose your focus or discipline … self-doubt destroys more dreams than failure ever has.”
Sleep when you can, wherever you can, for as long you can. The more exercise you can schedule the better.
Know your limits, and, embrace the insanity. You’ll have plenty of sleep when it’s over.
And like my former boss at National Trust, Bill Rhind used to say, after a horrendous morning hangover, stay under that hot shower head as long as you have to, until it wipes away all the cobwebs from your brain.
Believe it or not, it works.
Sources: ABC News, Task & Purpose, Fatherly online, US Navy, Department of Defense