Sleep is by far the most underrated productivity hack. If there’s one thing you could do to make yourself more productive at work, it’s get a better night’s sleep.
But why is it that one morning you’ll wake up feeling great, and the next morning you’ll wake up feeling groggy?
What’s the secret to getting a good night’s sleep?
If you have trouble sleeping, don’t worry you’re not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls it a public health epidemic and estimates that as many as 70 million Americans have a sleep disorder.
Many of us don’t seem to understand how important sleep is to our minds and bodies.
In our culture, there is a sense that working longer hours will make us more productive, but it won’t.
In many organizations, productivity is measured by the number of hours worked, so naturally many people will suffer to impress their boss. But is it worth it?
The real secret is about building better habits into your life
Getting a good sleep is much easier said than done, but there are a few things that you can do to help yourself sleep better. Eating well, exercising, dealing with stress, and “powering down” at night are all the best ways to do it.
First, let’s go through what kind of damage sleep is doing to you (I apologize in advance for painting such a gloomy picture), and then I’ll give you some actionable tips that you can use to help yourself.
What Lack of Sleep Is Doing To You
The damage that chronic lack of sleep is doing to you is scary.
But what if you have one bad night of sleep? Is it that big of a deal? The research isn’t perfect on this, some people say that you can’t get it back, some people say that you can.
Most of the research says if you get an awful night of sleep you can make it up the next evening. Once you go two or three nights with bad sleep, it gets harder and harder to make it up, and might be too late.
The issue is that sleep debt is cumulative.
According to the University of Pennsylvania, getting six hours of sleep per night for two weeks straight, will cause a decline in mental and physical performance. It would be identical to if you have had stayed awake for 48 hours straight.
Effects of sleep deprivation on reaction time
Lack of Sleep Leads To Obesity
Not getting enough sleep affects your hormones, specifically the two hormones (ghrelin and leptin) that help you balance your food intake. These hormones give you a desire to have larger portions and give you a craving for junk food.
Eating well is important for your productivity at work and managing your energy levels.
Increased Risk of Diabetes
In 2 different studies, they found that lack of sleep led to a resistance of insulin, which is a huge risk for getting diabetes. In one of the studies, they even controlled calorie intake, and it still made no difference.
It Can Lead To Depression
This is one of the worst ones because insomnia and depression feed off of each other. Lack of sleep aggravates symptoms of depression, and depression can make it harder to fall asleep.
In a study of 10,000 people, those with insomnia were five times more likely to develop depression as those without.
Leads To Memory Loss
As you probably already know from experience, on days when you’re drained from lack of sleep, you have trouble remembering things.
When we sleep, the brain is storing a lot of information that it learns as memories. The less we sleep, the less we benefit from this.
Causes Heart Disease
One study found that people who slept for six hours or less each night had a 48% higher risk of developing or dying from heart disease.
When we’re awake and we know we regularly don’t sleep much, it causes us stress, and that stress leads to heart disease.
It Causes Accidents
Not sleeping enough is dangerous for when you’re on the road or at work.
Drowsiness can slow reaction time as much as driving drunk. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that fatigue is a cause in 100,000 car crashes and 1,550 car-related deaths a year in the U.S.
It also affects workers. In one study, workers who were more tired had significantly more work accidents, and also took more sick days per accident.
It Can Damage Your Bones
Research has shown that sleep deprivation contributes to osteoporosis. Researchers deprived rats of sleep and found changes in their bone density. While this particular study was done on rats, the lead author believes the same would be true for humans.
It Can Kill You
TIME magazine reported a few years ago that short sleepers seem to die younger of any cause than people who sleep about 6.5 to 7.5 hours a night.
One study done in 2010 found that men who slept for less than six hours a night were four times more likely to die over a 14-year period.
There are a lot of sleep deprived workers walking around your office, costing you a ton of money.
How Much Sleep Do We Need?
