“By helping us keep the world in perspective, sleep gives us a chance to refocus on the essence of who we are. And in that place of connection, it is easier for the fears and concerns of the world to drop away.” ~ Arianna Huffington, The Sleep Revolution – Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time
Last week, we wrapped up Pillar #2 of “The Year of the Best You” – Self Care is Never Selfish. Today, we will start on Pillar #3 – Sleep is Essential to Success. As before, we will discuss this pillar a bit more below, provide a printable PDF worksheet for the month and then recap how we made out on March 26th.
During my Obstetrics-Gynecology rotation as a clinical clerk in my 3rd year of medical school, I have vivid memories of a conversation I had with one of the senior residents. She had a newborn, only a couple of months old, and had to take a short break to pump breast milk. She was on-call one in three nights and essentially on-call at home too. I asked her when she sleeps and she said, “I will sleep when I die”. Unfortunately, this was not the last time I heard such a statement.
At points in my life, I started to believe it myself. I too went back to residency and work soon after the birth of both my children, neither of whom slept through the night until age 6 – literally, no joke. However, I had an end in sight as I chose a lifestyle and specialty that I knew offered me reasonable hours and little to no call. My inherent pervasive sleep difficulties didn’t need any additional help.
Fortunately, word is out that sleep deprivation and exhaustion are counter productive to getting ahead and being successful in life. Success is measured in many ways, both personally and professionally, and in every respect, we function better when we are not living in a mental fog.
We know we need sleep, but how much?
A comprehensive study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation in 2015 determined “Sufficient sleep duration requirements vary across the lifespan and from person to person” where the recommended duration for adults is between 7 and 9 hours. The complete expert panel sleep recommendations from this study are summarized in the table below:
Sleep hygiene ritual
Having a sleep ritual is key to overall sleep health. Arianna Huffington has written a book, The Sleep Revolution, and is a true advocate for the benefits of sleep and how to achieve optimal rest. Her manifesto below has some great tips and points, that incorporate good sleep hygiene.
In addition to this, I have condensed a sleep hygiene ritual into some Do’s and Don’ts listed below:
- Consistent wake time
- Consistent bedtime
- Exercise during the day
- Meditate during the day
- Take a 15 minute nap during the day (if necessary)
- Caffeine-free after 2 p.m.
- Warm/hot bath before bedtime
- Keep room dark
- Keep room cool
- Mask external noises with white noise or earplugs (if necessary)
- Think of a short gratitude list before falling asleep
- Write down to-do lists/things on your mind before bedtime
- Use the weekend for sleeping in
- Use sleep aids
- Drink fluids before bedtime
- Work within one hour of bedtime
- Keep your cell phone in the bedroom
- Use devices within 30 minutes of bedtime
- Drink too much alcohol before bedtime
The “obnoxious roommate”
Speaking from years of experience, one of the biggest saboteurs of a proper sleep is what Arianna refers to as the “obnoxious roommate”. I have written about this topic in a prior post, In the Words of Arianna Huffington – “Sleep Your Way To The Top”, and suffice to say, continue to find nighttime rumination difficult to manage. It seems that all of my worries are more pressing and urgent at 2 a.m. as compared to any other point in time of the day. My last ‘Do’ is inspired by this and I believe that great value exists in writing any bothersome ideas and thoughts down before heading to bed.
I also know that daily meditation practice helps manage our thoughts, even in the middle of the night. We become more aware that they are just thoughts and that they can be let go. This mindful approach to managing insomnia has been proven to be superior to the medicinal approach which is fraught with both abuse and longterm ineffectiveness.
Naps may be necessary
Admittedly, I myself used to avoid naps, even post-call or when my kids were napping, thinking it would interfere with my sleep. Even in today’s business world, naps have become accepted as an effective way to restore one’s energy during the inevitable mid-afternoon slump, as opposed to reaching for caffeine. Many large companies, such as Google, now have nap rooms, likely inspired by Arianna in her Huffington Post offices.
This past week, I read a great article by Travis Bradberry that took a comprehensive look at sleep and sleep hygiene. Travis says, “If you aren’t getting enough sleep at night, you’re likely going to feel an overwhelming desire to sleep in the afternoon. When this happens, you’re better off taking a short nap (even as short as 15 minutes) than resorting to caffeine to keep you awake.”
Sleep is essential to success! Please print off the worksheet to join in this month’s activity. I will do the same and we will recap on March 26th. Enjoy and sleep well!
Huffington Post – Healthy Living Sleep + Wellness
Travis Bradberry – Poor Sleep Hygiene is Killing You & Your Career