I was very interested to read a news story on the BBC some time ago about how we are becoming ignorant about sleep and its' importance to our well being.
This is something I recognise both from my own experience and from my clients.
I used to be a 9 to 5 wage slave, getting up early every morning to make the morning commute from one side of London to the other. There would then be the long working day, followed by a commute home and some socialising or work engagement. I would get home late and have to be up at the same time next morning regardless of how much sleep I had had so that I could start the process again.
When I became freelance, everyone told me that in order to be successful, I had to work all the hours God sent, so losing that early morning commute meant I had an extra hour a day to get in front of the computer. What? Sorry, I intended to use that hour to get a bit more sleep! I started planning my time so that if I knew had a late night, I would make sure I had no meetings planned first thing in the morning. And if I had morning meetings, I would have an early night. I started having a consistent 7 - 8 hours a sleep a night and within a month or so, I realised that I had lived most of my life in a state of low level tiredness. I actually didn't really know what it was like to be truly rested. Don't get me wrong, I hadn't spent my life yawning, falling asleep in the cinema or spending weekends catching up on sleep with 14 hour sleep binges. It was all much more insidious than that. It was, I realise in hindsight, just having very slightly slower reactions; not always being as mentally sharp; just a general underlying feeling of "meh", which I assumed was my natural state. With the correct sleep, I have more energy, feel more perky and generally healthier.
When I am working with clients who feel they aren't being productive or creative, we often touch on sleep patterns. They feel the answer is to work even harder or longer. Obviously, there are still going to be odd occasions when circumstances dictate a bit of sleep deprivation in order to get something handled. But in general, it really is much more sensible to try as much as possible to regulate sleep and get as much as you need so that you are working to your best. This gives a clear head and a rested body. That is before you even start looking at all the other major health benefits mentioned in the BBC article.
So, tonight, get those jimjams, turn off that phone/iPad/e-reader*, and get some sleep!
(*Frances Booth has written a very good book, The Distraction Trap, which tells you how our lovely digital gadgets are ruining our sleep.)
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