The sleep revolution

Arianna Huffington Also available in audiobook: Download our app for free listening.

Be honest: Do you sleep on average how many hours a day? Probably less than seven - which is understandable since we are very busy in our daily routines. Among all the daily tasks like work, meeting with friends, going to the gym and browsing your social networks, we just did not find much time for a proper night's sleep. It turns out that nothing is more critical to our health, happiness, and productivity than having a good night's sleep, with adequate quality and time.

Overworking Is Stealing Sleep

Sarvshreshth Gupta, a 22-year-old Goldman Sachs analyst, spent two consecutive sleepless nights when he called his father at his office at 2:40 a.m. Although Gupta's father had tried to calm him down, a few hours later Sarvshreshth was found dead on the sidewalk in front of his luxurious apartment. He could not stand the pressure of work and jumped out of the building.

Like Gupta, Americans today are suffering from sleep deprivation through a job binge, 'workaholism'.

Workaholism is increasing. Between 1990 and 2000, the annual average American workload increased by one week. By 2014, when a travel company named Skift conducted a survey to find out why few people were buying travel packages, it was discovered that about 40 percent of the American workforce didn’t even take a day's vacation that year.

This unhealthy culture of workaholism prevents us from having a good night’s sleep. In fact, according to a report prepared in 2010 by the American government, 30% of all employees have less than six hours of sleep per night, with nearly 70% describing their sleep as insufficient.

And who suffers the most from it? The working poor. Workers in the lower classes often have several jobs to pay their bills, so they do not have the time to make sleep a priority. A 2013 survey by the University of Chicago found that a person's quality of sleep diminishes as his wealth decreases. And this causes drowsiness and can lead to various sleep-related illnesses.

Being overworked is not the only problem for the poorest. A professor at Stony Brook University has found that disadvantaged neighborhoods are also usually noisier, making it even harder to get a good night's sleep.

Children Work Better in School When They Sleep Better

As a child, did you have trouble staying awake at school or wanted to take a nap at your table before starting activities? Well, this could have been a good solution!

Sleep deprivation begins very early when children are pulled out of bed to go to school before their bodies and minds are ready to wake up.

In 1998, a team of researchers from Brown University conducted a study on the effect of early school hours on children's health. They found that children did better when school started at 8:15 in the morning, but then older children suffered from the schedule changes that required them to be in the classroom at 7:20 in the morning.

The researchers removed these children from the room at 8:30 and assessed their drowsiness. Half of the children fell into a deep sleep only three minutes after lying down - a situation that usually only happens with people suffering from narcolepsy.

Students are pathologically tired when they are forced to get up so early every day to go to school. This situation interrupts their natural sleep rhythm, the circadian rhythm.

When students have better nights sleep, their performance improves. In 2011, the Technion Institute of Technology in Israel found that the level of attention of its students improved considerably when classes started at 8:30 am instead of 7:30 am.

A British high school in North Tyneside tried to take classes that started at 10 in the morning, and their students began to earn better grades in exams.

Employees Are More Productive When They Can Take Naps at Work

In an episode of Seinfeld, George Costanza buys a custom-sized, foldable table that can turn into a bed at the push of a button. The table allows him to sleep in the office without anyone knowing about it. Thankfully this kind of behavior is no longer needed in many modern workplaces.

Some workplaces have the benefit of nap rooms so that employees can compensate for sleep.

Despite the prevailing opinions, on the contrary, sleeping at work is not a sign of laziness. When nap rooms were introduced to the offices of The Huffington Post in New York, many officials were skeptical. Four years later, the rooms are constantly full! Other big companies like Ben & Jerry's, Zappos and Nike also followed the example of The Huffington Post.

Companies can promote healthy sleep habits in other ways as well. Such as ensuring that they have a sufficient number of windows. Natural light also creates a calmer atmosphere and is necessary for your body's biological clock. A 2014 study conducted by the University of Illinois, found that employees working in windowless offices lose an average of 46 minutes of sleep per night. Why? Because our bodies need natural light to maintain circadian rhythms.

And in addition to the nap rooms and windows, there are other ways to rest: sleeping at work or working from home.

Staff sleep better and save time in transportation if they can sleep at work, so flexible office hours are very productive. And according to a Stanford University study on Chinese workers, working from home is even better!

The study found that employees who worked at home were about 13 percent more productive than those who only worked in offices.

Partners That Sleep Together Are Happier With The Relationship

People believe that married couples have always slept in the same bed throughout history. But in reality, this custom arose at a time when few families could afford separate beds for each member. So, should you and your partner sleep in separate beds if they can afford it? Not necessarily - sleeping together can also generate benefits by strengthening your relationship.

According to a 2014 study at the University of Hertfordshire, 94% of couples who sleep with bodies in contact with each other are happy with the relationship. For couples who do not sleep with the bodies in touch, that number is 68%.

In reality, the correlation between relationship satisfaction and sleeping near the partner is so high that the more distant the couple sleeps, the less satisfied they will be with the relationship.

But that does not mean couples need to sleep together to be happy. It is more important that both of you sleep well - especially about sex.

Think about the stats again. The second number was lower, but still, means that 68% of couples who do not sleep together are happy with the relationship. The important thing is that both partners have good nights of sleep, whether or not they are in the same bed.

Partners who cannot sleep properly will rarely think about sex. In fact, a 2015 study found that a woman's desire for sex is directly correlated with her amount of deep sleep. For every extra hour of sleep, there is a 14% increase in the likelihood that she wants to have sex on the same day.

