Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sleeping My Way to the Top

Sleeping My Way to the Top

Oh, you thought that was euphemistic?  Sadly, no.  I mean real sleep, and getting more of it.

Developing a sleep ritual is my latest habit from Precision Nutrition, for one thing.  We’ve been tasked to create and perform a sleep ritual every night to get us ready for bed and set up for good sleep.  You probably know how vital sleep is, but there’s always more to learn.  Sleep is, pretty much, everything.  It contributes to mood, body composition and healing, recall and memory, and overall health in ways that are still being quantified. 

Arianna Huffington, in her TED Talk, says that the way to lead a more productive, inspired and joyful life is to get more sleep.  We can unlock big ideas, be recharged for work, and be happier, healthier, and far more fulfilled.

She says that sleep deprivation has played into a culture of one-upmanship, where everyone is trying to get by on less.  And what that’s led to is a lot of terrible decision making, she posits.  We can’t see the iceberg before it hits the Titanic.  So, women need to lead the charge by sleeping more hours, having good ideas, and keeping their eyes peeled for those icebergs.

It’s difficult though.  Beyond the culture of getting everything done by sacrificing sleep, there’s also the element of “always on”.  My smartphone is my only phone.  We don’t have one at home.  So I always have my smartphone on.  It can make noise, it can light up, and it can interrupt my sleep.  It also provides the temptation to check my email at all hours.

Jessa Gamble talks about how this “always on” culture has affected our sleeping patterns.  Folks without artificial light experience biphasic sleep—two periods of sleep, typically 8 pm – midnight, then 2 am – 6 pm. 

From TED:
Now that humanity has spread right to the Earth's poles and adopted a 24-hour business day, Gamble argues that our internal clocks struggle against our urban schedules. Her work documents the rituals surrounding daily rhythms, which along with local languages and beliefs are losing their rich global diversity and succumbing to a kind of circadian imperialism.

So how can we sleep more, and fight against this always-on, always-sleep-deprived culture?  By developing rituals and practices that return us to a more natural state, at least as much as we can.

I already do some of the best practices for sleep—I wear earplugs and an eye mask, I always wash my face and brush my teeth before bed, and try to find ways to simmer down.  However, we also usually watch TV before bed, which isn’t swell, and we charge our phones next to our beds, which also isn’t the best.  I’ll be looking into changing those two things over the next two weeks.

However, what I’m most interested in is what I can add.  Taking things away is obnoxious and leads to ego depletion.  Adding stuff provides delight and curiosity.  One thing I’m thinking about is moving my bedtime up, and doing less stuff at night.  I’ll often be up working on a project, watching “just one more episode” of Downton Abbey or whatever, and not give myself enough time to wind down. 

I might need more than 20 minutes to wind down.  I might need a full hour.  And what I’ve decided to fill it with are these two things: reading for pleasure, and any pleasant physical activity that helps to relax my body, e.g. gentle stretching, foam rolling, or a warm bath.

I’m hoping this will help get my circadian rhythms in line, increase and deepen my sleep, and make me a better scout for ideas big and small.


  1. So interesting—now I'm going to have to watch those videos. Rituals of any kind are hard to cultivate in a very connected world. One thing I've learned is that the iPhone has a sleep setting (Do Not Disturb, I think) that allows the phone to be on but silent—unless someone texts or calls more than once. That way, emergencies get through, but I don't have to be bothered by one-off texts and random calls. Good luck in your sleep revolution!

  2. I’ve been searching for some decent stuff on the subject and haven't had any luck up until this point, You just got a new biggest fan!..
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