Sleep your way to the top

‘I have one piece of advice for you: sleep your way to the top’

Wise words from the one and only Arianna Huffington. Now I have your attention, I want to get you to have a think about your habits. Sleep might not even come to mind, which is why it is one of the most underrated health habits

Success seems to be measured by the quantity of work we put in, not the quality.

In today’s society, sleep is considered an activity considered to fit around our busy schedule. Why has it become a symbol of being a hard worker by bragging about how little sleep you got?

Popular quotes like: ‘you snooze you lose’ and ‘you can sleep when you’re dead’, also leave us with the distinct feeling that sleeping is just a superfluous activity of the lazy.

This underrated health habit can negatively impacts our mood, our ability to focus, and our ability to access higher level cognitive functions: the combination of these factors is what we generally refer to as mental performance. Here are some interesting facts on the importance of your sleep backing up the brilliant Arianna’s advice that we should all ‘sleep our way to the top’

Lack of sleep is the mental equivalent of trying to work after a few cheeky evening drinks

Seventeen hours of sustained wakefulness leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood alcohol-level of 0.05%. Increase that to 20 hours and your cognitive skills are the equivalent of being legally drunk (0.1%) 

Lack of sleep makes it harder to absorb information, remember and problem solve

It is the pre-frontal cortex (responsible for high order mental skills) that suffers the most we are deprived of sleep

Lack of sleep lowers your EQ

In a sleep-deprived state your brain is more likely to misinterpret emotional cues (tone of voice, facial expressions), and you tend to overreact, and respond more negatively

The Solution?

The biggest problem, as any of you who suffer from insomnia will know, is that the harder you try to get to sleep, the less likely you are to fall asleep. Studies on ‘paradoxical intention’ found that those in a group told to ‘stay awake’ were more likely to fall asleep than those who were told to ‘fall asleep’.

So like many things in life, maybe the answer lies in tuning in and listening to your body rather than striving too hard for the perfect sleep pattern. Creating healthy pre-sleep habits can also improve your quality and length of your snooze. And perhaps next time you’re heavy-eyed and bored at Friday night drinks, sacrifice the espresso martini, laugh off the peer pressure, and head home to your bed.