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By Denise M. Michaels
America’s always been a highly competitive place. As we inch toward Fourth of July next week we’re reminded people have come to these shores throughout our history to work hard and be successful. It’s one of the reasons why since after World War II we’ve had the most powerful economy on the planet. Our work ethic has is admired around the globe. Especially when you compare our lives and culture with others where mid-afternoon siestas, or a few hours wiled away at a café appear to be a time-wasting norm.
I’ve heard entrepreneurial gurus, authors and experts push a 24/7 lifestyle that guilts followers into suggesting sleep is almost a needless luxury. If you’re not living, eating and breathing your business or career every waking moment you’re destined to fail they insist. Relationships must be squeezed in around the margins of your life. Partners or spouses are simply being “unsupportive” if they communicate they want more time together. Workouts should be extreme or they’re worthless. Yet our bodies aren’t intended to take this punishing treatment over the long haul.
With startling clarity I recognized a few years ago there’s a point of diminishing returns. I thought I was highly productive working 16 to 18 hour days. checking things off my to-do list until late into the wee hours. Eventually it hit me, I was kidding myself. I took more time to solve problems, more time to find that piece of paper or file on my laptop because I wasn’t as well organized as I wanted to be. Sheepishly I’ll admit there also were times when I wasn’t fully present in meetings because my mind wandered or I was fighting the urge to doze off.
Reasonable sleep of seven to eight hours nightly is one of the best things you can do to restore your body and recharge your brain. Every time you get up in the morning still feeling tired because you know you didn’t get enough sleep that’s your brain messaging you, “I need to reboot. Let me rest.”
I’ve noticed a flurry of books on Amazon and other booksellers recently shouting from the rooftops we’ve become a nation of sleep deprived people. Millions of Americans walk around, work and even drive zombie-like every day.
Experts say one important key to getting better sleep is to start by shutting down all electronics about an hour before going to bed. Be honest with yourself, 95 percent of the time the email that popped into your inbox at 10:00 pm can wait until the next morning. Turn off the TV and if you recharge your smartphone overnight, plug it into the charger in a different room. Turn it over so it can’t disturb you.
Use the time to read something positive, relax, meditate or even pray. You’re giving your body powerful signals it’s time to slow down. You’re also inputting positive thoughts that will prepare you for a great day tomorrow.
Sleeping in a room as dark as you can get it also tells our Circadian system it’s time for sleep. If lights outside your windows shine in, illuminating your room get curtains lined in a dark color or blackout shades so your sleep isn’t disturbed by light. I used to travel frequently to Los Angeles and Chicago for business. I’d ask for a hotel room on the highest floor. I loved seeing the skyline as I drifted off to dreamland because it was so different from the suburb I live in. The next day I always wondered why I never seemed to get good sleep. The city lights were disturbing my night’s rest.
Finally, I did a little research of my own. For years I’ve known about Melatonin, a natural herbal supplement that helps promote sleep. I always bring it along with other vitamins when I travel across time zones. But I don’t want to become dependent on a drug or herbal product. In “Prescription for Nutritional Healing” author Elizabeth Balch says between ages 40 to 45 our body begins to slow down it’s natural production of Serotonin, which helps us sleep. Melatonin aids temporarily and its non-habit forming. However, the body can come to rely on it and slow down Serotonin production even more, making a bad situation worse.
I wondered what naturally boosts our body’s production of Serotonin? No surprise, it’s antioxidants. They’re found in green leafy veggies, of course. The darker in color the better. So order that big salad for lunch. If it comes with iceberg lettuce ask them to swap it out for dark field greens. Or, have an omelette for breakfast with spinach, asparagus – whatever you like. You’re not only increasing your body’s immune system, you’re also increasing it’s ability to take advantage of the sleep it so desperately needs.
This week I’ve been enjoying a visit to the small city of San Miguel de Allende in Mexico for a workshop. With a population of 150,000 people and charming Spanish Colonial architecture that looks like it’s out of a movie – it’s a slower pace of life. I haven’t turned on the TV once. I’ve been getting a solid seven to eight hours of sleep nightly. I wake to the sound of birds chirping nearby and as I make my morning tea in the kitchen I hear the sound of church bells pealing.
Denise M. Michaels is a ghostwriter and book coach. She helps CEOs, entrepreneurs, therapists, speakers and aspiring authors become more recognizable, influential and in-demand. Using the leverage a book provides – you can become the go-to expert in your niche. To contact Denise about your book or book idea click here now.