Sleep is a Luxury We Can All Afford

It’s easy to feel like sleep is a luxury we can’t afford. And when we do get the rest we need, we can be made to feel lazy or self-indulgent.

This Friday, March 15, is World Sleep Day, and one of its mission is changing the perception that sleep is for the weak. All over the globe, sleep educators are working to remind us that sleep is actually a biological necessity, not a hedonistic lifestyle choice for slackers and hippies.

Sleep has also been called the missing pillar of health, because a well-balanced diet and a regular exercise routine without good sleep hygiene amounts to a lot of wasted effort.

It’s a good year for sleep education, as TEDMED has also included Sleep Deprivation as one of the twenty most important health challenges facing the medical community today.

TEDMED, organized by the same company that funds TED talks, regularly tackles difficult issues like this by addressing health issues holistically with a diversity of viewpoints. 

What Really Keeps Us Up at Night

The real sleep problem isn’t just about educating ourselves about the personal benefits to getting better sleep, but also addressing the reasons why sleep is often not valued at institutional levels, or mirrored by our thought leaders.

I was invited to weigh in on this topic, joining a panel of sleep doctors, researchers and business leaders. We are rolling out new sleep-related content over the next few weeks, but for starters, check out the roundtable discussion we had last week.

In this video below, we talk about some of the risks of sleep deprivation, but also what we can do as parents, bosses, and community leaders to support a healthier attitude about sleep.  I get to riff about how to create a better sleep sanctuary, and also talk about the role of sharing dreams for reducing stress and remembering who we really are.


What can you do for World Sleep Day?

I would recommend doing nothing. (Ironically enough, given the whole sleep is for slackers vibe, this is also a good way to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Big Lebowski, a film about the Dude, who knew how to take things in stride without getting caught up by other people’s expectations about how to get the job done.)

Take a load off, turn off the email alerts on your smartphone, and settle down this Friday evening for some rest and relaxation.

Okay, if you must do something, check out some of the videos by sleep experts that will go live on Friday, including one by dream expert Allan Hobson.

And here’s where to keep up with the Sleep Challenge at TEDMED.

You can still pose questions to the team which may get picked by the moderators for us to address. I’ll be tweeting updates when they do go live, so make sure to follow me @ryanhurd.


    • Ryan Hurd says

      exactly! Your dreaming spa weekends look so refreshing, by the way! Great to see Aesclepian traditions making a comeback in the modern world.

      • says

        Thank you Ryan
        Yes, there certainly is something to deep sleep and big dreams in the ancient traditions. At sometime, I would like to talk with you live on the phone in more detail about the SPA CULTURES AND DREAM TIME Seminar in Germany.
        I really liked your comments on the TEDMED video, especially on creating a sleep sanctuary as well as the need to share your dreams. The work you are doing is very important and I thank you for it! I just hope we can get it more out into the public like the “slow food movement” perhaps “The shared Dream Movement?… with a button or T-shirt asking: Have you shared a dream today?” All the best and hope we can connect live.

  1. Dave Domenico says

    I have recently begun keeping a dream journal and practicing exercises in order to dream lucidly. However, I’m finding that the intent to keep the journal is constantly waking me up to write and my sleep patterns have become pretty erratic. Do you know if other folks have a similar experience or of any possible solutions others may have found?

    • Ryan Hurd says

      Hey Dave, does it feel like these awakenings are affecting how you feel during the day? If so, maybe the best time to do lucid dreaming practices would be on weekends. I have found that lucid dreaming is more successful in general when you set aside a set amount to time to delve in deep — I call this the lucid immersion. This can help prevent the lucid burnout that it sounds like you may be facing.

      • Dave Domenicoq says

        Thanks, Ryan. It is affecting how I feel during the day. I’m actually in the process of taking a break now to catch up on sleep since I don’t really want to negatively effect my overall health. Ironically, as I’m catching up on my sleep, it’s easier to recall my dreams! What’s interesting is that I’m operating on the principle that I need to work intently on a constant basis in order to induce lucidity. But, your idea about periodic lucid immersion would be an indication that this principle is incorrect. Is “lucid burnout” pretty common among newbies?

        • Ryan Hurd says

          hey Dave — it’s not ironic at all! We often have more success after we relax our intentions — this is essential to creative pursuits, in which the work goes underground. I am suggesting that periodic lucid spells may be more effective, especially since you’re experiencing sleep disruption that is affecting your daily life. By all means, read about lucid dreaming, do reality checks, meditate, etc… but I would recommend stronger, periodic lucid dream incubations that have a definitive beginning and end point. Otherwise, we just lose our steam, and we also don’t have much information about what techniques really work.

  2. says

    Hi Ryan:
    Funny – the longer I’m in the sleep community, the more I’m finding that a HUGE portion of the problem is simply what you say here – people don’t take it seriously, and believe sleep is for the weak. If only more people would talk about it!! They know more about their colon than they do about their sleep….

    • Ryan Hurd says

      yeah, isn’t it weird? we’re very unconscious about our sleep. that sounds like I’m repeating myself, but really if you look at sleep holistically, it’s a natural time to check in with ourselves (our stress, our bodies’ ailments, our dreams) but in our culture, sleep is seen as a time to check OUT.