Increase Your Resilience and Performance

Written by Melissa Kessler, MA, PCC

The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) hosted a teleclass on resilience and brain science in 2016, and presented the negative effects of stress on our brains and performance. On the up-side, we can be trained to change our brains and learn to become more resilient through brain practices. They provided information on several resilience behaviors to help counteract the negative effects of stress, which I teach in my “Conquer Stress” workshop. One behavior in particular has been shown to be the single most important factor in increasing resilience, performance and overall health – sleep.

Most of us need 7-8 hours of sleep to perform at our best; some need more and some need less. Most of us are not getting the amount of sleep that we require each night due to stress, exposure to “screen time” too close to bedtime, and mental rumination. Sleep deprivation negatively affects our concentration, reaction time, memory, motivation, decision-making, creativity and emotional regulation. According to Stanley Coren of the University of British Columbia, we lose one IQ point for every hour of sleep we lose, and those points can only be replenished through sleep.

One way to get more sleep is a concept that CCL presented as “smart sleep” – getting just 20 more minutes of sleep. This can be done by getting to sleep 10 minutes earlier and sleeping 10 minutes later, or by taking short naps in the afternoon (even 10-12 minutes of quiet time is beneficial). If we got 20 more minutes of sleep just 3 times per week, that would equal an additional 52 hours of sleep a year.

According to Andrew J.K. Phillips of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, “Going to sleep and waking up at approximately the same time is as important as the number of hours one sleeps.” Michael Grandner of the University of Arizona says that “Sleep is a part of a larger system of biological rhythms that regulate everything from brain function to muscle repair. The more variable your sleep schedule, the more these systems are not working optimally together.”

Here are some tips for better sleep:

  • Drink earlier – drink an hour earlier; stop drinking all fluids, especially alcohol, at least 2 hours before going to bed. Alcohol is the #1 sleep aid. It helps you fall asleep, but negatively impacts the quality of your sleep.
  • Eat earlier. Stop eating at least an hour before going to bed.
  • Institute bedtime rituals – start winding down an hour before going to sleep by taking a bath, reading a book, or doing some meditation/relaxation exercises. Our brains like consistency and predictability.
  • Turn off electronic devices (phones, PCs, tablets, TVs, etc.) an hour before going to sleep.
  • Lavender contributes to sleep. Here are 50 ways to use lavender.
  • Dim the lights in your house 2-3 hours before going to bed. Make your bedroom as dark as possible by covering up displays (clocks) or wear a mask to bed. The lights tell your brain that it’s time to wake up which prohibits restful sleep.
  • Don’t consume caffeine after noon.
  • Exercise at least 3-4 hours before going to bed.
  • Use a fan, white noise machine, or ear plugs to drown out noise.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Keep your children and pets out of your bed.
  • Use caution with sleeping pills. They can prevent sound sleep, become habit-forming, and cause other side effects.
  • See your doctor for causes of sleeplessness lasting more than a month such medical conditions or medications.

“Whether you realize it or not, how you sleep each night probably has a bigger impact on your life than what you decide to eat, how much money you make, or where you live.” – David K. Randall, Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep

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