To Sleep, Perchance To Dream
How many zzz’s have you been missing out on?
Sleep is one of those things we know we need more of, know we feel better with, can spend a lot of time pursuing, and yet, like the elusive butterfly, we don’t always get.
We’ve been taught to believe that overworking, even to the point of burnout, is the price we must pay in order to succeed. But without proper sleep life is harder, so what normally may be easeful can become like a weight around our necks. A lack of sleep also affects creativity, memory consolidation, the ability to learn and solve problems, as well as depression and anxiety. Which doesn’t make overworking any easier.
In fact, the mindset that we need stress as a stimulus to accomplishment, actually takes us in the opposite direction. After collapsing from exhaustion in 2007, Arianna Huffington became a self-labeled “sleep evangelist” to encourage others to make sleep a priority. She says, “Everywhere I go, someone will pull me aside and, often in hushed and conspiratorial tones, confess, ‘I’m just not getting enough sleep, I’m exhausted all the time,’ or ‘I don’t remember the last time I wasn’t tired,’” as if the need for sleep was something to be embarrassed about.
But hope is not lost for chronic under-sleepers. Both science and industry are now appreciating the drawbacks of the age-old motto “you snooze, you lose” versus the benefits of well-rested, quick-thinking productivity. Nap rooms are being installed in offices across the country. “I must admit there was skepticism when we first put nap rooms in our New York offices in 2011,” says Arianna. “HuffPosters were reluctant to be seen walking into a nap room in the middle of a bustling newsroom in ‘the city that never sleeps.’ But now the rooms are perpetually full, and I expect the nap room to become as important as the conference room.”
One of the simplest ways, and possibly most difficult, to get more restful rest is by sleeping in a separate room from our newest cultural obsession. That’s right, our smartphones. A 2015 survey showed that 71% of Americans sleep next to their smartphones, which not only cycles WIFI signals around the resting brain, but texts and calls can interrupt sleep several times a night, preventing us from the all-important REM cycle of sleep.
Which means making the moment we walk through the door of our bedroom a symbolic moment that marks the end of the day, with all of its problems and unfinished business. When we wake up in the morning we start a new day and there will be plenty of time to deal with our challenges, refreshed and recharged. Make being “unavailable for the night” a daily ritual.
And if sleep remains elusive, then deep relaxation can work wonders. When Ed lived at a yoga retreat center in India, he trained in Yoga Nidra, dynamic relaxation where you get relaxed, vital and rejuvenated. One hour of Yoga Nidra goes as deep and refreshing as six hours of sleep.
Or try meditation, which derives its name from the same Latin root as medication, indicating how healing it can be. “When I’m really having trouble sleeping, or wake up with thoughts crowding my mind, I’ve found meditation to be a great remedy,” says Arianna. I” have some of my deepest meditation experiences and, inevitably, drift off to sleep at some point.” The early hours of the morning is also when such meditation practitioners as the Dalai Lama find it most conducive, so you’re not alone at that time.
Getting more sleep seems like a no-brainer and there’s no prescription needed. Small changes, beginning with dispelling the collective delusion that less sleep equals more productivity, can lead to big life shifts