I Got My 8 Hours in -- Did You?

What I found to be true for me is that without a good night's rest, I was more emotional, less resilient, less focused, had loss of memory and was more impatient. Just grumpy. That made my day super long and I was someone who wasn't as pleasant to be around. As a leader -- that's not a good thing.
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5 isn't enough. 7 could work but less optimal for me. You can't make it up. There is nothing else like it. I need 8. That is -- I need 8 hours of sleep. Yes -- SLEEP. Don't know about you -- but waking up after 8 hours sets me up perfectly for the day ahead. I can bring my best self to the entire day. I also get the most out of those days too.

"I only need 4 hours of sleep!"

Trust me, it's not a badge of honor to brag that you can get by on 4 hours or 5 each night. I've heard that statement too many times. (Especially in Silicon Valley) You intimate that with fewer hours "wasted on sleep" you are more productive. Nope. Can't buy that. When you brag about that, you are telling me that it's ok for you to harm your health and not perform your best at work or at home. Is that something to brag about?? Would you encourage your children to sleep only 5 hours a night? I wouldn't. Ever try to teach a cranky sleepy child? Now that is a challenge and typically doesn't bear fruit. No surprise.

Studies show that 7 to 8 hours of sleep are optimal. You could function at 6 hours but not at your peak. Also -- you can't make up the deficit. It's a myth that you can "catch up on your sleep" over the weekend. Your brain and your body need more.

Less sleep -- less of you:

I know I needed more. As a mother of 3 kids all within 3 and half years -- sleep was a coveted commodity. I also work full time. Taking a nap was not in my schedule. (Although I would have loved one!) There were days, weeks and months where I didn't achieve that 8-hour goal. It showed. I know it impacted my career at times. When you are not resilient, have lower energy and lack of focus -- how can your leadership team see the full potential in you?

What I found to be true for me is that without a good night's rest, I was more emotional, less resilient, less focused, had loss of memory and was more impatient. Just grumpy. That made my day super long and I was someone who wasn't as pleasant to be around. As a leader -- that's not a good thing. It didn't only impact me -- it impacted my team, my ability to influence and my role as a parent.

My "brain dead" day:

My personal "ah ha" moment was an embarrassing moment. No surprise there. 2 kids in diapers... ages 2 and 8 months... I was rushing to get ready for work and drop off the kids at day care. I had a meeting at 8 AM -- what possessed me to accept that invite? I was up at least 3 times during the night for kid duty... I showered, changed, fed and packed the kids, off to day-care, and went off to work -- beginning the day. That day I had back-to-back meetings, felt like I was always "behind" -- either in thought or time. I had to catch up. I thought I was missing something. Something wasn't right but I couldn't wrap my head around it -- I was too busy trying to stay on top of my business issues. I was not really listening or pausing to think.

Yup -- it wasn't my day. Around 3 o'clock a co-worker pointed out the baby spit on the back of my suit jacket I had been wearing all day... Yuck! (Such a great impression that must have made.) I also realized that I left the diaper bag and extra snacks in the car! And -- in all honesty -- wasn't on my A game in that 3 PM meeting or in the earlier ones. I felt disjointed and it showed when I tried to influence the dialogue in the meetings. My thoughts didn't flow and I gave up trying to better express my thoughts. I had less impact. My next thought? There's a new day tomorrow... I can always catch up on my sleep... But I didn't.

That was a typical day for a number of years. I still struggle when I travel overseas -- the time zone changes can wreck havoc on your sleep patterns. I struggle when work goes into "sprint mode" and I have too much on my plate. It can be hard to manage.

The impact? I was impaired, like a drunk. In studies they say that less than 6 hours of sleep affects your driving and reaction time. I believe it. My decision-making slowed down and my ability to grasp complex issues was strained. It's frustrating and it can be avoided. That's the key -- you can avoid that situation.

Don't survive -- Thrive:

Now -- In all honestly I knew all of this but when I heard Arianna Huffington speak about her book Thrive and the need for sleep, several pieces clicked into place for me. I could and should take control of this pattern once and for all. I wasn't alone.

I made it a goal to sleep better -- for my family, my work and me.

Learning about how to get better sleep, encourage my kids to sleep better at night and be fresh for the day was a game changer. It had a true ROI. The catch? I needed to change certain patterns in my life. That can be hard.

Here is what I learned from Arianna and others:

1. Make sleep a priority -- it is part of your health/ well-being regime.
2. Prepare for sleep appropriately -- get a routine that relaxes you one hour before bed. Do not read your computer, IPhone or I pad. Read a normal book or listen to music. Don't work.
3. Give yourself a chance to sleep through the night -- don't drink liquids 1-2 hours before bed, put your phone away / shut it off, and follow your routine. Keep your mind less cluttered. If you do get up, don't check your devices. It will just trigger your brain and getting back to sleep will be difficult.

So that is what I did. Or more truthfully -- what I am pursuing. It's got to work for you. Everyone is different. So I am working on me. And I am better because of it!

Today -- I am still figuring out my "routine" as I travel quite a bit so what I do needs to be adaptable to home and hotels. Getting ready for bed, reading a soft cover book is part of my routine. I also finally -- put away my phone. (Thank you Arianna for your advice!) If something is urgent -- get a flip phone that only a few select individuals can use. Other than that -- disconnect. It feels so freeing that I am dis-entangling my device from me for dinners, time with family and friends. My texting/ social posting/ checking the random emails can wait. I want to be "present" for those that matter. (My husband has noticed the difference!)

On my ability to sleep through the night -- I'm learning how to clear my mind, meditate and be more mindful. I slow down an hour before I go to bed. When I practice these behaviors -- I sleep wonderfully. It takes me about 15 minutes to fall asleep but that is the norm. If you are falling asleep right when you head hits the pillow -- you are not getting enough sleep.

And yes -- I got my 8 hours in last night and I feel great! I have energy, I laughed more today, and I was really "present" to those around me. Most importantly I enjoyed my day. It showed in my smiles and my walk. It is a gift to me and those around me.

So I got my 8 hours in -- did you?