"THE BEST BRIDGE BETWEEN despair and
hope," said Harry Ruby, "is a good night's sleep."
When you don't get enough sleep, your body produces extra stress
hormones, making you more vulnerable to anxiety and stress.
The authors of Painfully Shy: How to Overcome Social Anxiety
and Reclaim Your Life wrote: "For people prone to social
anxiety, adequate sleep is crucial. It can mean the difference
between thinking about an issue realistically and becoming needlessly
upset over something that's not really important. In other words,
when you're overly tired, you're more likely to misread social
situations and interpret them negatively."
A large percentage of people go day after
day without enough sleep, causing themselves extra unnecessary
stress and anxiety.
The question is, of course, what is
enough sleep? The research can answer that question quite
specifically. People are healthiest when they sleep about eight
hours every night (somewhere between seven and eight hours).
Health problems are associated with both more and less sleep
than eight hours. Of course that is an average. Some nights you
won't get enough sleep, but if you sleep extra the next night
or two, you're getting eight hours sleep on average, and that
Just to give you an example, a recent study
at Yale University found that when people slept less that six
hours a night on average, their risk of adult-onset diabetes
doubled. When they slept more than eight hours,
their risk of adult-onset diabetes tripled. This is typical
of the findings. Too much sleep is bad. Too little sleep is bad.
The right amount is good.
But seven to eight hours of tossing and
turning won't do it. Researchers have also uncovered some useful
information about how to get good quality sleep. You will
sleep better if you:
Go to bed and get up at the same time
Keep your feet are warm.
Eat three hours before going to bed.
The closer to your bedtime you eat, the lighter the meal needs
to be (especially light in fat, which takes the longest to digest).
Do something relaxing immediately prior
to going to bed rather than doing something agitating. For most
people, reading or stretching gently are relaxing; watching television
or working on a computer are agitating (produce alertness and
tension rather than relaxation, and therefore interfere with
the going-to-sleep process).
Hormones that control wakefulness and sleepiness
rise and fall in a cycle with regularity throughout the day.
Most people feel sleepy around three in the afternoon, and if
you take a nap then, you lower your risk of heart disease. Why?
It is natural and healthy to sleep in two periods rather than
one. It allows you reboot in the middle of the day. Not trying
to power through "slump time," probably lowers your
stress hormone level.
As Winston Churchill said, "You must
sleep some time between lunch and dinner, and no half-way measures.
Take off your clothes and get into bed
Don't think you'll
be doing less work because you sleep during the day
will be able to accomplish more."
It is important to sleep when you feel
sleepy, and not force yourself to stay awake, because the opportunity
will go away. It's not like hunger where you just get hungrier
and hungrier. Your body cycles through ultradian rhythms (biological
rhythms that cycle more than once a day) and you need to strike
while the iron is hot. You may feel sleepy now and if you went
to bed you would sleep well. But if you wait for forty-five minutes,
the wake-sleep cycle has rebounded, and now it might be more
difficult to fall asleep.
If you can fall asleep very quickly any
time, by the way, that is a definite sign you are chronically
The sleep researcher and author of The Promise of Sleep, William Dement, probably
knows more about sleep than any other person. His research will
give you a respect for sleep. It needs to be taken seriously.
It effects your motivation level, your competence at your job,
your likelihood of making a mistake while doing something dangerous,
like driving a car. It effects your immune system. It obviously
effects your mood.
Good sleep has been proven to be a better
predictor of how long you will live than exercise, heredity,
or diet. Amazing but true.
Did you get that? According to Dement,
regular good sleep will help you live longer and it will
help you more reliably than even exercise, diet, or your genetic
tendencies (all of which have a major impact on how long you
One of the things Dement has discovered
is that not getting enough sleep influences your motivation level,
especially for creative people. It doesn't take a scientist to
figure this out, although scientific research is the best way
to sift fact from mistaken observations.
Another good way to find out what works
is to only pay someone when they produce results. Under
those conditions, there is a strong commitment to discover what
works, regardless of anyone's pet theory. That's why salespeople
often come up with so much practical information. When you're
on commission and your entire income depends on your effectiveness,
you lose your attachment to ideas that impair your abilities,
or you don't make it.
W. Clement Stone wrote about sleep in The
Success System That Never Fails. Stone worked his way up
from a young man of limited means and no connections to an extremely
wealthy man. He started out as a commission insurance salesman,
selling door-to-door to businesses. In the process, he learned
about the importance of sleep. He tried to get ten hours of sleep
every night, plus a nap in the afternoon. This may be too much
for optimal health, but it worked as a salesman putting out intense
effort all day, and he said getting a lot of sleep gave him the
energy he needed to keep at it, and it helped him maintain the
high motivation he needed, to work his way to the top.
Sleep is important. When you feel tired
or sleepy and you can sleep, you ought to. It's one of
the best things you can do to lower your stress level, improve
your health, and increase your ability to accomplish your goals.
Get enough good sleep.
Take a mid-afternoon nap if