Get More Done: Increase Your Productivity With Sweet, Sweet Sleep

by Annie

in energy & well-being

Yawning jaguarIt’s probably the most significant factor in your energy level during the working day. And conventional wisdom (not to mention a crap-ton of research) seems to indicate none of us are really getting enough of it.

So, if you find yourself dragging mid-day (as I often do, I confess), instead of reaching for that fourth latte, or chasing a sugar rush with a chocolate bar (mmm….chocolate), why not pay some attention to your sleep environment and habits, and get more, better sleep?

First: The Bad News – No Such Thing as Catching Up??

Yep. Word hit this past week that researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern under the guidance of sleep expert Dr. Gregory Carter have concluded the old myth that you can catch up on a sleep deficit by sleeping more on the weekends just isn’t true.

Well, isn’t THAT just dandy.

So what in the name of Serta are we supposed to do?

And it appears the answer is:

Don’t get into a sleep deficit in the first place.

Here’s how.

Environmental Tweaks for a Better Night’s Sleep

Making a few easy tweaks to your sleep environment can help improve both the quantity and the quality of your nightly shut-eye. Consider trying the following:

  • Lower the room’s temperature.
  • Wash your pillows once a year.
  • Try out a different kind of pillow – if you’re used to the soft, malleable down type, try out a fluffier foam version, or vice versa.
  • Flip and turn your mattress every three months, to avoid uncomfortable permanent indentations which can cause back and hip pain.
  • Get rid of all electronic toys, or at least move them outside the room.
  • If you use an alarm clock, position it away from the bed, so you don’t get tempted to keep checking it when you’re having trouble sleeping. (That only increases anxiety, which in turn delays sleep further.)
  • Try a white noise maker or nature sound CD to mask household and outside noises.
  • Use lavender scents in a home fragrance diffuser or air freshener, or make a natural version by mixing a few drops of lavender essential oil with distilled water in a fine-spray bottle and spritzing the bed sheets and pillowcases.
  • Use blackout curtains to seal off ambient outside light sources.

Better Sleep Habits Lead to More Restful Sleep

You can also make some simple shifts in your nighttime routine to improve your sleep. Try the following:

  • Create a mindful routine before bed. If you follow the same ritual every night, it begins to signal to your mind and body that it’s time to power down for sleep.
  • A pillow placed between your knees (if you sleep on your side) or underneath them (for back sleepers) can alleviate pressure on the back and help you sleep better.
  • Don’t imbibe alcohol within two hours of bedtime, and stop all liquid intake at least an hour before you hit the hay.
  • If you’re a bedtime reader (like me), don’t go for the latest thriller or suspense yarn. Instead, restrict reading immediately prior to sleep to literary or spiritually-themed books that won’t keep you turning the pages to find out if the evil twin really did do it.
  • No caffeine within six hours of bedtime. Better yet, get rid of it altogether. It appears some folks are more sensitive to caffeine’s stimulant effect than others. You might be one.
  • Stay away from too-hot baths or showers before bedtime. A raised body temperature can make it harder to fall asleep.
  • If you do wake up and you’re warm, try this trick I learned a few years back: go to the bathroom, take a washcloth and wet it thoroughly with cool water, then sponge down your chest and torso. It’s a quick way to cool down your core.
  • Go to bed eight hours before the time you naturally wake up — and keep that wake-up time consistent throughout the week.

Nighty-Night – Sleep Tight

Did I miss one of your favorite sleep aids? Share your suggestions in the comments below! 

photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar via photo pin cc

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Clare Price September 17, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Great advice Annie! What I love about this post is the great list of environmental tips that we often forget. I always say that energy is more important to the business owner than either time or money. Thanks for the great reminder on how we get and keep it — sleep!
Clare Price recently posted..Sharing the Spotlight at Web Search Social

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Annie September 17, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Clare, exactly – our time is one of those things we have to budget, just as much as our money – and our energy, too. Managing it is crucial for the solopreneur’s success. Let me know if some of these environmental and habitual tweaks work for you!

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Sandi Amorim September 17, 2012 at 6:36 pm

I bought a special pillow from my chiropractor that’s made all the difference to my sleep! At first I thought it was crazy to spend $60 on a pillow, but a year later I’m convinced it’s the best $60 I ever spent!
Sandi Amorim recently posted..We Are Born to Fly

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Annie September 17, 2012 at 7:15 pm

I don’t think it’s silly at all, Sandi! I’m convinced we don’t spend nearly enough time/attention on mattresses and pillows, considering how much damage the wrong one of either can do over time! What’s this magic pillow called? Is it available on the web?

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Caelan Huntress September 17, 2012 at 7:51 pm

I noticed your point above to avoid a hot shower or bath, but here is my counter: after getting out of the bath, your body temperature lowers. When the body feels itself cooling, it gets tired. I never get tired IN the bath, but after I get out? Nighty night time.
Caelan Huntress recently posted..New Webinar: Satisfied vs Loyal: To Serve is to Rule

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Annie September 17, 2012 at 9:37 pm

Yep, but it also constricts blood flow. You can achieve the same body-temp-lowering with a warm bath, instead of a hot one – plus it doesn’t dry out your skin. 😉

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Pia Hvid November 14, 2012 at 8:50 pm

I love your advice on a better night’s sleep – I know how essential it is for a freelancer and mother of 3 youngsters under 7 to get that good night’s sleep every night!

I would like to add two suggestions, that I have had a ton of luck with:

– Keep the bedroom tidy (at least where you can see when going in and when lying in bed). This relaxes the mind and unstresses you as you will not be thinking about all the things you should be sorting/putting away etc.

– Try a couple of simple yoga exercises (many can be found free on the Internet) with some soft/mellow music turned down low just before bedtime. Preferably with no or little talking – and only nice, relaxing subjects; no arguments ;o)

Especially the yoga exercises, which I only ever tried out because my oldest daughter sometimes has problems getting down from a ‘high’ at bedtime, took me by complete surprise. Just 5-10 exercises lasting 10-30 minutes all depending sort of winds down my body and brain and leave me very relaxed and comfortable. The trick obviously is to go to bed more or less immediately after and not take a peak at what’s in the fridge or anything like that :o)

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Annie November 14, 2012 at 11:11 pm

Excellent point on the clean room thing, Pia. Clutter TOTALLY screws up the brain’s ability to shut up at night, I find. I’m also a yoga fan – I found it after getting Dx’d with a couple of chronic pain conditions but it also really helps the body relax at night. Thanks for stopping by!

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