Improving work performance and productivity means improving your sleep quality. And as busy professionals know, sleep debt — the accumulation of insufficient sleep over time — is detrimental to overall work performance.
Unfortunately, prioritizing your sleep often falls to second place when work calls. And this unhealthy habit is likely affecting your productivity and mental clarity.
This is why it’s imperative professionals pay attention to their sleep quality and habits. Read on for four sleep strategies you can use to better prioritize your sleep hygiene and achieve optimal work performance without the mental fuzz.
Why Sleep Matters
According to The Sleep Foundation, sleep can impact your job performance in a big way. If you’re not getting the right amount of sleep, you’ll likely find yourself working in a mental fog, with impaired concentration, slower reaction times, and negative emotions you may struggle to manage. Sleep-deprived individuals are also more likely to commit on-the-job errors, and the economic impact of sleep deprivation and fatigue totals more than $136 billion annually in the United States.
5 Tips for an Immediate Energy Boost and Greater Focus
So, you agree that your sleep matters to your work performance — but what if you’re reading this article because you need an energy jolt right now? If you need energy, here are a few techniques you can use to boost your focus and energy levels without heading home mid-workday for a snooze.
- Try mindfulness and deep breathing exercises to improve mental clarity and manage stress.
If it’s early enough in the day:
- Squeeze in some quick exercise before you head to the office.
- Moderate your caffeine intake in the morning so you don’t crash later.
- Reach for a healthy breakfast versus a grab-and-go option filled with carbs and sugar.
If it’s later in the day:
- Consider taking a strategic power nap to get a quick energy boost. A power nap can do wonders for your mental clarity.
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Long–Term Strategies for Improving Sleep Quality and Quantity
Looking to the future, you can take beneficial steps to improve your sleep quality and quantity to reap the long-term benefits.
Change Your Mindset: Prioritize Your Sleep
It can be so easy to prioritize work over sleep. However, neglecting rest in favor of work or other duties can be a severe mistake. You should treat sleep as your life’s highest priority, or at least one of your highest priorities, as the consequences of sleep deprivation can be intense.
First, shift your mindset regarding sleep so you start to prioritize it. Educate yourself on all the detriments of not getting enough sleep and all the benefits of getting a good night’s sleep. Think of sleep in nutritional terms, feeding your mind and detoxifying your body.
In other words…
Give yourself a strong reason for getting sufficient sleep, and you’ll be more likely to prioritize it.
Alarm? No! Sunlight? Yes!
Using an alarm clock every day can actually diminish your sleep quality. An alarm shocks your brain and body (and especially your cardiovascular system). Every time you hit that snooze button, go back to bed, and awaken by the alarm again, you experience another jolt to your system.
So, how do you get by (and to work on time) without an alarm? Use sunlight to regulate your sleep. Arrange your schedule so you go to bed early enough to wake up with the sunrise naturally — no alarm needed. Then, stick to that sleep schedule, regardless of whether it’s the weekend or you’re on vacation. Your body’s clock will catch on, and you’ll start to wake up on time, naturally and quickly, before you know it.
Exercise for 30 Minutes per Day and >2 Hours Before Bed
Even a small amount of brisk walking — 30 minutes daily — can improve your sleep. However, exercising close to bed raises your body’s temperature and impacts your ability to fall asleep for as much as up to four hours. Try getting that 30 minute of speed walking in on your lunch break or in the morning.
Unwind With Rituals, Massage, and the Right Bedding
Think that you’ll never be able to go to bed early enough to get the necessary seven hours per night? Develop some pre-sleep rituals to help prepare your mind and body for rest, such as:
- Reading a book (not on a device)
- Listening to soothing music
- Talking with your spouse
- Cuddling with a pet
- Soaking in a warm bath
You can also book a massage after work to help your mind transition from the chaos of the workday to the relaxing evening hours.
Also, consider your bedding and sleeping position. Invest in a supportive mattress and quality pillows, sheets, and blankets. Sleeping on your stomach can decrease your sleep quality, so try positioning yourself on your back or side.
Is sharing your bed interrupting your sleep? It might be time to kick pets out of the bed, enforce a “no kids in bed” rule, or consider separate sleeping arrangements if the issue is your partner.
The Bottom Line
Even in sleep-deprived situations, there are practical ways to remain productive, such as through healthy eating, exercise, and stress-relieving measures. However, prioritizing better sleep quality and quantity is essential for long-term, sustained productivity and overall health.
Believe it or not, you can have a balanced lifestyle where sleep and work coexist harmoniously. Take our free health assessment to better understand your health and how you may need to improve your health, sleep or otherwise, for greater productivity and work performance. You’ll discover areas where you may need to make lifestyle changes, including your sleep habits, to increase overall wellness.