Getting the Sleep You Need

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Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care,

The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,

Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,

Chief nourisher in life’s feast.

Shakespeare, Macbeth.

So at times you have a few bad nights when you lose some sleep. That is so typical is our pressured lives. Then you bounce back. Not so fast! 80% of working adults in the USA are chronically sleep deprived.  You have probably been there yourself.  (See the NY Times article)*

Short-Term Results

Even when you seem outwardly calm the storm continues to take its toll

Taking naps and tanking up on coffee does not seem to help

 So you have

Bad nights and bleary eyes

Tossing and turning in bed and restless monkey mind as you struggle to sleep

Worries or excitement from the the day not turning off

Concentration problems and bad moods

 Long Term Results

And here is the shocking fact.

Sleeplessness eventually contributes to everything from weight gain/loss to the early onset of the symptoms of dementia.

The Reasons

Scientific studies demonstrate that sleep operates like a janitor in your mind. During deep and restful sleep the janitor goes to work cleaning out the “junk” from the day. That is why you wake up after a good night’s rest and experience the mind as clear. Your janitor has done her/his work.

When we don’t get enough restful sleep (usually 7-9 hours a night) all sorts of trash clogs up our brain chemistry. When we lose sleep for a long enough period and we start to see more extensive damage to our mental/physical/emotional systems.

This now becomes a matter of extreme urgency. After prolonged periods of sleeplessness we just don’t bounce back the way we did when we were younger. We cannot pull an all night caper like we did in college. We cannot push ourselves to meet deadlines week after week and month after month without doing ourselves harm.

It just takes so much longer to bounce back. Especially when we are older.

A friend of ours resigned from a high-pressure executive position because she could feel the effects on her body and it was starting to alarm her. And of course her sleep became increasingly disturbed.

Now, months after leaving her position she still finds herself struggling to recover.

The storm is over but the results linger for a while. Much like the fallout from a tornado the clean-up efforts take time. The brain does not always reboot quickly.

 What Can You Do?

Here are some of the best practices for recovering from sleep deprivation.

  1. Don’t let it go on for too long. Acute pressurized situations should not become chronic. Learn to say no to your inclination to continue pushing yourself (even if your work demands that you do). Set limits on your inclination to give until you drop.
  2. Find ways to decompress before you go to sleep. Don’t watch the news that tends to get you jazzed up like politically charged stories. If you have to have someone read you a story for you to go to sleep, well and good.
  3. Take restorative pauses. We have just returned for a trip to Lake Atitlan in the Guatemalan highlands. Kris commented, “Here I feel like I have come back to who I am.” We have to find ways to escape from the restless and incessant chatter of our minds and that of others. Silence is restorative. I even stopped writing blogs for nearly two weeks!

You have probably read such advice a 1000 times.

Please just do it. For your health and the health of those around you.


What have you done to get off-line in your life?

How do you get the sleep you need?


*”Goodnight. Sleep Clean” by Maria Konnikova , NY Times, Jan 11th, 2014

About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
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