- 12:17am I'll fall asleep soon.
- 12:51am Any minute now.
- 1:32am At least I'm getting some rest.
- 2.05am I’ve been awake for 2 and a half hours now
- 2.43am I’m going to be so useless tomorrow
Sound familiar? The resulting bloodshot eyes and Starbucks addiction are annoying enough, but more and more evidence links a lack of sleep to a drop in productivity not to mention health problems like extra pounds, depression, and even cancer.
The effects of sleep deprivation
Sleep makes us smarter and is one of the keys to unlocking our performance potential, yet researchers are finding that more than 10% of the population are chronically sleep deprived. Sleep is triggered by the hormone melatonin, but stress can disrupt melatonin's release. Given that 40% of workers in a recent study reported that their job was very or extremely stressful; it’s not surprising that a vast majority of the workforce are suffering from insomnia.
But maybe you’re like the ‘Iron Lady’ and think that you can function on less than five hours of sleep. You might be able to cope but are you functioning at your best? Unlikely. According to Thomas Roth from the Henry Ford Sleep Disorders and Research Centre: “The percentage of the population who need less than 5 hours of sleep per night, rounded to a whole number, is zero.”
Change your habits
Still not convinced? Consider your communication with colleagues after a poor night’s sleep, is it a bit short and sharp? Do you find it harder to make decisions when your energy levels are low due to fatigue? Does is take you longer to complete tasks?
If the answer is yes then read on for 10 top tips on how to slip into and remain in Dreamland.
- Prepare for sleep: at least 45 minutes prior to going to bed. The key to sleep is being relaxed, start to quieten your body and mind eg drink a glass of milk, herbal tea, take a bath, listen to relaxing music. Aim for 7-8 hours per night; only one out of every 40 people requires less than seven hours of sleep to feel fully rested, so the odds are that person isn’t you.
- Establish a sleep schedule: try to go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time every day. Getting up at the same time is most important. Getting bright light, like sun when you get up will also help.
- Use the bed for sleeping: avoid watching TV, using laptop computers or doing work/emails in bed. Know that reading in bed can be a problem if the material is very stimulating and you read with a bright light.
- Embrace earlier exercise: 30 minutes of vigorous exercise in the morning, afternoon or early evening will improve your health and prepare your body and mind for the regenerative powers of sleep. Exercise too late at night and you’ll be energised and buzzing, which is not conducive to a relaxing slumber.
- ‘Night cap’ has a price: alcohol may help you get to sleep but it will cause you to wake up throughout the night. Alcohol destroys your delta (restorative sleep) so the quality of your sleep will not be optimum.
- ‘Park’ your anxieties: Before you turn out the lights. Write down what you’re worrying about in a notebook so that you are temporarily setting aside concerns that might otherwise keep you awake. The same technique can be applied if you wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble getting back to sleep.
- Avoid the clock: looking at the clock in the middle of the night can cause anxiety. This is very difficult for most of us, so turn the clock away from your eyes so you would have to turn it to see the time. You may decide not to make an effort to go right back to sleep.
- Be cool: cold is sleep's partner in crime. So lower your thermostat a bit — and save money on your heat while you're at it — then pile on the blankets. A colder bedroom means your body will function at calmer, more restful speeds.
- Just breathe: stop concentrating on the laundry list of concerns in your head and focus on your breath. Breathe in for 5 seconds and out for 5 seconds and repeat until you can feel your body and mind calming down. This sequence of rhythmic breathing will help to create balance in your autonomic nervous system and reduce adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormone) – key culprits of sleep disruption. The sound of your inhales and exhales can be a lullaby to sooth you into slumber.
When sleeplessness strikes, don't freak out - that will only delay the process further. Give yourself a break. So what if you're having a sleepless night? It's not the end of the world. By thinking, 'Great, I can't sleep. I'm going to be worthless tomorrow,' you're creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Relax and trust that there will be plenty of sleep-filled nights in your near future.