Unfortunately, I never paid much attention to the link between refreshing rest and career development. I then had a serious ‘ah-ha’ moment in the spring of 2017 experiencing severe sleep deprivation as a new parent. Sleep affects many of the entrepreneurial and corporate skills that help us thrive in the workplace. The Journal of Sleep Research found that a night of sleep loss can even affect basic daily routines.
Dr. Christopher Barnes, a researcher at Washington University, discovered that the less your employee sleeps, the more likely they are to create fake receipts and reimbursement claims and lie to get free raffle tickets. Although sleep is a biological, cognitive, and moral imperative, around 35% of the US population gets the recommended 8 hours of sleep each night.
A study by Rand Corporation noted that the economic sleep crisis costs the U.S. up to $411 billion annually. Second to the US comes Japan at $138 billion and third, the UK at $50 billion. So what does that potentially look like financially in our companies? Matthew Walker, PhD, in his book Why We Sleep, mentions a study across four, large US companies finding that sleep deprivation costs approximately $2000-$3,500 in lost productivity. Busyness seems to be all too prevalent in industrialized nations even at the cost of our health. Studies in recent years have identified a relationship between lack of sleep and some of the top cancers in the United States. Here are 5 ways that we can take a stand as leaders and prioritize sleep for our health, career, families, and communities.
1. Get excited about your bedtime routine beforehand
A good habit to rekindle our relationship with sleep is to think about sleep during the day. Just like you may plan what you’re going to eat or how you will exercise, think of sleep as your very own spa. Get excited about sleeping. It’s magical for your mind and body. Our brain likes to create patterns. Creating a bedtime routine will help the brain unwind, relax, and recognize that it’s time for sleep. Try turning your phone on Night Shift or utilizing a similar app around 8pm so you’re not exposing yourself to blue light, which is counterproductive to refreshing rest. Resources like F.lux are free and can be used with a similar effect on a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. It may be a little difficult to get started at first, but the more you continue to do the same thing, the stronger the behavior becomes.
2. Create a sleep sanctuary internally and externally
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine by lead author, Christopher Drake, PhD, showed that drinking a big cup of coffee during a commute from work has the same adverse affects as someone consuming caffeine near bedtime. When the participants drank caffeine six hours before sleeping, they had a measurable loss of one hour of sleep.
I like to think of the bedroom as our external sleep sanctuary. Just as a de-cluttered office helps boost productivity, a tidy room promotes restful rest. Make your bedroom a sacred place where peace, calm, and relaxation are overflowing. If you allow your bedroom to be a place where a lot of random activities take place, then you probably aren’t creating a strong sleep neuroassociation.
3. Sleep at the right time
Renowned neurologist Kulreet Chaudhary, MD, says, “Timing your sleep is like timing an investment in the stock market—it doesn’t matter how much you invest, it matters when you invest.” We get the most beneficial hormonal secretions and recovery by sleeping during the hours of 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. If you miss any sleep during this time, then you may still feel tired the next day. If you tend to go to bed late try to commit to being asleep by 10pm one day this week, two or three days next week, and gradually work your way up.
4 Act on your belief
If there was a pill that you had to take at the same time every day that would help you live longer, reduce your risk of cancer, and promote holistic well-being, would you forget to take it? Sleep is your very own elixir. Believe that sleep is important. Once we believe in something, our actions generally follow suit.
I know sleep is an opportunity cost for most of us, but we’re in this together. Not everyone needs an immediate response. It will be okay if you don’t answer your phone or call someone back. You will be much more productive if you’re well rested.
5. Learn to say no
People reporting unrealistic time pressure and stress at the workplace sleep on average 8 minutes less per day than those with low levels of time pressure. The busier we are, the less time we have to sleep, but being busy is not the same as being effective or efficient. We simply can’t do everything. To regain control over your time, make sure everything you’re saying “yes” to matches your current life priorities. I know its sometimes easier said then done but what will happen if we don’t put ourselves first.
It took us a while to get into this sleep crisis, and change won’t happen overnight. However, I have every confidence that women, like us, will recognize the importance of sleep and commit to taking steps to reunite our relationship.
Originally published at www.forbes.com