As a spa consultant for over a decade, appointed International Coordinator of Global Wellness Day 2015, my quest is to learn techniques that help people become the best version of themselves and reach optimal health. Knowing that we spend one-third of our lives asleep, I wanted to conquer that portion of available time to work more, and if possible more efficiently.
My first AHA came years ago, when applying the sleep pattern technique. Back then, I would make sure that I adjusted my hours of sleep in blocks of 90 minutes, with an average of six hours per night (three hours being the minimum to be functional the following day). The trick is to make a mental image of the actual time when going to bed, and next to it, the desired wake-up time. More often than not, this system helps to naturally open your eyes a few minutes before the buzzing sound.
As the young managing director of a booming massage institute near the Champs-Elysees (Paris) in 2001-2004, I would stay at the office until 9 or 10 p.m., followed by evenings with my wife and some dinner parties. In Paris, is is customary to have dinner with friends after 9 p.m. So on a daily basis, I would switch off at midnight and wake up around 6 a.m. to stretch with some yoga asanas, and get to the office before the staff arrived.
During a training mission, the GM of a thermal spa in the Pyrenees told me that he was sleeping an average of 4.5 hours per night which helped him add 7.5 more hours of work to every week (about an extra day) to get through the paperwork and push projects forward, while the office was quiet in the morning.
Call me crazy, but this was another AHA moment for me. I adopted this technique for about five years, sleeping three cycles of 90 minutes Monday thru Friday, and then recovering on Saturdays and Sundays by sleeping nine hours straight (like a log). That was the time I adopted multi-tasking, working on up to seven files simultaneously. Although exhilarating to achieve so much every day, I admit, looking back, that it was physically and mentally draining. It had an impact on my concentration span, forcing me to switch from one activity to another, flipping through the tabs on my laptop, to always pike my interest and force myself to refocus.
Especially weary on Thursdays and Fridays, I noticed that I was getting hooked on adrenaline and cortisol to stay awake and alert. It even got to a point when I would regularly lose my voice because of recurring throat inflammations. My body was telling me to switch from "fight or flight" to "rest and reflect," but instead of slowing down, I would rush to the throat doctor for a prescription of antibiotics and cortisol. That would give my body the extra kick to get through my never-ending to-do list. That's when I should have realized that the pressure I was experiencing was mainly self-induced (or self-inflicted), rather than generated by others. But I admit that what people call "a good job" is for me falling short of a "great job." Clearly not a healthy lifestyle, especially for someone working at a spa, but this ever-morphing industry calls for constant innovations to stay ahead and create perceived value, both for clients and staff!
Back then, I used the power napping technique (a self-guided relaxation and meditation) to induce a state of deep restorative sleep within a window of 7 to 14 minutes. It helped for a while, but it really was my wife who switched on the alarm signal, and encouraged me to stop being pedal-to-metal ALL the time, and to grant myself times to slow down, rest, count my blessings and enjoy family life seeing my two daughters grow up. For this AHA moment, I shall ever be thankful.
But having the behavioral pattern of a plough horse, I always push myself and want to be as accessible as possible to clients and colleagues: "Always ON, never OFF" as I used to say. Consequently, my iPhone was always at reach, to respond to messages and emails until late. I would sleep with my phone on the bedside table, waking up to its vibrations.
When realizing that sleep is actually NOT a wasted moment, as the glial cells in the brain need time to flush the toxins and wastes produced by the neuronal activity the day before, and start with a fresh mind the next morning, I granted myself about 7.5 hours of sleep every night. The key is not about working more, but more efficiently. This is especially true to develop a more creative brain.
My most recent AHA moment was when taking the Thrive workshop facilitated by Agapi Stassinopoulos at the Global Wellness Summit in Mexico City (November 2015). As she was addressing the importance of sleep, she asked if anyone was sleeping with his or her phone. As I raised my hand, she gazed deeply into my eyes and said "STOP! Promise me, and promise everyone in this room, that from this night on, you will put your phone in another room and treat yourself with a better sleep!" With her greek charisma and enchanting personality, I do not know if anyone ever said NO to Agapi, and in front of the entire audience I did not dare to say NO, so I promised to try...
I must admit that ever since, my phone has been sleeping in the bathroom, on airplane mode, placed over a special "sleeping bag" for cell phones that I got during my stay at Rancho La Puerta (see photo attached). Not only do I feel that my sleep is deeper and more restorative, but to my astonishment, I get to dream much more and remember dreams better in the morning, which is HUGE for me, as for years, I could not remember any of my dreams.
I am immensely grateful to Agapi for encouraging me to have better nights without my cell phone nearby and for all the many advice that she gave during the THRIVE workshop. As you read these lines, I highly encourage you to also give a try to this Aha! Thrive moment!