Give yourself the gift of sleep.

We are strong proponents of leaders getting restful sleep every day. It makes a world of difference to their quality of leadership, and aspects of their life, like memory, immune system, moods, weight, and decision making. The key here: the right amount of sleep. But that number is somewhat a mystery. Do you think you get the amount of sleep your body/ mind needs?

Here’s how to test that. Choose a spot to sit down, and close your eyes for 5-7 mins. Focus on your breath. Do your eyes feel warm and droopy? Do you feel a weight on your shoulders? And do you find yourself sighing? If yes, then you are sleep deprived.

In the hum drum of our life, we don’t feel tired because we are energized by our experiences. So, we keep going. We want to sleep in on holidays, but our body clocks are aligned with the weekday alarm clock. And before we know it we run into a sleep deficit, which only grows as we accept less sleep as the baseline. How to shift this towards a healthier practice? We have a range of ideas:

  1. Be in a more natural work environment. By this, we mean spaces which have more sunlight over artificial light, a warm ambient temperature, ventilation, and exposure to greenery. Spaces which are highly artificially controlled, impact our productivity and sleep negatively. It interferes with our body’s circadian rhythms. A health study found that green, sustainable, and natural environments enhance our sleep quality by 6.5%. This, in turn increases our cognitive function by 26.4%.
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  2. Design a wind down routine. Like Arianna Huffington says, “rekindle your romance with sleep.” Set aside some transition time to go from work/ social mode to sleep mode. This could be anywhere between 30 mins to 1.5 hours. Decide a set of practices that help you relax – switch off devices, take a hot shower, light candles, read in bed, drink green tea and journal. The idea – reduce the arousal state of your mind. Hyper-arousal is the biggest factor contributing to insomnia. Also, the more routine our body has, the better it functions.
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  3. Associate your bed with rest, not alertness. With our desire to remain connected, we often end up texting right until we fall asleep. We watch movies in bed, or read e-articles/ books related to work. These habits hinder our sleep. The display light of phones/ tablets reduces the production of melatonin in our brain, which is the sleep inducing hormone. The recommendation: don’t take devices to bed. Maintain your sleeping space as one where you relax. Over time, your brain will associate the bed with this quality, and help fall asleep faster.

When we feel a time crunch, the first thing that we sacrifice is sleep. But that is probably one of the most dangerous things we can do to our body and mind. Change it now!

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