Contributor Recommends: Sleep is your Superpower

For September’s Contributor Recommends, we spoke to Zara Jeffery, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, International at Marsh & McLennan Companies.  Zara oversees the strategic direction and management of Marsh & McLennan Companies’ international CSR programme. With a focus on increasing employee engagement, the programme supports numerous countries to create impactful volunteering and giving initiatives. Zara also manages a global non-profit partnership to engage employees through mentoring women entrepreneurs in low and middle income countries.

“My recommendation for Heart of the City members is a TED Talk called ‘Sleep is Your Superpower‘ and the book ‘Why We Sleep’ by Matthew Walker, a neuroscientist and expert on the importance and benefits of sleep. I’ve found learning about sleep hugely inspiring. Good sleep is the foundation of all that we have to face and achieve in our busy professional and personal lives. Quality sleep for right length of time ensures you’re productive in your role and are able to cope with a demanding work schedule whilst having the headspace and energy for your family, friends and personal commitments.

I’ve often been caught in the multi-tasking trap of trying to achieve everything thrown at me on an average busy day or week. This usually results in working too late or too early which, according to Matthew Walker’s research and advice is actually counter productive. Gaining eight hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep every night allows you to learn more effectively and to embed that learning in your memory. Gaining only four or five hours a night can make you 70% less productive the next day and disrupt the ability of your brain to commit information to memory (i.e. you can’t remember the details of a project or meeting!)

Lack of sleep has been linked to mental health problems as well as dementia and Alzheimer’s in later life. It’s not only your mental health that’s affected – your physical health comes under attack too when your sleep is disrupted. Your immune system is compromised even with small levels of sleep loss – you’re more likely to gain weight and there may even be a link to cancer risk.

Most days I aim for a good night’s sleep – strategies like no caffeine after lunch, switching off technology early and going to bed at a regular time really help. These result in a clear head every day, my ability to handle my busy CSR role and I remember which sports kit has to be packed for school. A good night’s sleep means I have a good day!”

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