Without Sleep, Everything Falls Apart
The New York Times recently interviewed 18 of the leading contenders for the Democratic nomination for President and compiled their answers to a string of questions meant to illuminate their backgrounds, records, and character. Amidst the questions on regulating handguns and tackling climate change was a seemingly quixotic question that might in fact tell us the most about the type of person most equipped for effective leadership.
How many hours of sleep do you get a night?
Many of the candidates referenced trying to get six or seven hours of sleep a night but falling short of that goal – an admission that some readers may recognize as a classic form of “humble brag.” In the high number of the contenders answering “not enough,” the candidates seemed to tacitly aim to have it both ways – conveying that they recognize the importance of sleep, but are so committed to the cause that they are willing to sacrifice those precious hours on behalf of the American people.
It indeed takes a rare political candidate or business executive to “fess up” to actually getting eight hours of sleep a night. Such an admission might sound like a sign of slacking or an admission of weakness – and this is exactly the wrong message for leaders to be sending about sleep, a foundational element of what ultimately helps us achieve success, health, and happiness. After all, achieving deep, restorative sleep is one of life’s great pleasures. If there is one trend we should push for in our culture, it is the death of the bravado about sleepless nights.
If you are facing burnout and fatigue throughout the day, sleep is one of the core elements that can move the needle along with achieving a better, balanced diet (“mostly plants,” in the famous words of writer Michael Pollan). Anytime that we deprive our body of sleep, we are handicapping our brain, our nervous system and our body as a whole – robbing it of the opportunity to truly recover from the stresses of the day. You can take your first steps toward achieving the sleep of your life by introducing a few simple changes into your day:
· Going to sleep before 10pm (those who go to bed much later often experience surges of the hormone cortisol that hold them back from achieving truly restorative sleep)
· Stop working a few hours before bedtime to signal the transition to sleep to your brain and stop the stress wheels from frantically churning away all night
· Unplug from technology and sensory stimulants at least thirty to sixty minutes before going to bed
· Keep your room cool and free of pets; you may also have to have a frank discussion with your partner or move sleeping arrangements if their snoring is disrupting your sleep
What steps have you taken to improve the quality of your sleep? How many hours have you been able to attain as a result?