Perfect Tips for Improving Sleep and Enhancing Work Performance
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 40.6 million American workers – 30% of the civilian workforce – sleep fewer than six hours per night, well below the recommended seven to nine hours. And that chronic exhaustion is costing the economy $63.2 billion in lost productivity, according to a Harvard Medical School study.
The employers have overlooked the effect this sleep deprivation can have on employee health and performance, even in the face of a growing body of research that links poor or inadequate sleep not only to low productivity but also to higher rates of depression, obesity, heart disease and cancer.
That’s starting to change, as The Wall Street Journal reports that the companies – including Goldman Sachs Group Inc Procter & Gamble Co. , and hedge-fund firm D.E. Shaw & Co. – are investing in sleep-hygiene workshops, online coaching for insomniacs, nap pods, and even special office lighting that helps regulate the body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin.
“Sleep is part of what I call the ‘wellness triangle,’ along with fitness and nutrition,” says Nancy Rothstein, a sleep expert who consults with corporations on the topic. “And when you’re exhausted, you’re less likely to exercise and less likely to eat well. That’s why I put sleep at the top of the triangle.” She is working with P&G and a Hyatt hotel – the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek resort in Avon, Colo. – to help improve the quality and quantity of employees’ sleep.
Making a few relatively simple changes can result in more restful sleep. One crucial step, says Rothstein, is to turn off screen devices such as laptops, iPads, and smartphones about an hour before bed. The blue light emitted by these devices interferes with melatonin production, and sends your body the message that it’s daytime, perking you up just as you should be winding down.
Increase the amount of time you spend in natural light, which shuts down melatonin and keeps you from getting too sleepy during the day. Even a short walk during the lunch hour can help.
“There are so many people who have no access to natural light. They go to work when it’s dark and come home when it’s dark. That messes with sleep and leaves you feeling sluggish and irritable,” said Terry Cook, CEO of Litebook Company Ltd., a maker of therapeutic lights used to treat jet lag, sleep disorders, and seasonal affective disorder.
The National Sleep Foundation tracks Americans’ sleep habits and suggests these ideas to improve your slumber:
- Treat your bedroom as your sanctuary from the stresses of the day. Create a comfortable sleeping environment that is free of distractions.
- Be sure your bedroom is dark when you go to bed and will stay dark until you get the sleep you need. Use light blocking curtains or shades if necessary.
- Establish a relaxing bedtime routine. Allow enough time to wind down and relax before going to bed.
- If you find yourself still lying awake after 20 minutes, get out of bed. Get up and do something relaxing in dim light until you are sleepy.
- Avoid exposure to bright light late at night. Dim your lights when it’s close to bedtime, and use night lights for nighttime awakenings.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise in the morning can help you get the light exposure you need to set your biological clock. Avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime, if you are having problems sleeping.
- Use a sound conditioner or ear plugs to block unwanted sounds.
- Avoid caffeinated beverages, large meals and alcohol right before bedtime.
- No late-afternoon or evening naps, unless you work nights. If you must nap, keep it under 45 minutes and before 3:00 pm.
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