Book Review: Peak Sleep Performance for Athletes by Shane Creado M.D.

Peak Sleep Performance for Athletes by Shane Creado M.D. is one of the best sports science books I've read. Not only is it well-researched and insightful, but it is also very practical. Overall, it gives you the knowledge and tools you need to improve and master your sleep as an athlete. Here are the most important facts, tips, and lessons I learned from this book:

First of all, this book teaches you the true importance of sleep. Sleep is one of the main ways your body heals and refreshes itself. If you don't sleep well, your brain health will be compromised, and since your brain controls basically every aspect of your body, poor sleep can negatively affect your health in many ways. And since a healthy brain/body is a high-performing brain/body, poor sleep can directly and indirectly hurt your athletic performance. For instance, poor sleep can:

  • Increase your risk of injuries.
  • Hurt your recovery.
  • Stunt your growth.
  • Decrease your speed and strength.
  • Decrease your balance, coordination, and reaction time.
  • Weaken your concentration, motivation, critical thinking, and emotional regulation.
  • Hurt your ability to learn and remember.
  • Weaken your communication skills and emotional intelligence.
  • Lead to a shorter athletic career.

But more importantly, poor sleep can eventually contribute to the onset of serious health issues, including:

  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Dementia

As you can see, sleep isn't something to mess around with. It is a vital component of your health and performance. If you want to improve yourself, not just as an athlete, but as a person, you need to take your sleep more seriously. By doing so, you can improve your performance and health in all of the ways listed above, but in the opposite direction. As an athlete, it is the ultimate performance enhancer. While others may take their sleep for granted, you can gain a great competitive edge by developing healthy sleep habits.

However, just knowing the importance of sleep isn't enough. You also need to learn HOW to improve your sleep. And before you learn that, you first need to learn the basics of sleep science.

In short, your sleep-wake cycle is primarily controlled by two main factors:

  1. Your natural circadian rhythm (the time at night when your body releases hormones that make you sleepy, and the time in the morning when your body releases hormones that wake you up and increase your alertness).
  2. Your "sleep thirst," which is your body's desire to sleep as the day goes on.

After learning this, it's easier to understand the three main ways to improve your sleep, which are:

  1. Synchronizing your natural circadian rhythm with your bedtime and wake-up time.
  2. Increasing your sleep thirst throughout the day.
  3. Removing sleep-sabotaging conditions and habits.

Every strategy taught in this book is meant to help in these three areas. By focusing on these three areas, you can make it easier to fall asleep, stay asleep, and improve the overall quality and quantity of your sleep.

To make these sleep strategies easier to learn and implement, the author of this book teaches you about his "Sleep Peak Performance Pyramid," which is a systematic plan to improve your sleep.

However, before learning about these specific strategies, it is important to understand that while there are some general guidelines that are universally applicable to all athletes, not every strategy in the book will help all athletes equally. This is because every person is different, with different physiologies, personalities, lifestyles, goals, and habits. Therefore, every athlete needs their own unique, individualized sleep improvement plan.

With that being said, here is a summary of each level of the Peak Sleep Performance Pyramid.

The base: Addressing major underlying sleep issues.

Like the author said in this book, a pyramid cannot be built without a solid foundation. When it comes to sleep, the foundation is making sure you cure all of the major underlying issues. Instead of just focusing on the symptoms of your poor sleep, you need to solve the root causes. Once you treat issues such as insomnia, sleep apnea, substance addiction, anxiety disorders, and depression, you can then focus on the next levels of the pyramid. And for many of these sleep issues, you need to see a qualified sleep doctor or mental health expert. If you are certain that you don't have any major sleep issues, you can move on to the next level of the pyramid.

The 2nd level of the pyramid: Sleep measurement.

After addressing major underlying sleep issues, you then need to learn how to measure and evaluate your sleep. Here are a few ways to measure your sleep:

  1. Keeping a sleep diary (noting the estimated time when you fall asleep and wake up)
  2. Filling out sleep questionnaires to help diagnose issues and rate your sleep quality.
  3. Using wearable sleep tracking devices such as smartwatches and actigraphs (the author of this book says that actigraphs are much more accurate and reliable than smartwatches).

The 3rd level of the pyramid: basic sleep-promoting strategies.

These strategies are divided into four components:

  1. Bedroom environment (making sure you have a quiet, dark, comfortable place to sleep).
  2. Lifestyle (a healthy lifestyle consisting of proper nutrition and physical activity promotes good sleep).
  3. Positive sleep habits (making sure you only use your bed to sleep helps maintain a strong association between your bed and the sense of sleepiness).
  4. Positive thinking habits (learning how to defeat sleep-sabotaging thoughts through mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy).

The fourth and final level of the pyramid: advanced sleep-promoting strategies:

These strategies include things such:

  • Reducing light exposure at night.
  • Using sleep-promoting supplements such as melatonin (use in small doses about 60-90 minutes before bedtime).
  • Using caffeine, light, and physical activity to increase alertness during the day and build up your sleep thirst.
  • Learning how to nap strategically to improve performance and sleep.
  • "Banking sleep" by extending the time you sleep at night.
  • Shifting your circadian rhythm to adjust to your training and competition schedule.
  • Tips for overcoming jet lag.

If you want to learn more about these sleep strategies, then I highly recommend you read this book. There are so many great tips you can learn to drastically improve your sleep!

Lastly, I want to share with you my personal opinion about sleep. I believe sleep is important, but it isn't something you should obsess about. As an athlete, you don't need to follow absolutely every piece of advice offered in this book. Likewise, you don't need to sacrifice your social life and other priorities in order to get good enough sleep. Failing to get perfect sleep every single night isn't going to doom your athletic career. The author of this book understands this. He knows that "life happens," and no one can stick to a perfect sleep routine every single night. However, this doesn't mean you don't need to take sleep seriously. Rather, this should give you more of a reason to learn and master the sleep strategies taught in this book. If you do so, you'll be better able to get your sleep routine back on track after life events disrupt your sleep. You won't be perfect, but with the help of this book, you can greatly improve your sleep!