How Sleep Strengthens Your Resilience

Shelly Ibach, Thrive Global’s Sleep Editor-at-Large, explains why a good night’s sleep is the foundation for navigating life’s greatest challenges.

Monkey Business Images/ Shutterstock
Monkey Business Images/ Shutterstock

Since summer has arrived, many of us are breathing a sigh of relief. We’re finding new ways to connect with each other, get outdoors, and recharge after a historically challenging year. As we face new encounters — such as re-entering workplaces or sending children to camp or back to in-person school in the fall — we’re seeing the continued importance of building resilience.

In a conversation with Thrive Global, Shelly Ibach, Thrive’s Sleep Editor-at-Large and President and CEO of Sleep Number, explained how we can strengthen our resilience by getting a good night’s sleep on a consistent basis. Sleep provides a reserve of emotional and physical strength that we can call upon to build resilience and be prepared for whatever life offers. 

Thrive Global: Why is resilience key to leading a good life?

Shelly Ibach: I often look at adversity as an opportunity. It allows us to learn and grow. And resilience leads to growth. It’s important to lean into adversity rather than retreat from it, using difficulty as a catalyst to move forward, grow, and become stronger. Resilience is what propels us through challenges and gives us a chance to keep going. It has been a friend throughout my life.

TG: How can we build our resilience “muscles”?

SI: The first prerequisite for resilience is your attitude. When you have a stable, focused mindset, you’re more likely to experience clarity of thought and make better decisions. It requires taking the emotion out of the equation and finding acceptance in any situation so you can move forward. And then, to build those resilience muscles, we need to establish habits that add up to a healthy lifestyle — eating well, exercising regularly, and getting a quality night’s sleep. Sleep provides a foundation of physical, mental, and emotional strength, setting us up to be resilient in the face of challenges.

 TG: Why can having a great bed help us to become more resilient?

SI: It’s important because every individual is unique and requires a different level of comfort and support. That is why we created the 360 smart bed, which delivers proven quality sleep for each individual sleeper, even when two people are in bed. The bed is smart, and its effortless adjustability helps people remain comfortable and sleep their best, night after night. We hear from our customers every day about the impact our smart bed has on their lives, and even how it helps them increase their resilience! For example, I recently received a letter from a mother of two who had lost her husband. “It was devastating,” she wrote, telling me that in addition to her loss, she is currently recovering from breast cancer. But having a 360 smart bed meant after returning home from surgery, she was able to rest well. Her smart bed “brings comfortable rest on a difficult day,” she said, adding it “not only saved me physically, but has saved my sanity.”

TG: How has quality sleep supported your team during the pandemic?

SI: Our team members’ well-being is paramount to our success at Sleep Number. Our culture of individuality and innovation is the foundation of who we are as a company. So this past year, we gave each team member a new 360 smart bed. I was super pleased to learn from a recent survey we conducted that our team members rated their overall well-being as higher than it was two years ago, before the pandemic. I’m incredibly impressed by our team’s resilience. In the face of constant challenges, they’re able to respond, adapt, and find innovative solutions — all inspired by a quality night’s sleep!

TG: How has resilience, combined with quality sleep, supported you as a leader?

SI: It keeps me emotionally well-balanced as well as mentally and physically strong. I use my circadian rhythm details from my smart bed to inform my sleep routine. This helps me optimize my day and effectively manage challenges while remaining agile and innovative. Sleeping well prepares me for the day and gives me the strength and resilience to accept situations, lean into adversity, and move forward. Over the past year, we’ve all been faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges. I’ve found after a great night’s sleep, they’re manageable, and I have the clarity to make good decisions.

TG: You’ve been through formidable challenges in your life, including the death of your husband. How did sleep support you through your grief?

SI: When I was faced with one of the worst things that could possibly happen, the loss of a spouse, I turned to sleep as my first resource. I didn’t have a normal sleep schedule, because I was dealing with such grief, but whenever I felt like I could sleep, I prioritized it. Instead of turning to medication, sleep gave me what I needed to get through the grief in a natural and healthy way. And it helped me begin to take care of myself in other ways, like eating well. It’s not as if one day after losing a loved one everything goes back to normal, because it never really does. The grieving process entails accepting where you are and beginning to take steps forward and finding graces as you return to living in a productive way — that is the embodiment of resilience. And for me, sleep was an essential part of the process.

TG: What are your other suggestions for increasing resilience and generally finding fulfillment and joy?

SI: Being exposed to sunlight first thing in the morning is important because it activates your energy. I also recommend building quiet time into your day. For me, it starts in the morning when I set my intentions for the day and reflect on what I’m grateful for. Faith feeds my soul. My go-to book is Jesus Calling, which helps me be present and maintain perspective. I seek joy every day and almost always find it. My curiosity propels me to discover — I love being in nature and admiring the beauty around us all. The other day, I found a grove of yellow lady’s slippers in the forest. Yesterday I saw a baby fawn with its mother. These moments, which may seem small and inconsequential, can truly help us build resilience. I call them treasures, and they inspire me. Nature’s evolution is so clear and reflects hopeful times. As we become more resilient, leaning into adversity to get through challenges faster and with clear growth, we will make a difference in our own lives, in the lives of others, and in the world.

Sleep well, dream big,

Shelly

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