A few weeks back I wrote about the Career and Health Risks of Sleep Deprivation, in which I mentioned that people who are drunk can actually OUTPERFORM those lacking sleep! Since sleep is very important for our health and career, today I would like to write a follow-up to that post – on how to get better quality sleep.
It is not just how much you sleep
Don’t get me wrong, it is (very) important to get a sufficient amount of sleep each night. Being sleep-deprived slows down your ability to process information and solve problems, and kills your creativity. You have difficulty controlling your emotions, you get irritated easily, and you would have a hard time paying attention. On the other hand, when you get enough sleep it helps your brain learn new things and develop new habits.
Sleep experts, though, know it is not just how much you sleep that matters, but also how well you sleep. The following identifies some of the killers of quality sleep and the strategies to clean up your sleep hygiene.
1) Keep away from sleeping pills and alcohol. Sleeping pills have their place for short-term relief of serious, persistent insomnia, but they (along with alcohol) greatly disrupt your brain’s natural sleep process, and anything that interferes with the brain’s natural sleep process has dire consequences for the quality of your sleep.
2) No caffeine after lunch. Caffeine takes a full 24 hours to work its way out of your system. Any caffeine in your bloodstream reduces REM sleep, which is the deep sleep stage when your body recuperates most.
3) Take naps. A short nap in the afternoon can give you the rest you need to get through the rest of the day, and you will sleep much better at night than if you take caffeine.
4) Avoid short-wavelength blue light at night. Laptops, tablets, mobile phones and televisions emit short-wavelength blue light, which impairs melatonin (the sleep-inducing hormone) production and hence your ability to fall asleep. It also interferes with the quality of your sleep once you do. If you MUST use one of these devices at night, you can limit your exposure with a filter or protective eye wear. Television is okay if you sit far enough from the set.
5) Stop working at least an hour before bedtime. Working in the evening puts you in an alert, stimulated state when you should be winding down and relaxing in preparation for sleep. Working on your laptop also exposes you to short-wavelength blue light (See no. 4).
6) Learn to meditate. Meditation has been proven to help us release stress, anxiety and worry, and achieve a state of deep relaxation in both mind and body, leading to a great night’s sleep or a day of enhanced energy levels, focus and creativity, or both. I’ve written a guide on meditating.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this post (share with your family and friends if you do!), and as always please do not hesitate to share with me any questions or comments that you may have regarding this topic below, and I’ll be more than happy to get back to you. See you around!
“The only thing worth catching up on at night is your sleep.”
– Travis Bradberry