The relationship between sleep and success
For Christmas, my dad bought my mom Arianna Huffington’s book, Thrive.
Before Boxing Day had come and gone, I had stolen it from my mom and was already a few pages in.
The book, meant to help people arrive at what Huffington refers to as the “third metric” of success, is divided into three sections. The first section focuses on well-being, the second focuses on wisdom, and the third, wonder.
It’s funny how well you think you are until you realize what wellness really is.
I felt a mixture of disappointment and inspiration after reading the first section of the book. I was disappointed because I wasn’t taking as good care of myself as I thought, and inspired because I realized that the process of doing better would be an enjoyable one (more sleep? Amazing.)
I used to think that leaving work at 11 p.m. and heading home to get some work done before bedtime was productivity. But waking up late in the morning to compensate, sometimes sleeping in and being groggy at work was not productive at all. Rather counterproductive, actually.
Starting my day late meant that I was always in a rush. A rush to eat, a rush to workout (not that that was on a regimented schedule) and just rushing through daily life.
Huffington recounts her mom stopping to smell the roses, literally. Do you know that in nearly 25 years of living I have never smelled a rose with the exception of receiving them as a gift and feeling obliged to breathe them in?
So I made the change.
I stopped heading home to work after work. I got ready for bed and timed exactly eight hours from that point to wake myself up. In the morning, I felt energized and prepared for the day.
Sometimes I would lay awake in bed, haunted by the daunting list of things to do, but instead of shooting up to do them, I would write them down and tackle them first thing in the morning.
That’s the thing about us humans—we are quite dramatic. We get this idea that if something isn’t done right this instant we might die or something to the same effect. But then we complain when we don’t get proper thanks or acknowledgement. We forget that the exhaustion it takes to do a task isn’t what we’re being rewarded for.
Getting the right amount of sleep proved to be the single most significant change I didn’t know I needed.
For months and months I had been trying to curb the habit of fast food. But because I was always in a rush, fast food made sense. Now that I had more time, I really had more time. I was grocery shopping, reading, doing all these wonderful things I thought only existed in fantasies.
And to my surprise, I was cooking. Like, healthy meals.
Huffington illustrates, with very graceful articulation, that in order to be better, we have to do better by and for ourselves. We cannot have these ridiculous expectations of ourselves without making sure that we are well taken care of.
How can a car on empty make it from point A to point B without damaging it’s core?
How can we be the best version of ourselves on no sleep, an unhealthy diet, an overworked body and mind, and perhaps most importantly, a weak spirit?
The first step, even before falling asleep earlier, is putting the work away and making time to grocery shop and cook the items in the cart, is deciding we’re worth it.
Here’s how to get started on heading to bed earlier:
Figure out what time you need to wake up in the morning and backtrack 8 hours.
Huffington suggests treating bedtime like an appointment. Start telling yourself you have somewhere important to be at a certain time.
Write down a list of things you’d like to complete by the end of the next day so that you wake up with some purpose.
Plan an exciting breakfast (if you want to go the extra step, make it a healthy one!)
Ease into your day by doing some stretches, journaling or reading.