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Don't Lose Sleep Over It….

Optimize Blog - February 26, 2013 - 0 comments

According to the National Sleep Foundation, almost 70% of us get fewer than eight hours sleep a night. Only one in ten say sleep is an important part of good health. A full 40% blame watching TV or surfing the Web for not going to sleep before midnight.
Stories abound of business leaders who don’t sleep much. Martha Stewart has claimed to sleep about four hours a night, as has Indra Nooyi, the current Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo. Margaret Thatcher and Bill Clinton both claimed to run a nation on four hours sleep or less so is not needing much sleep a secret to success?
The exception tends to prove the rule and like work-life balance, we all have different needs. But if you fall within the majority then you probably need eight hours a night to be fully rested. The big issue for us mere mortals of course is the fact that there are so many other demands on our time – children, friends, hobbies, fitness – it all seems a bit unrealistic.
However, the thinking part of your brain (the cerebral cortex of the frontal lobe) is the first area to falter when you lose more than a few hours of sleep. This part of your brain is responsible for your most important mental assets: focus, flexibility, innovation, decision-making, and putting things in perspective – all vital skills for being a leader. But the impact is wider than that.
According to some recent research from the University of Surrey in the UK, a run of poor sleep can have a potentially profound effect on the internal workings of the human body and they have found that hundreds of genes are altered in research subjects when sleep was cut to less than six hours a day for a week.
Writing in the journal PNAS, the researchers said the results helped explain how poor sleep damaged health. Heart disease, diabetes, obesity and poor brain function have all been linked to substandard sleep.
The researchers analyzed the blood of 26 people after they had had plenty of sleep, up to 10 hours each night for a week, and compared the results with samples after a week of fewer than six hours a night. Prof Colin Smith, from the team, said “There was quite a dramatic change in activity in many different kinds of genes.”
Areas such as the immune system and how the body responds to damage and stress were affected. The ability to handle stress is a critical element for the modern business leader as is the ability to make great decisions when under pressure. Getting sufficient rest allows us to operate better in the sometimes stressful work environment.
So here are a few tips to help you getting a decent night’s sleep:
• As humans, from the earliest time, we have been evolved to be awake during the day and asleep at night. The closer you can adhere to those primitive biorhythms, the more easily you will get the required amount of rest.
• Keep yourself fit and in condition. Weight gain increases neck size, leading to respiratory difficulty. In men the magic number for neck size is 17 inches. In women, it’s 15.5. Any larger than that creates the risk of sleep-disordered breathing.
• Limit your workday to 12 hours, if possible. After that, productivity declines dramatically, anyway, so don’t try convincing yourself that you are being effective.
• Give yourself enough time to wind down before bed time. Your brain needs to transition from a data overloaded workday to sleep. Avoid computers and other electronic devices an hour before bed, turn off your Blackberry and read a book or a magazine.
• Exercise about six hours before sleep, even if you just take a walk. Exercise makes for sounder sleep. This is especially important for anyone over the age of 40, when sleep begins to fragment.
A lack of sleep deprives us of the capability to be the best that we can be. To give you the best chance to succeed, don’t think that you are immune because at some point, and maybe soon, it will catch up with you…….

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