7 Reasons even you need real downtime

A recent survey revealed what most of us feel: that millions of Americans feel guilty about taking downtime and work on weekends and vacations.

Let me relieve you of this guilt.

Unplugging, napping and daydreaming make you better.

  1. Daydreaming finds solutions to complex problems. According to research by Dr. Letivin, our brain has two dominant functions: task driven and daydreaming. It can only do one at a time. When you are unplugged and daydreaming your brain makes connections from seemingly arbitrary information and thus comes up with creative solutions to a problem. This is why great insights often come when you are folding your laundry.
  1. Sleeping longer improves athletic performance. A recent article by Tony Schwartz of the Energy Project claims sleep, namely 8 to 9 hours per night, as a competitive advantage. He cites research by Dr. Cheri D. Mah of Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic found that athletes performed better and reported better moods and more energy on an excessive sleep (10 hours a night for 6 weeks).
  1. Vacation increases performance evaluations. Tony Schwartz also notes a study of Ernst and Young employees that found that for each additional 10 vacation hours they took, year end performance evaluations improved 8 percent.
  1. Naps improve concentration and performance. Alertness declines throughout the day and can be revived with a 10 to 20 minute nap. A great article by Ferris Jabr summarizes the research and benefits of naps.

 More importantly, downtime is good for your life.

  1. It allows you to see what you really want. When you aren’t following your to do list, you can follow your nose as my grandmother would say and do what you crave. For the first few days, it may be rest. So give yourself permission to sleep. When you awaken, you may crave connection or fulfillment or creativity. This craving can feel uncomfortable if you don’t know how to satisfy it immediately, but resist the urge to make yourself busy just to avoid it. Instead, acknowledge it and ask how could you bring more of that into your life. Listen for what answers appear over the next few days.
  1. It helps you let go of what’s not working. Much of work is done on autopilot, responding as we always have. Taking a real break creates physical and emotional space to see patterns that need to be upgraded.
  1. It creates more satisfying relationships. When we’re stretched, it’s impossible to truly connect. Besides feeling a little empty, studies have shown that lacking strong relationships is as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Taking the time to rest so you can be your best and truly present with your loved ones can rekindle and deepen relationships. (For best results, nap together.)

Try a 10 minute nap, technology free meals or 20 minutes puttering time around the house. For more ideas, check out my post on The Art of Slowing Down.

Are you one of the millions lying in bed, wanting to sleep but your mind just won’t shut off?

That was me for about 7 years. I got 5 hours of sleep a night if I was lucky. Sometimes it felt like I didn’t sleep a wink! Until I saw a medicine man in Bali. He gave me one of these 6 tips and now I get about 7 hours a night. It’s bliss.

If you can’t sleep, don’t get frustrated, get smart. Ask yourself: Why can’t I sleep?

Were you racing around all day and haven’t had a moment of down time? Your mind needs time to process the day and relax before you hit the hay. Try this: Build in 1 hour of down time before you go to sleep with no technology.  Develop a ritual for yourself that you enjoy. Read a book, spend time with loved ones, straighten up or lay out things for the next day.

Did you have caffeine or an energy drink in the afternoon? If you are reading this at 2am, then drink water to flush your body and have something that makes you sleepy. For some this is dairy or bread.  Chicken, which has tryptophan, can also make you sleepy. In the future, try not having caffeine or energy drinks after 11am or skipping them all together

Are you stressed about all you have to do tomorrow? Try this: keep a pad of paper by your bed and write out a list of everything that needs to be done. Put it in order of importance and plan it out over the week. This will set your mind at ease so you can sleep.

Is your mind is going over a situation, trying to figure out a solution? Try this: What ever it is, you can’t do anything about it in the middle of the night. If you are trying to prepare for a conversation or an event, it will always go differently than you expect. The best thing you can do is be present and open during the event. And for that you need your sleep. If you are trying to understand the past, remember that you can’t change it. All you can do is accept it. So let it go. Let it float out of your mind.

Are you feeling anxious? Do a gratitude list. Write out 5 things you are grateful for each night, before you turn out the light. Bonus: this may also give you great dreams! Every time I do this I have the sweetest dreams and wake up smiling.

Are you so excited about your life that you can’t sleep? This is what happens to me most these days. Try getting up and doing something grounding and a bit boring. Read a book, organize something or do your finances. That should do it.

Can you guess which one was from the medicine man? Leave your guess in the comments below!