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Combining prosperous work lives and balanced personal lives
April 2002

My goal is to bring you news, insights, and information about leading a balanced and prosperous life.

Keeping Balance by Better Self-Care - Sleep

Today is the start of National Sleep Awareness Week, co-sponsored by the National Sleep Foundation and a diverse coalition of organizations, associations, and state and federal agencies. Until recently I presumed that women who are in charge of their lives know that adequate sleep is part of good work-life balance.

When the topic of sleep came up at a recent networking meeting of busy women business owners and executives, I was shocked to learn three things:

  • the women present got far less sleep than their bodies needed to function well;
  • they knew they were tired all the time but didn’t know why;
  • they didn’t know the one obvious thing they could do to change that frequent symptom of imbalance: get more sleep
Symptoms and Effects of Lack of Sleep
Here are some of the signs that tell you that you are not getting enough sleep.
  • You need an alarm to wake you. When people have enough sleep they wake on their own and feel refreshed.
  • You are tired during the day – not just a mid-afternoon slump but feeling dragging off and on through the day. Fatigue is the number one reason for doctors’ appointments. While fatigue can be a symptom of serious illness, it can also be a symptom of not enough sleep. You can eliminate needless and time consuming doctor visits by following the suggestions below. If the fatigue does not resolve itself, schedule a visit to your doctor. Be sure to mention any medications including over-the-counter drugs. Many common remedies can disrupt your sleep. Alcohol, for example, may get you to sleep but it can prevent the all-essential dream time your brain needs.
  • You can easily take a nap if you had the opportunity. If you do nap, you feel like you could sleep forever and still have trouble waking.
  • You fall asleep at night within minutes. Well-rested individuals take between 10-20 minutes to settle down to sleep at night.
  • You think about sleep during the day. (This is my favorite sign – I start longing for nap places like the floor under my client’s chair.)

While most people will function without their maximum rest on occasion, chronic sleep deprivation causes the following things:
  • Lowered alertness.
  • An increase in accidents, auto and other kinds. More than a million auto accidents a year are related to sleepiness at the wheel.
  • Lowered frustration tolerance and chronic crankiness.
  • Jumpiness and anxiety.
  • Low mood and vulnerability to clinical depression.
  • Loss of perspective and inability to gain joy from the simple things in life.
  • Low energy, ambition, and initiate.
  • Premature aging.
  • Lowered sex drive.
  • Lowered resistance to illness, therefore, more frequent colds, flues, etc.

Restoring Natural Restful Sleep
Most of the above problems will reverse themselves once you start getting adequate rest. Here are some suggestions for restoring balance by getting the right amount of sleep.
  1. To find out how much sleep you need, imagine the third day of vacation. You slept as much as you wanted the first two nights and feel alert. You are looking forward to lots of fun activities. How much sleep do you need to wake on your own with no alarm the next day? The average American adult needs 8 – 8 ˝ hours of sleep. Those busy executive women at the meeting thought that 7 ˝ was enough and admitted to getting far less. There are individual differences on sleep needs but it is not a normal bell-shaped curve. Only small numbers of people need sleep outside the range above.
  2. The most important factor to establishing a good sleep rhythm is to rise at the same time each day, no matter what bedtime you end up with. Morning rising locks in your circadian or daily rhythms of appetite, elimination, alertness, and other bodily functions. If you get to bed later than desired, get up at your regular time even if you have to use an alarm clock. Tolerate the fatigue that day and resume your normal bedtime that next night.
  3. Practice good sleep hygiene. Sleep in a cool, dark, quiet room. Many people fall asleep with the TV on. Its’ noise, while not waking them, does disrupt the quality of sleep.
  4. Avoid the following for a few hours prior to bedtime: caffeine, vigorous exercise, adrenalizing excitement (arguments, suspenseful novels or movies), big meals (although a light snack will be fine).
  5. Do get exercise earlier in the day. It helps the brain chemistry that makes you sleep well. Get sunlight early in the day especially when adjusting to a new time zone.
  6. Avoid naps but if you do occasionally nap, limit the time to 20 minutes and don’t nap later than 3:00 pm.
  7. If you do have an occasional bout of insomnia, get out of bed if you start worrying or problem solving. Use paper/pencil to record your results so you have a bit of closure to the worry session. Go back to bed and think of a pleasant nature scene that you have visited or would like to visit. Pleasant scenes have a higher success rate on inducing sleep than counting sheep.
The Sacrifice and the Payoff
What if you do get adequate rest? Is it worth the sacrifice?

Adequate rest will keep you alert, free of accidents, able to tolerate stress. It will help you get more done in less time because you will feel less foggy during the work day. Other people will suddenly appear to improve their rotten personalities. It will keep you youthful.

What is the sacrifice? Probably some prime time TV, the most important goal of your life, right? I had two clients, one male and one female, that fell asleep in front of the TV in the living room each night. Every night, they had to wake in the middle of the night, go upstairs, get undressed, and climb into bed risking waking their spouses. They also had difficulty getting Delta sleep, the most restorative sleep that usually happens at the beginning of the night. In essence, they were sabotaging quality of sleep with their “naps.” Both felt chronically tired in the day. As an experiment, they tried going to bed at around the time they got sleepy. Both had similar results. Within two nights, they got sleepy later, and had more fun in the evening with their families. The woman decided it might actually be possible to take a night class she had avoided because she felt too tired in the evening. Needless to say, the earlier bedtimes had some marital benefits. Both of their spouses thanked me for the change.

Experiment with your own sleep cycles to see what works best for you.

As a busy BossWoman you have a lot of control over your life. Choose to practice good self-care by getting adequate sleep.

Have an energetic month.

Susan Robison

Interested in more information including an online quiz? See: www.sleepfoundation.org
Best book: Power Sleep : The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance by James Maas

BossWoman coaching topics include work-life balance, career transitions, building your business or practice, time management, and increasing productivity.

Telelearning is attracting busy professions like yourself. Imagine just-in-time learning without having to transport yourself anywhere other than your home of office. I am currently a student in an advanced coaching skills class taught by Dr. Ben Dean of MentorCoach. It is a fabulous learning opportunity with fellow students all over the country. As part of a course assignment, a fellow student and I did a workshop for women balancing multiple roles. We intend to offer this workshop again and plan to offer another workshop late in the winter on how to survive completing a doctoral dissertation. More on this later.

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BossWomen e-Newsletter is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Coaching should not be construed as a form of, or substitute for, counseling, psychotherapy, legal, or financial services.

Copyright 2002 Susan Robison. All rights reserved. The above material is copyrighted but you may retransmit or distribute it to whomever you wish as long as not a single word is changed, added or deleted, including the contact information. However, you may not copy it to a web site without my permission.

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