Last week, I spoke at a conference in our nation’s capital about “Taking Care of Your Badass Self.” One of the topics that I cover in this seminar is sleep. Minutes before my presentation, I heard a common phrase that continues to infect our culture: “You can sleep when you’re dead.”
This saying––especially prevalent on political campaigns and in the startup community–– should be given a dirt nap. Remember the collisions of U.S. Navy ships last year? The ones that cost 17 sailors their lives and caused millions of dollars of damage? A culture of “sleep when you’re dead” was a significant factor in those crashes.
Study after study proves that getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night is one of the most critical things you can do to improve your health. Lack of sleep increases the risk of mental illness, stroke, obesity … the list goes on on on. Getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night doubles the chance that an adult over 45 years old will have a heart attack or stroke at some point in their lifetime.
The good news is leaders are pushing back. Arianna Huffington became a passionate advocate for sleep after passing out at her desk and breaking her cheekbone. Her Ted Talk on sleep has over 4 million views.
I practice what I preach, but to be frank, I’ve had many dances with insomnia –– in fact, we did the foxtrot last night. But I work on making incremental progress. I use the checklist on page 77 of my short book Self-Care Hacks to help me fall asleep. And instead of getting upset when I wake up in the middle of the night, I think of insomnia as an opportunity to stretch, read, do light housework, or practice breathing exercises. The next time you’re in a meeting, at a conference, or in a conversation and you hear the phrase “You can sleep when you’re dead” take the lead. Look them back in the eye with a big smile and say “You must sleep for your life.”
Bonus: Want to learn tips on how to overcome sleep debt? Check out this podcast The Model Health Show by Shawn Stevenson.