How to Get a Good Night's Sleep Ready for Work
You'd think that getting a decent sleep ready for a hard day at work would be the easiest thing in the world, but most of us know that this isn't always the case. In this article, we explore some of the best ways we know of to ensure that you don't end up sleeping on the job. Find out how to feel more alert, work harder and make the days fly by - all without the aid of any caffeinated beverages.
Sleep better, work harderHow much sleep do you reckon you need? Do you ever come close to achieving that on a regular basis? Many of us don't - and when you factor in the ever-growing average workload (don't fall behind now) with other things such as time spent commuting, looking after dependants, cooking, cleaning and (dare we even say it?) leisure time, there aren't really that many hours left for good old-fashioned sleep.
Research has shown that the average adult needs somewhere between 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night in order to function optimally - a figure which may well be higher if you are young (you have our permission to quote that to anyone who says you can't have a lie in next Saturday morning).
The older people get, the harder it can be to achieve this figure, but your body's demand for sleep generally remains the same.
Many of society's heaviest-hitters are known to get by on minimal sleep, but in this respect they generally make poor role-models. It's important to remember that you're not running a major country (unless any world leaders are reading, in which case, 'hi'), and sleep deprivation is really nothing to be proud of. It pays to take a step back. Your mind and body need to rest in order to be effective - which is why you naturally fall asleep - and would eventually die if you didn't.
This is all great, but when you're feeling strung-out from the daily grind, you might find that even if you get to bed on time, you end up just staring at the cracks in the ceiling for hours on end rather than actually resting. Not to worry though, because there are actually loads of things that you can do to help cure this.
Tips for the bedroomNot the kind you're thinking either! Actually, if you want a good night's sleep, then the first thing you should look at is your room itself. There are probably loads of things you can do to make it more relaxing in there - including:
- Clean and tidy it - or at least get rid of the floordrobe.
- Wash your sheets regularly and make your bed when you wake up. Come on, who doesn't like getting into a nicely made bed?
- Make sure it's dark in there at night (use blackout curtains or an eye mask if necessary).
- Keep your bed for sleep and romance only - leave activities like reading or watching TV for another location. This will help your brain to associate your bed only with sleeping and other nocturnal activities. You could even go as far as removing unnecessary items from your bedroom entirely.
- Make sure your lighting is relaxing - something simple like swapping a fluorescent or LED bedside light for something like a dim incandescent one or a lava lamp can really help - although watch out for eye-strain if you plan on reading by it.
- Try to find an optimum temperature - for most people this will be between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius. This can cause rows though, so be careful!
- If it's safe and warm enough to do so, leaving a window open to let some fresh air in can help.
- Make sure you can't see a clock from where you sleep. As well as LED alarm clocks making your room brighter, in-bed clock watching makes it really hard to sleep. Save it for 16:59 at work.
Things to avoidThere are a number of sleep-killers that you should avoid like the plague around bed time if you want to stand any chance of getting a good night's sleep. This isn't to say that everyone at Agency Central lives like a member of a strict religious order, but partaking in any of these things late at night is going to hinder your descent into the land of nod:
- Alcohol - yeah, we know, but it's actually really disruptive to your sleep patterns.
- Nicotine - obviously difficult if you're addicted, but nicotine is a reasonably powerful stimulant, so smoking that one last cigarette before bed is pretty bad from a sleep perspective.
- Caffeine - being a coffee drinker (guilty) is pretty bad for sleep in general, but doing it in the evening is incredibly so. Check out our article on tea versus coffee for more info on the heavenly bean.
- Having a heavy or spicy meal in the evening - eating a triple-portion of lamb vindaloo with a side-order of poppadoms an hour before bed is going to do nothing to help you sleep. Why not try some brain food instead and skip the heart burn?
- Staring at anything backlit. That includes TVs, smartphones, tablets, monitors or anything else. The colour of the light they put out is terrible for sleep. This makes reading on an iPad in bed a really bad idea.
Things to do insteadSo we've done the killjoy thing and told you that you can't go quaffing champagne or eating raw ghost chilis in bed if you want to get a good night's sleep - but what can you do for displacement activity when you lose these favourite past times? Well to help you out, here's a list of evening activities that will actually help to promote sleep rather than turning you into the Narrator from Fight Club:
- Take a bath - herbal goop and scented candles a bonus (even for the guys right guys?).
- Read - either the old-fashioned way or using an e-reader (as long as it's not backlit). The best evening reading won't involve using too much brain-power or invoke any strong emotions.
- Stretch. As a bonus, this will help to mitigate any work-related back pain - which again will help you to sleep.
- Partake in a hobby that helps you wind-down. This will vary from person to person, but some ideas include playing or listening to music (probably not death metal at this point), drawing, or sewing/knitting.
- Help to manage the stress in your life with yoga or meditation.
Other stuffFinally, there are quite a few things you can do more generally that will have a knock-on effect on your sleeping pattern. Mix a few of these in with the tips above and you should be golden. If you still find that you're having trouble getting a good night's sleep though, you should definitely speak to your doctor. Insomnia can be indicative of some pretty serious medical conditions, and it's best to rule anything like that out sooner rather than later.
- Drink more water (although not in the evening, or you'll be up all night).
- Have a routine time to go to bed and wake up, and try to stick to it even on weekends (ok ... most weekends).
- Get more daylight during the day. If this isn't possible, a daylight-simulation lamp for your work area might be an idea.
- Get more exercise (before dinner time). This will help by making sure you expend excess energy, but also helps you to lose weight and cut stress - both of which will assist you in dropping off. Walking or cycling to work instead of driving can be a great idea - and will also save you money.
- Nap during the daytime if you need to (this is actually proven to be great for productivity, despite being outlawed in most workplaces) but restrict it to about 30 mins/1 hour.