Sleep Your Way To The Top

September 19, 2017 heard me! OK...not like that!


The goddess of sleep and the queen of thriving, Arianna Huffington, changed the connotation of this phrase when she first started touting the virtues of getting enough z’s on a nightly basis. Sleep is the answer to all your productivity woes it seems and the best way to get to the top is by getting enough of it. 


Ms Huffington extolls the importance of letting go of the glorification of busy and grasping onto the power of rest in order to succeed and many of our world leaders agree.


Former U.S. President Bill Clinton famously said, “Every important mistake I’ve made in my life, I’ve made because I was too tired.” We might leave that one alone though…


One of the many benefits of a good night’s rest according to a 2013 sleep study by the University of Rochester, is that the brain takes this time to rid itself of harmful waste proteins that build up during the day, a process that has been linked to a reduction in the risk of Alzheimer’s. 


Another study in 2011 by Harvard Medical School found that lack of sleep was significantly associated with a decrease of work performance and estimated that this alone cost U.S. businesses more than USD$63 billion per year. That's right, per year!


Yet, there are still so many businesses that expect their employees to work well beyond the standard nine to five and be “switched on” at all times not only to employees’ detriment, but ultimately, also to the employers. 


So, what can you do to combat this issue on a day-to-day basis? We’ve gathered the intel from a range of experts on the topic and come up with the following step-by-step guide to help transport you to the land of nod:


Step 1


Work out how many hours of sleep you need to function at your optimal level. This is generally around 8 hours for most people. 


The best way to do this is to give yourself a night off…from everything and everyone. Mums with young children, this exercise might require a night off from the kids when you get a chance to ensure you aren’t awoken prematurely during the night or the next morning. Heck…this might be just the excuse you need for a romantic weekend away!


Go to bed early and wake up…when you wake up. Your body will tell you when it’s had its fill of sleep. If you wake up by your internal alarm and are still tired…go back to sleep until you feel refreshed. Count the amount of hours and use this as your guide. 


Step 2


Don’t wear active wear to bed. Wear pyjamas or specially selected “sleeping clothes” so as not to confuse your brain. 


Leave your active wear to the gym (or working from home!). Your brain is very smart and it gets confused when you wear your gym clothes to bed…it assumes that it needs to gear up for a work out, not a wind down.


Step 3


Veer away from caffeine after 5pm. This cut-off time varies according to how your body reacts to caffeine. I am a super sensitive non-coffee drinker.


Drink a non-caffeinated tea or tisane before bed. My favourite is Honey Bush (Honey Vanilla by T2 to be exact) which is delectable on its own or served with milk. Don’t be fooled by herbal teas as most contain caffeine. 


Step 4


Turn off your screens…all your screens. Leave the phone turned off in another room and read a good ol’ fashioned book or magazine when you crawl into bed at a reasonable hour. Don’t read anything that requires you to think too much…chick-lit anyone?


If you don’t read paper books anymore, then a Kindle on low light setting will suffice. iBooks are a big no-no according to the experts though, as the light that the device emits does you no favours when trying to wind down. 


Now if you're anything like me and use your phone as an alarm, then there are two options for you. Buy an alarm clock or switch your phone to silent and aeroplane mode so that you aren’t disturbed during the night.


Step 5


Make sure you have a comfortable and supportive mattress and pillow. These are perhaps the most important factors in a good night’s sleep. 


My husband and I slept in a springy double bed for two years and didn’t know ourselves once we invested in a king size firm replacement. It is an investment in your health and wellbeing. Don’t skimp here. 


Tight on cash? Check out one of the many interest-free plans that stores offer, wait for the stocktake sales if you can and bargain, bargain, bargain! There are many discounts available, you just need to ask. 


Step 6


Try and get your room as dark as possible. If it’s not dark enough, use an eye mask. 


Step 7


A light sleeper like me? Keep ear plugs by your bed so that if there are any unwanted noises in the middle of the night, you can easily pop them in without waking too much. 


Step 8


Keep a notepad and pen by your bed for any thoughts that might stray into your mind. 


When I get into bed, my mind is still whirring at a million miles an hour no matter how much of a wind down routine I have, so this is a must for me. 


I’ll often have some of my best ideas before falling asleep and if I don’t write them down and get them out of my brain I just can’t switch off. 


The notepad and pen also comes in handy when wanting to remember a vivid dream in the middle of the night. After all, dreams can be how your subconscious communicates with you. 


Step 9


Don’t turn the light on if you get up in the middle of the night. As Olivia Newton-John so eloquently put it in Grease…feel your way…


Step 10


Keep at a moderate temperature as best you can. You don’t want to be cold and you definitely don’t want to be too hot. 


And when all else fails?


Nap! Napping has been proven to assist with filling the deficit of sleep in our lives. I am the queen of napping, 20 minutes in the afternoon and I am back at it raring to go. 


The trick? Don't let yourself sleep for any longer than 30 minutes. Put an alarm on to make sure. Otherwise, you will wake more tired than when you went to sleep. 


Master the art of napping and you will be in very good company with some notable nappers in history including; Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy!


Can't exactly fall asleep at your office desk? A secret I used when working in the corporate world was having a nap in a nearby park whenever I could get away. OK…it was less a park and more a garden behind a beautiful church, but it worked!


You’d be surprised how many people do it! Keep a picnic blanket at work and take yourself for a siesta as part of your lunch break or afternoon tea. 


Short naps are believed to prime your brain to function at a higher level after all so you’re doing everyone a favour!


Working mums…this might be the answer you need to grab a few minutes nap (or even just a lie down) whenever and wherever you can. After all, you are the most affected by sleep deprivation and you are also the ones who might just need it the most. 

So let’s all embrace “sleep” as well as we have embraced “busy” and find the options available to us to get some shut eye in wherever and however we can. 


Share your sleep habits. What works for you? How many hours is optimal in your world?






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