I recently found myself part of a sleep study, which entailed having more than 20 electrodes hooked up all over my head and stuck to my body. I went in willingly one evening because I’ve been told that I snore — as do roughly 48% of us, according to a collaborative study between the CDC and the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research.
Snoring is one of the biggest indicators of sleep apnea, a potentially serious condition that interrupts your slumbers due inadequate oxygen flow. Untreated, it can lead to many other serious ailments, including heart failure, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and obesity. The blocked airways can stop your breathing for seconds or minutes, with pauses in breath occurring 30 or more times an hour.
In my case, tests revealed I literally stopped breathing over 200 times a night, and my body in response woke up fighting every time just to survive. No wonder I woke up tired every morning. No wonder I’ve always had problems eating right and keeping the pounds off. It’s one thing to miss a little sleep here and there, but imagine learning how to live like this for 10 or 20 years. Imagine walking around sleep deprived, operating at suboptimal levels, and making poor food choices just to keep going.
While you may not suffer from a chronic sleep condition, but most of us behave as if we can keep going forever without serious consequences to our health. Poor sleep affects our memory and our work performance, and costs companies billions every year due to lost work productivity. How many hours of creativity are you cheating yourself out of? What would you be capable of if you allowed yourself more time to rest and slow down?
Try fitting one of the following systems of rest and renewal into your lifestyle and discover how sleep can improve your ability to generate more.
1. System One: Recharge like an Athlete
Ever wonder how elite athletes perform with such intense vigor and stamina? How they command annual salaries in the millions without cracking under the pressure?
The secret (if there really is a secret) is that they perform in cycles. They are able to rise to the challenges set before them with relative consistency because there are regular intervals when they aren’t asked to perform. Between times of intense competition, athletes have set times for practice, recuperation and rest. Most sports are seasonal, which means professional athletes have lengthy periods of down time to recharge both mentally and physically.
Adapt: Game Weeks and Bye Weeks
Create a cycle of working on the more difficult, challenging projects three weeks out of the month. Then set aside the fourth week for more restful, creative projects that give you energy. Taking that restful week allows you to be more sharply focused and on the ball during those difficult and demanding periods.
Name your system of weeks to give greater clarity and a sense of intentionality to the process, so you can remind yourself what you are doing. Personally, I call the three weeks that I work on challenging projects my Game Weeks. The fourth week I call By Weeks. These names will make sense to you sports fans.
2. System Two: Reset with Mother Nature
Our forebears lived by the earth’s cycles, especially those involved in an agrarian lifestyle. Because they were unable to farm during the colder months, winter became their time of rest. There were still chores to do, but the hardest, most demanding labor came during the months of planting and harvest.
They also set their working clocks by the sun. Before electricity, they got up with the sunrise and went to bed at sunset, which gave them ample time for sleep and regular intervals of reflection.
Adapt: Annual Getaways and Daily Meditation
The cycles of the seasons and the light provided by the sun can also help direct you toward a more sustainable lifestyle. Instead of always going going going, invest in an annual getaway. Detach from life’s daily commitments and spend some time in nature: a week at the cabin, a month by the sea, or a backyard staycation with all your electronics turned off.
It might be hard at first to justify time and money on a trip, but don’t think of it as a luxury, think of it as an investment. Your return to the daily grind will likely be refreshed and twice as productive.
And speaking of daily life, take a cue from the rising and setting sun by devoting an hour every day to personal nourishment. Rest, reflect and reinvigorate by setting aside one hour in the morning or evening (or as your schedule allows) to do the following: