The ultimate goal of productivity should be to expand a minimum amount of energy, less cognitive load, time, and resources while creating an optimum output, value, and impact. To be able to do that we have to be on the top of our game, which includes, if not even depends on being well-rested.
Even more important than having time to do things is to have the energy to do them. And to have energy, there are two things we have to do – first, be mindful of where our energy goes, and second, make sure that we replenish the energy we have lost (energy expenditure followed by energy renewal). Let’s look at how we recover energy. Nutrition, relaxation, movement, and sleep are the main pillars of energy renewal, and not to forget refilling the emotional and spiritual parts of ourselves.
As today is World’s Sleep Day, I want to share a few things I recently learned about sleep. I finally gave up the resistance and gave in to the realization which the incredible Tony Schwartz has made years ago: “The importance of restoration is rooted in our physiology, human beings aren’t designed to expend energy continuously. Rather, we’re meant to pulse between spending and recovering energy.”
It is no surprise that a mother of two young children is high on caffeine intake most of the time. Add to this, being a business owner, perfectionist, high on enthusiasm to achieve things; I was proud of surviving on the minimum hours of sleep needed not to pass out. My dislike of sleep was so big that I could have written the words (wrongly attributed to Edgar Allan Poe): “Sleep, those little slices of death — how I loathe them.” I perceived sleep as a waste of time. Until a month ago. What might have happened to trigger this change is yet unclear to me, but as a coach, I know that readiness for change is usually brewing somewhere in the background until we are ready to take action (especially when the pain of staying the same becomes bigger than the fear to change). And when we are ready, the teacher appears. In my case, it was an app, called Sleep Cycle , which analyses and interprets your sleep data. This post is not to recommend the app since I have not explored other apps to know which one is best. It is just an honest look at how this app triggered some valuable changes to my sleep routine (or lack thereof).
So here are three things the app challenged me to do (credit goes to Martin Reed, MEd, CHES®, CCSH, who is the sleep coach and trainer with the app).
1. What we do when we are awake influences the quality of our sleep at night.
I reduced my caffeine intake , and the last coffee I drink is before 2 pm. Caffeine blocks sleep drive, which is our biological pressure to sleep. When it’s aligned with our rhythm, our body and our sleep drive are in agreement that we should rest. To not drink coffee was a massive challenge for me – it has been years of me bragging that I can gulp a few espressos at 11 pm and go straight to bed and fall asleep.
I make sure I do some exercise during the day and walk at least 10 000 steps. I try to spend some time outside during the day because the light is essential to the circadian rhythm.
I am way more mindful with screens and the blue light they omit – I use f.lux for my Mac – this tool makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day.
2. Sleep Preparation – relaxing rituals before bedtime
Short 10 minutes meditation with the Calm app
A cup of aromatic tea
Lower the intensity of the lights in the room
3. Keep wake-up time fixed: to get up at the same time every morning, including weekends
The 30-minute window – I am in love with this feature of the app – while before I would set an alarm for the exact time when I want to wake up, this app encourages me to pick a 30minute window and it slowly wakes me up with pleasant bird sounds giving me enough time to reach my lightest sleep phase and wake up fresh and in a better mood.
If my experience has triggered your curiosity about sleep, great. If not, maybe a story from the amazing departed George Carlin would do the trick to persuade you what a magical thing sleep is:
“People say, ‘I’m going to sleep now,’ as if it were nothing. But it’s really a bizarre activity. ‘For the next several hours, while the sun is gone, I’m going to become unconscious, temporarily losing command over everything I know and understand. When the sun returns, I will resume my life.’ If you didn’t know what sleep was, and you had only seen it in a science fiction movie, you would think it was weird and tell all your friends about the movie you’d seen. They had these people, you know? And they would walk around all day and be OK? And then, once a day, usually after dark, they would lie down on these special platforms and become unconscious. They would stop functioning almost completely, except deep in their minds, they would have adventures and experiences that were completely impossible in real life. As they lay there, completely vulnerable to their enemies, their only movements were to occasionally shift from one position to another; or, if one of the ‘mind adventures’ got too real, they would sit up and scream and be glad they weren’t unconscious anymore. Then they would drink a lot of coffee.’ So, next time you see someone sleeping, make believe you’re in a science fiction movie. And whisper, ‘The creature is regenerating itself.”