Sleep has always mesmerised me. Even before I started working in my current business, I was captivated by how sleep affects our waking hours. I remember spending months experimenting with creating the perfect sleep environment, trying to find the balance between getting work done and letting my brain relax.
It wasn’t easy.
We’re all guilty of overworking and taking our work to bed, getting by on a few hours of sleep and supplementing our focus with copious amounts of caffeine. But how effective is this personal sacrifice and artificial stimulation? How much damage is it actually doing to us? Most importantly, how can we fix it?
Why do we sleep?
There have been many ideas around the purpose of sleep. Early theories suggest it’s an evolutionary trait, designed to keep us inactive when we were most vulnerable – night. Another theory is that it’s a way to reduce our energy demand – important during times when food was scarce. More recently, a theory suggested sleep was designed to restore damage to our bodies caused by being awake.
What we do know now is that it’s almost all about brain maintenance.
Interestingly, our brains don’t rest while we sleep. The brain during sleep is actually busy doing the housekeeping. There’s a lot of research taking place as to what really happens while we sleep, and so far there are a few theories:
- The brain produces proteins, steroids, cholesterol, growth hormones and other molecules, repairing our bodies.
- The brain cleans up the memories we’ve made during our wakefulness.
- The brain consolidates and stores significant memories.
- The brain has an opportunity to flush out toxic waste build-up.
What happens if you don’t get enough sleep?
Sleep is an incredible natural drug for better wellbeing. In fact, even though modern science is still unravelling the inner workings of why we sleep, we do know that sleep affects us positively in many ways.
The lack of consistently good sleep can:
- Decline your short-term memory, hindering your learning.
- Make you more drowsy and an unsafe driver.
- Reduce testosterone levels and sex drive.
- Negatively affect your mood to make you unhappy.
- Make you more susceptible to diabetes by not controlling your appetite.
- Make you less fit by running amok with your hunger.
- Make you more depressed and anxious.
- Increase the likelihood of unhealthy skin.
- Drive impulses for making riskier financial decisions.
- Keep you less productive and more likely to get sick.
- Make your speech slurred and less clear.
- Trigger bigger headaches and migraines.
- Make you more tired when you’re home from work.
- Increase erratic behaviour and cause mistakes.
- Give you poorer eyesight.
- Keep you less calm and amplify negative emotions.
- Make your reaction times worse.
- Prevent your heart and brain from staying healthy.
So what are some tips for better sleep?
Better sleep starts with you. The first thing you need to do is actually want to change your sleep habits for the better. Then you need to make provisions to see it through. The resulting benefits should be enough motivation for you to consistently work on quality sleep, every night. Here are my best tips for getting amazing sleep, every night:
- Keep to a schedule: Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
- Don’t sleep in during the weekend: You’ll just end up feeling more tired when you need to wake up on Monday.
- Distance yourself from stress: Read, listen to music, or meditate and flush today’s and tomorrow’s stress out of your mind.
- Create the perfect sleep environment: Make it dark and cool. Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows, and most importantly, retire those electronic devices early.
- Get some exercise: Daily exercise will reinvigorate your body and help you achieve deeper sleep at night.
Finding better work-sleep balance can be tricky, but the effort is worth it. By looking after your best interests and resting sufficiently each night, you can develop laser-focus that will drive your success through the day.
You will literally be able to sleep your way to the top.
Do you get enough sleep? What are your tips for better sleep?