The concept of work-life balance is a ubiquitous ideal for many. The philosophy began in the 70s, gained momentum in the 80s, worked its way into our professional vernacular, and fuelled many a professional learning opportunity for employers and employees. However, we have all moved on from the concept of having work and life balanced in terms of hours attributed to each activity – because most of us realise it’s an unattainable goal, and while noble, actually made some people feel stressed – trying to get the perfect balance.
Personally, I prefer the term work-life management, or some might prefer The Sydney Morning Herald’s suggestion of work life integration.
In all this balancing and integrating though, there is an aspect of each person’s life that needs as much attention as work.
And that’s sleep.
Sleep can often be a part of each day that is relegated in favour of other activities. These other activities may indeed be work, but they can also be leisure-related such as TV or computer time, or socialising in all its form.
Another competitor for sleep are sleep-related conditions. Where you sleep, the comfort of your bed and bed linen, room temperature, room noise and light, AND room companions.
Without ensuring you have the right priorities and the right conditions to ensure a ‘good night’s sleep’ you are putting yourself at risk. While you may sneak through with a couple of nights of reduced sleep, extending the practice is simply poor life management. While we all need different amounts of sleep, and our sleep needs change as we cycle through the years, there is a general recommendation that adults should have between 7-9 hours.
(Some people claim they can adequately survive on between 4-6 hours per night – but it’s few rather than most people who can make that claim and still function successfully in life).
So I’m suggesting a new philosophy stake its claim in our vernacular and that is….
Sleep needs to be prioritised among the other activities of each day.
Why?????? So glad you asked.
Sleep has many restorative process that recharge many bodily systems each night. But like recharging a battery, you need to give your body the right amount of time AND allow it to cycle through the RIGHT TYPE of sleep. I wrote recently about recent research discovering that the brain ‘cleans’ itself during the restorative phase of our sleep cycle. This article on Quartz also provides some info about what your brain gets up to when you’re off dreaming, and an article last week reported research found that the brain continues to works during rest to keep related processes working together.
While understanding what your brain is up while you sleep is fascinating, it’s one of A VAST ARRAY of benefits you will enjoy with enough sleep (hop on to Google). To give you a taste, here’s an article that lists 23 benefits of sleep.
And there’s another side to the sleeping story.
NOT managing how long you do or don’t sleep can have some seriously detrimental effects. And they shouldn’t be ignored. The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard University provide a summary of the risks you can expose yourself to by not having enough sleep; and then there’s this article that details the risks of weight gain attributed to lack of sleep, and I do like the drama of this article on Huffington Post. Yet again, Google your fingers to the bone about the BAD things you are exposing your body to through lack of sleep!
(And just for fun there are also risks you expose yourself to by having too much sleep.)
As confusing as this may all seem, there is a simple reality. You need to find the space in each day to get enough sleep so that you give yourself the best chance you can have to be healthy.
So my question to you is – are you balancing each day and fitting in enough sleep to stay healthy?
If you aren’t, I offer you a final link – 31 Tips to Help You Sleep Better Tonight
So make the effort to sleep well (and for an appropriate amount of time) as many nights as you can – if not all of them . You deserve it.