Sleep is not a luxury, it’s CORE to wellbeing, health and performance

Posted: 8th August 2023

A while ago I was feeling generally rubbish every day and I couldn’t put my finger on why. I tried many things – working on my mindset, emotions, environment etc. and nothing worked. Then one day it hit me:

Every night for a prolonged period I was:

  • Going to bed really late (12am – 1am)
  • Then addictively scrolling through social media on my phone in the dark
  • When I finally tried to sleep, I struggled because my brain was overstimulated and wired from information overload and the blue light on my phone (it keeps our brains awake)
  • When I eventually fell asleep I had quite an irritated sleep
  • Then I’d wake up feeling groggy, exhausted, lethargic and miserable – hence the low mood

So, one day I went to bed early and without my phone. I had a long, good, deep sleep and I woke up the next day feeling amazing! The world was all rainbows and sunshine again. I was mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually recharged, happy and optimistic, I was energised, creative, joyful, productive and more. All because I got a good sleep! That’s it. Nothing more complex was required. I just needed sleep.

Often what we need for our mental health, wellbeing, resilience and optimal performance is BASIC.

Good food, nutrition, exercise and good sleep. These are not rocket science. But they are hugely impactful and often hugely neglected. I’m not saying that sleep can solve all your woes – but I bet it can solve some of them.

If you struggle with sleep, try my 4 tips below:

We know that blue light emitted from screens negatively affects our eyes, our brains and our ability to sleep. It’s even worse if you’re looking at the screen in the dark. I was certainly suffering from this.

I’d suggest putting your phone on the other side of the room or in a different room entirely, along with all other digital equipment, so that you’re not tempted to log on and scroll before you sleep.

One of the most life changing things I did was to stop hitting that snooze button. I used to snooze multiple times each morning. Then I heard why snoozing is so debilitating:

  • You wake up and your brain exits the sleep cycle.
  • You snooze and put yourself back to sleep and the brain enters another 2-4 hour sleep cycle
  • But you only snooze for 20 minutes or so, not 2-4 hours
  • So, you wake up, but your brain is still in the sleep cycle
  • Hence you feel tired, rubbish and groggy all morning (and start reaching for the coffee etc.) and you don’t feel or perform at your best

I solved this by putting my alarm (phone) on the other side of the room so I had to get out of bed and walk over to turn it off. Once out of bed, I’d get moving into my morning routine asap so I wasn’t tempted to get back under the cosy covers!

This simple change revolutionised the way I felt mentally, physically and emotionally. I also got so much more done because I was fresh and alert every single morning.

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I used to be good at this. Pre internet, advanced tech, smartphones, social media and self-employment – I enjoyed getting into bed early, often curling up with a good book before floating off to dreamland for a nice 8 hours or more.

But since all the above, I often found myself staying up way too late and either waking up early after only 5-6 hours sleep or, waking up late to get 8-9 hours. Interestingly, both of these left me feeling tired and lethargic during the day – so it wasn’t about the waking time, it was the sleeping time that was an issue.

So, I started getting to bed early (10pm latest) and I have zero regrets about it! I wake up fresh and feel SO much better during the day.

Something about the alarm clock irks me. I feel like my body knows when I’m ‘ready’ to wake and I ignore that inner wisdom by using an alarm clock which tells me when I ‘have’ to wake – whether I’m ready to or not. Alas, it is the modern world we live in.

When I allow myself to wake naturally – which often happens when I get an early night, or at the weekend when I can turn off the alarm, I feel so much more rested and well.

I shifted my sleep habits most after I realised:

Sleep is productive, it’s not stopping you doing things, it’s helping you do things

When you are asleep your brain does a lot of good work. Firstly, it has a bath! It cleanses itself of the metabolic waste built up during the day. If you don’t sleep long enough you wake up with a dirty brain! This causes you to feel groggy and foggy in your waking hours. And, accumulation of these waste products are seen in people with Alzheimer’s.

Secondly, it’s assimilating and processing information. When you’re asleep, your brain is hard at work – processing information from the day, assimilating ideas from the day, learning, memorising, putting things together, sorting things. This helps you function much better during the day, in fact it’s essential to your functioning during the day, helping you make better decisions, think more clearly and overall, use your brain better.

You wouldn’t deprive yourself of air, food and water, why do you deprive yourself of sleep?

I read recently that we spend about 30 years of our lives asleep! Something the human being is designed to do for that much time, cannot be a burden/ ill designed/ waste of time – it must be integral to our functioning. It’s not something we should be trying to bypass, limit, avoid or squeeze in here and there. I also heard that you can go without food and water for a few days and still be OK, but a few days without sleep will literally destroy you.

Sleep is serious business! Don’t neglect it.

In the modern world, where we are over stimulated, pulled in many directions, out of sync with our natural biorhythms, kept awake by new borns and young kiddies, and many mental and physical worries and challenges – it’s no surprise that we struggle with sleep. If you suffer anxiety, trauma and other mental health issues, you’re more likely to struggle with sleep and then end up in a vicious cycle.

If you’re struggling in this area, I really recommend you research more and try to make some changes. And if you’re thinking about how to help your staff with their wellbeing and performance – maybe support and educate them in this area too. Feel free to share this article and give it a thumbs up so that more people can learn about the importance of sleep.

In the meantime, I hope that tonight, you get a great sleep!


Source: | LinkedIn

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