How to double your IQ in seven hours

“I’m going to get some sleep!”

I thought this was bizarre at first. After all, I remember trying to negotiate my bedtime schedule with my mum when I was little (and I’m sure I’m not alone).

Isn’t ironic that, as adults, sleeping becomes an activity that we eagerly look forward to?

A few months into the job and I understood exactly what my colleagues meant. Being able to function on little sleep was worn almost like a badge of honor.

I recall this particular session that I attended in New York many years ago, as part of my training as a new Business Analyst at the firm. Behind closed doors, with no senior people present, we were given the opportunity, as junior analysts, to ask any questions to a couple of more senior BAs.

When someone inquired about work-life balance and how to manage the long working hours, the response was short and clear: ‘Sleep less! Your body will get used to it.’

That is true to an extent. We are incredibly adaptable creatures. But it all comes at a price…

For a long time, I got used to surviving on only 4 hours a night. Needless to say that this wasn’t a very good strategy for my well-being and personal effectiveness.

Constantly fatigued and with my emotions in roller-coaster mode, I got into a cycle of over-eating carbs and then over-exercising to compensate for it. Moody and confused, my romantic life was also on the rocks.

Eventually, I took a stand for myself and decided to increase my sleeping time to 6 hours a night, no matter what! It may still not sound like much, but it was a massive improvement for me.

I suddenly realized how much smarter I am when well rested. I felt like my IQ had doubled! Without noticing it, my cognitive functions had been deteriorating due to sleep deprivation. And this had been affecting my ability to make good decisions – in business, love and life.

Just by adding a couple of extra snooze hours to my day, I felt like a new woman – more balanced, centered and bien dans ma peau!

Nobody knows exactly why we need to sleep, but neuroscientists have identified at least three key benefits:

1) Restoration

During sleep, your anabolic functions are increased, enabling healing. Conversely, sleep deprivation impairs your immune system, making you more susceptible to infections.

It has also been shown that sleep acts as a brain detox, as the waste-draining glymphatic system (which clears away toxins  linked to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia) is ten times more active during sleep.

2) Memory Processing

Short-term memory – essential for decision-making and reasoning – is affected by sleep deprivation.

Harvard scientists Saper and Stickgold have suggested that memories and knowledge are organized during sleep. When no external information is presented to the brain, the latter is finally free to form new neuronal connections based on the information already acquired.

3) Dreaming

Sigmund Freud proposed that dreams are the expression of our unconscious desires and frustrations. They help us process shadow emotions in our unconscious mind for the sake of our psychological health.

Finally, getting a little metaphysical about it, I would add…

4) Connecting with Spirit

Whether you call it God, the Universe or Spirit, chances are that you believe in some sort of Higher Power or Creative Consciousness that put us on this Earth.

Spiritual teachers tell us that during sleep and meditation we access a consciousness gap that enables us to connect with that Higher Mind and tap into our intuition. Another good reason to get some additional quality sleep!

That said, what can you do if you’re feeling sleep deprived? Here are 5 steps that you can mix & match to help you get back on track.

Step 1: Up your sleep intake

Research shows that people who consistently sleep at least 7 hours tend to live the longest.

Note that some of us need as much as 8 or 9 hours a night, and there’s nothing wrong with that. These are just averages.

Step 2: Mind your circadian rhythm

Your daily activity and energy cycles (a.k.a. circadian rhythm) are regulated by your individual body clock.

You may think that you’re in control of your life, but in fact it is your biological circadian rhythm that defines the time of the day at which your physical and cognitive functions are active and to what extent.

Some people, commonly referred to as ‘larks’, like waking-up early and feel very energetic in the first part of the day. Other people, known as ‘owls’, prefer waking-up late and are more active in the evening.

Whether you’re a lark or an owl is genetically determined. Therefore, there’s no point in fighting your body. It’s better to respect your natural rhythm!

Step 3: Pay-off your sleep debt

Sleep debt results from consistently lacking sleep. It leads to physical, mental and emotional fatigue.

To pay-off your sleep debt this coming weekend, close your blinds, go to bed earlier and do not set your alarm clock. Just sleep undisturbed for as long as you like.

Step 4: Wind down

Create a consistent bedtime routine that helps you relax.

