Pillow talk

While “Early to bed and early to rise” was the stuff of many a childhood lesson, just how “healthy, wealthy and wise” it could make one, was often glossed over. Throughout history though famous nappers have included Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Eleanor Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and John F. Kennedy. Bill Clinton, famous for just 5 hours sleep a night, has since said of his political career, “most of the mistakes I made, I made when I was too tired”.

Before we touch on the importance of sleep, sleep deprivation, it’s no secret, has huge negative effects and has even been used as a form of torture. While complete sleep deprivation is ultimately fatal, partial sleep deprivation carries with it a wallop of nasties depending on the severity and duration. These include yawning, pale skin tone (looking pasty), slowed reaction time, lack of physical energy, depression, emotional instability, aching muscles, exhaustion, fainting, impatience, irritability, anger, road rage, slurred speech, stress, blurred vision, decreased mental ability, decreased concentration, psychosis, colour blindness, compromised immune system, decreased problem solving ability, impaired judgement, slowed reaction time, diabetes, dizziness, general confusion, hallucinations, hand tremors, headaches, hernia, nausea, infertility, memory loss, obesity, hypertension, delirium, heart disease and stroke.

In fact studies have shown that just 17 to 19 hours of sleep deprivation is the same as being drunk. We fire people for being drunk at work, so what then about those who bring their sleep deprivation to work? Even if you take the responsible decision not to drive when you’re sleep deprived, studies have shown that it’s as bad to show up at work after a sleepless night as it is after a couple of drinks.

Of course with busy lives and busy work schedules, the temptation to take work home or work after hours is huge. But essentially it’s a mistake and I do believe we all owe it to ourselves, our businesses and our loved ones to endeavour to start each day fresh and refreshed in order to achieve our real potential and be the best that we can be.

With sleep being next in importance to air, water and food, it’s imperative to take great care of every aspect of our rest. I believe proper sleep is the most underrated health habit and is the only way to maximum productivity. Besides improved energy, health, concentration, metabolism, circulation, creativity, ingenuity, confidence, leadership, decision-making and a host of other positives, good sleep also enables one to complete tasks more quickly, putting paid to any argument that one has too much work to sleep.

It’s always hard to start new habits, especially good ones, but here are some tips to get you “sleeping on it!”

  • Put 7-8 hours’ sleep on your to do list. Make it a priority.
  • If you don’t get it, consider catching an hour at lunch time. Researchers have found that even short naps can help you get into a better habit.
  • Choose a cut off time after work and stick to it.
  • Create a good bedroom environment.
  • Exercise, but not within 4 hours of bedtime.
  • Cut caffeine after 2 pm.
  • Write down your woes and worries. Once on paper, this helps turn your mind off.
  • Avoid bright screens within 1-2 hours of your bedtime. Say no to late-night television.
  • Stay cool. A cool bedroom environment encourages good sleep.
  • Breathe deeply. This helps reduce your heart rate and blood pressure, releases endorphins, and relaxes your body, priming you for sleep.

Practice relaxation techniques before bed.