We know that you know that you need to get a good night’s sleep, yet almost 1/3 of Americans still aren’t getting enough of it. What you may not know is that your sleeping patterns have a major effect on your work performance.
In a culture where we sleep next to our smart phones, we answer emails in bed, and our tech leaders boast only a few hours of sleep a night, we are hurting ourselves more than we are helping. A lack of sleep affects the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the area that controls innovation, self-control and creativity. Sleep deprivation affects learning, memory, critical problem solving, and ethical decision making. These side effects create small stressors on our lives, which in turn make it harder to sleep, beginning the cycle all over again.
Before you dedicate your life to getting those 8 hours, check out a few of our tips:
The sweet spot: The famous “8 hours” may not be the end all solution. Sleep expert, Daniel Kripke, recommends anywhere from 6.5 – 7.5 hours of sleep leads to a longer life, but women also need around 20 minutes more sleep than men. It’s about finding the right combination for you. A REM cycle calculator (like the one at sleepyti.me) may help you calculate a wake up time that will leave you feeling more rested.
Cat nap: If you can, try and squeeze in a nap at lunchtime. At 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon, your body’s circadian rhythm makes you feel a little tired. A 30 minute nap at this time can help get you through the rest of your day. Be careful though, any longer and you may feel more tired than before.
Shut it down. Seriously, we mean it: Turns out a lot of tech screens have the same light frequency as the sun. This can confuse your brain into thinking it’s day time, on top of stimulating your brain in general. Try to turn everything off two hours before bed time and keep your phone out of your bed. Lots of phones have a nighttime “Do Not Disturb” settings, that allows the phone to accept calls from certain numbers while blocking notifications until the morning.
Brain Games: Put your mind at ease. Those emails will be there in the morning, and those projects aren’t going anywhere. Just like you should set a bedtime, set an official Done-With-Work-Time. Much easier said than done, but try to turn off all work thoughts within the hour that you leave work. Maybe use your drive home, or while you’re cooking dinner to filter out those thoughts, and allow yourself to think about the various other things in your life. No emails. No project drafting. No phone calls. Don’t be afraid to be strict with yourself.
Work it: Your best sleep will come if you are mentally and physically exhausted. Don’t forget to include some physical activity in your day.
Practice makes perfect: Create a schedule (this includes a bed time!) & ritual to get your body and mind in the zone to know it’s time for sleep. The first few days may feel a little strange, but like anything, all it takes is a little practice.
The great big alarm clock in the sky: If you can, in both your workspace and home, allow as much natural light in as possible. Your brain will naturally sync with whatever the sun tells it to. If you work in a space that doesn’t have a lot of natural light, go outside for lunch, even a little bit of sunlight will tell your body when to be awake and when to go to sleep.
Hello darkness, my old friend: Try to make your bedroom super dark. It’s the same principle as exposing yourself to sunlight; the darkness tells your brain that it’s time to sleep. Remember how tech screens can have the same light frequency as the sun? If there are little lights around your room disturbing your rest, Amazon sells these little screen darkeners that you can put on things like your alarm clock so it’s not as bright.
Get all snuggly: Don’t be ashamed to grab that teddy bear. Collect all the pillows and blankies that make you feel comfy and calm.
Relax, you deserve it! Free yourself from the guilt of taking care of yourself. You’ll be a better person and worker because of it.