The work landscape is changing: many more workers are in charge of their own schedule. Whether they work from home or on flex-time, run a business, or travel frequently, today’s workers have to manage their own productivity. It’s a perk to be able to work when energy levels are at their peak, but individuals who work from home need to get the most productivity out of every day to stay competitive. Even if you’re tired, there are still quotas and deadlines to meet, clients to greet, and projects to complete.
Sleep deprivation can lead to more than just feeling sleepy. According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, concentration, working memory, mathematical capacity, and logical reasoning are affected by lack of sleep. “People who are sleep deprived will begin to show deficits in many tasks that require logical reasoning or complex thought.” The amount and timing of your sleep can greatly impact your productivity, so it’s part of your job description to make sure you get enough rest.
There are several tricks to try if you think lack of sleep is preventing you from working effectively. Choose a couple and watch your work improve.
- Reduce your stress. Just because you can work 24-7 doesn’t mean you should – and thinking about work counts as work. The American Psychological Association says work is a factor causing stress to over 65% of individuals. If you are your own boss, that means you need to pay attention to your own health. Excess cortisol, the hormone produced by stress, can cause your circadian rhythms to get thrown off, making it more difficult to fall asleep at night. Develop work related boundaries for yourself and take time off, especially in the last hour or two before bedtime.
- Turn off the lights. Your computer, television, and mobile devices can keep you awake long after you’ve shut them off. That’s because the light from their screens is a blue wavelength, which the body interprets as daylight. While it is important to get at least 2 hours of sunlight daily, too much light from this frequency can unbalance your circadian rhythms and make night feel like day. Shut your screens off 2-3 hours before bedtime, or try using software like f.lux to change the light frequency from your computer screen.
- Let’s get physical. Another valuable tool for regulating your circadian rhythms is exercise. A study cited by the National Sleep Foundation found that 150 minutes of exercise in a week helped to improve sleep. Additionally, exercising in daylight hours has been associated with a more regular sleep pattern as it promotes healthy circadian rhythms.
- Go to bed at bedtime.One of the most important things you can do to help your body be ready for work is go to bed on time – and to get up on time. Having regular sleep and wake routines, including time to wind down, primes your body and mind to maintain healthy sleep habits. After a couple of weeks of following a bedtime, you will fall asleep more easily and sleep more soundly, which will leave you rested and ready to face another work day.
- Nap if you need it.A little catnap in the afternoon can boost your productivity for the rest of the day when you’re feeling drowsy – but keep it short, and keep it early. Experts recommend a 10-20 minute power nap to recharge the batteries without becoming groggy or interfering with your daily routine.
Let’s face the facts – while the image of burning the midnight oil and hunching over your work late into the night to beat the competition is alluring, the most successful workers know that the brain is at its peak when you’re well rested. Nighttime is for sleeping, ideally, and daytime is for work and play; if you can follow these rules (or at least trick your brain into believing you are doing so) you will be able to work smarter, get more done and feel adequately rested along the way.