3 tips to a better night’s sleep
We spend about one-third of our life doing it, we know we need it, but more than one in three Americans still aren’t getting enough sleep. Instead, we continue to push forward as this workaholic, first-in and last-out of the office culture. And we are rewarded for it – by making partner or climbing the corporate ladder, until we collapse one day of a heart attack or flee the corporate world altogether, in search of something more fulfilling. If organizations want their employees to be more productive, how can they help?
According to a recent study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 35.2 percent of American adults are getting less than the necessary amount of sleep each night. Getting at least seven hours of quality sleep is essential for optimal health.
What are the potential health risks from lack of sleep?
People who are sleep deprived may be at risk of developing high blood pressure. It is believed that sleep aids the blood in regulating stress hormones and ensures a healthy nervous system. Too many sleepless nights could unfavorably affect the body’s ability to regulate stress hormones. Sleep deficiency also has a negative effect on the prefrontal cortex, that part of the brain that plays a role in regulating complex cognitive behavior, decision making, emotional behavior and social interactions.
How much sleep is adequate?
Enough sleep may differ slightly from one person to another, but according to the Mayo Clinic a normal adult needs approximately seven to nine hours of sleep at night. Whatever the exact number, adequate sleep means sleep that induces a feeling of well-being and daytime alertness.
In the workplace, the effect of lack of sleep on productivity is well documented. However, corporate attitudes often don’t help. You are often lauded as “dedicated” or “committed” if you go home last and are the first to come back to the office in the morning.
Perhaps the best-known case of CEO sleep-related burnout is that of Arianna Huffington, creator of the Huffington Post. Her distressing self-inflicted sleep deprivation led her to pass out and collapse. To her credit, she didn’t simply change her life so that she had time to sleep, she made sure that her employees had time to sleep too.
Sleep and its relationship to productivity and leadership
Over the past few years, many organizations have started to view sleep deprivation for what it is: a productivity killer and an employee health issue. A Harvard research study shows that, for the average worker, insomnia leads to the loss of 11.3 days’ worth of productivity each calendar year. For the average mid-sized company, that’s the equivalent of about $2,200 per year.
“A growing awareness of the dangers of sleep deprivation on health — and therefore, its impact on insurance costs and worker productivity — is prompting companies to try to improve their employees’ rest,” according to Jena McGregor of The Washington Post. “Goldman Sachs has brought in sleep experts. Johnson and Johnson offers employees a digital health coaching program for battling insomnia that involves an online sleep diary and relaxation videos for mobile devices. Google hosts ‘sleeposium’ events.”
What organizations can do
How can organizations improve the quality and efficiency of sleep to ensure their leaders attain – or recapture – the highest performance levels?
Develop training programs focused on increasing awareness and creating long-lasting behavioral change. Blend learning programs that offer an integrative approach and address overall wellness including stress reduction, nutrition, exercise and healthy habit choices to have a positive effect on overall well-being.
Evaluate company policies to ensure that they encourage – or at least don’t discourage – a good night’s sleep. Look at policies covering travel, email (e.g., blackout time on email, after which no emails can be sent), team working (creating tag teams that enable employees to hand work to each other across time zones), work-time limits (setting limits on hours or creating blackout periods) and mandatory work-free vacations that can contribute to improved employee health.
Here are three tips to improve your sleep habits and the quality of your sleep:
- Manage stress
- Practice meditation before sleep. Mediation calms and centers both the body and mind. Here’s a sample meditation that can help you promote relaxation.
- Engage in a hobby. Whether gardening, playing a musical instrument or spending time outdoors in nature, individuals should make time for their after-hours activities. Hobbies reduce stress, boost self-esteem and promote a sense of accomplishment.
- Exercise regularly. Whether you enjoy doing cardio, yoga, deep breathing exercises or stretching, The National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep in America survey, reported exercise is key to getting the best sleep. Even a few minutes of physical activity can make a difference in your rest.
- Using essential oils. When it comes to natural remedies and holistic health, essential oils are one of my personal favorites. Nothing relaxes me like the scent of lavender on my pillow at night.
- Eat healthier
- Reduce your carbohydrate consumption of sugar and grains before you go to bed. If you’re consuming too many sugars and carbs, your body is burning through those and getting warm, which prevents you from comfortably going to sleep.
- Go easy on the alcohol before bed. While that glass of wine may make it feel easier to fall asleep, when your buzz wears off later in the night, you’re more likely to wake up frequently.
- Cut back on your caffeine intake in the afternoon. Your afternoon jolt stays in your system longer than you might think. Experts recommended laying off the caffeine by early afternoon to guarantee it won’t keep you up in bed later.
- Avoid heavy meals when it’s late. Your body isn’t meant to be digesting while you sleep, so a big meal too close to bedtime may keep you up at night. Protein is especially hard to digest, so if you have to eat late, opt for lighter fare.
- Establish a bedtime routine
- Unplug and power down before bed. Dim the lights and turn off all your devices – smartphones, laptops and TVs before bedtime. Bright light (and blue light) are some of the biggest triggers to our brains that it’s time to be awake and alert, so start sending the opposite signal early.
- Writing down what’s bugging you can clear your mind of those racing thoughts inside your head. Put them on paper in a worry journal that you keep by your bedside.
- Keep your bedroom dark. Even the most inconspicuous glow – such as a digital alarm clock — can disrupt your shut-eye. If you can’t seal up all the light sources in your room, consider using a comfy eye-mask.
- Keep it cool. Temperature in the bedroom is an individual preference. However, according to sleep.org, the suggested bedroom temperature should be between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal sleep.
Organizations and their employees need to work together to solve the sleep crisis that is creating health problems for employees and reducing general productivity in the workplace. Play your part to create an environment for yourself, and those around you, where healthy sleep patterns are a positive reality!