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8 Tips for Better Sleeping
to Boost Productivity Levels
In the same way the human body needs food and water for survival, sleep is equally significant to our health, wellbeing and the way that we work.
It’s been said that sleep is ‘an investment in the energy you need to be effective tomorrow’. Yet in a world where more than three in five of us do not sleep for the recommended seven to eight hours, we lose up to 41 minutes of sleep on average per night and, consequently, are almost five hours behind what we should be to function at our best by the time we reach the weekend.
When the weekend does roll around, our physical, mental and emotional exhaustion can make us repay this ‘sleep debt’ through oversleeping. But here’s the catch: a weekday deficit cannot simply be made up for on Saturday or Sunday, meaning we can lose up to a colossal two years of life to a futile ‘fix’.
According to research carried out by Furniture Village, the two years (or 730 days) we sacrifice could be better spent elsewhere. Some examples include:
- Visiting 37 countries
- Making 45 new friends
- Studying 2 Bachelor’s degrees
- Learning 19 languages
If you’re now wondering what your sleeping habits could be costing you, check out this calculator to work out your own personal sleep debt, alongside what you need to do to put this situation (and yourself!) to bed. In fact, the experts suggest the secret formula is, in fact, not-so-secret – with a simple solution that requires us to reset our attitudes to sleep bit by bit throughout the day…
So, with that in mind, here are some tips get better sleep, creating more time to spend on projects and passions and boost your overall productivity within the working week.
A breakfast of champions
Breakfast is often labelled the most important meal of the day and it’s not hard to see why. It kick-starts your metabolism, helps you burn calories and gives you the energy you need to get things done.
For something that offers optimum energy during the day and sleep-promoting nutrients at night, nutritionist Libby Limon recommends an organic green tea with egg and avocado on seeded rye toast. The green tea will give a small caffeine shot with a calming amino acid, giving your metabolism a boost with a healthy dose of anti-oxidants. The combination of complex carbs, protein, healthy fats and fibre within the food will offer a sustained release of energy that won’t spike your blood sugar.
Take lunch between 12-2pm
Sometimes our schedules can get so jam-packed that lunch is left to fall down the ladder on our list of priorities. But this important meal provides us with the fuel we need to push on through the day, as well as nutrients that promote sleep later.
This will put a stop to excessive snacking which is often high in sugar or carbs and linked to sugar imbalances that can affect circadian hormones and your forty winks.
What’s on the menu? If you’re looking for a snooze-friendly lunch, something like spinach, egg whites and turkey is perfect for stimulating serotonin, which is what we need to switch off at night.
Go decaf after 2pm
Caffeine can stay in your blood for 7 hours after consumption so, to be safe, it’s probably best to ditch it after 2pm.
Though it can be tempting to have ‘one more cup’ to keep you focused, this could stop you drifting off at night. Though water is always the number one choice (even a 1.5% loss of your body’s water weight can affect energy levels and mood), sometimes you just want something a bit more. If this is the case, you could consider decaffeinated coffee, or why not try a tasty alternative like rooibos or mint tea?
No alcohol after 7pm
When we’re working so hard on our passions and projects, we still need to take some time for ourselves.
But if your way of letting off some steam is to enjoy a glass of vino or a bottle of beer, try to have it no later than 7pm. This is because it takes an hour to break down one unit of alcohol so, the later you have it, the more likely it is to stay in your system and affect your sleeping. Nightcap? More like a nightmare in our opinion.
No eating after 8pm
If you want to have a dreamy night’s sleep, you certainly don’t want indigestion, heartburn or reflux.
For this reason, try not to eat anything major three hours before bed (usually around 8pm) as this will give your food enough time to digest. Eating late can also affect your temperature and metabolic rate, causing your brain to be more active during REM resulting in a more restless sleep. So, if you’re having a double cheeseburger and fries before bed, then you may also be served with an extra side of crazy dreams!
No digital devices
Whether it’s to have an inbox clear out, or a bit of mindless scrolling through social media, avoid taking your phone, tablet or laptop into the bedroom.
At night, the body will produce less serotonin and more melatonin to get you ready for sleep – but the blue light of screens will disrupt this. To be safe, turn off your digital devices 2-3 hours before bed. If you do enjoy reading e-books however, something like a Kindle is better for the eyes than a tablet (as they use e-paper tech over LCD). The likes of iOS “night shift” feature (taking your screen from a blue to a warmer orange tone) can also help if you absolutely have to work at night.
Meditation involves a state of awareness that allows us to feel at peace, and so naturally has countless benefits when it comes to sleeping, from inducing the relaxation response, to enhancing melatonin and alleviating the things that can stop us from drifting off such as anxiety or depression.
Exercise 3 times per week
Finally, exercise has endless known benefits for our health, but did you know it improves your ability to fall – and stay – asleep?
This is not just because it tires the body out, but studies have shown that regular exercise across a 16-week period can also cause significant improvements in quality and duration of sleep. This is because it can strengthen your circadian rhythm, promoting daytime alertness and helping to evoke a sense of sleepiness at night.
Further Reading from Skills You Need
Based on some of our most popular content, this book will help you to live a happier, healthier and more productive life.
Learn how to look after your body and mind: the fundamental first steps to personal development.
This eBook, now in its second edition, with new and revised content for 2020, is designed to make life both easier and better.
For more expert advice on how to better your weekday sleeping habits and improve productivity, visit The 24 hour sleep guide here.
About the Author
Hannah Waters is a part-time woman of letters and full-time feminist. She lives and works in London, where she is cutting her journalistic teeth in her first media role. She spends her spare time covering interests including women in business, productivity and self-care.