“Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
Science is now backing up how important sleep is to our overall health and our productivity. It affects all aspects of our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.
Loss of sleep costs the UK economy over £30bn a year in lost revenue, or 2% of GDP. Doctors are more likely to prescribe sleeping pills than suggest you get a good night’s sleep.
It’s a popular topic of discussion – not just for new parents. People worry about how much or how little they’re getting. It’s rare that a person can survive on only a few hours sleep for weeks on end.
The importance of sleep on productivity
When you’re feeling stressed your sleep pattern is likely to be impacted, especially the more stressed you are and the longer you’re feeling stress.
You find it hard to get to sleep because you’re turning over thoughts from the day or worrying about a problem. If you don’t get enough or the quality of your sleep is poor, you wake up feeling tired after a disturbed night.
Think you’re too busy for sleep – think again. This is the time when your brain recharges after a busy day, sorts out thoughts and allows for creativity through your dreams. It’s also when your body repairs itself.
Getting a good night’s sleep is important. Wake up tired and it will affect your whole day. When you’re tired and stressed you’re less productive.
How much sleep is enough?
Sleep is for wimps! Margaret Thatcher supposedly survived on 4 hours a night. Richard Branson gets a maximum of 6 hours a night. Trump thinks more than 3 hours is a waste.
Top athletes spend at least eight to nine hours sleeping. Too little and the risk of Alzheimers increases, along with strokes and heart attack.
“After being awake for 19 hours, you’re as cognitively impaired as someone who is drunk.”
Even children are looking sleep-deprived these days. Aren’t the young meant to look and be healthy, energetic and full of enthusiasm. Instead they look tired with dark circles under their eyes. School age children and teenagers need between 9-11 hours a night.
Shorter periods of uninterrupted sleep are better for you than longer periods of interrupted sleep. The more interruptions you have the less likely you are to experience the slow-wave cycle needed to feel refreshed.
Around 7 hours seems to be the optimum. Too little or too much and your health, cognitive and mental ability suffers.
People who sleep for only a few hours at night often take naps during the day. Churchill used to work late but took a two hour nap during the day.
When you go to bed and get up each morning is up to personal preference but those who wake earlier go to bed earlier so they still get 6-8 hours of quality sleep.
Barriers to sleep
We often consider sleep as ‘wasted time’, when we could be doing something else.
An extra couple of hours spent working rather than sleeping means we can get more done.
- Social media – keeping us connected to our devices at all times of the night and in easy reach.
- Boxed sets on Netflix – so many films, so little time.
- Electric light has messed up our body clocks. We no longer go to bed and get up with the sun.
- Electronic devices over stimulate our brains and suppress our natural sleep hormone (melatonin).
We spend too many hours getting to, from and in work, leaving us less time to socialise, spend time with family, relax, have fun, so we compensate by going to bed late.
Tips for a good night’s sleep
Develop a good bedtime routine to regulate your body clock and help you to get a good night’s sleep.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even at weekends. You’re more likely to fall asleep quicker and stay asleep.
- As well as setting an alarm to tell you it’s time to wake up, set an alarm to tell you it’s time to start getting ready for bed (there’s an app for that). Your iPhone clock has a bedtime function.
- Keep electronic devices out of the bedroom or in nighttime or airplane mode overnight. Switch them off at least an hour before bed. Read a book (real paper) to relax before bedtime.
- Keep your room cool. A cooler room lowers your body temperature and helps you to fall asleep quicker.
- Exercise regularly. Vigorous exercise just before bed isn’t advised but gentle stretching, yoga or meditation can help you relax.
- Avoid eating too late. Your stomach will be busy digesting a heavy late night meal. If you are hungry – have a light snack – oatcakes, almonds, banana but avoid alcohol, cheese. What to eat, what to avoid.(Independent)
- Keep a notebook by your bed, so if you wake in the night thinking or worrying about something you can write it down and go back to sleep.
As one in ten of us is likely to suffer from insomnia it makes sense to do what you can to get a good night’s rest. You’ll be able to function better and you’ll be healthier and less prone to disease if you can improve the quality of your sleep.
Try out a few of these tips for a good night’s sleep and see if you feel better for it.
Otherwise get in touch if your productivity is being affected by your sleep or lack of.
Worth a read:
Leading neuroscientist Matthew Walker on why sleep deprivation is increasing our risk of cancer, heart attack and Alzheimer’s – and what you can do about it.