There’s long been a sleepless elite – like Jack Dorsey, Donald Trump and Tom Ford – business leaders and politicians well known for sleeping four hours or less each night. Do they not realise that getting enough sleep is essential to wellbeing, sustained performance and overall health?
Lying in bed, tossing from side to side wondering if there is a way to shut down and finally fall asleep? Here’s a roadmap to get you there. By Jo Formosa.
I recently read an article in the financial press where some of Australia’s top CEOs shared how much shut-eye they get each night – I was pleasantly surprised. BHP CEO Andrew MacKenzie reported that he needs at least 6.5 to 7 hours of sleep to remain at the top of his game. Likewise, Slingshot CEO Karen Lawson, BEAR CEO Sam Leetham, Tech Ready CEO and founder Christie Whitehill, rent. com.au CEO Greg Bader and many more all said they try to get at least six-hours’ sleep a night.
HOW MUCH SLEEP IS RECOMMENDED
Not everyone needs the same amount of sleep but there’s no doubt that burning the candle at both ends will impact your ability to function at your peak. Most people need 6 to 8 hours sleep a night.
I usually recommend that my clients finish eating by 7pm and are in bed by 10pm, that’s when your liver is regenerating. Your body is designed to restore itself while you’re sleeping.
If you’re eating heavy meals or drinking alcohol late at night, it’s going to impact your sleep patterns. It also puts pressure on the digestive system and kicks the body into overdrive at the time it wants to rest.
Instead of regenerating, your body will be using energy to digest and process foods when it should be processing emotions. Your body becomes the rubbish tip for your thought patterns of the day.
DIFFERENT STAGES OF SLEEP
There are four different stages of sleep. Stage one, kicks in just after you nod off – your brain produces alpha and theta waves and your eye movements slow down. This stage lasts up to seven minutes and you’ll be in a light sleep, somewhat alert and easily woken.
Stage two, also fairly light, starts with a sudden increase in brain wave frequency and then it slows down – if you’re having a power nap you’ll want to wake after this stage.
Stage three and four is the beginning of deep sleep and when the brain starts producing slower delta waves. The brain produces even more delta waves and you move into a deeper, more restorative stage of sleep. This is when the body repairs muscles and tissues, stimulates growth and development, boosts immune function and builds energy for the next day.
You’ll generally enter the REM (rapid eye movement) stage about 90 minutes after falling asleep; each REM stage can last up to an hour. An average adult has five to six REM cycles each night. During this final phase of sleep, your brain becomes more active. REM sleep plays an important role in learning and memory function – this is when your brain consolidates and processes information from the day so it can be stored in your long- term memory.
THE ISSUES OF BROKEN SLEEP
Most people wake up two or three times during the night. By the age of 50 many women will wake three to four times a night. This can also be the problem with
hormonal imbalances that need to be resolved.
This is fine, if you wake between sleep cycles, but what I’m seeing is a lot of corporates with broken sleep that are waking between cycles and not being able to fall back to sleep quickly.
The time that you wake up, will be an indicator of where the issue originates. If you find you’re waking between midnight and 2am, in Ayurveda this is seen as a pitta (fire or heat) issue and relates to built-up pressure and stress.
Waking early in the morning, say between 3am and 5am, is more related to vata (air) which is centred around worry and anxiety.
HOW TO FIX SLEEP ISSUES
I recently spoke on ABC radio with a sleep specialist from Wesley Hospital, he said sleep problems are dramatically increasing because so many people are staring into their screens late at night and then expecting to easily drift off to sleep.
He suggested setting a sleep ritual that includes no electronics one hour before bed so your body can calm down. I also tell my clients that they should go to sleep at the same time each night as that sets your body in a natural rhythm.
Once you’re in a good rhythm you can also get rid of the alarm clock – it’s better to naturally come out of a deep sleep on your own accord. You can always use the alarm as a back-up.
I wake up at 4.45am every morning – it doesn’t matter if I’m in a dark hotel room or in my own bed. I never dream either as I’m not getting woken out of sleep cycles.
Meditation works really well as a way of stopping your racing mind. The Art of Living, a humanitarian and educational NGO, says that just 20 minutes of meditation can give you as much deep rest as eight hours’ sleep.
It can be tricky in the corporate world, where business execs often work under intense pressure, irregular routines and different time-zones. The alternative, having an unrealistic belief that you’re bulletproof and not allowing your body enough time to rejuvenate in slumber will eventually wear you down though.
My executive clients who follow the simple steps to improve their sleep enjoy overall better health, have a stronger drive and faster recovery than the ones that think they can function on thin air.
Excess cortisol, or the fight or flight hormone, causes weight gain around the abdomen, can lead to adrenal fatigue and an even bigger crash, so it’s really important to start taking heed of this advice, like many switched on top tier business execs are starting to realise. The ones who take care of their greatest asset, which is their health, are the ones who stay on top of their game. BFM
Clinical director of Back to Health, Jo Formosa offers a number of modalities to achieve optimal health in high- pressure environments. She recently created Health Dynamics – the world’s first health and personality test. To find out more visit www.healthdynamics360.com