OK, I'll admit it. Like a lot of young professionals, I was once seduced by the old truism of rock stars: "Sleep is for the weak." Superficially content with five hours of sleep after a late night at the office and a few beers at the pub, I believed feeling drained and listless during the day was my natural state. Propped up by coffee, I was often an unproductive zombie at work. I was frazzled by the routine pressures of my job and unable to cope with challenges.
Your mind and body suffer when you're chronically tired. Physiologically, tiredness depletes energy levels and takes its toll on the immune system. Cognitively, it impairs memory processing and decision-making.
A lack of sleep negatively impacts our mental resilience, which is our ability to deal with and bounce back from challenging and adverse situations. Mental resilience also helps us to deal with stress and trauma. It allows us to surmount, rather than succumb to pressure.
Being mentally resilient isn't a static quality; it's something we should strive to improve every day. Part of nurturing our mental resilience is getting good quality sleep. After a near breakdown at work due to my compounded exhaustion, I decided it was time to work on my mental resilience and finally get a good night's sleep. Here are three tips to help you get the sleep you need:
1. Understand why mental resilience is important and why sleep boosts it.
Mental resilience helps us to deal with and recover from stressful events. Most people will experience adversity and trauma at some point during their lives. Mental resilience helps us to deal with trauma in productive and positive ways. Studies show that people with higher levels of psychological resilience are less prone to depression.
As with many aspects of human psychology, psychological resilience is something that is both innate and learned. In other words, while some people are born with higher levels of mental resilience, most people can learn and refine it. Framing a challenge into a positive rather than a negative is a way of building mental resilience.
For example, rather than seeing a tight deadline as a stressor, frame it as a way of learning how to work quickly and productively. Good quality sleep ties into mental resilience, as it nurtures the physical and cognitive building blocks of a healthy, resilient mind.
2. Turn your room into a sanctuary for sleep.
It's a no-brainer, but the better your sleep environment, the more restful and energizing your sleep will be. Keep it calm and quiet, and minimize noise pollution.
- Light: When the light is off, you shouldn't be able to see across the room.
- Temperature: Set the room temperature to around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. A room that's too warm or cold room is disruptive.
- Noise: Wear ear plugs to minimize noise. If you're not a fan of ear plugs, mask noise with a consistent, low-frequency sound.
- Comfort: Put fresh bedsheets on. Make sure your pillows, duvet and mattress are comfortable. You spend a lot of your time in bed, so make it pleasant.
3. Try a sleep hack to wind down properly.
In my heyday as a non-sleeper, I used to also commit the ultimate sin: I'd look at my phone and laptop until I turned the light off to go to sleep. After flooding my brain with artificial light from my computer, I tossed and turned uncomfortably for ages before finally falling asleep.
In the past, our days ended when the sun went down. Now, technology blurs the line our brain uses to distinguish between day and night. Smartphones, televisions and laptops all emit blue light. Blue light is the frequency of light that keeps us alert and awake during the day. It's great for the daytime, but terrible when we need to wind down before bed.
A good pre-sleep routine establishes a barrier between day and night, helping you to switch off and sleep better. I started wearing special glasses that block blue light an hour before bed. They're a particularly vivid shade of orange that make you look a bit like the Terminator, but they have a noticeable effect on your ability to wind down.
These glasses increase the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone) in your brain, helping you to drift off naturally. The best part? They block the blue light from your devices, meaning you can carry on with your pre-bed "House Of Cards" marathon.
Often, we neglect the importance of sleep until it's too late. We let our tiredness compound, and then we snap at a friend, partner or colleague. We also crumble in the face of a challenge. Sleeping properly is an essential part of boosting our mental resilience, which improves our productivity both at work and at home. Take it from me and sleep better, feel better and improve your resilience.
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