The most basic shift we can make in redefining success in our lives has to do with our strained relationship to sleep. As Dr. Michael Roizen, chief wellness officer of the Cleveland Clinic, put it, “Sleep is the most underrated health habit.”
Most of us fail to make good use of such an invaluable part of our lives. In fact, we deliberately do just the opposite. We think, mistakenly, that success is the result of the amount of time we put in at work, instead of the quality of time we put in.
Sleep, or how little of it we need, has become a symbol of our prowess. We make a fetish of not getting enough sleep, and we boast about how little sleep we get.
I once had dinner with a man who bragged to me that he’d gotten only four hours of sleep the night before. I resisted the temptation to tell him that the dinner would have been a lot more interesting if he had gotten five.
There’s practically no element of our lives that is not improved by getting adequate sleep. And there is no element of life that’s not diminished by a lack of sleep. Including our leaders’ decisions. Bill Clinton, who used to famously get only five hours of sleep a night, admitted, “Every important mistake I’ve made in my life, I’ve made because I was too tired.”
Our creativity, ingenuity, confidence, leadership, and decision making can all be enhanced simply by getting enough sleep. “Sleep deprivation negatively impacts our mood, our ability to focus, and our ability to access higher-level cognitive functions: the combination of these factors is what we generally refer to as mental performance,” say Drs. Stuart Quan and Russell Sanna, from Harvard Medical Schools’ Division of Sleep Medicine.
“Women are significantly more sleep-deprived than men,” confirms Dr. Michael Breus, author of Beauty Sleep. “They have so many commitments, and sleep starts to get low on the totem pole. They may know that sleep should be a priority, but then, you know, they’ve just got to get that last thing done. And that’s when it starts to get bad.”
Cheating your body out of the R & R it needs can make you more prone to illness, stress, traffic accidents, and weight gain. (Dr. Breus swears that sleeping will actually do more to take off weight than exercise!)
The sleep experts I have consulted with have provided me with a number of additional sleep tips. Here are some of the ones I found the most useful:
- Get a new pillow. And a new pillowcase.
- Make your bedroom darker and keep it cool.
- Practice deep breathing before bed.
- Take a warm bath before bed.
- Exercise or at least walk every day.
- Banish all LCD screens (laptops, tablets, smartphones, TV) at night
- Cut down on coffee after 2 p.m. and avoid alcohol right before bedtime to give the body time to metabolize it.
Excerpted from Thrive by Arianna Huffington. Copyright © 2014 by Arianna Huffington. Excerpted by permission of Harmony, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Illustration Credit: Marie Guillard