Coffee, late night email and the snooze button sap people of energy, compromising an employee’s overall performance at work. Though these things seem innocent, an evening cup of Joe, one quick reply to a colleague and an extra 15 minutes of shut-eye in the morning can drastically diminish the quality of one’s sleep.
Before a person even starts his or her work day, they’re already at a disadvantage. According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, insufficient sleep can cause anxiety, irritability and impatience as well as inhibit concentration and memory. When aggregated, these effects can result in poor productivity and a negative attitude towards work.
To combat poor sleep quality and its deleterious effects, does that mean an employee needs to take performance-enhancing drugs like Adderall or load up on caffeine? Not at all. Here are smart sleep-related habits that you should advocate to yourself and your employees.
Utilize caffeine strategically
After you hop out of bed, take a shower and pop a couple slices of bread in the toaster, you might put on a fresh pot of coffee to jumpstart the morning. Though this last step may be seen as a proactive way to make sure you stays energized during the day, coffee might not be the best place to start.
According to a study by Steven Miller, a neuroscientist at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., the best time to consume caffeine is between 9:30 AM to 11:30 AM.
Instead of reaching for the coffee pot before heading out the door, try ice-cold water, freshly-squeezed juice or a protein shake to energize more naturally.
It should also be a no-brainer that drinking coffee after dinner or close to bedtime is a bad idea. One study conducted at the Sleep Disorders & Research Center at Henry Ford Hospital showed that caffeine taken six hours before bedtime or less contributes to significant sleep disruptions.
No matter how much tolerance a person feels that he has built up to caffeine, a good employee avoids the stuff at night to ensure he gets the best quality sleep possible.
Consume a healthy diet
Late night cravings regularly tempt us. But even a modest midnight meal can hurt. The National Sleep Foundation suggests heavy or spicy foods in the evening can cause indigestion and other intestinal discomforts leading to poorer sleep quality. Ideally, you should finish eating at least two to three hours before bedtime.
Along with a healthy diet, individuals should limit their alcohol consumption, especially right before bedtime. Alcohol plays an important role in “eroding performance and increasing the propensity to fall asleep while also interfering with the ability to stay asleep,” according to the Harvard Business Review
Instead, focus on drinking enough water throughout the day to stay hydrated and healthy during slumber, where the body undergoes many complex processes to help heal and revitalize itself from a long day of work.
Control the environment
According to the National Sleep Foundation, some of the most important contributors to good sleep quality involve the bedroom environment. To get the most from your time in bed, you don’t just invest in a comfortable mattress but should also optimize the physical setting to guarantee a restful night every night.
Unnecessary light, natural or otherwise, can cause one’s internal clock to shift; with more light in a room, a person will have greater trouble falling and staying asleep. Blackout curtains and window blinds can help offset the effects of external light. Turning the computer, phone and other light-emitting technology off will curb the internal lighting situation.
Noise stimulation also disrupts sleep patterns. While an extremely quiet environment is ideal, some feel comforted by white noise, relaxing nature sounds or calming music. If background noise is a requirement, make sure that the volume is not turned up too high.
Last, the temperature and humidity of the bedroom should be comfortable. If an individual lives in a place where it is brutally cold in the winter, she should crank up the heat, bring out heavy comforters and turn on a humidifier for a cozy sleeping experience. During hot summers, adjust accordingly to keep the bedroom as cool and dry as possible.
Do everything naturally
The CDC estimates that over 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disturbances. Millions of Americans rely on the aid of pills or over-the-counter melatonin to sleep every night because of debilitating disorders.
Many, though, use sleeping pills as a shortcut to falling asleep. If a person has not been clinically diagnosed with sleep problems, he should let natural melatonin production take place.
By reducing the light in the bedroom and eating melatonin-rich foods such as cherries, rice and more, you’ll ensure a healthy night’s rest without the risk of drug dependence.
Follow a routine
The NIH recommends adults get seven to eight hours of sleep each evening. Furthermore, you should ideally go to bed at a certain time and wake up eight hours later every day, regardless of the day of week – and avoid oversleeping like the plague.
Having a schedule and sticking to it allows the body’s circadian rhythm to become regulated, which in turn causes the person to feel more refreshed and energized when she wakes up. But the benefits do not stop there: being consistent with the schedule will eventually allow her to sleep easier and more deeply.
One way to make having a routine fun is to incorporate different relaxing, pleasurable activities into every night’s prep for bed, which leads us to…
Unwind before bed
Instead of burning the midnight oil to get that one last email sent out or an extra box checked off the task list, stop working and relaxe before bedtime.
Working, socializing and checking finances in bed creates stress, which compromises how well you sleep. So for sanity’s sake, curl up with a nice book, listen to soothing music or find tranquility in meditation, which have been shown to reduce stress and even treat insomnia.
By taking important steps towards self-care, you can ensure being in tip-top shape the next day.
Wake up with purpose
You want an employee who does work that literally gets them up in the morning. Employees who are passionate about what they do are usually at low risk for burnout.
On the other side of the spectrum, one study reveals that people who were burnt out from the stresses of work were more likely to experience sleep problems, utilize sick leave, abuse painkillers and intend to quit. The employees you want at your side are ones that show motivation, determination and purpose in their work and in their lives.
Take regular naps
Though this practice may sound unorthodox, company culture is slowly shifting to accommodate regulated naptimes inside and outside of the office during the day. Companies like Google and HubSpot have included private napping spaces for employees, reinforcing the idea that naps help increase productivity.
Indeed, research has shown that hour long naps boost and restore brain power. Even quick, 10-minute power naps seem to do the job just fine!
Treat the bed as a sacred place
People who use their bed for sleep only rest better and fall asleep easier.
By going to another room when you want to be active, you increase the mental and physical association between bed and sleep. Those who eat, play games and work in their bed day after day may find this multi-purpose space to be harder to sleep in overtime.
What are other sleeping habits you value which have helped you personally and in your career?