Is there anything worse than lying in bed, trying to go to sleep, but being wide awake? You watch the clock tick away the hours until the day begins again, knowing you will be exhausted.
In a global poll shared earlier this year, just 1 in 10 adults reported they sleep extremely well. In addition, more than 4 out of 10 said their sleep had gotten worse in the last five years.
Sleep hygiene refers to the routines and practices we follow to fall asleep. In terms of sleep, the quality of our sleep is just as important as the quantity. Developing good sleep quality can improve concentration and memory, as well as creativity, energy and problem solving skills. Poor sleep, on the other hand, can contribute to increases in absenteeism, presenteeism, and workplace accidents. It can also result in decreased productivity.
One study found that professionals with just 30 fewer minutes than the recommended seven hours of sleep, reported “poorer workplace performance due to tiredness… struggling to stay focused in meetings [and]… taking longer to complete tasks.”
Rand conducted a study of five OECD countries to quantify the economic impact of insufficient sleep. The U.S. faced the highest losses at $411 billion a year, followed by Japan at $138 billion.
Signs of poor sleep hygiene include daytime fatigue and waking up frequently during the night. People with poor sleep habits generally take longer to fall asleep and longer to wake in the morning.
Depression, anxiety and other emotional health issues, as well as the medications used to treat them, can all impact sleep. If you have concerns with your sleep or struggle with ongoing tiredness, you should consult your healthcare provider.
Age, health and lifestyle all factor in to the amount of sleep you need. Likewise, what you eat, your schedule, medications you take, and even what you drink, can all affect the quality of your sleep. Therefore, it’s important to establish good practices to maximize sleep quality.
8 Tips to Help Improve Your Sleep Quality
- Limit napping. Don’t be fooled. Napping does not make up for insufficient sleep; however, limiting a daytime nap to 20 to 30 minutes can improve performance, mood and alertness.
- Be cautious with caffeine and alcohol. Found in coffee, soda, tea and chocolate, caffeine may delay sleep and cause restlessness during the night. Too much alcohol before bedtime can disrupt your sleep as the body begins to process it during the night. Drink alcohol in moderation or not at all right before bed.
- Avoid nicotine. Nicotine stimulates your body by raising your heart rate and increasing alertness. It enters the body very quickly and leaves within a couple of hours. People who use nicotine before bed may experience withdrawal symptoms in the middle of the night, which cause disrupted sleep and result in the absence of deep sleep. Nicotine withdrawal can also cause insomnia, the inability to sleep, and increases the risk of sleep apnea, an obstruction of tissue in the airway.
- Watch your diet. Eating fatty, spicy, fried or rich foods before going to bed can cause heartburn or indigestion; both of which can disrupt your sleep. Carbonated beverages and citrus fruits can cause similar digestive problems.
- Consider exercising. Ten minutes of brisk walking, cycling or other aerobic exercise* can drastically improve night-time sleep quality. For some individuals, a strenuous workout right before bed can be disruptive to sleep, so it is sometimes recommended that vigorous workouts begin earlier in the day.
- Develop a bedtime routine. A consistent routine can help alert your body that it’s time to go to sleep. This could include taking a shower or bath, meditating or reading a book. Avoid stimulating activities and emotionally draining conversations right before bed.
- Assess your bedroom environment. Light is important for a good night’s sleep – less light, that is. Light from cell phones, television screens and bright lamps can derail the sleep process. Furthermore, a cooler temperature, between 60 and 67 degrees, can result in a better night’s sleep. Other accessories that may promote sleep are earplugs, blackout curtains and sound machines.
- Manage stress. Chronic stress can interfere with the quality and quantity of your sleep. Stress management strategies like breathing exercises, mindfulness or meditation may be helpful. Consider talking with a physician or counselor about ways to manage stress so you can enjoy better sleep.
*Consult a health care provider before starting any exercise routine.
If you have concerns with your sleep or struggle with ongoing tiredness, you should consult your healthcare provider.
Workplace Options helps employees balance their work, family and personal needs to become healthier, happier and more productive, both personally and professionally. The company’s world-class employee support, effectiveness and wellbeing services provide information, resources, referrals and consultation on a variety of issues ranging from dependent care and stress management to clinical services and wellness programs. To learn more visit www.workplaceoptions.com.