Sleep as Medicine: Your Wake-Up Call

By Robert Graham

Sleep is the foundation of good health. Even when we intend on having the perfect morning, a restless night’s sleep can make our next day feel more like a nightmare. Wake up call: the idea that we have to get more done and that sleep is not a necessity is a delusional daydream.

According to the American Sleep Association, 50 to 70 million U.S. adults experience some type of sleep loss or sleep disorder, insomnia being the most common. In fact, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States has declared insufficient sleep a “public health problem.”

Sleep deprivation has been associated with poor cognitive functioning, decreased immunity and a shorter attention span. It has also directly been linked to diabetes, obesity and heart disease, including hypertension and heart failure. It’s become evident that sleepiness is not just bad for everyone’s health but also terrible for business.

Impact on business

This year, the RAND Corporation published a seminal report; the researchers consulted national business reports and peer-reviewed sleep data from five different countries to predict the economic effects of sleeplessness. Here’s what they found:

  • The lack of sleep among the U.S. working population is costing the economy up to $411 billion a year.
  • The U.S. loses over 1.2 million working days annually to exhaustion - either from workers taking days off or not performing at their prime.

Top 10 nighttime routines

Using a non-pharmacological-first team-based approach is imperative to optimizing your sleep hygiene. Catching more “Zzz’s” can be more than just a distant dream. Want to help your employees sleep better and turn it into their reality? Here are my top 10 nighttime routines to share with your workforce:

  1. Create a routine: Set a regular time to go to bed and get up, and stick to it! Stay on schedule even on weekends.
  2. Associate your bed with sleep and sex only—your bed is not for catching up on work.
  3. Clear your mind of intrusive thoughts (the monkey mind) by using meditation, guided imagery and deep breathing techniques.
  4. Don't lie awake! After 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing until you start to feel sleepy and then go back to bed.
  5. Put your phone down: Blue light reduces melatonin production, so limit the use of devices with LED backlit screen or dim them. Avoid looking at bright screens 2-3 hours before bedtime.
  6. Keep it cool! Maintain a temperature between 65-68 degrees in your bedroom.
  7. Go nuts: Walnuts and almonds contain tryptophan and magnesium, so they are the “dream” sleep-inducing snack.
  8. Make a “dreamy” essential oil synergy and spray it in your bedroom and on your sheets.  My wife Julie’s favorites for sleep are lavender, roman chamomile and vetiver.
  9. Sip on some relaxing herbal teas, like chamomile and hibiscus.
  10. Count your blessings instead of sheep. Grateful thoughts can help you get a great night's sleep. Try gratitude journaling prior to bed and you just may rest easier.

Try these and you might just get the sleep you’ve always dreamed of! Dream on…


Posted by Robert Graham- 18 February, 2018

Emma Seppälä, Ph.D is Science Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, develops Wellness Initiatives at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and is the author of The Happiness Track (HarperOne, 2016). Her research on yoga-based breathing for military veterans returning from war in Iraq and Afghanistan was highlighted in a documentary called Free the Mind by award-winning filmmaker Phie Ambo, as well as Amy Cuddy’s New York Times bestselling book Presence and Representative Tim Ryan’s book Mindful Nation. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Fulfillment Daily, a news site dedicated to the science of happiness. Emma is a guest contributor for the Whil Blog.