In our busy world, take time to do absolutely nothing

In this modern age, Rym Ghazal says we can take some lessons on the importance of sleep from older generations.

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‘Eat less to sleep more,” says an old Arab proverb. And if we tweak this pearl of wisdom to take our modern times into account, we can add: work less, text less, check your smartphones and social media less, stress less, do less of everything so you can sleep more.

There is no shame in sleep, yet there is this strange need to always be doing something.

Whenever we find ourselves having a bit of time when nothing is scheduled – and even that is rare – there is this compulsion to do something “useful”, “productive” or whatever, with sleep given a low priority. I find this especially prevalent among women, who not only work and take care of a home and their families but also help others and constantly take on new projects.

And yet somehow they feel guilty if they are not there for everyone else.

It is common sense to say that sleep is important. We see how cranky, ill, unproductive and less social we become if we go about our days having had less sleep than we should. Yet, it seems we need a “revolution” to remind us of the importance of sleep.

“We are in the midst of a sleep deprivation crisis,” writes Arianna Huffington, the co-founder and editor in chief of The Huffington Post, in The Sleep Revolution, her latest book.

Her book strikes a chord as so many people are struggling either with insomnia or just don’t sleep enough because their lives are too hectic.

Truly, a lack of good sleep has a profound effect on all aspects of life – including relationships and our happiness.

We should heed her call to “renew” our relationship with sleep, so that we can take back control of our lives.

From apps that monitor our sleep to special teas that are supposed to help you get some shut-eye, there are all sorts of tools that target those who can’t get a good night’s rest. It’s a big market, actually.

Studies have shown that falling asleep with the TV on leads to depression and a growing body of research shows that checking your smartphone right before sleep also leads to insomnia, fatigue and poorer quality rest.

We are designed to sleep in complete darkness and in a quiet environment, so the last thing the brain needs as it is trying to shut down is light from digital screens or those notification sounds when a message arrives or even that last message you read that leaves you thinking as you turn off your bedside light.

Clearing one’s mind is critical to falling asleep peacefully, so too is finding the right temperature for your bedroom, as well as the right bed, sheets and pillow.

I have found out recently that one of the things I was doing wrong is sleeping without a pillow. It was straining my neck and back, and since I have found the “right shaped” pillow, I have noticed a big difference.

The best advice I have ever received was from some tribal elders, who told me that the reason they were healthy and fit was because their diet consisted of light, healthy food, that they maintained a positive attitude and also made sure to get lots of sleep.

“We nap in the afternoon. We also sleep early and wake up early,” said one 80-year-old elder, who still treks up mountainous terrain in Fujairah. He also delivered a great one-liner: “Sleep is the best Botox for the whole body.” I was surprised he even knew about Botox, but I guess wise old men know everything.

It was common when I was growing up for people to say they needed their “beauty sleep” and we know that getting enough sleep is important for both beauty and health.

It may be a bit difficult to convince your boss that you are heading home for your important “beauty nap” during the hottest hours of the day, but we can do our best to try to get to bed early and give ourselves that extra half-hour before sleep when you just wind down.

Doing nothing is everything when it comes to our health and mindfulness.

rghazal@thenational.ae

On Twitter: @arabianmau