Reflections on the Importance of Sleep & Rest
I believe that sleep is terribly underrated in our society. Sleep is so foundational to daily self-care and our overall well-being; no less than the need to eat well and move our bodies. Our bodies rely on it for re-setting our compass daily — literally to repair and restore our cells, to re-charge our brains, to promote weight loss and so much more.
When we don’t get enough it affects everything in our lives — our moods and behaviors, our immune systems, our energy levels and weight, our personal safety out in the world, on the road (selves & others), our productivity, and our overall health and longevity. Simply put, without sleep our bodies and brains can’t recover and recharge as effectively. And yet according to the CDC, 1 in 3 of us don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis.
I pride myself on being an exception to this pattern. I know my body, and I do my best to honor it’s sleep requirements. For the most part since I was a teenager, I keep regular sleep hours, and I aim for 8 hours a night — and I’d say at least 95% of the time (!) I achieve that. And yet, during the recent Labor Day weekend, on two nights of the long weekend I slept at least 9 hours — so even with my good sleep hygiene sometimes I need a little more.
I’m also a huge proponent of naps throughout the week as needed. I come by it honestly; my mom geared her entire career as a college professor around her afternoon naps — she made sure her class schedule was built around her daily nap time. In many cultures in the world, daily naps (aka ’siestas’) are a way of life — and yet in Western society, not so much.
During my tenure at Apple, I lobbied for nap rooms (probably starting in the late 90s) but no one took it seriously at that time. Nowadays it’s much more common and big companies have started to embrace naps as a matter of course. According to a 2008 survey from the National Sleep Foundation, 34% of US companies allow (even encourage!) employees to take nap breaks at work — and several have designed nap pods or nap rooms to accomodate this.
One of the companies that has embraced naps is the Huffington Post whose leader, Arianna Huffington, published a New York Times best-selling book entitled “The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at Time”. if you want to take a deep dive into the myriad details around sleep science, Arianna’s book is a great place to start.
Recently, members of a women’s group I belong to introduced me to the practice of Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra is a sleep-based meditation in which your mind is guided to the most exquisite state of relaxation you can imagine. As your body experiences deep relaxation you become open to releasing emotional and mental patterns that have been holding you back.
It’s well worth trying; I’ve come out of these sessions with a profound sense of being rested more deeply than regular sleep alone promotes. I recommend this resource for starters.
Finally, many of us have a bad habit of not replacing our mattresses often enough; at least 10 years is a good target. We spend 1/3 of our lives in bed (IF we are getting sufficient sleep!), so it’s vital we invest in mattresses that will promote sound sleep. That, combined with good pillows that are right for what kind of sleeper you are, can take you a long way. There have never been more options in both categories so upgrade yourself when you can.
One more thing to share on the topic. With many of us wearing smart watches these days, there an increasing number of sleep apps to try out for iOS and Android; starter list here.