There is perhaps nothing more captivating than a sleeping baby. Watch their perfect face relax, see the rosebud lips twitch and their delicate chest rise and fall with each tiny, delicious, languorous breath. As that brief moment of adoration passes and the demands of the day still remain, your mind turns to envy.
Yes, envy - as you push that same infant around in a stroller through endless supermarket aisles, ducking and weaving, your basket overflowing and your burden increasing! Every so often you glance down to see your tranquil companion is still enjoying the ride and cooing at the bright lights and sounds. If only the experience were as restful and restorative for you!
As infants, we’re nurtured and cared for. Sent to bed after a day of play, and fed well so our legs grow long and our brains grow healthy. Time passes. We lose our milk teeth and pass through puberty, maybe graduate with a cap and gown. Then begins the slog of a career, and if we’re lucky we squeeze in a partner and family. A remarkably common feature amongst all the variables here is that slippage occurs, and we do much less of one particular thing. Sleep.
Two-and-a-half years ago, Arianna Huffington fainted from exhaustion. She hit her head on her desk, broke her cheekbone, and had to have five stitches in her right eye. ‘And I began the journey of rediscovering the value of sleep,’ she says.
Huffington, the founder of The Huffington Post, CEO of Thrive Global and author of 15 books, is not surprisingly the go-to on many subjects, However, driven from her own personal experiences of utter exhaustion and lack of sleep she is extremely passionate about sending one very specific message…
‘When you’re burned out and exhausted, it’s much harder to see clearly the dangers or opportunities ahead.’
Huffington knows that whether you’re the CEO of a multi-million-dollar company or the administrator of a 24hour distribution plant, the psychological demands are equally exhausting. Our bodies each have the same basic needs. And sleep is a big one.
HOW DID IT GET SO LATE, SO SOON?
Two things stood out in Huffington’s research. One, every element of our lives is enriched if we get enough sleep. And secondly, our biggest mistake is in measuring our success by the time we invest in it, rather than the quality of work we put in. Bill Clinton, who was renowned for sleeping only five or six hours a night throughout his presidency, observes…
‘Every important mistake I have made in my life, I’ve made because I was tired.’
If only he’d been thinking more clearly that day in the oval office with the cigar. Of course, getting more sleep is easier said than done - especially when our culture thrives on 24-hour data streaming and play-on-demand TV.
SLEEP - YOUR NEW STABLEMATE
The tricky part is finding the golden number – how many hours of sleep do we need to be mindfully present and completely engaged in our day? Everyone is slightly different, so once you have found yours, it’s time to get committed.
Here are three strategies Huffington has lived, breathed and made work:
- Tell people – own up to it. If everything you do could be done better on a really good night’s sleep, be candid about it. Let those around you know that you will be far more interesting and engaging tomorrow if you have the right amount of zeds.
- Schedule a meeting – it’s simple. A fee-paying client would find tardiness completely unacceptable. Treat your sleep the same way. Here’s the formula – the time you need to wake up minus your magic hours of sleep. BAM. This is the time you need to go to bed. Set a really annoying reminder if you have to.
- Stop temptation – turn all devices off. No beebs, blings, horns, swooshes or sweeps. Not only does this give your body a physical signal that it is ‘shutting down’, it prevents any middle-of-the-night temptation to check devices or be woken by their alluring vibrations.
There’s no doubt that Huffington is onto a good thing with her ideas on sleep, and we all know in our hearts that she’s right. It’s good to be reminded that as the years advance, we may not be as captivatingly beautiful while sleeping like a baby, but our need for rest has not changed. Nurture yourself and don’t be afraid to start pushing up more zeds!