Are you getting enough sleep? Posted on 26 Nov 20:03 , 0 comments

About a month ago I was running a workshop at a conference when someone in the audience asked me for tips to help her sleep at night. 

I started at the top, “turn off your devices 30 to 60 minutes before bed”, and worked my way down the list of strategies and habits that help individuals improve the quantity and quality of their sleep.

She had an argument against every habit change I suggested.

She wasn’t arguing about the effectiveness of these strategies, she was arguing that she wasn’t prepared to change her habits. I didn't argue back.  

I simply said, “until you’re clear on why you want and need to develop better sleep habits nothing will change,” and then asked "why do you want to sleep better at night?"

There is already a tonne of great information out there about how to improve your sleep habits but unless you truly want to change nothing you read will matter. That’s one of the reasons why it’s taken me a while to write this contribution for you. 

You need to first gain clarity on why sleep is important to your success and happiness. 

Why is sleep important to you?

Gosh, just the joy of a good night’s sleep should convince you.

The second reason I've avoided the topic is that there are many reasons why you may not be getting adequate sleep.  

For instance, I know it’s hard to get enough sleep when you have children and other caring responsibilities.  My son is 21. I don't have a baby at home to care for.  If I were a parent with young children and someone started harping on about the importance of sleep I would want to punch them. 

At the risk of getting punched in the face, I still need to tell you that sleep is crucial to your productivity and happiness.  It's a keystone habit.  

As someone who experienced chronic insomnia for ten years, I feel very confident that I’ve become an expert on sleep.  I’ve experienced firsthand the impact of sleep depravity on my own productivity and happiness both at home and work. 

I used to survive on an average of four hours per night or less. 

At one very dark period of my life I would work until midnight or 1 am and then get up at 4 am to get back to the grindstone.

The impacts were countless.  I call it a dark time because I literally walked around with hooded eyes.  My neck and shoulders were rock hard with tension.  My communication skills eroded and I was way too direct.

Life seemed very grey.  I was constantly exhausted and unhappy. 

A couple of co-workers used to call me Ray Charles behind my back because I’d often sit at my desk typing more than 100 words per minute with my eyes closed to give them rest.

I can recall weeks when I didn’t sleep for three to five days straight.  Keep in mind that 10 days without sleep can lead to death.  Research also tells us that coming to work sleep deprived is the same cognitively as coming to work drunk.  

I don't think I was a very nice person to be around at that time.  

Nor was I very interesting.  When I caught up with friends I’d be asked “what have been up to?” and I’d kill the conversation very quickly by saying nothing other than “work.”

Most nights I’d have to choose between being cranky tomorrow due to lack of sleep, or being cranky tomorrow because of a sleeping pill hangover. 

At the time I thought there must be something physiological that was causing my lack of sleep.  I assumed that my brain simply couldn't switch off.  

All of my problems were due to poor habits.

It’s going to sound cliche but it’s true… I changed a few key habits and my whole life changed.

These days I sleep like a baby.  More than that I use a "good night's sleep" to marinate on creative ideas and restore my energy.

A good night's sleep has it's own rewards.  Such as that beautiful feeling you have just before you nod off and the joy of waking up with fire in your belly ready to start a new day.

If you’re not getting enough sleep there is something you can do about it. 

The key to a good night's sleep is developing great habits.  

For me, the game changers have been starting the day strong, ending the day well and having productive habits at work that help me maintain a sense of control over my work.  

It’s going to be different for everyone.  Here’s what I do:

  • I wake up at 4:30 am.  I’m exhausted by about 7:30 pm and can’t help but sleep.  
  • I meditate every morning before I get up.  This helps me manage my anxiety levels over the course of each day.
  • I exercise every morning.  And no, I’m not super fit. Exercise warms me up and gives me an endorphin rush to kick off my day.  It’s also a keystone habit that leads to other great habits.
  • I journal before bed.  This forms part of my gratitude practice and helps me deal with stress.
  • I limit email and social media use before bed.  I put away my devices 30+ minutes before bed.
  • If I have trouble falling asleep I meditate.  I don’t let myself reach for my phone or get out of bed. 

    Most people complain they fall asleep when they’re trying to meditate anyway.

    Worst case scenario, if you meditate all night without sleeping you are still providing your body and mind with restorative time similar to sleep.   
  • I take melatonin.  I’m not a doctor but I also want to be honest about my habits.  A friend recommended melatonin to me, and it was five years before I took her advice and started using it for sleep and jet lag.  I now swear by it.  I don’t take it all the time but always have some on hand for when I need it. 

You should aim for a minimum of seven hours every night. 

Good sleeping habits are key to achieving optimal performance and happiness. It's a keystone habit.  

It all starts with being clear on why you need adequate sleep.  Here are more three reasons why you should develop better sleep habits:

1. Sleep deprived leaders are uninspired

Check out this great TedTalk by the University of Washington’s Christopher Barnes.
He and his colleagues completed sleep research and found leaders are less charismatic and inspiring when they are sleep deprived. 

As a leader (and we are all leaders in one way or another) your job is to inspire the people in your team to be the best at what they do, and continue to look for new and improved ways to achieve outcomes for your clients.  

Get some sleep.  Inspire more people. 

2. Sleep deprivation leads to lower levels of performance

Barnes and team also found sleep deprived employees are less likely to be inspired and engaged by their leaders. 

Research tells us that sleep deprivation leads to:

  • Unethical behaviour;
  • Lower levels of work engagement;
  • More accidents;
  • Lower levels of cooperation; and
  • Higher levels of selfishness.
It's our responsibility to get enough sleep to ensure we are performing well in our roles.  

As leaders we need to set up conditions for our teams that allow them to sleep.  (E.g. no late at night emails).

3. Lack of sleep is bad for your health

Getting appropriate sleep is even more important for the brain than going to the gym. 

You may feel like a warrior when you say, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” but the reality is that you’re more likely to lose productivity due to health issues if you’re not getting seven to eight hours per night. 

Lack of sleep causes greater health risks of:
  • Obesity;
  • Heart disease;
  • Diabetes;
  • Depression;
  • Car Accidents;
  • High blood pressure;
  • Stroke;
  • Libido issues; and
  • Aged skin. 

Ask yourself two questions:

  1. Why is it important that YOU get enough sleep?
  2. What habits are holding you back?

Let me know how you go.  I’m happy to help.  Small changes can lead to big results.

Keep moving forward- I believe in you.