Ahh sleep, glorious sleep; the one thing that’s totally necessary for our health and functionality as human beings but which weirdly, we also find ourselves being mocked for doing too much of. Sleep in recent years, has been linked to laziness, physical weakness and time-wasting, but studies show that most people need a lot more of it. You might well have heard someone say; “sleep is for the weak” or “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” to defend working hard, or staying up late, but according to experts, it’s this very absence of rest which shortens our life-span and makes us more susceptible to sickness whilst we’re alive. Sleep deprivation is anything under seven hours a night, according to leading sleep expert Matthew Walker, who also believes that a lack of sleep is to blame for many of society’s health problems and issues at work.
So do you think you’re getting enough? Read on to uncover why more sleep could help you feel better and work way smarter, and how you can hack your normal bedtime routine to get quality shut-eye.
Ok how can you hack your sleep routine?
1. Try sunglasses before bed
Too much artificial light late at night sends signals to our body and brain that it’s still daytime. Studies show that scrolling and typing late at night or watching TV can impact our circadian rhythm, which is our internal biological clock. Sleep researcher Glenn Landry recently explained to CBC that he limits his exposure to light at night by wearing sunglasses! If that’s too much for you to handle, he recommends cutting back on the bright lights two hours before sleep. “I’m trying to tell my clock that this is the end of the day” he explained.
2. Bathe/shower late at night
If you’re a morning-washer, consider switching to late at night because science says it can actually help induce a nice, deep snooze. Apparently it helps set your body temperature at the perfect level for sleeping. But it might be bad news if you like your showers super-hot as Men’s Health have reported sleep expert Dr. Dianna Augelli as saying that; “cooling down is a signal that tells us we’re supposed to go to sleep.” So cold showers all the way then?
3. Keep your sleeping area stress-free
If your bed is also your revision/snacking/working space you need to separate the two. Research shows that if you associate your bed as a space for activity it can negatively effect your quality of sleep. Anxiety and stress from outside the bedroom are also big factors that influence insomnia, so try meditating right before you sleep and clear your mind – as well as your room – of anything that could distract you.
4. Ban food and caffeine before bed
This is one you probably already knew, but going to bed on a full stomach of food or caffeine-loaded products can interfere with your quality shut-eye. According to one UK study, caffeine actually delays the circadian clock that tells us when to prepare for sleep. Always check the labels of your pre-bedtime drinks and stop sipping anything with caffeine for four to six hours before lights out. Similarly let your food digest around two-three hours before you hit the hay and avoid a large, fatty meal too late in the evening.
5. Exercise (at the right time)
Countless research indicates that those who exercise on the reg fall asleep quicker and stay in a deep, restful slumber for longer. If you need to up your regime though, be sure not to do too much strenuous activity right before bed – this could have the opposite effect because all those endorphins rushing around your body could have you wired right when you should be winding down.
6. Don’t go to bed anxious or angry
You’ve heard the advice, “Never go to bed angry”, right? Well it’s totally true; a 2015 study proved that emotions – specifically negative ones – can actually reduce REM sleep, which is the phase of deep rest in which memories are consolidated and your brain heals itself. Take some time before you sleep to destress and make peace with anything that could otherwise zap your Z’s…
And here’s why sleep is so important for productivity…
1. Sleep keeps our brains healthy
A lack of sleep is linked to poor brain health, which makes you perform badly at work, obviously. As the Huffington Post reports, sleep is critical for repairing the neural pathways in our brains which basically maintains memory and helps us learn new skills. Sleep is also needed for enhancing our ability to problem solve and make good decisions – all skills that make for an exceptional leader in the office, right?
2. Sleep helps us be more creative
If you want to learn how to be a more creative worker, sleep is your friend. Forbes reports that good sleep increases our ability to think outside the box in new and imaginative ways, and that those who were sleep-deprived for 32 hours performed worse on tests which measured “divergent thinking” i.e. verbal memory, fluency, flexibility and originality. On the flip-side they note that a 2003 US study found that people who got a night of sleep were much more successful at figuring out the answers to a task involving numbers than those who were sleep-deprived.
3. Sleep helps us be nicer co-workers
When you sleep well, your mood is on-point and of course that means you’re less likely to be irritable and snappy with the people you work with – hurrah for everyone involved! A good night’s kip also helps us regulate our emotions and behaviour, too.
4. Sleep helps us get distracted less easily at work
When you haven’t slept well, you’ll probably notice that you’re flitting from one tab to another on your computer, you’re unable to finish tasks and you generally feel pretty unproductive. As the Huffington Post notes, that’s because you are sleep deprived, which in turn makes you “less able to consolidate information, process tasks, and concentrate at work…it increases the chances of making a mistake on the job.” So better make sure you get your eight hours then.
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