Jeff Kahn: Life-Changing Insights About Sleep, Circadian Rhythm, And Sleep Debt


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By Brad Kearns. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

“We all have a genetic amount of sleep that we need,” says Rise Science app founder Jeff Kahn.

The average amount for humans is slightly over eight hours. But, as you’ll learn from this episode, if you don’t meet this genetic need every night (let’s say you get seven), then the next day, you have one hour of sleep debt to deal with. And, if this continues, and you’re operating on a full week of getting seven hours of sleep as opposed to your usual eight, this alters your cognitive performance - to the point where Jeff likens it to being at the legal limit for alcohol at the end of the week.

There is so much to learn from this insightful conversation with Jeff. He and his Rise Science co-founder were actually the first to publish research on technology-enabled sleep behavior modification. Through Rise Science’s tireless dedication to improving the sleep of elite athletes across the NFL, NBA, MLS, and NCAAF, Jeff has not only witnessed first-hand measurable improvements to performance and risk of injury, but also seen that sleep boosts sales revenue in organizations by an average of 14%. And Jeff doesn’t just educate us all on the many (and oftentimes surprising) ways that sleep and circadian health affect every single aspect of our physical, cognitive, and emotional performance and wellbeing, he also knows which specific methods are actually effective and will make the biggest difference in the way you sleep.

During this episode, you’ll learn that a lack of focus on circadian dynamics means that most conventional sleep solutions are already completely ineffective, and Jeff reveals that we are actually biologically wired to underestimate just how sleep deprived we really are. As Jeff breaks down the details of how the body functions with (and without) a sufficient amount of sleep, you’ll gain a clear understanding of the importance of tracking how much sleep debt you’ve been accumulating, especially once you realize that the quality of your performance in anything diminishes in conjunction with the increased amount of sleep you continue to lose.

Jeff also clues us in to why worrying about the “quality” is actually hugely misguided, and why our primary focus should be instead on reducing sleep debt. Jeff also shares the fascinating behavioral science research that underpins the app and makes behavior change both successful and sustainable. As he explains, changing habits is totally possible: however, only within the right conditions can this change be possible.


Sleep is the most important health topic. If you are sleep deprived, you’re not a good judge of how much sleep you need. [01:42]

Jeff decided to study sleep when he, as a student, realized how exhausted he and others were. [05:00]

If you don’t get a good sleep, basically everything about your functioning suffers. [10:30]

There are two factors that determine how you function and how you feel. [13:59]

You have a genetic need for a certain amount of sleep. If you don’t meet this genetic need, you build up “sleep debt.” [17:39]

Studies equate “sleep debt” to being drunk as far as ability to function. [23:06]

Lack of sleep also affects your glucose metabolism roughly equivalent to Type II Diabetes! [28:06]

You are not a good judge of your own performance. [30:47]

Circadian rhythm is different for different people. What is a night owl vs. a morning person? [32:48]

What is a sleep hangover? Don’t be quick to judge your night’s sleep. Wait about 90 minutes. [40:55]

You cannot physiologically oversleep! [42:32]

How can the listener judge where they fall on the biological sleep scale? [51:02]

If a person is purposely sleeping extra time because of their strenuous activity, is there a point where it is overdone? [57:09]

Some athletes who have spectacular skills, would even be better if they got more sleep!


The app that can help you get a handle on this sleep information is called Rise. [10:05:47]


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