As technology advances at a rapid rate, the world is becoming more and more connected. Hyper-connectivity has opened up wonderful possibilities for business, but adversely has had some dire effects on people in business. Being able to connect with someone on the other side of the globe, by phone or email, 24 hours a day, seven days a week is a double-edged sword for many, making burnout very real.
My friend and fellow B Team leader, Arianna Huffington, is tackling this subject with her latest book, The Sleep Revolution. Arianna explains that while starting The Huffington Post, she bought into the cultural misconception that sleep deprivation is essential to achievement and success. A cycle of perpetual tiredness became her norm – until she had a wake-up call. Experiencing such severe burnout, she fainted. The message finally hit home as she hit her head: “Sleep is a fundamental human need that must be respected.”
“Like being drunk, being that tired not only causes you to make bad decisions, but it also makes you unaware that you’re in no state to be making decisions at all. I was sleep-walking through my life,” she explains in the book.
Having successfully changed her attitude and her sleeping patterns, and documenting the process in her books Thrive and The Sleep Revolution, Arianna has become somewhat of a sleep guru. Wherever she goes she is constantly asked by others what they should do to get more sleep. She has a number of valuable insights to share, including her top 12 tips for better sleep.
I particularly agree with tip number two: No electronic devices starting 30 minutes before bedtime. To encourage our people to prioritise their wellbeing, our Virgin head office in London is looking into implementing an email shutdown for a short period, one day a week. We’re also running a wellbeing programme that highlights the benefits of a healthy sleep pattern. And we have a flexible working policy in place, which empowers our staff to work from home, so that they can manage their time in a way that best facilitates their health and happiness.
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I’m fortunate to have always had a good relationship with sleep. I sleep like a baby. When I go to bed, I leave the curtain undrawn, so when the sun comes up it hits me straight in the eyes. I love bouncing up, out of bed. However, my life is not typical, and I travel more than most people. Having lived a busy life since starting out in business in my teenage years, I realised early on that it’s not the quantity of sleep that you get that matters, it’s the quality. Sleep is incredibly valuable for a busy life, so I try to get it whenever and wherever I can – especially when I’m flying.
As Arianna writes, “It’s clear that if we’re going to truly thrive, we must begin with sleep.” Sleep is a great and necessary starting point for avoiding burnout, but there are also other life choices that can help us prioritise our health and happiness. I find keeping fit and having fun helps me prevent stress.
Another effective way to combat burnout is to add another bullet point to our growing to do lists – ‘to be’. It’s important to prepare for the demands of the everyday, but it’s equally as crucial to enjoy life. Alongside the meetings, appointments and email replies, find time to be inspired, take in the beauty of the world, laugh with your loved ones, and just be. After all, a content day generally leads to a content sleep.