If you have school-aged children, the end of summer is just the beginning of your "busy season" as a parent. You begin back-to-school preparations, and the calendar quickly begins filling up with activities and plans. You cross your fingers that any rest & relaxation that you were lucky enough to enjoy over the past few months will sustain you until you catch another break in the action. You know that rest in the coming months is going to be hard to come by, so you muster up your optimism, channel your grit, and hit the ground running.
Here's the rub, though. While we are reminding our kids that they need to "get to bed earlier", "get good rest to function well at school", and "establish a good sleep routine", we as parents are burning it at both ends and often running on fumes with no plan for how or when we will get our rest. We tell ourselves it's the price of parenthood. Or is it? Are we really putting our best foot forward when we are overscheduled and exhausted, with no time carved out for rest?
In our "Do more. Work faster. Hustle, hustle, hustle." culture, we often forget just how important rest and recovery is for our productivity, success, and joy. We tend to think of rest as the opposite of work- even lazy. We forget that without rest we often show up with half a tank, and our productivity is not at the level we strive for. This can prove to be a vicious cycle, as we often respond to our suboptimal performance by working harder and longer, serving only to further deplete our energy and undermine our productivity. This, in turn, can result in exhaustion and burnout, rendering us unavailable to work at all.
The consequences of inadequate sleep are far reaching, and the benefits are profound. We simply can’t argue these facts: when we get inadequate quality and quantity of sleep over time, we increase our risk for diabetes, heart disease, cognitive decline, decreased immune function, depression, and anxiety. On the flip side, with adequate sleep we enhance our decision-making skills, creativity, innovation, empathy, and compassion. All human beings deserve the amazing gift of rest and restoration that quality sleep provides, and we also need it to be on top of our game.
This year, I would like to challenge you to embrace a new personal philosophy that "rest is the new productivity". Start by making sleep a top priority- not just for your kids, but also for you. Bottom line, if you want the greatest return on your investment of time and you want the fast-track to productivity, you will find ways to get 7-9 hours of quality sleep on a regular basis. This is a tall order for certain, and yet with prioritization, planning, and making trade-offs, it is very doable.
Begin by developing your sleep habit. Create a sleep routine that will prime you mentally and physically for the quality sleep that will follow. Carve out 10-60 minutes prior to your scheduled bedtime to begin to prepare your body and mind to rest. During this dedicated sleep prep time, eliminate all screens (i.e., phone, TV, e-reader) and incorporate an activity that will calm and relax you physically (i.e., hot bath, yoga, breath work). Consider inviting your children to join you in this routine.
And finally, just before closing your eyes, I suggest writing down three things you are grateful for. This routine will place your body and mind in a calm and pleasant state that is conducive to great sleep. This investment in quality rest is a game-changer. This year, make rest the key ingredient for your productivity and joy.
“Sleep is an investment in the energy you need to be effective tomorrow.”
–Tom Rath, Eat Move Sleep: How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes