Whether you’re an entrepreneur or an employee, everyone needs a good night’s rest.
What follows is this reformed insomniac’s best tips, tricks, and hacks for attacking your days feeling as well rested as possible.
The Importance of Sleep
By this point in time, the fact that getting a good night’s rest is critical for overall well-being is known and accepted. Despite that, sleep deprivation is becoming more prevalent. According the latest from statcan.gc.ca, at least a third of Canadians reported sleeping less than the recommended seven hours a night.
Seven hours out of a given twenty four hour period might seem like a lot, so just in case you’re not already sold on optimizing your sleep, here’s some quick facts:
- Being sleep deprived has similar effects to alcohol intoxication. This means a reduction of your cognition and coordination. Statistically speaking, sleepy people are more likely to cause collisions and make mistakes.
- Sleeping less increases your risk of physical and mental illness. While it might be obvious that you’ll be more likely to catch a cold if you don’t get enough rest, many people don’t consider the emotional impacts. Studies have shown that insomniacs can be as much as five times more likely to suffer from depression.
- Sleep impairs your judgment. While this could be seen as an extension of the above points, it’s worth mentioning on its own. People who don’t sleep enough are often heard bragging about how much they get done and how they don’t need sleep or never sleep. While extreme outliers may exist, most of these people are massively exaggerating the truth whether they realize it or not.
Realities of Insomnia
Anyone who has truly suffered from insomnia can tell you why it is often employed as a form of torture. While early symptoms are usually as mild as sleepiness, forgetfulness, and mild mood imbalances, long term deprivation can lead to delusions, hallucinations, and extreme pain. Fortunately, there are strategies which insomniacs can implement to help get them through the long nights, and the longer days that follow.
Getting Through the Night – A Good Night’s Rest
The reality of insomnia (and other sleeping disorders) is that sometimes a good night’s sleep just isn’t possible. Sometimes, the best you can do is keep your body and your mind restful, and make the best of the situation. Fortunately, this and falling asleep do not need to be mutually exclusive. Some of the steps below will run contrary to conventional wisdom, but they are borne from years of personal research and experience dealing with chronic insomnia.
- Keep the big picture in mind.
One of the biggest problems with getting through sleepless nights is the fact that they can feel absolutely endless. The trick to avoiding this despairing notion is to keep the big picture clear in your mind; it’s just one night, even if it’s one in a string of bad nights. You can make up for it, and it will end, and the day will come and you’ll find better times. Realizing the impermanence of negative feelings can often be enough to significantly alleviate them, so stay aware, and do your best to maintain an objective outlook.
- Relax in every way you can.
Wear whatever you find most comfortable. Sit or lay wherever you feel most comfortable. DO whatever will make you feel the most comfortable. Why? Because sleep is the ultimate comfort for your body and mind. If you’re missing out on sleep, it’s crucial that you make up for it by relaxing and making yourself as comfortable as you can. The truth is that failing to sleep for a night doesn’t hurt you nearly as much as staying up all night stressing about the fact that you’re not sleeping.
- Follow your body and your brain.
If you feel like relaxing all night, that’s definitely the best way to go. Laying in bed with your eyes closed is probably the best alternative to sleep. However, sometimes that isn’t relaxing. Sometimes when sleeping is difficult, just being in bed can feel stressful. Sometimes, the mind remains active even when it should be dorman. At those times, if you feel driven to accomplish something, get up and work on it. Put thirty-sixty minutes into a productive activity, and then reassess how you feel and try relaxing again. Sometimes following your body and brain can be as simple as getting up to use the washroom and jot and idea down on a pad of paper. Other times, you might make a decisive insight on a project you’re struggling with.
While it’s not ideal to build habits around spending time out of bed at night, it’s also not beneficial to force yourself to stay in bed or “relax” when your mind is active and focused. Use your best judgment, but remember that sleep deprivation can impair that judgment. If you’re uncertain whether your current system is working, trying running it by your doctor or a sleep specialist. While sleeping in a solid seven hour chunk at night is ideal for most people, some can benefit from splitting their rest into multiple smaller chunks. If your lifestyle and your needs support this, there’s no reason not to try it.
There’s no end to the data supporting the importance of a good night’s sleep, but sometimes the realities of sleep deprivation disorders make that an unreachable goal. On those nights, it’s best to focus on what you can control, and get through the night in a way that’s restful and congruent with the feelings in your mind and body. Sometimes this can mean laying on the couch and watching quiet TV or reading; other times it might mean firing up your computer and working on a project for half an hour.
The most important thing is that you remain aware of how much you’re sleeping overall, and how it’s affecting you, and don’t let yourself get exhausted to the point where you start making mistakes. You never know when a mistake might become critical, and result in catastrophe.
Sleep well, take care, and keep fighting the good fight. This is Alex Tucker signing off to go and watch the sun rise.