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Not Enough Time in the Day Leads to Too Little Sleep

When looking at the American Psychological Association’s (APA) most recent study of sleep habits in the United States, it’s apparent that most Americans either don’t appreciate the positive benefits of sleep or else we don’t know how to find the time to get them. With lives becoming more and more hectic, most people seem to be finding time to get things done by borrowing against the hours when they should be getting our daily recommended seven to nine hours per night.

The APA study revealed that the average American adult is only getting an average of 6.7 hours of sleep each night, and one in five of us have indicated that the sleep that we’re getting is good quality. That means that four out of five of us think that we should be sleeping better, and chances are good that if we were we would be feeling better, working smarter, and we’d probably find ourselves in much better moods. There is plenty of research backing up the idea that losing sleep for a short amount of time has a tangible negative impact on our cognitive ability and lowers our creativity, and when it happens over the long term it can have serious negative effects on our mood, our weight and out cardiovascular system. Sleep benefits body function, and lack of it has an immediate effect.

With the pace of modern life continuing to speed up and so many people trying to find extra time by cutting into when we should be resting, we’re not just making ourselves feel tired; we’re actually reducing our ability to get things done effectively when we are awake.  Additionally, we are having a negative impact on our quality of life. Lack of sleep has an immediate effect on our ability to cope with stress in our lives, making us much more likely to be short-tempered with our colleagues, our families, even with total strangers. We are also not as engaged or as sharp in the work that we’re doing.

How many times have you found yourself staring off into space or tempted to just put your head down on your desk? Few people realize that sleep deprivation has the same type of physical impact as being legally drunk. Getting more sleep each night addresses the issue, and quite possibly leads to more successes and breakthroughs at work, yet few employers are likely to express an interest in reducing work pressures enough to encourage people to stop working late into the night in order to make sure that they’re getting enough sleep.  Those that do make a point of supporting work/life balance tend to have employees who prioritize sleep more highly.  Depending upon your specific situation it may be worthwhile to have a conversation with your manager. In many cases they may not be aware of the relationship between not getting enough sleep and overall performance, or they may not be aware of the fact that expecting communication and availability at all hours may be causing you to cut back on the hours of sleep that you’re getting.

In addition to communicating with your boss about the changes that can be made in your work environment to allow you to get more rest, there are some things that you can do on your own. Making sleep a priority is something that we can do for ourselves, and one of the best ways to start is to remember that being exhausted is not something to be proud of, or to brag about. With hard work and frenetic pace being so much a part of our culture, sharing and comparing exhaustion stories has become a competitive sport; it’s almost as though by being tired and not getting enough sleep we are winning the success game. Getting over wanting to compete in that game is the first step to getting the rest that you need.

There are many other ways that you can help yourself get the sleep that you need. One of the first steps is to learn more about sleep, not only in terms of how much you need, but also in how much you are actually getting. There are a number of new monitors and apps available that effectively and accurately measure how much you’re moving in your sleep, when you’re in your deepest sleep cycles and other metrics that will help you optimize your sleep schedule and tell you where you are lacking and able to make changes.

When you’re researching the numbers that lead to positive sleep experiences, spend a little bit of time learning about proper sleep hygiene. This is an essential aspect of getting high quality sleep, and includes such factors as the amount of light that you’re allowing into your bedroom, the amount of sound that you’re exposed to, the comfort of your mattress, pillows, and bedding, and the temperature in your room. The more you learn, the more improvements you can make. These improvements may include adding room darkening curtains or blinds, purchasing a new mattress or pillows, buying a white noise machine to mask external sounds that may be interrupting your sleep, or making sure that your bedroom isn’t too warm. Other sleep hygiene factors that can make a dramatic improvement include establishing a regular sleep pattern that your body will adjust and respond to, and eliminating the use of electronic devices within a couple of hours before going to bed. Gadgets like tablets, televisions and smart phones emit a blue light that can interfere with your body understanding that it is time to go to bed. Vigorous exercise can do the same thing and is best done in the morning.

Finally, stop putting so much pressure on yourself to do it all or have it all. If you are constantly worrying about all of the things that you haven’t yet accomplished then you are automatically making yourself more likely to give up sleep to try to get more things done. Establish practical, reasonable expectations and don’t let yourself keep adding. You’ll be much happier!


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