Fact: Sleep is the most simple, yet most profound way to reduce stress. If we don’t sleep, everything suffers: our mood and happiness, our productivity, our concentration, our confidence, our creativity, our decision-making, our sex-drive. Based on the American Sleep Association, 50-70 Million US adults have a sleep disorder.
The importance of sleep
In today's world, we are bragging about not needing a lot of sleep. BUT there is nothing more important than getting enough and good quality sleep. Our nation is nowadays suffering from chronic sleep deprivation. A study at Duke University has found that poor sleep is associated with higher stress levels and greater risk of heart disease and diabetes.
And not surprisingly, risks are higher in women than in men, as usually women get less sleep: working moms, difficulty to switch off (have you ever laid awake next to your partner, thinking how unfair it is that they fall asleep in a heartbeat while you struggle to switch off your mind from the daily stresses?), overcompensating in a male dominated world by working longer and harder.
In a 2011 Harvard Medical School study they found that insomnia was significantly associated with lost of work performance which, they further estimated, cost for businesses sums up to $63 Billion per year.
One of the first and most simple ways to reduce stress is to get more sleep. More sleep can lead to:
Leadership and decision-making
Mental performance (it reduces the risk of Alzheimer)
Feel happier and elevate your mood
Higher performance through better concentration, even when you work out
Strategies to get more sleep
Determine how much sleep you need in order to get up feeling refreshed:
Step 1. When is your first appointment in the morning?
Step 2. Count backwards and determine the time you need to go to bed.
Step 3: Give yourself time to wind down and relax before sleeping.
Example: Work starts at 8am. You need an hour in the morning to get ready and commute to work. You like to sleep 9 hours to feel refreshed. This means, you should probably go to bed by 9:15-9:30pm to give yourself some rest, read a book, take a warm shower, go through a gratitude practice with your partners (Ask: what are the 3 things you are most grateful for today?).
Now you are thinking: 9 hours of sleep every night? I can never get there, I have too much to do. My tip: observe how you actually spend your time. Do you have work meetings? Watch TV? Talk on the phone with friends and family? Do you scroll for hours through your social media feed? Usually, there is always time to take care of yourself, we simply need to be better at making ourselves a priority. Treat sleep as the most important thing for yourself, treat it with the same urgency than any other important appointment and see it as a meeting that you schedule with yourself.
Other strategies are (but not limited to):
Have an evening routine without devices (e.g. take a shower / bath; read a book, quality time with your loved ones; write down your thoughts in a journal)
Get an alarm clock instead of using your phone (if you can’t be strict with yourself)
Deep Body Relaxation Technique ("Yoga Nidra" find it on Spotify or on the free App Insight Timer)
Plan for it - start with 1 or 2 days per week if you like to be social and would like to make plans with friends the other nights
Buy some nice PJs or new bed linen
Spray some lavender on your pillow before going to bed
Exercise or go for a walk in nature before going to sleep
Keep your bedroom cool
Cut down on coffee and alcohol
Remember: Stress management is a skill that everyone can learn!
You are already on the right track to make sustainable changes to your professional career and personal life.
I wish you all the best.