This expert's No. 1 performance hack takes almost no effort

Jim Kwik
Getty Images | Jerod Harris

Even billionaires like Elon Musk are looking for ways to get smarter.

To hone mental productivity skills like speed reading, improving memory and accelerating learning, CEOs and celebrities alike have turned to brain expert Jim Kwik. He's the founder of Kwik Learning, and his clients have included organizations like SpaceX, Virgin, Nike and Harvard according to his website. 

But you don't need to be a rocket scientist to implement Kwik's ideas. He has one easy piece of advice that everyone can do to perform better: Get more sleep. 

"Sleep is so important, it is like one of the best life hacks there is," Kwik says on an episode of "The James Altucher Show" podcast.

That's because the brain needs time to recover to work properly and optimally. So when you don't get enough sleep, "Your ability to make good decisions, your memory, your focus, everything is compromised the next day." 

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get from seven to nine hours of sleep per night, but one of every three adults aren't getting enough sleep, and the resulting loss of productivity could be costing the U.S. economy up to $411 billion.                 

In contrast, many powerful executives rely on a good night's sleep to stay sharp. For Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, that means logging a solid eight hours of shut-eye, while Microsoft founder Bill Gates opts for seven.

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google's parent company Alphabet, credits sleep to improved performance. "The real secret is the most successful people have awareness of what their body needs and sleep whenever necessary," he writes for Thrive Global. "Good sleep can only enhance your physical and mental ability to do almost everything."

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg even insists that companies take a role in making sure their employees rest. "It's incumbent upon all of us who run companies, and all of us, to make sure that people can make ends meet and have the ability to get a good night's sleep," she tells Thrive Global. She explains that she has experienced the benefits first hand, "When I get a good night's sleep, whatever the challenges are, I can keep it in check and handle it. When I don't get a good night's sleep, those same challenges feel really hard and I don't do as well."  

Sleep is "critical" to your brain performance, reiterates Kwik. So for you to get better rest, author of "Sleep Smarter," Shawn Stevenson, shares three tips for better sleep on an episode of Kwik's podcast, "Kwik Brain." 

1. Exercise for a few minutes in the morning 

Even a few minutes of exercise when you wake up can help you sleep better at night, says Stevenson. 

"Why it works is it is something called a cortisol reset," Stevenson explains on the podcast. Cortisol is a hormone that regulates things like your metabolism and stress. "By exercising in the morning, you get this cortisol boost, and that sets the template because your cortisol should be up in the morning and gradually drop as the day goes on." 

Stevenson says even something quick like Tabata, a high intensity four-minute workout, can help you reap the benefits.

2. Diet matters

Your stomach is also important for sleep, Stevenson says, noting that the majority of sleep hormone melatonin is in your gut, not your brain. He suggests avoiding things like taking unnecessary antibiotics, drinking chlorinated water and eating processed foods, all of which can disrupt the natural bacteria in your stomach. And add nutrients that can help with sleep and recovery, he says, by eating foods with vitamin C (like strawberries) and magnesium (like spinach). 

3. Meditate

"We have a lot of windows open on the computer screen of our minds," he says. "But at night we want to be able to minimize all of those tabs and just keep the sleep tab open, and that is what meditation really allows you to do." Stevenson suggests meditating daily and in the mornings.

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