Today I have spent an almost comical amount of time thinking about sleep and its importance in day to day health. To some, this may seem a no-brainer, but I am often astonished by how many people seem to think that getting 4-6 hours of sleep at night is enough to sustain any kind of balance in the long-term. When I sit down and really talk about sleep with clients who think they can get away with such little sleep on a consistent basis, we talk gradually about the reasons behind why they are not sleeping more. You see, the human body is built to function on 7-9 hours of sleep a night, depending on many variables such as age, nutrition, general health, etc. When this is being cut by almost a third, there are usually other issues that come into play.
When we start to explore these areas, my unknowingly sleep-deprived clients start to unravel their reasons behind being such champions of... no sleep. I have found that many times people who don't get enough sleep are stressed about a myriad of different life situations. The most common suspect is, of course work, because as Americans, we have a hard time turning work off. While living in Sweden for nearly a decade, one of the best life and wellness skills I learned was to just "be". In Sweden, as in many other European countries, leaving work at work is a way of life. In the U.S., it's a skill, even an art. As a former high-level manager of a couple of very large international corporations, I noticed that our European colleagues understood the concept of balance better. As a while, they spent more quality time with their families, turned off their devices at a reasonable hour, took vacations, and actually stayed home when they weren't feeling well.
Now, would this work in every demanding American workplace? Probably not. There seems to be some kind of celebration of the workoholic in some professional circles. But when I sit down and discuss turnover, burnout, and how common it is to let employees go due to any number of "distractions". The fact is, workoholics who don't seem to know how to put work away and allow in time for healthy balanced a lifestyle are often not putting in as many hours as they think they are. Why? Because those who get too little sleep and/or work too many hours without creating time for the enjoyment of other aspects of their lives. Often times, the workoholic is also a "surfoholic," suffering from other addictions related to devices; be it social media, dating apps, chat, gaming, or any number of other distractions. I was intrigued by the fact that a few CEOs mentioned that once they started monitoring the device activity of their staff that productivity skyrocketed, while actual hours at the office decreased. Interesting, isn't it?
Another reason people suffer from a lack of adequate sleep is due to matters of the heart. Oh please make it stop. If you are in love, you can't sleep. If you are having relationship problems, you can't sleep. If you miss someone, you can't sleep. Oh, the heart. I swear it's more effective than caffeine. So how does one stay balanced and rested when matters of the heart are not only a part of life, but can be an enriching and invigorating aspect of life? We all need love. We all want to be loved and hopefully most of us want to give love back.
So what can you do about keeping your heart from acting as a double espresso? The answer is to do all you can to keep your relationships in balance. Now that is easier said than done, because it usually takes two. Of course we can control our reactivity in relationship, but we cannot control another's. So maintaining your own sense of self is imperative. It's not always easy, especially in the kinds of intense relationships that affect your sleep, but it can be done. Pamper yourself by taking a bath by candlelight. Read a book you love, even if it's only for ten minutes a day. Go for a walk. Eat well. Play a game with your child. Do something to feed YOUR soul and let the rest follow. Most importantly, BACK. SLOWLY. AWAY. FROM. YOUR. DEVICES. If you put half of the energy you put into your shenanigans on Instagram and Facebook into your relationship with your partner and with yourself, you'd see improvements in all areas of life.
So what does do devices have to do with sleep? Everything. When individuals learn when their bodies want them to walk away from devices, tv, their phones, and so on, they get in their beds earlier, they fall asleep earlier, have more frequent and better sex, experience greater emotional intimacy in their relationships and, imagine this, sleep more.
There are so many more contributing factors to lack of sleep - worries about finances and loved ones, physical pain, addiction, and anything that causes stress or anxiety of any kind. I'm interested in hearing from you about your sleep habits how they have changed over the years, how they are affected, how you would like them to change, and how you think more or less sleep would affect your life.