There’s a ridiculous notion built on conceit and mixed with ambition: “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”
This mindset may stem from good intentions, but it lacks intelligence regarding stress and the human body. Too much work and a lack of recovery are disastrous for one’s well-being. So while it may look tough on paper or sound self-assuring out loud, the motivational message is lost like a dream in the fog of sleep deprivation.
Like food or water, sleep is a biological necessity for life and health. Research shows that sleeping hours are critical and far from passive. During sleep, your body is busy fighting off viruses and other pathogens, operating a waste removal system to clean the brain, looking for cancer cells and getting rid of them, repairing injured tissues, and forming vital memories essential for learning. Getting enough sleep can improve mental health, mood, and ability to think and make good decisions. In addition, it is vital for the functioning of our heart and other organs.
Most adults need seven or more hours of good quality (uninterrupted) sleep each day. Some may require even more. The following evidence-based suggestions can help improve your sleep:
Set aside enough time for sleep.
Give yourself enough time in bed to get the sleep you need to wake up feeling well-rested. Most healthy adults need seven or more hours of sleep.
Consistent sleep times improve sleep.
Go to bed and get up at about the same times every day, including on days off. Ideally, it would be best to go to bed early enough that you don’t need an alarm to wake up.
Exercise improves sleep.
During the day, get some exercise. Even a 10-minute walk will improve sleep, and more is better. Plan on finishing the workout at least 3 hours before sleep is planned.
Bright light during the daytime helps.
Getting bright light during the daytime strengthens your biological rhythms that promote alertness during work and sleep at the end of your day. So, spend 30 minutes or so outside in the sunlight during the daytime. Getting bright light during the first hours of your day is particularly helpful. Even time spent outside on a cloudy day is better than exclusive exposure to dim indoor light. If you can’t get out, spend time in a brightly lit indoor area.
Your sleeping environment matters.
- Make the bedroom very dark, blocking out any lights (especially blue and white). Cover the windows with opaque window covering if necessary. Use an eye mask if it’s hard to avoid lights from traffic or street lamps.
- Use soft earplugs if your sleep environment is noisy.
- Have a comfortably cool room temperature—about 65º to 68º F for most of us—and use covers.
- Have a comfortable mattress and pillow.
- Do not let pets or phones disturb your sleep.
- Condition your brain to relax when you go into the bedroom; do not watch TV, read, or work in the bedroom.
- Prepare for a good night’s sleep about 1.5 hours before bedtime.
Follow a relaxing routine.
1.5 hours before bedtime to help your body transition from being awake to falling asleep. Consider setting an alarm 1.5 hours before bedtime to start preparing for sleep. Don’t expose your eyes to computer or phone screens. Avoid excitement like watching an action movie or reading upsetting news stories. Brush your teeth, wash your face, and follow a pre-sleep routine to relax. Transition to dim lighting during this time (for example, don’t use a bright light in the bathroom).
Try relaxation techniques.
- Try mindfulness techniques like meditation, guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, or soothing music.
- A warm bath 30 minutes to 2 hours before bedtime can help promote relaxation and optimize body temperature changes that aid sleep.
Check your intake.
- Avoid heavy or spicy meals 3 hours before your regular bedtime.
- Limit liquids several hours before sleep to avoid getting up to go to the bathroom.
- Avoid alcohol near bedtime. It may help you fall asleep but can cause sleep disturbances. If you plan to drink alcohol, finish several hours before bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine, chocolate, and nicotine for five or more hours before sleep is planned—more if you are sensitive.
Pay attention to your body’s cues.
If you get very sleepy earlier than usual, go to bed. Allow extra time for sleep. Drowsiness is your body’s way of saying that you need rest. Your body may be fighting off an infection or needing extra sleep to recover from what happened during the day. Researchers theorize that sleep and the immune system work together to fight off viruses and other pathogens. Your body also needs more sleep after experiencing high mental or physical demands.
What if these suggestions don’t work?
It may be wise to get help. Call your doctor if you spend 7 to 9 hours in bed but:
- You consistently take 30 minutes or more to fall asleep.
- You consistently awaken several times during sleep or for long periods.
- You take frequent naps.
- You often feel sleepy, especially at inappropriate times. sleep
Getting enough good quality sleep significantly improves our health and safety and our ability to perform on the job. As a result, promoting sleep health and an alert workforce is in the interest of managers, workers, and consumers of your organization’s goods and services.
Please note that the information contained in this posting is designed to provide general awareness in regard to the subject matter covered. It is not provided as legal, medical, or tax advice, nor is it intended to address all concerns in your workplace or for public health. No representation is made as to the sufficiency for your specific company’s needs. This post should be reviewed by your legal counsel or tax consultant before use.