05/16/2014 05:41 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Get More Sleep: Sure, When I'm Dead


Few things ruffle my feathers, but the news this week from scientists at Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Manchester and Surrey universities that people are "arrogant" to assume they can get little sleep got my mama feathers sticking straight up.

I get it: we need sleep. A gazillion articles tell me this. It's common sense, really.

But instead of reporting all the research to convince me of the obvious -- that I need sleep -- how about addressing the elephant in the room: How do we as a culture get more sleep?

I am constantly doing the math on sleep. The last two weeks, for example, I have been in the final stage of app development for my new start up company, my youngest son had his bar mitzvah, and my oldest was one of the stars in his high school Shakespeare production. Get sleep? I want one of the sleep researchers to find me a spare hour.

I'm not proud of it, but I averaged five to six hours of sleep for the past two weeks. And that was only because I totally ignored every email that came through from each of my children's schools.

I didn't contribute to Teacher Appreciation week, I bought cinnamon buns from Whole Foods the night before Grandparent Day, I ignored two email pleas from parents to contribute to the school capital campaign. If I had given these attention I reckon my nightly sleep would have gone down to four hours.

Like I said, I'm always doing the math on sleep.

It's not that I want to live against the natural circadian rhythms of my body clock. It's just that the amount of to-dos on my list don't add up to the eight hours of sleep researchers recommend.

To the researchers credit, they do talk about the need for cultural shifts in policies that affect people's sleep. But really, don't we need to be talking about more than legislation?

How are we going to change our current mindset that just keeps adding on to-dos that are due right now?

I think it's time to stop making people feel bad that we can't get eight hours of sleep every night -- scaring us that we're going to be overweight, get cancer and heart disease if we don't sleep -- and instead be pushing a new kind of drug for our times: rest.

To me more sleep isn't realistic for many of us. What does make sense is incorporating rest as a daily ritual. Like brushing our teeth.

When we're ill we're told to rest. When we're depressed we're told to rest. When we're exhausted again it's okay to rest. Virtually all forms of healing suggest rest is a healthy remedy for the body, mind, and spirit. To me getting twenty minutes of rest every day is more practical and empowering in our modern world than telling a person with a long to-do list to get more sleep.

Rest -- and specifically yoga nidra meditation, a sleep-based meditation that provides deep restoration -- has been saving my soul for the past decade.

As a new mom I couldn't string a sentence together before it. Now rest in the form of yoga nidra meditation is part of my daily ritual and while I'm still doing the math on getting a good night of sleep, I am no longer chasing sleep like a dead woman walking.

Rest is the revolution I'm prescribing. It's cheap. It's scientifically backed (especially yoga nidra meditation). It's common sense. You feel good. Body and soul good.

My start up is all about rest because I need it and every day I encounter people who are hungry for it. Last year I decided to start my business after sitting in a hospital room with my husband for a week, not sure if he'd live or die. His body was exhausted from malaria. So what did I do? I hooked him up with yoga nidra meditation. Then I hooked up his room mate, Eric. Then Eric's wife wanted some. And soon the nurses were asking for it.

Yes, we're all sleep deprived. I'd love to say 'sleep eight hours' but you tell that to Eric's wife who was managing their kid and running to the hospital to care for her husband. She needed a more practical remedy.

So I gave her my ear buds and encouraged her to lay back and do nothing while listening to yoga nidra meditation.

"What the hell is this?" she asked me later. "I feel better than I have in years."

It's rest, I told her. Deep, nurturing rest.

I really do appreciate all the new science that supports the importance of sleep. But I think today in our modern times, instead of researchers telling us we're arrogantly ignoring our body clocks, we need to be more practical and to do the math.

In the absence of a major mindset and legislative overhaul the best I think we can do is rest more. To save our bodies and souls.