Choose 1-3 activities that help you unwind and combine them in a routine that you’ll repeat every day. For example, you can take a warm bath, practice some gentle yoga moves, listen to soothing music, etc.

Whatever you do, avoid bright lights, caffeine, technology use (computers, smart phones, tablets) and vigorous exercise at least 1 hour before going to bed.

Step 5: Herbal indulgence

Herbal teas are great for insomnia. Chamomile tea is a great option. If you would like something stronger, you can try Valerian tea in moderation (as it causes drowsiness).

Take your tea about 20 minutes before heading to bed to avoid a trip to the ladies’ in the middle of the night.

Now if you’re a mum and your little one constantly challenges your beauty sleep, you may be thinking: “This won’t work for me!” I know so because I’m a mum too!

For now, turn the question around and ask yourself: “How can this work for me?” Then stay tuned to an upcoming article just for mums where I will walk you through my tried & tested tips to help you restore your beauty sleep.

If you liked this blog post, please post a comment below and share it with a friend or colleague who you think may benefit from it. And don’t forget to subscribe for email updates if you haven’t already, so that you don’t miss another update.

Bonne nuit,

How to sleep like a baby… when you have a baby

At 22 months, this should be the norm, textbooks say. In fact, judging by the French parenting advice, every baby should faire ses nuit since 4 months’ old.

But textbooks don’t account for cuddly moods, speedy digestions, and “Old Macdonald Had a Farm” serenades coming from the nursery at 3am!

So we’ve had to get resourceful…

Working in banking has taught me to optimise my time and energy to stay balanced despite the busyness. But having a baby has taken the work-life effectiveness challenge to a whole new level!

One of the biggest problems I hear most new mums complain about is sleep deprivation. And as we discussed in last week’s blog, sleep is essential for our well being for 4 key reasons at least.

In fact, consistent lack of sleep has been linked to the following frightening effects:

  • Diminished capacity for high-level cognitive functions like decision-making and reasoning
  • Psychiatric disorders, including depression, bipolar disorder and alcoholism
  • Increased risk  of cardiovascular disease
  • Hypertension
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Weight gain

So if you want to stay slim & sane, and set a healthy example for your children, start prioritising your rest and relaxation time!

How can you sleep like a baby when you have a baby? Here are 5 tried & tested tips that have worked for us – at least for a while!

1) Dream feeds

This technique comes straight from the Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, a brilliant book by Tracy Hogg.

Right before you go to bed, gently give your baby a bottle. Try not to wake her up. It will be just like a nice, nourishing dream for her!

2) Midnight nappy changes

Since you’re at it, check if your little one needs a nappy change before you head to bed. If he’s smelly, quietly change his diaper while he sleeps.

This will prevent him from waking-up outraged within a few hours, when he discovers that he’s soiled!

3) Super absorbent nappies

Carrying on with the topic of nappies, we’ve found that using ultra-absorbent diapers can contribute to everyone good night’s sleep, especially while your baby is very small and digests everything in no time.

This can avoid you having to change bedsheets in the middle of the night when you discover that there’s been a pee explosion.

4) Taking shifts

While the previous tips can help soothe your baby through the night, getting your beauty sleep can still be a challenge for the first few years.

To deal with this, we’ve designed our own system of shifts. Especially during more demanding periods like teething and growth spurts, my husband and I decide beforehand who is going to be on call that night.

If our little one wakes up crying, one of us immediately jumps off the bed and attends to her needs, thus minimising the fuss and leaving the other one to sleep.

If you have a partner, au pair or family member that can help, this can be a great technique to help you get some well deserved rest.

5) Power naps & early nights

Finally, when you’ve had a rough night, squeezing in a power nap during the day can be a good way to pay-off your sleep debt.

If you’re a business owner and have that flexibility, go for it without guilt! You’ll be way more productive when you wake-up.

If you have a corporate job and disappearing for a mid-day nap is not an option, try to call it a night earlier. If you go to bed shortly after your baby’s bedtime, you’ll get nearly as much sleep as he does.

Now, as you know, life is dynamic and kids are constantly changing. A certain strategy may work for a while, and then no longer. The key is to be creative and keep experimenting!