In recent weeks I’ve been frustrated by two reminders of the lack of recognition given to sleep and rest as key health and wellbeing factors.
The first, a post on the popular business focused social network, LinkedIn, sang the praises of those who’re up and awake and “hustling” at 3.00 in the morning.
Not wanting to let this slide I posted the following comment:
“I know you're going for the hustle angle but ... Sleep matters! It's vital for health and wellbeing, happiness and performance. Not valuing and not prioritising sleep is not, in the long term sustainable and can be a big mistake.”
Interestingly, this was met with an overwhelmingly positive response including several hundred “likes” and many supportive comments (along with, even, an invitation to speak at an upcoming event). It seemed I wasn’t the only one to protest this “hustle” and “life’s too short for sleep” philosophy.
Just a few days later my frustrations were triggered again by a headline in a reputable publication, encouraging readers to “shun sleep for self-development”. It referred to the “5.30 Club” where people meet in groups, first thing in the morning, to focus on motivation and inspiration.
Now let me be clear, and this shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s heard me speak or who’s read any of my writings; I’m not opposed in any way to hard work or to self-development. In fact, I very much encourage both.
BUT THESE SHOULD NEVER COME AT THE EXPENSE OF SLEEP; AT THE EXPENSE OF MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH!
When it comes to happiness, health and wellbeing we hear a lot about exercise and nutrition, as we should because these are fundamental to wellness. But so too is sleep, and rest. Yet these are too often overlooked or ignored or simply not prioritised and so, not given the attention they deserve.
Which is why a significant majority of people are tired; sleep deprived. Which is why a significant majority of people are not as healthy or happy or productive as they could be.
Lack of sleep affects pretty much every aspect of our daily functioning. It affects our mood and concentration and decision making; each of which affect our relationships and performance at work or in other areas of life.
Over the longer-term lack of sleep is even associated with serious health problems and mortality; that’s right, people who don’t get enough sleep will, quite simply, not live as long!
Why does this happen?
Because sleep is just not seen as being important, or not as important as other things. So, it gets pushed down the list of priorities and then like other things at the bottom of your priority list, ignored.
This is not sustainable; it’s not consistent with a healthy or happy life. You can’t be happy if you are, literally, sick and tired all the time. And the sad reality is that too many are too tired much of the time.
I’m pleased to say, however, that there is a solution; or more accurately, that there are solutions (different things will work for different people). And it all begins with the need to prioritise sleep (and rest); to recognise its importance and to commit to putting it first.
You wouldn’t ignore healthy eating or exercise and expect to be fit and well; why, then, do you think you can ignore the other cornerstone of flourishing which is … sleep?!?!
Once you’ve prioritised sleep then the good news is that for most of you, better sleep is distinctly possible with some simple lifestyle changes and the development of some good sleep habits. I describe all of these in the soon to be released, Audible Original, Habits for Sleep – a practical guide to proven and effective sleep strategies.
The bottom line is that if you want to live your best life you definitely need to set goals and work hard but … to do this you also need to rest and recover and allow your body and mind to recuperate and re-energise so you can function well.
You can’t be “on” if you never allow yourself to be “off”. You know you need to recharge your phone, and you know you need to refuel your car; know also that if you want to be at your best, you need plenty of sleep and rest.