Ahead of a big exam, meeting or presentation, family and friends always say, ‘get a good night’s sleep’ and this is the best advice you can follow. Getting low-quality or insufficient sleep interferes heavily with your productivity levels. One study observed over 4,000 workers and found that those with insomnia or insufficient sleep were less motivated, had difficulty focusing, remembering things, and making good decisions. As well as that, insufficient sleep costs; in 2016, the RAND Corporation found that sleep deprivation costs the US economy $411 billion a year and over 1 million lost workdays. According to the research, this was because people oversleep and show up late, or they skip work altogether due to an illness they’re at more risk of getting because they’re sleep-deprived, and if they do show up to work, they’re less focused and productive while they’re there.
Sleep deprivation is a big barrier to an effective work day so to improve your performance, you need to get your required rest hours. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults (18 – 64) get between 7 to 9 hours per night. Here are ways to improve your rest:
1. Increase bright light exposure during the day
Your body has a natural timekeeper, your circadian rhythm, and this helps you stay awake and tells your body when it’s time to sleep. Natural sunlight or bright light during the day helps keep your circadian rhythm healthy, improving daytime energy and night-time sleep quality.
Try getting daily sunlight exposure or invest in artificial light devices and bulbs.
2. Reduce blue light exposure in the evening
We’re all guilty of spending two hours scrolling on Instagram in bed but smart devices like phones and tablets emit large amounts of blue light and this negatively impacts your sleep because this type of light tricks your body (circadian rhythm) into thinking it’s still daytime.
To lower your exposure to blue light, install an app that blocks blue light on your smartphone, stop watching TV and put your smart devices away two hours before heading to bed.
3. Reduce irregular or long daytime naps
Short power naps during the day are beneficial to help you re-charge but napping for long or irregular periods can negatively affect your sleep. One study found that while napping for 30 minutes or less can enhance brain function, longer naps negatively affect health and sleep quality. However, there are studies that have found people who take regular daytime naps and do not experience poor sleep quality or disrupted sleep at night.
The effects of napping depends on the individual but it’s recommended that you take short naps at the same time every day.
4. Try to sleep and wake at consistent times
Being consistent with your sleep and waking times helps long-term sleep quality.
Try to get in the habit of waking up and going to bed at similar times.
5. Optimise your bedroom environment
One key ingredient to improve your sleep quality is to optimise your bedroom environment. Try to minimise external noise, light and artificial light from devices like phones and alarm clocks.
Your main goal is to make sure your bedroom is a quiet, clean, and relaxing space.