A Lack of Sleep Will Kill You – Here’s How to Get the Proper Rest You Need to Thrive

Arianna Huffington first made headlines over being a passionate proponent of getting a full night’s rest last fall when she called “multi-tasking a disease and sleep deprivation the root of all bad decisions” in an interview with The Telegraph.

This week the founder of The Huffington Post appeared on CNN’s morning show “New Day” to talk about her own personal wake-up call and to offer advice to people who are willing to achieve success at all costs. 


“Our Current Definition of Success is Killing Us—Literally”

Her new book Thrive which was inspired by her own experience addresses, among other misconceptions about the cost of success, sleep deprivation and how it can hold one back from achieving their goals. Just over six years ago, Huffington collapsed in her office due to exhaustion, resulting in a deep cut above her eye and a broken cheekbone as her face struck her desk on the way down.

Since then, Huffington has become a big advocate of “leaning back as opposed to leaning in,” adding during her interview on CNN: “By any sane definition of success, if you are lying in a pool of blood on the floor of your office, you are not successful.” 


Cultural Disconnect: Effects of Sleep Deprivation Worn as a Badge of Honor

Sleep deprivation is recognized by Amnesty International as a form of torture, and yet for some strange reason our culture encourages it. Tony Schwartz, a writer for Harvard Business Review cites scientific evidence that even small amounts of sleep deprivation can have profound effects on one’s health. Meanwhile, a recent article featured by Forbes goes as far as to argue that Sleep Deprivation Might Drive High Failure Rates of Tech Start-ups, listing the following as just a few of the detrimental effects that lack of sleep can have on employees and entrepreneurs alike:

  • Declines in divergent thinking (creativity)
  • Weakened long-term memory
  • Impaired decision-making abilities
  • Lessened visuomotor performance (visuomotor refers to connections between visual and motor processes, which could affect learning.)

Oh, and another symptom from my own experience is that we are often moody and look and feel like crap.


First Steps to Getting More Sleep

The first step to overcoming sleep deprivation is to admit that you are human. Second, admit that as a member of the human species you perform optimally when well-rested. Wow, that was easy. Now, if your lack of sleep is due to an underlying medical condition, seek help from a professional.  If not, then try some of the following tips and see if you can take up Arianna Huffington on her challenge to everyone to start by sleeping an extra half hour every night.

Here are six tips to better sleeping as prescribed by the Mayo Clinic:

1. Stick to a Sleep Schedule

Stick to a schedule, even on weekends and holidays. If you can’t fall asleep within 15 minutes get up and do something to help you relax and come back to bed when you feel tired.

2. Put Down the Snacks and Try Not to Gorge Yourself Before Bed

Pretty simple: Watch what and when you eat and drink.  Also avoid going to bed feeling full as this can keep you from falling asleep.

3. Create a Bedtime Ritual to Help You Relax

Just don’t let your bedtime ritual include the television, your tablet, or smartphone—that could be bad. Soft music and or reading a book is okay.

4. Get Lost Sparky: Create a Comfortable Room for Sleeping

This usually means cool, dark, and quiet. Invest in some blinds if neon lights are spilling in through your window, and insist that your children and or pets sleep in separate quarters.

5. Stop Sleeping on the Subway to and from Work

I’ll be honest, I used to be guilty of this. After being elbowed in the ribs a few times while beginning to snore during my daily naps on the subway I decided to start waking up earlier to infuse my body with high levels of caffeine before driving myself to the office—which wasn’t much better, refer back to tip number one. Taking frequent naps throughout the day will not help you get into a regular sleeping pattern.

6. Exercise.  It’s Been Proven to Promote Better Sleep.

“But sleep deprivation leaves me too tired for exercise!” Well, time to break the cycle. Regular physical exercise promotes better sleep. If you don’t currently exercise on a consistent basis you will be amazed at how much easier it will be to get a better night’s rest.

7. Reduce and Manage Your Stress

Consider healthy ways to reduce stress. Start by getting yourself better organized, setting priorities and delegating tasks. When your worries creep up on you in the evening, set yourself a reminder to deal with it later and be done with it so you can get to sleep. 


Time is Money, but it’s Worth Your Time to be Well-Rested

I know, it’s easier said than done and I agree that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. But if you can acknowledge the importance of sleep and make a healthy night’s rest a priority, you can choose to force yourself into becoming more productive as opposed to facing the ill-effects of the sleep deprivation.