Research suggests that about 40% of North American adults don’t get enough sleep. We go to bed too late, get up too early, and lie awake all night worrying and fretting.
And all of this has a negative impact on our lives, our health, our job performance – and, if we’re job seeking, our motivation and energy to keep going, often in the face of disappointment after disappointment.
The detrimental effects of insufficient sleep are too numerous to list. You probably won’t die from it directly (the sort of thing I Googled in the months after my daughter was born), but exhaustion will chip away at your health and quality of life until you die of something related, like heart disease or diabetes.
Those are just two of the well-known outcomes of insufficient sleep. Others include but aren’t limited to:
- Weight gain
- Increased cortisol levels (it’s the stress hormone)
- Decreased immunity
Sleep deprivation affects both your health and career . Here are four ways it does that:
Impacts your ability to focus, learn, and remember: “A sleep-deprived person cannot focus attention optimally and therefore cannot learn efficiently.” Also, “sleep itself has a role in the consolidation of memory, which is essential for learning new information.” If you can’t learn and remember new things, you’re not going to be very good at your job.
Slows your productivity: A study by researchers at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, found that the longer we’re awake while sleep deprived, the slower our work production becomes.
It affects your personality and social skills: Research by Amie Gordon at the University of California, Berkeley found that the poorer the sleep among test subjects, the less grateful and more selfish people were the next day. And, it’s never a good idea to be a jerk at work.
It causes blackouts: Lack of sleep can cause brief blackouts and blindness, known as “microsleeps,” which can last up to two minutes and in that time wreak irreparable damage. During a microsleep, a person’s eyes may be open but they are not responding to sensory stimuli or processing information. Several disasters have been attributed to microsleeps, including an Air France crash that killed everyone on board, and the Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident. Even if you’re not manning a nuclear reactor, the effects can be bad.
Considering that there’s so much at stake here, it’s kind of amazing that we don’t devote more time and energy to getting enough sleep. Granted it’s a catch 22. If you’re stressed about not getting enough sleep, the stress will prevent you from getting enough sleep.
Here are 10 tips for combatting the problem, and getting enough sleep, so you can give your career your all.
Stick to a sleep schedule, even on the weekends. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. According to The American National Sleep Foundation, this helps to regulate your body’s clock.
Read a book instead of an iPad. Research has found that reading from an iPad before bed makes it harder to fall asleep, and also impacts how alert you are the next day. “iPad readers took longer to fall asleep, felt less sleepy at night and had shorter REM sleep compared to the book readers, researchers found.” If you must read on a screen, put it on the nightshift setting. (Huffington Post)
Exercise in the morning. Exercise will likely help you sleep regardless, and has all sort of stress relieving benefits. But in the morning is the best time. “People who work out on a treadmill at 7:00am sleep longer, experience deeper sleep cycles, and spend 75 percent more time in the most reparative stages of slumber than those who exercise at later times that day.” (Sleep.org)
Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. “A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep or remain asleep.” (National Sleep Foundation)
Keep your room cool and dark. Your bedroom temperature should be between 60 and 67 degrees, and kept dark, as light can inhibit your body’s production of melatonin, a hormone required for sleep.
Make lists. If you have a lot to do tomorrow, you’ll lie there running through it all in your mind and driving yourself crazy. Writing it all down can help get it out of your head until tomorrow.
Don’t drink too much. Alcohol reduces REM sleep, the deep type of sleep that is the most restorative. (Web MD)
Play simple games in your head. In order to get your mind off stress and worries, there are simple games you can play to distract yourself while lulling yourself to sleep. My favourite is an alphabet game, in which I come up with bands, movies, songs or foods that start with each letter of the alphabet. So, “A” is for “AC/DC,” “B” is for “Black Sabbath,” “C” is for the “Carter Family…” etc. I’m almost always out before I get to “M.”
Listen to the Sleep With Me podcast. I will admit to never having tried it but apparently, it bores you to sleep.
Eat bananas, milk, low glycemic index carbs, like jasmine rice, and cherries. Not necessarily together, but each of these foods contains nutrients that aid sleep, including magnesium in bananas, L-tryptophan in milk, and melatonin in cherries. (Health.com)