Burnout, chronic fatigue and other stress-related illnesses are increasingly common. It is estimated that one in five people will experience depression during their lifetime, with women approximately twice as likely to experience depression as men.

This article, based on my own experience of burnout, provide a timely warning on the importance of rest for mental and physical well-being.

It's tempting to ignore sleep in your efforts to pack more into the day. It's true, you can train your body to survive on less sleep, but the long-term harm to your body is enormous. Aside from weakening your immune system and stamina, sleep deprivation damages your mental health.

Your mind has insufficient rest time to sort through the day's events, categorise them and shelve them away in its library. Hopes, worries and fears you have been avoiding in your waking hours, which would normally be resolved in dream state, are ignored, and are free to fester in your mind, creating potentially larger problems.

Lack of mental rest means your mind doesn't have a chance to switch off and take a full nightly holiday. Your organs also need a nightly rest if you are to awaken refreshed and full of energy - it isn't called beauty sleep for nothing!

Insufficient sleep gives you a false sense of well-being. Up to a point, it makes you fatigued and grumpy. But once you are chronically sleep-deprived it can induce a manic state where your mind is hyped up. It hasn't switched off for a long time and as a consequence it has forgotten how. Like the Duracell bunny it keeps going and going.

You think things are great because your mind is still buzzing but after a while the high wears off and you become restless. It becomes impossible for you to slow or calm down. This is especially common for the 'Type A' achiever personality.

You find yourself rushing to do everything until finally you burn out. Your batteries run flat, and all your internal systems are overdrawn. You will have no residual reserves remaining and will crash (literally). Your short-term memory fails, your creativity dives, and your comprehension and endurance become non-existent.

On a physical level any number of problems can arise, from general tiredness to physical breakdown. Without sleep the body does not have a chance to regenerate and rejuvenate. Take preventative measures now and ensure you get enough sleep each night to wake feeling alert, refreshed and motivated.

Don't be a hero - sleep is a basic need and you do yourself no favours by short changing yourself.

Tips to help you improve your sleep habits:

  • Eat an early dinner
  • Drink herbal tea before bed. Relaxing teas such as camomile, passionflower, valerian, catnip and scullcap are best
  • Avoid exercise or work related activities immediately before bed
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Go to bed at the same time every night
  • Drink most of your fluids in the morning or early afternoon so your bladder doesn't wake you during the night!
  • Sprinkle lavender oil on your pillow or fill it with lavender flower heads
  • Avoid or reduce stimulants such as caffeine, sugar or soft drinks. Energy drinks contain stimulants that remain in your system for at least 24 hours
  • Have a hot bath or massage before bed. Gently massage your feet and hands with a light oil
  • Make sure the room is completely dark
  • Concentrate on breathing deeply and steadily
    Don't have any music playing unless it is soothing, and ensure your bedroom is quiet
  • Do a ten minute visualisation exercise immediately before bed, or use the 'Waste Basket' method to clear your mind of the day's thoughts
  • Tense and relax each of your muscles in turn, starting from your toes and working your way up to the top of your head
  • Naps during the day are fine if you can sleep well at night. If not, avoid them, it will only exacerbate your sleeping problems
  • When lying in bed say relaxing words to yourself like sleep, yawn, rest, relax to help you feel sleepy
  • Spend 10-15 minutes outside when you arise from bed. This helps reset your day/night clock so your body knows when to sleep
Author's Bio: 

After a successful career spanning finance, marketing and management roles in Fortune 500 companies, Talia experienced stress-induced burnout, and left the corporate world to establish a consulting business.

Talia is a published author, professional speaker and business mentor. She is also a contributing author to 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life with Bob Proctor, John Gray and Jack Canfield.