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The Covid-19 pandemic has caused work and life as we know it to change drastically, driving record levels of burnout and insomnia. According to research findings from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, more than half of respondents reported problems sleeping since the start of the pandemic. Research from Deloitte found that 77 percent of people have experienced burnout at their current job — and the correlation is no coincidence.
Sleep affects every part of the body, including our brains. According to the Sleep Foundation, without quality sleep, the “neurons in the brain become overworked, impairing thinking, slowing physical reactions, and leaving people feeling emotionally drained.” And, unfortunately, chronic poor sleep can lead to feelings of stress and burnout, feelings that can make productivity a significant challenge — it’s a vicious cycle that has massive consequences. In fact, U.S. companies stand to lose $60 billion due to losses in productivity and fatigue at work linked to poor sleep.
So, as business leaders and entrepreneurs, how do we start getting the best sleep of our lives? Rethink the way we approach sleep, entirely.
1. Develop a personalized approach to sleep.
Sleep is as unique to a person as their fingerprint; no two experiences are exactly alike.
The modern wellness industry has already primed consumers to expect personalized experiences, and the power of personalized care has extended into vitamins, haircare and skincare, for good reason: Custom solutions fit into your lifestyle and work with your body to support where you need it most. Yet many still fall back on one-size-fits-all, mass-produced formulas and approaches, not accounting for one’s unique sleep experience and needs. One solution is not going to work for everyone, nor is one solution that works for someone right now going to work forever.
As humans, we’re dynamic, always growing and changing. That’s what makes life fun. But that’s also what makes it unreasonable to expect that a generic solution could solve an inherently personal problem. For example, I’m a CEO and mother of four, so my sleep needs are very different from the next person. One might assume that my husband and I have similar sleep needs since we have similar schedules in terms of work and taking care of the kids — but it’s far from true. He has more trouble falling asleep, while I need more quality sleep so I can wake up feeling energized in the morning.
When making changes to your sleep environment and routine, you should determine which of these is the issue you want to address: Do you feel hot or cold when you sleep? Do you have trouble staying asleep? Do you wake up feeling tired? Do you have back pain that prevents you from sleeping well? Based on self-evaluation, you can determine the areas in your sleep routine that are lacking, which can help you understand how best to support your sleep goals.
2. Consider and Research Natural Ingredients
Sleep plays a crucial part in the body’s healing process, but most of the sleep aids one sees on the market may not support your body in the natural, restorative rest that it really needs for optimum health. Many widely-used options to support sleep rely on sedatives, which trigger sedation rather than organic sleep. As a result, the body may not experience the deep or REM cycles for the time necessary to experience restorative sleep, where healing and rejuvenation take place. These drugs also come with potential, long-term consequences, including dependencies, and could be potentially linked to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
There are many natural ingredients that work synergistically with your body to facilitate natural sleep processes over time. For example, there’s an entire biological system in our bodies called the endocannabinoid system that is responsible for regulating certain physiological processes, ranging from appetite and metabolism to stress regulation and maintenance of sleep-wake cycles. The system produces “endogenous cannabinoids” similar to the cannabinoids found in cannabis to initiate these processes. So, when the body ingests cannabinoids like CBD, cell receptors interact with it in a similar way that it would with the endogenous cannabinoids to induce sleep and promote wakefulness. And that’s just one ingredient.
Other herbal supplements like magnesium, valerian, melatonin, L-theanine, and jujube have all been found as aiding natural sleep in different ways. Plus, natural ingredients like adaptogens have been found to benefit sleep, which could also have the power to boost your energy for the next day. (However, everyone is unique, with their own set of needs; I recommend consulting your doctor before turning to natural ingrediants.)
3. Build a Better Bedtime Routine
The past year and a half have not been conducive to quality sleep — social distancing, school closures, quarantines and working-from-home orders have all brought profound changes to normal routines, in turn disrupting our sleep patterns. Your mind and body more easily acclimate to a consistent sleep schedule, making it more important than ever to build a better bedtime routine.
Washing your face and brushing your teeth may be givens, but try exploring some different tactics: Consider taking a warm shower or bath before bed to promote melatonin production; dim the lights and do some breathwork to lower your stress levels; consider asking your doctor about natural supplements to encourage relaxation and support deeper sleep. The key is to elevate your bedtime routine and set yourself up for the best sleep of your life. Perhaps even consider a sleep coach to determine the best go-to-bed and wake-up routine for you.
Given the essential nature of sleep to our health and our ability to lead our teams, we should approach sleep holistically, as we do with other areas of our health. We take probiotics to aid our digestion, or amino acids to improve our workouts even if we aren’t necessarily struggling with digestion or energy levels. We do it to enhance and optimize the quality of these daily rhythms — so why make sleep any different?
Why settle for anything but great sleep? We deserve better, and we can do better.
The information provided here is not medical advice. You should consult with a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.