It’s May. The month of Mother’s Day. Moms love the handmade cards created by their kids and breakfast in bed, especially when kitchen clean up is included. Some mothers might even like a little bling on their special day. But the ultimate gift? Sleep.
Many of us are walking around sleep-deprived. In my recent leadership training, I talked about the importance of maintaining our health so we can make a sustained contribution to our work and to our families. When I ask the 25 class participants in my trainings who gets eight hours of sleep regularly, guess how many raise their hands? Usually only one out of 25 people!
Tom Rath’s book “Eat Move Sleep” talks about the fallacy of thinking that we can get more done if we sleep less. He says research shows that when we sacrifice sleep, we are actually less productive and less healthy. He cites the 1993 study of human performance by Professor Ericsson; who found that elite performers need 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to reach greatness. The elite performers that were studied included athletes, musicians, actors and chess players. What Rath points out is an often overlooked element of the study – their sleep. These elite performers slept, on average, eight hours and 36 minutes. Sounds dreamy, doesn’t it?
A recent article entitled “Longevity: The Sleep Cure” cites research by Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, a neuroscientist at the University of Rochester. She found that although it seems the body is at rest during our sleeping hours, our brains are actually quite busy. The brain runs checks on itself and washes out toxins. She says this nightly flushing out is important for our ability to think, to thoroughly process our emotions from the day, and to categorize memories. The deep REM sleep takes the edge off of difficult emotional experiences. So, if you have a lousy day, a good night’s sleep can help make the next day a better one.
I know we’ve all heard the recommendations for how to get a good night’s sleep, but here’s a reminder. Have a soothing bedtime routine. Maybe take a warm bath – bonus points if you include lavender-scented Epsom salts to the tub. Drink warm milk or herbal tea. Turn off the electronics an hour before you go to bed. Keep your bedroom cool.
Make sleep a priority and give Mom the ultimate gift this year – one of a good night’s sleep. Happy Mother’s Day! Happy Spring!