Sleep. Some say it’s for wusses (I know that’s what my daughter believed for the first 3 years of her life). Some say they’ll “sleep when they’re dead”. There has been a misconception fuelled by modern society that we’ll get more done, have better productivity and generally “win life” if we sleep less. Modern science is starting to prove this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Arianna Huffington also digests this modern science and brings it to the masses in her 2016 book, The Sleep Revolution – Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time.
Her claims aren’t new, just check out her TED Talk from 2010!
Her assertions, backed up by pages of scientific research in the appendices, are that as human beings we need an average of 7-9 hours of sleep a night to function properly. Recent studies have shown that our brains do not simply “shut off” when we are asleep. They go through a deep processing of our day and experiences and this is part of the rest and reset our minds, bodies and nervous systems need to function at optimum level.
A huge part of getting your best possible night’s rest, while avoiding harmful substances such as sleeping pills or alcohol as sleep inducers, is to create a “sleep ritual” for yourself before bed. This is something Ariana goes into in detail in the book, which I highly recommend picking up, but your sleep ritual should be unique to you. One element that should remain a constant feature in anyone’s pre-bed routine though is the switching off or avoiding any tech for at least 30 mins before bed. Screen time has been proven to be one of modern society’s biggest sleep inhibitors. The science behind this one is that the harsh blue light emitting from your phone/tablet/laptop inhibits the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. It tricks your brain into thinking it’s still in daylight. In general, any sort of screen time, from a text on your phone to a TV show, is more stimulating that you may think. Ariana recommends start with micro-steps. Begin by switching off all tech and starting a sleep ritual 5 mins before bed. Then slowly extend over a few weeks until you’re at about 30 mins pre-bed. Elements that might help you plan a sleep ritual:
- A hot bath within 30 mins before bed
- Essential oils such as lavender
- Writing a gratitude journal, or stating 3 things out loud you’re grateful for that day (go to sleep on a positive and you’re less likely to wake at 3am fretting)
- Yoga nidra or a guided sleep meditation (there are 1000’s on YouTube or you could download an app like Calm)
- Bedtime yoga practice
When starting, keep it simple. As a teenager it was a “sleep as much as humanly possible” philosophy for me. In my 20’s, becoming an entrepreneur and starting my first business meant wanting to squeeze as many hours out of the day, so I adopted the “sleep when I’m dead” policy. Post-baby phase (a natural time of sleep deprivation) and now a good few years into my business journey I am looking to focus a lot more on productivity, balance and simplicity. The Sleep Revolution came into my life exactly when I needed it – thanks universe – and is changing everything for me. I am starting to frame my life around getting my 7-8 hours; earlier bed times, declining late night invites, avoiding red-eye flights etc. I feel more human, more productive, a better mother and yes, more balanced.
Good night and good luck!