Impact of Sleep Deprivation – TEDx talk

May 11, 2015
By: T.J. Murphy
Published at

At a recent lecture given in Austin, Texas, Dr. Kirk Parsley – an MD with credentials that extend from serving as a Navy SEAL to completing half-Ironmans – posed the following question:

Between the types of activities you may track in a training log, like diet, training and sleep, what has the greatest impact on your performance?  There’s no comparison, Parsley said:

Sleep is the most important factor.

Link to the full article at



Key performance gauge from Dr Parsley’s TEDx talk ( @ 5:30 in the video):

Running 18 hr days (i.e. 6 hrs of sleep), translates into performance on par with a blood-alcohol level of 0.05.

Pulling an all-nighter translates into skill execution on par with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 – 0.10.


In Canada it is a criminal offence to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08, or 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood.  Think about that for a moment….


How many of us are going through life ‘half drunk’, all the while believing that we are healthy and fit?

In addition to the lack of sleep*, add the North American average of 1.5 servings of alcohol a day and we are 100% inebriated 100% of the time.**   If the candles weren’t burning brightly enough at both ends, we finish our days with HIIT workouts, use NSAIDs and painkillers to round off the edges, fall to an illusion that we are prime specimens of athleticism and call this a normal, active, fit & healthy lifestyle.

What does this say about how we as a society function at work, at school, in relationships, while working out/training, while parenting and while driving?  We claim to enjoy quality lifestyles, yet with what clarity can we possibly be living and making decisions if we are constantly ‘under the influence’ of a lack of sleep?

Regardless of how healthy we think we are, how much effort we make to eat well, how consistently we exercise, how many supplements, smoothies, and shakes we consume, how often we get a massage, an adjustment, or other health intervention, even with time spent meditating or practicing mindfulness… it doesn’t really matter if we don’t get enough sleep.

If you are not serious about sleep, then you cannot stake claim to being serious about your health, being at your best or delivering your best.

If you are an athlete – age group, masters, or pro – and if you are not serious about sleep, then you are not serious about your training, nor delivering your peak potential in competition.

Funny isn’t it?  We seek the highest quality in our grocery items: organic, grass fed, free range, antibiotic and HGH free; we seek the highest quality in our sports gear: only top of the line equipment, clothing, and sports nutrition products; we seek the highest quality in our technological devices as we upgrade with each new release of hardware and software; we expect the highest quality from others when receiving service; but, when it comes down to seeking the highest quality from ourselves… we cut short on the single most important aspect to our own peak performance:  sleep*.

To find more posts on sleep, click on the ‘sleep’ tag below.



3 thoughts on “Impact of Sleep Deprivation – TEDx talk

  1. MGrodski Post author

    Sleep is critical to our well-being. Yet sleep receives only an occasional mention in training, fitness, and health literature and online articles. Few health professionals when assessing patients zero in on the quantity and quality of sleep their patients are getting, despite the fact that healing, rejuvenation, and recovery occurs predominantly when we sleep. If sleep quantity and quality is not called into question when we are ill or injured, then how can it be offered as a solution. It can’t. But why isn’t it?

    Dr. Sarah Hallberg offers her perspective in her TEDxPurdueU talk titled “Reversing Type 2 Diabetes” and I quote: “There is a lot of money to be made keeping you sick.”

    No health care or pharmaceutical company has managed to monetize plain old simple sleep, so… there is little to no funding pouring into researching normal healthy sleep, as there are no products to develop, thus no advertisements, no marketing, as there is no money to be made if there is nothing to sell. The result: you don’t hear about sleep (except on the rare occasion), so you don’t hear about the healing effects, the normalization of our rhythms, the clarity of thought, and the performance improvements that sleep provides. It appears it is the exception when a researcher stumbles upon ‘plain old fashion’ sleep as in the case of Stanford researcher Cheri Mah as reviewed in the post titled: Sleep and Athletic Performance [2].

    In fact, its seems we have grown so accustomed to having our illnesses and injuries monetized that we have come to believe that unless you pay for it, unless it comes in pill form, unless a procedure is performed in an elaborate medical facility then it cannot possibly contribute to well-being. Doesn’t health today come exclusively on a slip of paper which is traded in for a small bottle of coloured and shaped pills no different than coloured ‘breakfast’ cereals?

    Perhaps sleep is just too simple in our technologically advanced society to be considered healthy… sleep requires no instruction, no coaching, nothing apart from ground upon which to lay one’s head.

    Health can’t possibly be that accessible, simple, and moreover free? That’s inconceivable!.

    Other selected TED talks on physical health can be found at this link to April posts.

  2. MGrodski Post author

    21 Jul 2015
    By Caela Fenton
    Published at Runners World

    Study shows sleep deprivation can alter genes

    Every successful runner will tell you that sleep is an absolutely essential component of training. Numerous studies have now linked sleep deprivation to weight gain, increased stress levels and overall decrease in health. A recent study from the Uppsala University in Sweden, has demonstrated that even one night of lost sleep can result in alterations to the genes that determine one’s biological clock.

    In case you don’t quite understand what your “biological clock” is, it’s your body’s system that controls its major functions– your sleep cycle being a major one of those.

    The study involved a small sample size. They analyzed 15 men of good health and weight who came to the lab for two visits, each for two nights. In one of the sessions, the men were allowed to sleep the second night at the lab and during the other one, they were not.

    Following both stays, the one in which they slept for two nights and the one in which they were only allowed to sleep for one, the men had samples taken from abdominal fat, as well as from muscle on the thigh and blood.

    The results showed that genes were altered by just the one night of sleep deprivation. “This could mean that at least some types of sleep loss or extended wakefulness, as in shift work, could lead to changes in the genome of your tissues that can affect your metabolism for longer periods,” Dr. Jonathan Cedernaes, the lead study author stated.

  3. MGrodski Post author

    Ontario Ministry of Transportation Newsletter – Centreline

    Did you know?

    You don’t need to have a 0.08 BAC to be impaired. Statistics show that: drivers who have a BAC between 0.05 and 0.08 are about seven times more likely to be involved in a fatal collision than someone who has not been drinking. For more information visit

    Based on Dr Parsley’s TED talk, getting 6 hrs of sleep or less equates to a BAC of 0.05 or higher…

    Maybe you can do more with less and less sleep, but is it quality? Are you picking quantity over quality? Rarely does quantity satisfy as deeply as quality. Delivering poorer and poorer quality performances is rarely anything we are proud of, rarely motivates, and based on the risk of injury, fatal at that, and not only to ourselves, but those around us (i.e. spouses, children, friends) where is the return? Where is the payoff with driving ourselves to the point of exhaustion, pushing until we collapse, falling over in fatigue?

    I don’t see where or how this reward:risk ratio pays off.

    If you think it does pay off, then I would challenge you to consider that maybe you are moving so fast that you can’t see the collateral damage caused. Maybe you are moving so fast that you don’t even see the damage you are doing to your own health. It is unfortunate,that those who fail to slow down and look around (no different than in drinking and driving) often have to learn their life lessons through an accident, through pain, through loss. It can be avoided but you have to want to see it.

    I didn’t slow down in my early years, but the car that hit me while I was on my bike sure did slow me down.

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