Lack of Sleep Can Hurt Professional Athletes

The leopard is the earth's fastest land animal. Leopards can run 60 miles per hour in a matter of seconds - but they also sleep about 18 hours in a day to rest. Unfortunately, human athletes are not always that wise.

People often believe that sleep deprivation is a good move in the sporting world. Jon Gruden, one of the newest and most successful coaches in the National Football League or NFL, wrote a best-selling book called Do You Love Football ?! Winning with heart, passion and not much sleep.

In his book, Gruden takes pride in being one of the NFL's senior coaches if he considers his nights of sleep because he works for long hours. George Allen, one of his rival coaches, boasted of sleeping in his office every night and working about 16 hours a day while sleeping only 4 or 5 hours a night.

Gruden and Allen are unaware that this type of sleep habit will only hurt their performance - and the performance of the players, who also need to get good night’s sleep.

In reality, having good nights sleep can mean the difference between winning or losing. Cheri Mah, a researcher at Stanford University, experimented on this phenomenon with basketball players.

Mah noted their performance on the court by measuring race times and success in three-point baskets. So she rated each player again after they had slept 2 more hours per night - from 6.5 hours to 8.5 hours of sleep. Having a rest at night allowed players to slow down the race time by 0.7 seconds and score nine extra three-point baskets!

Electronic Appliances Are Hurting Youth's Sleep

What's the last thing you do before bed? Do you watch an episode of House of Cards? Write some email? Do you read any news? These activities may seem like leisure, but make sure that you are not addicted to your electronic devices.

Today, people are increasingly addicted to their gadgets, and a surprising amount of people take them to bed! According to the Consumer Mobility Report of 2015, 71% of people keep their cell phones close while they sleep.

People are also more likely to get addicted to social networks; And this is especially bad for our sleep.

Heath Cleland Woods, a sleep researcher at the University of Glasgow, found that people sleep worse when they are emotionally invested in social networks, and with that, they also suffer from anxiety.

Emotions and stress are not the only problems with social networks; The blue light emitted by our devices also keeps us awake.

The light coming from the device screen suppresses our natural production of melatonin, a substance that helps us sleep. And that's part of why so many people stay awake beyond their natural sleep timings.

According to psychologist Dan Siegel of UCLA, it is a vicious cycle. When darkness appears, the body usually begins to secrete melatonin, so much that we get to sleep within a few hours. However, according to Siegel, if you're staring at a device's screen all night, your body does not believe it's bedtime, even if it's late. When we finally try to sleep, we do not have enough melatonin to help us.

So if you want to have a good night's sleep, put your computer and phone away from you until 9 in the morning. Try reading a book!

Techniques Like Acupuncture Can Help You Sleep Better

Let's say you've taken away your computer and phone, but you still can't sleep; It may be time to try some more direct action. You may not know it, but jabbing a few needles in your ear can help you sleep!

Acupuncture is an efficient and natural way to improve your sleep. People have used it for centuries, but now modern medicine already confirms its effectiveness.

Researchers at Emory University conducted a research on ancient sleep studies and found that about 93% of research confirms that acupuncture is an efficient way to cure insomnia. Also, several studies have found that ear acupuncture points are helpful in encouraging deep sleep. According to the Toronto Center for Mental Health, this happens because the stimuli at these points increase the production of melatonin and help reduce anxiety.

If you do not have time to visit an acupuncture practitioner, you can even try to apply pressure on your acupressure points. Apply pressure on several spots on your wrist, ankles, and ears, and breathe deeply. Use your intuition. If you want to be more precise, you can seek the advice of a specialist.

Medicinal herbs like lavender can also improve the quality of sleep. Dioscorides, a physician from ancient Greece, wrote about the tranquilizing properties of lavender at the beginning of the first century. It was widely used in ancient Greece and Roman baths to help guests relax.

Modern science has already confirmed the powers of lavender as well. It has already been proven that it can lower heart rate, lower blood pressure and skin temperature - another important factor to sleep well!

So you can try different herbs and aromas such as lavender or valerian root, and find out which oils work best for you.

New Technologies Can Improve Sleep

Have you heard of a technology that you can wear? We are not talking about T-shirts with screens or dresses with computer chips. We are talking about devices that you use to monitor their biological functions - like sleep!

There are some technological devices currently available to improve sleep, such as intelligent sleep monitors and artificial light for sleep.

A French company has created a system to improve sleep in 2014. This system consists of two appliances, one that you should keep close to the bed and that controls the levels of noise, light, and temperature in the room. It also uses light and sounds to wake the person up when sleep is enough.

The second appliance should be placed under the mattress. It measures heart rate, breathing, and involuntary movements during sleep.

We have seen how blue light can be harmful to sleep patterns. Fortunately, technology is working to end this! The f.lux application, for example, softens your screen light at night so your melatonin levels are not interrupted.

You can also use technology to access tools for meditation or to help you relax. Forgetting the daily stresses and anxiety is an important part of a good night's sleep. And meditation can help you with that. There are many meditation guides available online, like Louise Hay's videos that can be accessed on YouTube.

Methods such as conscious attention to breathing or Feldenkrais can help you fall asleep. Feldenkrais is a method that allows you to gradually increase your body awareness and relaxation, making small and slow movements.

These devices and methods may work very well, but alone they will not fix your sleep problems. You need to make sure you're prepared to sleep, and you need to commit to it.

Final notes:

If you are sleeping less than seven hours a day, try increasing to at least 7 or 8 hours for a few nights. See if that makes any difference in your productivity in the days to come. You may be surprised by the results!

12min tip: Also read' Eat, move, sleep '! The author explains the importance of these three activities to achieve a better and healthier life.

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