Sleep deprivation and burnout go hand-in-hand. In fact, the National sleep foundation says, “sleeping less than six hours each night is one of the best predictors of on-the-job burnout.” As ambitious individuals, we often want to do it all at the risk of the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep. We have a theoretical awareness that sleeping better helps us perform better at work and increases fulfillment in our careers. The hard part is putting into practice. You’re not alone. The National Sleep Foundation’s 2018 Sleep in America Poll shows that only 10% of American adults prioritize their sleep over other aspects such as fitness, nutrition, work, social life and personal interests.
A number of my clients complete a burnout assessment, and sleep habits are a sizeable portion of that assessment. Sleep deprivation is a problem I care about deeply. It’s such a severe issue that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention call it a public health epidemic. Even if you’re not experiencing burnout or ongoing stress, being aware is a great preventive measure. You can use these tactics to improve your well-being, job performance and career.
Increase the amount of time you have to sleep
One of the biggest things I hear my clients say is that they don’t have enough time to sleep. Here are a few things that can help:
- A study from the University of California at Berkeley found that after a night of total sleep deprivation, participants reported a 30% rise in anxiety levels. We sometimes overwork because we’re fearful, worried or anxious about not working. Gaining a fresh perspective on what you’ve actually accomplished may help you get comfortable with working less.
Find ways to simplify your life, so you’re not so busy. Working with a coach is one way you can simplify your life by saving time, error and your energy. Practice resting throughout the day by listening to your body’s signals and taking breaks. Fatigue, loss of focus and irritability are all signs that you may need to step away from your desk and take a break. The less stressed you are throughout the day, the easier you’ll find it is to settle down and get a good night’s rest.
Find your why with science
In the book, The Business Of Sleep: How Sleeping Better Can Transform Your Career, Vicki Cuplrin, a professor of organizational behavior, explains the consequences of poor sleep.
She says there are cognitive consequences: memory, decision making and creativity; physical effects: physical health; and social and emotional consequences: mood.
You may know a few facts relating to these areas, but what about sleep makes it specifically important and personal to you? Once you’ve gained clarity, tell someone and write down your reason to increase your likelihood of following through. Sleep is a biological need, just like nutrition, but we also have psychological needs that include the desire for competence, autonomy and relatedness, which can be gained from work. That’s what makes getting adequate sleep so hard. Remember, however, your brain is not as efficient when you haven’t rested well. There’s no point operating below capacity.
Focus on progress over perfection with sleep hygiene
Building effective sleep hygiene into your career strategy is a smart move. Sleep experts note three components to healthy sleep: duration, sleeping without fragmentation and deep sleep. The latter two refer to sleep quality and are incredibility important.
A few good sleep practices:
- Going to bed and waking up at the same time.
- Avoiding stimulants that decrease sleep quality like alcohol and caffeine 4-6 hours before bedtime.
- Turning off digital devices up to two hours before you sleep, so you’re not impacting the quality of your deep sleep.
- Exercising during the day as opposed to before bedtime.
- Making your bedroom free of stimuli that produce anxiety and reminders of work.
- Sleeping in a dark and cool room.
- Practicing a bedtime routine to wind down and take your mind off concerns, work and plans.
As you commit to practicing better sleep habits, you’ll likely experience failure. Plan for it and bounce back from it. Progress is more important than perfection. Charles Duhigg, the author of The Power of Habit, spends an entire chapter talking about the power of the small, quick win. He says, “Small wins fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach.”
Getting optimal sleep and overcoming burnout is within your reach. Decide to take control, use the tactics above and get support. Your health and career will be glad you did.