Working in a high-pressure environment can lead to health challenges, particularly due to stress. This stress can intrude on your sleep, creating a relentless cycle where poor sleep heightens stress, which in turn further degrades sleep quality. So, how do you interrupt this pattern?
Understanding the relationship between sleep habits and stress is crucial, especially for leaders in the hedge fund industry. By adopting a few effective strategies, you can improve the quality of your rest, decrease stress, and enhance your workplace performance.
The Science of Sleep and Stress
The Baylor College of Medicine highlights a fundamental link between sleep and stress. Heightened stress leads to diminished sleep quality, which in turn exacerbates stress levels. Conversely, reduced stress contributes to improved sleep, equipping you to manage stress more effectively and healthily.
According to one of the college’s assistant professors of neurology and pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine, “High levels of stress impair sleep by prolonging how long it takes to fall asleep and fragmenting sleep. Sleep loss triggers our body’s stress response system, leading to an elevation in stress hormones, namely cortisol, which further disrupts sleep.”
In addition to impacting stress levels, Cedars Sinai notes that sleep deprivation also impacts your brain’s ability to function in other ways, beyond stress management, including decreasing your problem-solving skills, critical thinking skills, memory retention, empathy, and ability to connect socially.
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Causes and Consequences of Poor Sleep for High-Performers
Sleep deprivation’s effects on health and cognitive abilities can be harmful to anyone. Yet, for those in high-performance roles operating within high-stress environments where peak mental acuity is essential, the repercussions of inadequate sleep can be particularly severe.
For example, if your role requires you to make significant decisions that can impact your entire organization, as well as the livelihoods of your clients, sleep isn’t something you can slack on. Studies have found that even just one night of sleep deprivation can result in poorer decision-making and an altered perception of risk-taking. In fact, in covering one such study, Pharmacy Times noted, “For certain professions, such as those in politics, the military, and the medical space, the study authors suggest that these individuals avoid making important decisions if they had a night of little-to-no sleep. If, despite a lack of sleep, important decision-making is deemed necessary, [they] suggest offering these individuals specialized training or fatigue risk management strategies to reduce the possibility of poor decision-making.”
Beyond the business-related consequences, there are also long-term health risks associated with chronic sleep deprivation and stress. Sleep deficiency (which the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute defines as a broad term that means you don’t get enough sleep, sleep at odd times, don’t sleep well, and/or have a sleep disorder) can result in a range of physical ailments, such as stroke, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Of course, remedying this problem is easier said than done. Your poor sleep could be caused by a variety of factors. Beyond stress, poor sleep could stem from environmental factors, lifestyle choices, and simply poor sleep hygiene.
Strategies for Improving Sleep Quality
If you know you need to improve your sleep quality, there are a few simple things you can start doing, and many of these will yield results. You should try to:
- Create an optimal sleep environment, by ensuring that your bedroom is cool, dark, and mostly quiet. You should leave technology and TVs off and avoid your phone.
- Set a consistent sleep schedule; go to bed at the same time, and wake up at the same time, every single day (even on the weekends).
- Increase your exercise (studies show moderate aerobic exercises increase slow wave sleep).
- Make simple changes to your diet, including avoiding caffeine later in the day, avoiding alcohol and spicy foods before bed, or drinking something high in melatonin (kiwis, fish, walnuts, etc.) before bed.
Stress Management Techniques for Better Sleep
If you’ve tried the above and realize your poor sleep stems from stress and nothing else, it’s time to develop stress management techniques and habits. Simple wellness habits alone may not be enough for you.
Try incorporating stress reduction techniques into your daily life, such as:
- Deep breathing exercises
- Mindfulness meditation
- Nighttime routines that limit screen exposure and any stress triggers
- Treating any underlying anxiety
Leveraging Technology for Sleep Enhancement
Modern technology offers convenient tools for monitoring your sleep, collecting data, and adjusting your habits for better rest. Numerous apps and wearable gadgets are designed to analyze your sleep patterns, providing valuable insights into the duration and quality of your sleep. This allows you to correlate your sleep with other lifestyle factors and adjust your routines for optimal rest.
You may find it useful to track your sleep-related habits using the Arootah Habit Coach app, which will track your progress in real-time.
The Bottom Line
Insufficient sleep carries tangible repercussions, which can be particularly severe for individuals in high-stress roles that require critical decision-making. Nevertheless, by employing effective stress management strategies and maintaining proper sleep hygiene, you can enhance both your sleep quality and stress management.
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