One thing I never thought I would have to do in my life was retrain myself to sleep again. From 2014-2017 my average sleep hour per night was 3-4 hours. On a good night or on my once a month “sleep day” I might get 7-8 hours if I was lucky enough to stay asleep. My body was trained to be up no more than four hours after falling asleep.
In those days I was working full time as a management consultant and also running my startup and on a hunt for investor funding. There were not enough hours in the day to do the day job and then the afternoon/night job of keeping the lights on for my company.
Since my early 20s I never really slept more than 6 hours on average. I remember so many articles, books, and social media posts featuring various famous entrepreneurs sharing how waking up at 5 am and only needing a few hours of sleep was the way to go to reach maximum success and efficiency. A good example can be found in this piece where some of the people featured only slept 2 hours a night.
It took me closing my startup and going through a burnout to realize how much my body was asking me for sleep and to understand that sleep is one of the best nutrients for our mind, body, and spirit.
By November 2017, as I was sending myself on a self-care and healing journey, my speech was impaired, regardless of the amount of exercise I did, my body was holding onto excess weight, my nervous system was shot with occasional eye twitching/spasms, my memory suffered, anxiety had soared, and I felt like I had never been living further away from my truth.
As I left life behind as I knew it in San Francisco, step one of my healing journey was to sleep. Little did I know this would be a 9 week project to be able to sleep 7 hours through the night and then once re-entering “normal” life again, to build habits to be able to keep this up.
How to Retrain to Sleep More Again:
Step 1. Commit. Commit to sleeping and making that a sacred time and space. This means where you sleep becomes sacred, uncluttered, and with no distractions as does the time you set aside to sleep. Nowadays I am on the road a lot and work in different time zones around the world. No matter where I am, I commit to sleeping 7 hours a night and carving out that time.
Step 2. Creating a Sleeping Ritual. My ritual included no work emails 30 minutes before bed, yin yoga movements to release any tension from the day. Stretching and breathing practices also work well.
Step 3. Reading or Listening to Something Positive Before Bed. What we last think about and feel before sleep has an impact. If our last thoughts are about the bills we have to pay, the stack of work piling up, or an argument we might have had earlier in the day, this will no doubt disrupt our quality of sleep. Instead why not fuel your mind with a positive affirmation, a nice chapter from your favorite book, or listen to an inspirational Ted Talk or Podcast
Step 4. Relax If You Wake Up. At first it was extremely frustrating to keep waking up 3-4 hours in after falling asleep and not being able to immediately get back to sleep. This was training of its own! I made it a point not to check the time, I would sometimes meditate if I was wide awake, and lastly I started experimenting with frequency tones (432 hz).
Step 5. Find Tools to Help You Sleep. Experimenting with frequency tones for sleep was the ultimate game changer for me. I love sharing this with people that have been suffering from poor sleep for a lifetime and see the transformation. I started playing music with 432 hz sometimes when falling asleep, or when I would wake up and not be able to fall back asleep immediately. Initially, falling asleep with the music on worked best. You can find loads of 7-10 hour mixes on You Tube that work quite well.
Step 6. Make Sleep a Health Practice. Just like you exercise daily for your physical and emotional wellbeing, start to see sleep this way. It’s nourishment for your mind, body, and spirit.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours for most adults. So it will be something for your to explore as to what works best for you and your body. 7 hours has been working well for me the past 2 years and it was remarkable to see the transformation back to my true self. The physical impacts of better skin quality, more balanced weight were evident pretty quickly. The emotional benefits of lower anxiety, more balanced nervous system, and overall a happier inner feeling were pretty immediate as well after 1 week of consistent and quality sleep.
I never thought I would be a sleep advocate, but here I am. With the coaching and consulting I do, I am sure to introduce a holistic mind, body, spirit approach to success and reaching our full potential. For those preaching to sleep less in order to “succeed” more, I challenge them to define what “success” actually means. For me success is a happy heart, a healthy mind and body, and doing work that has impact and serves others. Success is not when one is left completely depleted or when it compromises our health and wellbeing.
Those days leading to burnout where dark ones. It’s a place in my life I hope to never revisit again and I look forward to guiding others out of this dark place if they need so. Life is big and full of light. Health and happiness are the new measures of success.