If you're looking for motivation to get more sleep, there are plenty of studies I could point you to, like this recent one showing that insufficient sleep causes toxic gunk to build up in your brain. Or how about this one that found sleep deprivation impacts your performance as much as being drunk. Or this unexpected finding that too little sleep makes you paranoid.
But while the research on the need to get enough sleep is as convincing as it is terrifying, I'm pretty sure that the reason so many busy professionals don't get the recommended amount of shut-eye isn't lack of motivation to sleep. Instead, if a newborn baby or a frantic deadline isn't involved, I suspect psychology is often to blame.
We stay up too late because those dark, quiet hours after both the boss and the kids have quieted down for the night are the only ones that are truly ours. Or we behave and go to bed only to find pandemic stress means our minds are whirring too fast to drift off. A great many of us want to get to bed earlier, it's just that our bodies and minds fight back against our good intentions.
A new find for my grab bag of sleep solutions
Finally getting to sleep at a reasonable hour will require different interventions depending on your particular circumstances. Which is why I always keep an eye out for tips and tricks to help sleep deprived professionals calm down and actually get the rest they crave, from essential sleep hygiene advice to mind tricks to shut off your whirring brain. Hopefully, if I round up enough of these tips, some combination of them can help every reader improve their sleep at least a little bit.
Today I'd like to add one more idea to this grab bag of better sleep advice that seems particularly well suited to our anxious times. It comes from Dr. Andrew Weil, the director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine via Vogue, and all it requires is a few seconds and a set of lungs.
The trick is known as the "4-7-8 Method," and while its origins lay in ancient traditions of yoga, Weil says it's thoroughly scientifically vetted. The simple breathing technique works to calm stress by activating your parasympathetic nervous system, also known as "rest and digest mode." Here's all you have to do, according to Vogue:
Breathe in through your nose for a count of four seconds.
Hold your breath for seven seconds.
Exhale for eight seconds, making a "whoosh" sound through pursed lips.
Repeat up to four times.
The 4-7-8 method can be used to kill stress and calm your body any time of the day, not just at bedtime. And the more consistently you use the technique, the better it works. So give it a try and see if this might be the answer to your sleep challenges.