The notion of sleep was formerly revered and also used to help treat health issues for the upper classes until the Industrial Revolution when we did a complete 360 and saw sleep not just devalued but actively scorned. The thinking being, every hour spent sleeping was one not working and wasted which so many of our modern attitudes still reflect.
In her new book, "The Sleep Revolution" Arianna Huffington says, "the glamorization of sleep deprivation is deeply embedded in our culture and celebrated, "You snooze, you lose" ... "I'll sleep when I'm dead." "The combination of a deeply misguided definition of what it means to be successful in today's world--that it can come only through burnout and stress--along with a... 24/7 wired world, has imperiled our sleep as never before."
The sleep engagement movement initiated by Ms. Huffington started with her own painful wakeup call when she was lying on the floor of her home office in a pool of blood. "On my way down, my head had hit the corner of my desk, cutting my eye and breaking my cheekbone." She had collapsed from exhaustion and lack of sleep and had to ask herself questions about the kind of life she was living. It was her collapse that prompted her to change her sleep habits. She now wakes up "feeling joyful about the days' possibilities, is better able to recognize red flags and rebound from setbacks...It's like being dialed into a different channel that has less static."
"If burnout is civilization's disease, sleep deprivation is one of its chief symptoms. When we lose sleep, among other things, we lose creativity, memory consolidation, our ability to learn and solve problems, manage stress, depression and anxiety, and a well-functioning immune system and in some occupations--in our hospitals, on our highways, or in the air--lack of sleep can be a life-or-death matter."
"Sleep is in fact deeply connected to every aspect of our physical and mental health. There are huge consequences to sleep deprivation linked with increased risks of diabetes, heart attack, stroke, cancer, obesity and Alzheimer's."
"Modern technology is one of the main reasons our relationship to this fundamental part of our existence has become so compromised. Our houses, our bedrooms-- even our beds-- are littered with beeping, vibrating, flashing screens. It's never-ending."
"Humans are social creatures-- we're hardwired to connect. The possibility of connecting-- with friends, with strangers, with the entire world, with every TV show or movie ever made-- with just the press of a button that is, not surprisingly, addictive. Even when we're not actually connecting digitally, we're in a constant state of heightened anticipation. And always being in this state doesn't exactly put us in the right frame of mind to wind down when it's time to sleep."
When we were young parents had a ritual preparing us for sleep - bath, book, soothing music, etc. "We don't give much thought to how we put ourselves to bed these days, yet we have refueling shrines ...where our technology can recharge, even if we can't."
Ms. Huffington suggests the transition to sleep begins before we even step into our bedroom and treats her own transition to sleep as a sacrosanct ritual:
- turn off all my electronic devices and gently escort them out of my bedroom.
- take a hot bath with epsom salts and a flickering candle.
- have pajamas, nightdresses, even T-shirts dedicated to sleep; sleeping in workout clothes send a mixed message to our brain.
- have a cup of chamomile/lavender tea.
"You can enhance every aspect of your life by prioritizing sleep... which plays a vital role in our decision making, emotional intelligence, and creativity. Sleep is a time of intense neurological activity--a rich time of renewal, memory consolidation, brain and neurochemical cleansing, and cognitive maintenance. Getting enough sleep enhances the quality of every minute we spend with our eyes open."
The realm of sleep makes us better at our jobs ...healthier, allows us to connect with a deeper part of ourselves because when we are asleep the things that define our identify when were awake - our jobs, relationships, hopes, fears, recede and that makes possible the least discussed benefit or miracle really, of sleep. The way it allows us once we return from our nights' journey to see the world anew with fresh eyes and a reinvigorated spirit to step out of time and come back to our lives restored, to nourish and replenish ourselves."
Sleep is a fundamental human need that must be respected to perform well at work.
Judith Bowman, speaker and business protocol coach, is president and founder of Judith Bowman Enterprises and Author of "Don't Take the Last Donut and "How to Stand Apart @ work." She may be reached at Judith@protocolconsultants.com.