If you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re sacrificing your health, wellbeing, and your job. Research shows that adults need seven hours of sleep each night. That same research shows that most Americans are falling well below that.
Sleep deprivation has deleterious effects on your health. So, while you think you’re staying awake getting things done so that you’ll be more productive tomorrow, you’re actually sabotaging your productivity and increasing your risks for serious health problems. Sleep deprivation and work performance have a direct correlation.
The human body is amazingly efficient and incredibly fascinating. Sleeping is just one of the mechanisms the body uses to facilitate health. It is important to understand what happens behind closed eyes.
- A good night’s sleep can literally clear your mind. New research shows that the brain’s molecular waste-disposal system is most active when we’re sleeping. The glymphatic system is responsible for clearing metabolic waste. It turns itself on while we’re sleeping, although researchers have not determined why.
- Boosts your immune system. While you sleep, your immune system is working to clean out your body. Cytokines are released from your immune system which fight infection, inflammation, and play a role in stress reduction.
- Sleep decreases your risk of serious health conditions. While you’re sleeping, your body is repairing itself. This is not much different than watching a sci-fi movie where robots are plugged into recharging stations. Sleep is your natural recharging station. It is essential for your body to function.
- Increases your ability to focus. Sleep deprivation prevents your body from effectively metabolizing glucose and turning that into energy stores. Brain function relies on energy stores from glucose metabolism to function properly – glucose is fuel for your brain.
- Sleep enhances cognitive assimilation and memory. A linear relationship between improved cognitive performance and increased sleep is proven. While the mechanism is not fully understood, getting your ZZZs will allow you to think more clearly leading to increased work efficiency.
Don’t wait to start getting the sleep you need. We know that sleep deprivation and work performance are directly related. So is your health. Here are five simple yet effective things you can do to get some ZZZs.
- Use wake/sleep alarms. Some cell phones have those like the newer iPhones. If yours doesn’t, just set an alarm at night and one in the morning. Use a distinctive sound to separate it from other alarms.
- Practice yoga, meditation, and mindfulness. And by yoga, I mean yin, restorative, or yoga nidra. These practices shift your focus inward and direct your attention to the present moment.
- Pay attention to what you eat and when. Believe it or not, what we eat and when play a huge role in whether we are counting sheep all night or dreaming. Studies show that a high carb/low fat meal before bed leads to restless sleep. If pasta’s your thing, eat four hours before bed.
- Wind down. Develop a routine to go to bed that includes winding down by turning off electronic devices. Winding down is a great time to do some meditation or reflection on your day.
- Avoid hitting Snooze. Hitting the snooze button will actually make you more tired. Your body begins the natural process of waking up about two hours before you actually wake up. Hitting snooze is telling your body “false alarm” and interrupting the biological process of waking.
Use these techniques to alleviate sleep deprivation and improve work performance. Studies have shown that improved sleep has led to salary increases – it’s all that productivity you give to your job instead of spending trying to keep your eyes open!
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