Sleep is not just a nice to have or a necessary evil. It is so important for our physical and mental wellbeing that it needs to be a top priority in your life. Study after study has shown that without enough sleep, we not only feel tired, but all our cognitive functions become majorly impaired.
What happens if we don’t get enough sleep?
A lack of sleep will affect emotions, behaviour, memory and learning. This results in poor impulse control, irritability, impaired maths skills and inattention among many other effects.
Did you know that some of the major accidents that happened in the past are partly due to inattentiveness and impaired decision making which were the result of sleep deficit? These include the Exxon Valdez, Chernobyl as well as the Challenger space shuttle disaster.
Studies have shown that nurses working more than 12.5 consecutive hours are 2-3 times more likely to make errors. After even 16 hours of being awake, your abilities start to decline. Driving with a lack of sleep can be as dangerous as drunk driving.
Another study has found that during sleep our brains clear themselves of toxins that build up during the activity of waking hours. If we don’t get enough sleep, these toxins can’t be properly removed and cause problems with our ability to think. Even though caffeine can give us a boost, it is not able to deal with this issue.
Benefits of sleep
When we get enough sleep, we experience improved creativity, enhanced receptiveness to learning, increased productivity and a reduction of likelihood of errors and accidents. We’ll get better at processing new information and make quicker decisions. On the physical side sleep also improves our immune system.
Most people need between 7 and 8 hours of sleep. So, what can you do to improve your sleeping habits to reap all the benefits?
What can you do?
Here are our top tips:
- If you’re used to going to sleep late, adjust your bedtime gradually; 15 minutes at a time should to the trick. If you go to bed too early too quickly, you’ll only lie awake frustrated.
- Keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet to help you to fall asleep more easily. Cover up the alarm clock if it’s too bright.
- Exercise regularly, but not too close to bedtime. Exercise reduces stress and can help to reset the sleep-wake cycle because it tires you out and raises your body temperature.
- Maintain a regular routine. Don’t sleep in at weekends. This will disturb the sleep cycle you have started to build throughout the week.
- Have a high-protein snack such as a handful of nuts about an hour before bedtime. This will help to give your body the nutrients it needs to keep you fast asleep.
- Stay off any kind of screens before bedtime. Don’t be tempted to check emails or social media before going to bed. The blue light most devices emit is similar in effect to sunlight, which will tell the body it’s daytime, and therefore time to be awake. Make the hour before you go to bed relaxing. You could read a book, do a cross word, have a bath or anything else that is not screen related.
- You could also try meditation or mindfulness before going to sleep. This will relax your mind and make it easier to drift off gently.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, stimulating decongestants or diet pills. All of these have some effect on the brain and will alter your ability to go to sleep and/or stay asleep.
If you’re suffering from the odd sleepless night, an afternoon nap (no longer than 20 minutes) might do the trick but make sure you get your necessary quota on a regular basis. Only then will you reap the benefits of improved brain functions and avoid sleep deprivation and its negative consequences.
How the Work Well Practice can help
If your employees suffer from too much stress in their day-to-day work environment to be able to sleep well, why not download my ’10 Killer SOS Stress Management Strategies for Middle and Senior Leaders’. You will receive a complimentary eGuide, audio recording and a useful infographic and other helpful resources.
I also provide hypnotherapy and mindfulness training if your employees suffer from insomnia or are generally not sleeping well. Simply get in touch for a free strategy call where we can discuss how I can specifically help to meet your needs. You can email me at email@example.com or call me on 075 222 777 22.
Disclaimer: As with most practices, mindfulness may not be suitable for everyone. If you have any existing mental health conditions or past trauma, you should discuss these with your GP or mental health professional and these should also be disclosed prior to enrolling in a class.