The importance of a good night’s sleep

Reflections to make you think

"If you want to be a billionaire, sleep as little as possible." Donald Trump.

"Sleep is a criminal waste of time. A heritage from our cave days." Thomas Edison.

"Every important mistake I've made in my life, I've made because I was too tired." Bill Clinton

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Sleep. So easy to take for granted, but so essential - especially if you are not getting enough. And yet there is so much bravado and neglect when we think about sleep. Whatever you may think of Donald Trump and Thomas Edison, their opinions on sleep are way off the mark when it comes to what the research and even what common sense shows. And whatever your opinion of Bill Clinton there is much wisdom in his reflection on sleep and making errors of judgement.

Indeed in November 2008, just after the US election, former President Bill Clinton was asked by CNN Talk Asia correspondent Anjali Rao, "If you had to give one piece of advice to offer President-elect Obama, what would it be?"

The surprising answer? Not what you might have thought. Not watch out for the rise of China, or instability in the Middle East, or the economy or managing healthcare. Rather his reply was he would tell the new world leader to ensure that he got enough rest and to invest in his own vitality, so that he can remain as energised, passionate and focussed in his presidency as he was throughout his campaign.

When we look at the gruelling schedules those in positions of power and authority put themselves through, you can only wonder if more sleep, rest and recuperation would have led to better decision making.

I use to think sleep was an unnecessary inconvenience that got in the way of getting on with the rest of life. I've slowly began to realise how essential it is to overall health and well-being. From a physical health point of view it is as important as regular exercise and a healthy diet.

Maybe part of our problem is in our whole attitude to sleep and its role in our day to day lives.

If I were to ask you, 'When does your day begin? When does your day start?' how would you reply? The automatic reflex answer is,"Of course it is when I wake up!" That is what practically all of us naturally think.

What I find fascinating is in the book of Genesis of the Old Testament, describing the creation of the universe, the order given is not as we might expect, morning and then evening. Rather for each day of creation, it is described as "there was evening and there was morning". In other words, the day starts with evening and rest. Putting that another way, your day does not begin with when you get up.

Using this paradigm, your day starts with when you go to sleep. The created order is such that your day begins with rest! How well you rest determines how well you will function in the day with all of its challenges and surprises.

That is a huge paradigm shift when it comes to thinking about the importance of sleep and rest in our lives. Unfortunately our always on 24-7 culture and lifestyle creates much damage to our natural sleep rhythms.

Here is how author Wayne Codeiro suggests getting a healthier handle on sleep in our lives:

"If you ever need to sleep in, learn to sleep in on the front end of the clock, not the back side. Simply said, your deepest sleep is when your REM cycles happen, and that typically takes place between 11pm and 3am. That is when you will get your deepest sleep. If you miss getting to bed before 1am, you will have missed half your chance of getting your deepest rest. You may think you can sleep in until 9am to get your eight hours of sleep. But you are mistaken! You will have had the sleep time, but not the rest. Your sleep will be shallow compared to what it could have been, and when you awaken just before noon, you'll still feel sluggish and lethargic.
So what I say is this: 'You can sleep in on the back side, dumb, or sleep in on the front side, smart.' Go to bed at 8pm and get up at 5am. Then you will have had 9 hours of sleep! I wake up every day at 5am, and people say 'You're up early!' Actually I just slept in! I feel much better. I am ready for my day. I am much healthier when I cooperate with God's design for my body.
Learn to sleep in on the front side of the clock. Sleep right and double your rest."

Codeiro's suggestions may seem somewhat radical, and for some are completely impractical. But the principle of what he is saying - sleeping earlier and getting up earlier - is worth considering.

What are your thoughts and experiences on getting enough sleep and rest? How could you adjust your sleep pattern to give you more energy in the day? Or is your experience completely different and you function best with much less sleep?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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8 thoughts on “The importance of a good night’s sleep

  1. Very insightful Sunil – and your comment on Genesis 1 is especially so. I am a poor sleeper at the best of times. One of those people who can always find lots of interesting things to do when I should really be headed for the sack. So your blog has made me feel guilty – but hopefully the kind of guilt that something positive may arise from …….

  2. I agree that we neglect sleep too much and it’s hard to make it a priority but I suspect the author who recommended the early to bed early to rise routine is a natural lark. Not all of our body clocks are the same!

    • That is a good point Karin. We need to experiment to see what works best for us personally. I tend to be more of an evening than a morning person. And I certainly can’t get to bed as early as 8pm! However, its such a simple thing to get hold of that can have huge positive benefits.

  3. I guess because we can’t make ourselves sleep (we ‘fall’ asleep, as we ‘fall’ in love) we’re rather too relaxed about a disciplined bed-time, but it’s precisely the latter that puts us in readiness for sleep to kick in. I’m naturally a ‘lark’ but I also need to get myself into bed with lights out by 10.30 to feel refreshed next morning.