The quality of your sleep has a direct correlation to the quality of your waking hours, including your energy levels, mental acuity, mood, and even work performance. Unfortunately, too many workers in the United States are not getting high-quality sleep at night. They have trouble falling asleep, may experience interrupted sleep cycles, or wake up feeling unrested – and it's having an effect on their performance at work. Sound familiar?
The relationship between sleeping and waking goes both ways. Your habits during the day impact your ability to fall asleep at night and affect the quality of your sleep. The quality of your sleep then affects your ability to function and perform during the day.
You may have read about how using your smartphone right before bed can make it more difficult to fall asleep. Recent research also suggests that our increasingly sedentary lifestyle – with the average American spending over 12 hours sitting every day – is also inhibiting our ability to maintain a healthy sleep schedule.
Here are some changes you can make to your daily habits that will improve the quality and consistency of your sleep cycle:
1. Increase Your Exposure to Bright Natural Light During the Day
Many of us spend a good portion of our days inside an office with minimal access to natural light. This can throw off our circadian rhythm, which is dictated by the natural cycles of light and dark. Increasing your exposure to natural light throughout the day will help reset your circadian rhythm.
2. Reduce Irregular or Long Daytime Naps
As welcome as an afternoon nap might feel after a sleepless night, sleeping during the day can confuse your body's natural sleep cycles and make it more difficult to fall asleep at night. Try to resist napping during the day or limit yourself to a 20-minute catnap.
3. Don't Consume Too Much Caffeine
Drinking caffeine too late in the day can also disrupt your body's natural rhythms, making it difficult to wind down for bed. Caffeine will not only make it hard to fall asleep but can actually decrease the quality of your sleep. Stop drinking coffee, soda, and caffeinated tea by early afternoon to improve your sleep.
4. Stand Up at Work
The majority of us spend our workday seated at our desks. This may not seem like a big deal, but it can have serious consequences for our health. In addition to increasing your risk for chronic pain and disease, lack of movement throughout the day can also make it more difficult to sleep at night. Work on incorporating more standing and movement into your work habits. A standing desk may help you.
5. Exercise Regularly, But Not Before Bed
Exercise is an important part of a healthy sleep routine. However, while exercising does exhaust your body, making it easier to get high-quality sleep, exercising too soon before bed can make it harder to fall asleep due to the energizing endorphins released during a workout. Exercise in the morning or right after work to maximize your sleep cycle.
6. Don't Eat Late in the Evening
Studies have found that eating your last meal or snack at least two hours before bed will promote a healthier sleep cycle – and will improve your metabolic efficiency.
7. Take a Relaxing Bath or Shower
If you know yourself to be someone who has trouble sleeping even when you're maintaining healthy sleep habits, try taking a relaxing (hot) bath or shower right before bed. The hot water has a calming effect on your muscles and body that will help you fall asleep more quickly when you get into bed.
8. Get a Comfortable Bed, Mattress, and Pillow
Having a comfortable bed can make all the difference to the quality of your sleep. Not only will it make it easier to fall asleep, but you will also find that your sleep is more restful when you're sleeping on a comfortable bed. An ergonomic bed, mattress, and pillow will also help minimize chronic back and joint pain that many people experience from sitting too much.
9. Listen to Music
Soft instrumental music can be very soothing and will help you tune out any outside noise that may keep you awake at night. It can also help distract your mind from turning over thoughts about your day or the following day that can keep you awake.
10. Relax and Clear Your Mind in the Evening
How many times have you laid back in bed, closed your eyes, and felt your mind begin to race? Practicing techniques to clear your mind will be invaluable in improving your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep at night. Breathing techniques and meditation practice are the most effective.
Practicing these habits will help you regain control over your sleep cycle and enhance the quality of your waking hours. You'll soon see an increase in your daily energy levels and overall work performance, especially if you make a habit of standing during the workday.