Is sleep overrated?


Between a technical hitch,  practicing what I write about and sorting my 'stuff' (boy was pressing delete on some things tough), a new job and the clocks changing (jumping into spring here in New Zealand) - I made a recent error by staying up a little later than normal.

I recognised some time ago how important sleep was for me and rather than emulating or admiring those leaders who were represented as being able to function on very few hours sleep I admired the vulnerability and honesty of Arianna Huffington in her TED talk and now sleep for me is non-negotiable if I want to function at my best.

Since Arianna's book Thrive was published in 2014 I feel there has been a steady shift in acknowledging the importance of sleep - this is often from the lens of success or leadership - if you watch this TED talk - it's pretty clear it's for all of us.

You spend about a third of your life asleep and you might view this a waste of time - after all we are all very busy and yes someone did say to me this week 'sleep in overrated'. But if something takes that much of your time should you not see it as crucial, vital and essential to your functioning.

In your chaotic and complex world of healthcare we need sleep to problem solve, create, interact and function at our best. Poor judgement due to lack of sleep is a potential disaster. The list goes on and this TED talk from Russell Foster covers the neuroscience of sleep, the effects of sleep deprivation, tips to get more sleep and some of the myths of sleep.

In the talk Russell does touch on shift work and this is a big deal for healthcare. When you have chosen to enter a career and workplace that needs to provide a service 24 hours a day we have to consider it. Even if you don't work shifts someone you manage, work with, teach, support or know will. You need  to understand the effect of shift work on sleep patterns and  the impact it has on those in your team or around you. Do you need to support those responsible for rosters?

Here are some tips from shift workers in various industries for how they get their sleep. Bupa (Australia) has a page to acknowledge and support those working shifts.

Arianna's website has a list of resources to help your have a better nights sleep and her new book The Sleep Revolution explores the science around sleep and adds to the steps we can take to get a better night sleep. This article can get you started with 5 steps to wind down and sleep better.

I know how much sleep I need each night - I tracked my sleep for a while and could soon work out what happened when I went under and also used the knowledge to adjust my plans if I hadn't had as much sleep as I need. I know I can do better at the wind down but my phone stays in the study overnight. I use the most amazing alarm clock that revolutionized how I wake up - other alarm clocks are available you need to find what works for you.

In those weeks I don't get enough sleep - it's all about taking a nap.