It might not be too surprising to hear that I spend time thinking about and studying sleep. With more than 760,000 hotel rooms, a big part of our business is about providing great sleep. Even in our most lively hotels, we want to make sure that when our guests head upstairs, they can enjoy a deep and restful sleep, sheltered from the scene continuing below.
Because of the importance of sleep to our business, I am often surprised to hear the way many talk about sleep. I can’t count the number of business people that have told me over the years that they only get four or five hours of sleep each night. Many even go so far as to say they only need four or five hours of sleep each night. Often these comments feel a bit boastful: In other words, “I am so tough or strong or committed that I don’t need the same amount of sleep that others need.”
Here are a few simple tools I use to ensure I get the sleep I need ...
These comments might not just be boastful, however. They also reflect very real pressures that make managing time so difficult. With always-on communications tools, an ever-accelerating pace of change and a common “fear of missing out,” there just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day to do what we need to do and still have time for good sleep.
To add insult to injury, those trying to make their living in a job that requires global travel or regular communications with others around the world knows that the challenges of getting a good night’s sleep are magnified. I am just back from a five-day, four-city visit to Europe, which provided a fresh reminder of the hurdles that time changes and busy schedules present.
I won’t take the time here to make the case for why sleep is important. Most of us are pretty familiar with the reasons and know that seven hours of sleep are much better for us than four or five hours. We need them to stay awake in those interminable meetings that few can fully avoid, but also for long-term health. Arianna Huffington’s new book, The Sleep Revolution, is a great read for those who want to dig into the issue a bit more deeply.
I want to leave you with a few simple tools I use to ensure I get the sleep I need and hopefully stay healthy in the midst of a busy, peripatetic lifestyle. Here they are:
1. Don’t be embarrassed by sleep. Get yourself into the mindset where it feels like boasting to say you got seven to eight hours of sleep, rather than when you get four to five hours.
2. Be deliberate about sleep. Many of us heard from our mothers (or fathers, or both) growing up that we should get a good night’s sleep. Be attentive to what works for you and what doesn’t work and make your own recipe.
3. When you’re travelling, get on the local time zone and get enough exercise to take advantage of natural light and activity to encourage sleep at the local nighttime, not your nighttime at home. For example, arriving in Europe after an overnight flight from the U.S., it is always tempting to sleep for a few hours on arrival, even though the day has formally begun, or to skip morning exercise to get another hour of sleep when your body’s clock is most likely to be craving sleep. In my mind, both of these are mistakes: By getting on the local clock and exercising, you are much more likely to have quality sleep during “sleeping hours.”
4. Keep your electronics out of bed (I wrote more in depth about this a while back). By all means, use your phone to set a wake-up alarm, but don’t look at emails or text or Instagram in bed. Don’t even reach for that phone at night. It will be a temptation too hard to resist during the inevitable wakeful moments.
5. Keep your eyes closed and stay in bed. In my experience, some tossing and turning is inevitable and natural. When we have particular pressures at work or at home, it is easy for those pressures to loom large and make us feel like we simply can’t sleep. Don’t fall for it. Even if you feel like you’re not getting quality sleep, if you stay in bed with your eyes closed, you’re likely to get much more sleep than you think.
There are a number of other tools I use, but I’m not sure they are necessarily for everyone. For example, I always have the curtains and shades open, even in a well-lit cityscape. I prefer to let my body sense the arrival of daylight in the morning and “see” the dark at night. Many others, probably most, prefer the total blackout. These are personal choices, as are the number of pillows you use or whether you read a book before crashing out. Make those choices in a way that helps you sleep.
Let me know if you have any tools that you have found particularly useful. In the meantime, sleep tight.
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Arne Sorenson is the president & CEO of Marriott International. www.marriott.com