Before giving some tips on how you can get better sleep, I wanted to answer this question because it is important and often confusing one.
Almost everyone you ask this question to will tell you that you need anywhere from 8-9 hours to get an ideal sleep.
Daniel Kripke, co-director of research at the Scripps Clinic Sleep Center in La Jolla, California answered this question in an interview with TIME magazine:
Studies show that people who sleep between 6.5 and 7.5 hours a night, as they report, live the longest. And people who sleep 8 hours or more, or less than 6.5 hours, they don’t live quite as long.
There is just as much risk associated with sleeping too long as with sleeping too short. The big surprise is that long sleep seems to start at 8 hours. Sleeping 8.5 hours might really be a little worse than sleeping 5 hours
How To Get Better Sleep
Here are a few tips you can use to sleep better. As you’ll see with a few of these tips, the real secret is building better habits into your life.
There are so many benefits of exercise it’s silly not to do it, but specifically for sleep, it helps your body power down at night. If you exercise regularly you’ll sleep more deeply.
The best time to exercise is early afternoon. First, you’ll get an extra boost of energy for the afternoon slump at work. Second, it’s not good to exercise right before bed because you’ll be too stimulated.
Ideally, you would avoid caffeine altogether, but if you need to drink coffee, don’t drink coffee after noon.
It can take up to 12 hours for the effects of caffeine to wear off so you might want to only drink it in the morning if you need it.
Do Relaxation Exercises
One of the biggest causes for lack of sleep is stress that we deal with in our day to day. Things like deep breathing or meditation can help your body relax before bedtime, which will help you get a better sleep.
Nap In The Afternoon
This one is especially good if you don’t get enough sleep at night. Napping in the afternoon seems like an absurd idea to most managers reading this, but I don’t see anything wrong with it. Innovative companies like Google have nap pods, because they understand that a well-rested employee is a productive employee.
Power Down Before Bed
If you have trouble falling asleep, you should try and optimize your life by powering down your body before bed to signal to it that it should begin shutting down.
Watching TV, being on the computer, checking your cellphone are all bad ideas because of what the lights from the screen does to your brain. Read a book instead.
Optimize Your Bedroom
The ideal sleeping environment is dark, cool and quiet. Remove any clutter from your bedroom and make sure that it is used and treated as a room for sleep.
The ideal temperature is anywhere from 18-21 degrees (65-70 fahrenheit). Making your room quiet is easier said than done, but you can try creating white noise with a fan or air conditioner.
Using Big Data To Get Better Sleep
There’s a company called Fullpower Technologies out in Silicon Valley that is doing some incredible things when it comes to sleep research.
The company provides the sleep tracking software for the Jawbone UP and Nike Fuel, as well as doing their own polysomnography test (where they hook you up and monitor your sleep), hoping to unlock the secrets to a better night’s sleep.
Those products transmit tons of data back to Fullpower. By combining the data from experiments in their lab with the data from those wearable technologies, they’re conducting one of the biggest experiments into sleep ever.
One thing they found early on, was that sometimes people sleep less and feel more refreshed. This is because they woke up in the light part of the sleep cycle.
Learning that, they developed an alarm that could figure out the best time to wake up and alert a person, making them constantly wake up feeling fresh and well-rested.
Fullpower isn’t the only company doing this, there are many researchers that are using wearables to discover insights into what we can do to get good sleep.
In the near future, there will be personalized recommendations for each of us to make sure we’re sleeping well.
- Lack of sleep is causing significant damage
- Build better habits to sleep more
- Have a “power down” routine before bed
- Exercise regularly and eat healthy
What Do You Do To Get A Better Sleep?
A lot of this is easier said than done, but if you apply these tricks you can hope for a better night’s sleep. Lack of sleep is killing us, and for workers that need to optimize their time and energy, sleep is the secret to ultimate productivity.
Have you tried most of the tips suggested here?
What are your favorite tricks to sleep better?
Let us know in the comments below!