Sleep Your Way to the Top

Article excerpt

Byline: by Marianne Power

WHEN I was growing up, my mother had a magic cure for any situation. Failed an exam? No problem. Had your heart broken? Relief was at hand.

What was this magic cure? 'Have a hot bath and go to bed.' While my sisters rolled their eyes and insisted this would not fix their crisis, I didn't need to be told twice.

'You were always taking yourself off to quiet corners for a nap,' my mum says. 'You must have been the only schoolgirl who didn't fight to stay up late -- you were in your pyjamas before it got dark.' It's the same today. If sleeping were an Olympic sport, I'd win gold. There's no day that can't be made better by a little snooze and there are few greater joys than waking up after a blissful, tenhour sleep. Except maybe a 12-hour one or even 14 (my record).

Like my mother, I believe sleep has magical powers -- capable of transforming me into the best version of myself.

Without it, I'm cranky, anxious and overwhelmed. The tiniest thing sends me into a spin. As for my brain-power -- without a good night's slumber I have all the wit of a wellington boot.

I marvel at colleagues who hold down high-flying jobs while looking after babies and existing on three hours of interrupted sleep.

'How do you do it?' I ask.

'You just do,' they shrug. Other energetic friends take the 'I'll sleep when I'm dead' approach and tease me that I am snoozing my life away.

We live in a culture that seems to consider sleep an inconvenience, something to be fitted in between other commitments.

We're expected to be switched on 24 hours a day, sleeping with our phones by our pillows, checking emails after midnight.

Doesn't anyone sleep any more? Apparently not. Lack of sleep has become a virility symbol.

I had dinner recently with a man who kept bragging that he'd had only four hours' sleep the night before. I wanted to tell him our dinner would have been a lot more interesting if he'd had five.

But the tide is turning: a host of business leaders and scientists argue that far from being a waste of time, getting enough sleep is crucial to success, health and happiness -- and even to our body shape and relationships.

It all started with Arianna Huffington, the 61-year-old author, journalist, politician and founder of the Huffington Post. She became evangelical about the need to sleep after collapsing with exhaustion, resulting in a broken cheekbone.

She argues that thanks to the pressures of modern life, women are so exhausted we can't function properly.

'The advice I would give to my younger self is very simple,' she says. 'Get enough sleep and you will be more productive, more effective and more likely to enjoy your life.' Huffington is so convinced sleeping will help us get ahead she has started a campaign urging us to 'sleep our way to the top' and put beds into her offices to allow people to nap. …