When was the last time you had a good night’s sleep? I mean, a really good night’s sleep where you woke up naturally, feeling refreshed and alert. For many people that feeling is a dim and distant memory as they struggle with busy lives, 24 hour connectedness and a society which wears overwork and tiredness like a badge of honour denoting success and productivity. Actually the research tells us that, not unsurprisingly, lack of sleep is harmful, not only for our health – increased risk of heart disease and stroke, but also to our career.
How can we be operating at our best in our chosen career, making good decisions and being intellectually creative if we are in constant sleep deficit. If you lose as little as one and a half hours sleep in one night it could result in a reduction in daytime alertness of as much as 32%. This impairs your memory and your ability to think and process information. In her book, Thrive, Arianna Huffington cites a study published in Science that calculated that for the sleep deprived, an extra hour of sleep can do more for your daily happiness than a significant pay rise!
What does the brain get up to while we sleep?
Sleep is important because it allows the brain time to do some neurological tidying up as well as physical repair and renewal. This means it has the chance to get rid of toxins and keep the brain healthy. Sleep also allows our brains to consolidate memories which plays a direct role in learning – helping us to cement the new information we’re absorbing and making it more likely we can recall it later. A recent study published in the journal Current Biology also found that the brain processes complex stimuli during sleep, and uses this information to make decisions while awake.
It is no surprise then that when we’ve slept well we feel mentally alert, clear, able to focus and make sound decisions – all key things in being effective in your job and progressing in your career.
How can you improve the quality of your sleep?
- Aim for a minimum of 7 hours so plan what time you need to go to bed to achieve that and stick to it.
- Don’t go on your phone, tablet or computer for at least an hour before you plan to go to bed – the blue light given off by the screens inhibits the production of melatonin, the hormone needed for sleep.
- Find out what helps you relax – warm bath, hot drink, gentle yoga moves, reading a good book, etc. and develop a bedtime routine that works for you.
- If you find it hard to switch off from all the things going round in your head then keep a notebook by your bedside to capture any persistent thoughts
- Keep your bedroom cool and dark
The one-third of our lives that we spend sleeping plays a direct role in how full, energetic and successful the other two-thirds of our lives can be. With good sleep we can be more organised, can make better decisions, learn new things more effectively and be intellectually creative at work.
Got a great sleep technique that works for you, please share in the comments section.