Improve Your Sleep Habits For Better Productivity & Health
Sleep can sometimes be the dark horse of our daily conversation.
We hear all the stories. The student who stays up all night studying. The entrepreneur who trades sleep for success. Even global leader Steve Jobs once advised, “Do your best at every job. Don’t sleep!”
It’s common to see exhausted people on our commute to work, schools, universities, and in the workplace. It’s no secret. We wear sleep deprivation as a badge of honour. The unpleasant symptoms we experience fall by the wayside when it comes to being proactive with our sleep hygiene. We acknowledge our productivity, success and hard-working identities, through the validation of how much sleep we are getting.
Is It Really 'That Bad' Skipping Out On Sleep?
I remember a time I fell asleep whilst on a first date. I finished work, packed my suitcase and commuted 6 hours to Melbourne to catch a flight to the Gold Coast. Once I arrived, I drove down to Byron Bay to meet him for lunch. This was new territory for me, as I fought against the seemingly inescapable exhaustion I attempted to hide with caffeine and a healthy dose of Vitamin B. It all caught up with me right then and there!
Leading up to this, I thought I had been excelling at being highly productive and managing my workload. I gained more time in my schedule by reducing time spent sleeping. However, I was far from functioning optimally, let alone working to the best of my capacity.
Adequate sleep is an important element that also fosters resilience in our ability to manage adversity and the pressures of a busy life.
What does the research say?
A study analysing the relationship between sleep quality and academic achievement revealed that insomnia was common in students, resulting in decreased learning and memory retention. Only 26.1% of these students were sleeping for more than 7 hours, despite the recommendation of 7 to 9 hours for sufficient sleep by the National Sleep Foundation.
Hillman and Lack also conducted an evaluation on the sleep habits of Australians and the prevalence of irritability, fatigue, and sleep difficulties. Sleep disorders impact our productivity, health and safety, to the extent they have cost the economy $5.1 billion per year.
You might be wondering how sleep deprivation is affecting you, your colleagues and loved ones beyond the symptoms of impaired memory and concentration, fatigue, exhaustion, drowsiness and changes in mood.
When it comes to our psychological health, a lack of sleep can lead to a higher risk of anxiety and depression. Physically, we are more likely to become sick and may develop cardiovascular problems such as hypertension, obesity and diabetes.
What happens to our bodies when we have sufficient sleep?
The cells and biochemicals in the immune system help discover bacteria, viruses and microorganisms to prevent infection and disease. At the core of an ideal and productive day, is adequate rest. Regardless of the ‘snooze you lose’ approach to productivity, the majority of us are starting the day behind as a result of insufficient sleep.
How can we improve our sleep hygiene?
When people develop better sleep hygiene habits, this allows the body and brain to rest and recover to help restore to optimal performance. SA Health give the following recommendations to support sleep hygiene for better wellbeing:
Establish regular daily routines
Expose yourself to natural light during the day
Avoid caffeine and heavy meals close to bed
Foster a consistent bedtime routine
Create a relaxation ritual
Reduce artificial light
It is vital for human flourishing, that people of all ages embrace sleep hygiene as a culture. Sleep is a fundamental physical element of good wellbeing.
Rather than buying into the allure of sacrificing sleep for success, it appears the research is in favour of hustling toward achieving adequate sleep. Therefore, we need to prioritise re-learning how to go to sleep. Perhaps we could benefit from modelling the sleep habits of younger children. Improving our sleep habits will ultimately lead to better outcomes with productivity and health. It's time to shake things up, and make sleep hygiene the new black.