7 Secrets to Sleep Your Way to the Top

06/23/2015 08:40 am ET | Updated Jun 23, 2016

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The competition is fierce. You've got what it takes to reach the top; you fight harder, push through the tough spots, and work more hours than anyone else. The end of the day feels like the finish line of a Tough Mudder Run.

You can handle it; you are "time macho." Besides you probably have no choice. It's the only way to get noticed and get ahead.

Soon you realize you've been jumpy, cranky, making poor choices, and need a triple espresso or four Red Bulls to make it through the day.

You try to hold your head up, but it keeps bobbing like the doll in the rear window of a car. Finally, you surrender and sloth your way into bed. After a few hours, you are staring into the darkness watching the dancing shadows on the ceiling.

The green glowing numbers read 3:24 a.m. You close your eyes, but four seconds later your eyelids are frozen open as if they've had too much Botox.

Thoughts are zooming through your mind like cars in the Indy 500. Suddenly, you remember that you forgot to email the financial report to your boss. The car needs repair. You didn't pay the light bill. Your bank account is overdrawn. Your back hurts. And then, anxiety sets in because you can't sleep, and you have to wake up in three hours.

You're trapped up in the middle of the tumultuous love/hate relationship you can't live without. It's the one your body yearns for, yet can't figure out how to achieve it.

Pushing yourself beyond your physical limits is an admirable trait. But as the workforce becomes more competitive, companies and employees have exceeded healthy standards. Our lives are affected, emotionally and physically. Our bodies whisper, telling us they've had enough, but we ignore the signals.

According to Anne-Marie Slaughter, "The problem has gotten worse over time. A study by the Center for American Progress reports that nationwide, the share of all professionals -- women and men -- working more than 50 hours a week has increased since the late 1970s."

There is only one way to reach the top without collapsing, burning out, getting divorced, or noticing that you've missed all of your kid's soccer games. Arianna Huffington learned the hard way when she woke up in a pool of blood beside her desk, as she explains in her book Thrive. Fainting from exhaustion inspired her to ask some serious questions about the kind of life she was living.

In her TEDWomen talk, Arianna stresses, "The way to a more productive, more inspired, more joyful life is to get enough sleep," she said. "We are going to sleep our way to the top -- literally!"

Bedtime routines are important for children, but they work for adults too. Be patient, it's a process with a learning curve. If you stick with it, you will get a better night's sleep, wake up refreshed, and on top of the world.

1. RULE OUT MEDICAL ISSUES
Sleep apnea, digestive, nasal, and urinary conditions can interrupt your sleep cycle. If you haven't had a checkup lately, it might time for one.

2. MAKE SLEEP A PRIORITY
Dr. Michael Beus, the author of Beauty Sleep, reports that sleep is low on the totem pole of daily commitments. There's always just one more thing to do. "Cheating your body out of the R&R it needs can make you more prone to illness, stress, traffic accidents, and weight gain." So rearrange your totem pole and put sleep at the top.

2. KNOW YOUR SLEEP NUMBERS
How many hours of sleep do you need each night to be your most effective and creative self? Knowing your optimum hours is not easy. Coffee, energy drinks, alcohol, and light from devices interfere with your circadian rhythm.

Sleep scientist Kenneth Wright states that, "People are now living in an environment with reduced exposure to sunlight and increased exposure to electrical light at night. The consequence is that there's a delay in our internal clocks." Get into bed 30 minutes earlier each night to readjust your body clock.

3. TUNE OUT TEMPTATATIONS
It takes a lot of willpower and self-control to change a pattern. If you want to nurture your health and wellbeing, you have to give up certain things. Shut off Jimmy Kimmel and stop looking at your phone 30 minutes before bedtime. Wondering how many likes your last Instagram post received can keep you awake. If it does, it's time for some serious social media rehab.

4. TIME TO SHUT DOWN
Your body needs prompts to transition from the glowing lights of devices into the darkness of a restful sleep. Set an alarm when it's time to go to bed. Make bedtime an appointment. Take a bath. Use fragrances, especially lavender to soothe your senses. Go to bed the same time every night.

5. LEARN FOUR RESTORATIVE YOGA POSES
Every yoga pose isn't for every body. Restorative poses should be restful, not stressful. Find the pose that fits your level of flexibility. Let the tensions of the day fade away, as your body and mind unite into a calm, relaxed state of being.

6. PRACTICE MEDITATION
For most people, the thought of sitting still in silence is the last thing they desire. However when practiced daily, meditation improves your health, stress, and sleep patterns. Agapi Stassinopoulos states in her guided meditation of self-appreciation. "Find a comfortable, quiet place and settle in. Close your eyes and start attuning to the rising and the falling of your breath. Let go of anything that is making you tense. These few moments are just for you." How many minutes of each day do you devote to yourself?

7. LISTEN TO ARIANNA'S MOTHER
"Change the channel, darling. Don't replay the bad, scary movie." You get to choose what you think. If negative thoughts are disrupting your sleep, change them. Replace them with breathing exercise, meditation, mantras, or prayer.

And remember, "If you want to be a true professional powerhouse, make sleep a priority." -- Arianna Huffington

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