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Image by Fernando Jorge

"Do not judge me by my success. Judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again." 

 - Nelson Mandela 

I have two children 18 months apart and I worked for many years regularly having to wake at 4:30am in the morning. In my previous role, I drove 30,000 miles a year in a car and regularly stayed in hotels having a fairly poor grasp on good nutrition and good sleep hygiene. Sleep quality was often dictated by how much wine I had drunk, how much coffee my body had become used to... or if I’d had a few early starts together, invariably my body would wake then even if I was on a day off.

4:30am being bolt awake on my day off isn't what my body needs. I’ve always valued my sleep but not until recently has it become really clear to me how important sleep is to my body for so many vital things that we human beings need. Sleep deprivation also cannot be overstated in terms of its long-term negative impacts on our health. 


I now appreciate good quality sleep as a key ingredient to my being happy, helpful, fulfilled, contented and able to make good quality decisions. I can go for a couple of nights where I have disturbed sleep and with small children this is to be expected, but eventually I need to prioritise my sleep to the point of either having an afternoon nap or taking myself off to bed an hour early. I’ve become aware especially during lockdown that my body possibly needs more sleep during the winter than it does in the summer and that the opportunity for outdoor exercise is somewhat limited when the temperature is low. There is a very intricate relationship between being outside, getting exercise, and getting good quality sleep. As I write this it’s early January and I’m aware that my personal balance of outdoor time and exercise are out of kilter with my needs.


We human beings here in the northern hemisphere fight an annual battle until the end of February when the sun is high enough in the sky where we can generate vitamin D. I’m convinced by recent research of the connection between this outdoor time, our ability to generate vitamin D, and our health – which all together in turn, contributes to the quality of sleep that we can get.


We jump on a plane and go off for a week to get some winter sun to somewhere hot. It totally makes sense for recharging our human need for sunshine. Why am I talking about all of this when this article is in relation to resilience? Because there is a direct link between the circadian rhythm that our bodies are used to (our ancestors would have followed the rising of the Sun and the setting of the Sun almost completely as their daily body clock) and the quality of sleep that we get - and as a result, our resilience. Linked to this conversation is the recent introduction of screens and artificial lighting. For us to be healthy, happy, resilient and long living human beings it is important for us to build an awareness of the evolutionary and biological needs that our human bodies require. Sleep is in the same category as oxygen, food, and water - without which we will not survive.


Pre-Covid modern living asked of us that we sacrifice sleep in favour of climbing the corporate ladder and being successful in our jobs. Post Covid might look different for us all, but there is no doubt that prioritising sleep and rest remain an opportunity.

There have been some discoveries for me and family members that have contributed to good sleep, and detracted from good sleep. Some examples as I’ve already alluded to earlier include regular exercise, social interaction with people that we love, journalling in the evening to allow our thoughts to be articulated and have an outlet, proper nutrition in the evening time to allow our bodies to get into a rest and digest state, and my most recent discovery has been the 478 breathing technique which is a bio hack to help me fall asleep if my mind is busy. Reducing inflammatory foods, and living within your body’s needs, will also help you create great sleep and build resilience.

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