Can you sleep your way to a great job? I think likely not. But I know if you don’t sleep well, that can be a show-stopper to a great work-life. Lack of sleep can get in the way of your performance, your edge and your mojo!
Not enough sleep — is becoming an issue for too many people. For some, it’s by choice. We are a society addicted to productivity. As we try to squeeze more out of our days, sometimes we do so at the expense sleep. Staying up late or waking up an extra hour earlier to squeeze in a workout or get a jump on the workday.
For others, lack of sleep is not by choice. I’m hearing so many people complain that they either can’t fall asleep, can’t stay asleep or they wake up too soon – sometimes in the middle of the night.
On occasion, I experience this too. So I’ve been taking the issue very seriously – it is an essential ‘TGIM work + life’ strategy! In fact, I spoke about this in my recent webinar (Bogged Down and Overwhelmed? Tips to Help You Cope).
It’s time to wake up to the issue of ‘not enough sleep’!
Sleep is imperative for our brains to function optimally and our brains need to function optimally if we are to bring the best of ourselves to our work and life. There’s a growing body of research on the impact sleep has on our brains (and our productivity, performance, thinking, etc). Sleep consolidates our learning, revitalizes and replenishes key hormones, and more.
The Neuroleadership Institute hosted a symposium last year in which leading experts on sleep talked about the Leadership Lockdown Syndrome. According to the researchers, our brains need three things to function properly: moderate stress, good sleep and positive affect (mood). They are inter-related of course. Poor sleep affects stress and mood. Stress and mood affects sleep. And so on…it’s all connected. When leaders (or anyone) experiences high stress, poor sleep and low mood well then it’s ‘bye bye thinking capacity and hello brain freeze’. A performance showstopper indeed! Leaders take note. And really anyone who is interested in performing optimally should take this seriously as well.
How much sleep do we need? Individuals may vary but experts say adults still need an average of 7-9 hours a night. That may seem like a lot – but that’s what the research says (read more about some research here).
How many hours are you getting? For myself, I know there is nothing like a great night sleep. I can conquer the world when I’ve had my ample dose of great zzzz’s. I’m more creative, resilient, optimistic, energetic. And I have more discipline. When I don’t sleep well — especially if this is happening frequently, I find I’m operating on half a battery. And everything suffers: my mood (mojo), thinking, resilience, creativity, etc. I am even clumsier!
Here are some tips and ideas to ‘put you to sleep’ (literally not metaphorically, I hope!):
1) Set the intention to get enough sleep. Go to bed at a deliberate time to get enough hours. Sometimes people get ‘busy’ and distracted and don’t realize the time. Especially true for ‘night owls’ (“oh, I didn’t realize it’s already 1am!”). Make it a point to go to bed by a certain hour so that you can get your 7-9 hours of sleep. If you are lucky enough not to have other sleep issues, it can be as simple as setting an intention and following through.
2) Create a ritual of habits that will optimize your ability to sleep. If you’ve been working, frazzled and rushing throughout your day, then make a habit to wind-down, disengage and calm your mind – at least an hour before you get into bed. If you go to bed frazzled, you may find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.
3) Milk and cookies before bed! Yes, you read this right…I got this tip from Aileen Burford Mason, PH.D (scientist, and ortho-molecular nutritional expert) who recently wrote a book “Eat Well Age Better“. There’s a whole chapter on sleep. The point of milk and cookies is that getting some tryptophan into our brain can help us sleep. Milk is a great source of tryptophan but alone, it can’t cut across the blood brain barrier. It needs a bit of help. The insulin from the carbs and sugar in the cookie help break that blood/barrier and (…here I”m skipping more of the scientific explanation:)….voila…a nice sleepy feeling. Aileen provides a much more credibly, scientific explanation but I needed very little to convince me to have milk and cookies before bed. By the way, I’ve tried replacing the milk and cookie with the occasional ice cream treat too..oh yeah!! Try it – you’ll like it. But remember: the tip is a glass of milk and a cookie (or something like that). Not the whole row of cookies!
4) Create darkness in your room: Who knew – the darkness is actually what helps create melatonin…another essential ingredient needed for good sleep. Apparantly even slight rays of light creeping in can interrupt the production of melatonin and disrupt sleep. Aileen Burford-Mason suggests trying out one of those eye masks to create more darkness. I tried it. I’m sure I look funny but it works!
5) Easy on the caffeine and red wine: I found I have to stop any caffeine by early afternoon. You may have your own ‘boundary’ but pay attention to this. As well, red wine — it may make you initially sleepy but it is a stimulant and can keep you up later.
6) Nutritional deficiencies: If you are on medications or not eating right, there’s a bunch of repurcussions from a bio-nutritional perspective that will impact your sleep. Again, a full chapter on this in Burford-Mason’s book. Worth checking out and go to someone who specializes in holistic nutrition, especially if you are on medications for other health issues. The medical field does not amply bring nutritional considerations to their prescription approaches. There are easy things you can do to balance out the deficiencies but you need to be aware of what they are.
7) Stressed out? Don’t bring this to bed: Yup, stress will rob you of a good night sleep — if you let it. There are many ways to deal with and ‘park’ the stress that can keep us awake at night. Check out my oodles of tips in the recent webinar I did on “Bogged Down and Overwhelmed? Tips to Help You Cope” (It’s free – no strings attached!).
8) BONUS TIP (Update): Exercise, exercise, exercise! Ahhh, my own brain might have been in a bit of a ‘lockdown’ when I first drafted this article. I forgot to include a very key tip and a friend read this article and pointed out that I forgot to mention how important exercise is. Regular exercise does a whole bunch of good that will help you get your quality zzzzz. So build that in! Just try not to wake too early for the workout! A shout-out of thanks to David for the reminder!
I’m sure there are more tips (would love to hear them). But to sum up, my key points are: take sleep seriously, pay attention to what you need to get enough, practice new rituals, explore strategies — and get to bed!!
To your wellbeing and a TGIM work + life!